Overall user experience could be improved for this amazing piece of hardware.
I want to start this review by saying that I’m not an artist. I do consider myself a digital layout designer and I’ve got a lot of experience using tablet computers – namely my iPad Pro. With that in mind, I find the use of an attached display tablet or even a digitizer tablet, like a Wacom tablet, useful for some of my work tasks. My preference is for the attached display tablets that basically act as an additional screen for your computer. They typically fit the ‘middle’ ground expense-wise (between the digitizer tablet and tablet computers) and you have the ability to view what you are doing when you are doing it. One of the display tablets that caught my eye was the XP-Pen Innovator 16.
The Innovator Display 16 is a slim graphics display with an industry-leading 9mm profile. The display measures 15.6” and is designed for drawing on the go. The tablet has both a mechanical and a virtual wheel as well as physical shortcut keys. All can be programmed using the utility software from XP-Pen. The keys can be programmed to work with different programs such as Photoshop, SAI, and Maya. The display features full lamination technology, which is a seamless combination of glass and screen. The technology allows for minimal parallax. The display has a diverse spectrum of colors and a screen color gamut of 92% Adobe RGB as well as 125% sRGB and 88% NTSC. The display comes with a battery-free stylus that supports up to 60 degrees of tilt action. The display comes with a three-in-one cable that simultaneously connects it to your computer and provides power to the tablet. It also comes with a portable stand that is designed to prevent shaking and reduce red-eye, fatigue, and hand stiffness.
|Accuracy||±0.01 inch (center)|
|Color Gamut||92% Adobe® RGB, 88% NTSC, 125% sRGB|
|Compatibility||Windows® 10/8/7, Mac OS X® 10.10 (and higher)|
|Dimensions||443.27 x 256.45 x 9mm|
|Display Area||344.16 x 193.59mm|
|Display Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Power OFF Mode||1W|
|Power ON Mode||8W (max)|
|Power Sleep Mode||1.8W|
|Power Supply Input||AC 110-240V|
|Power Supply Output||DC 5V/2.3A|
|Pressure Sensitivity||8192 levels|
|Reading Height||10 mm|
|Report Rate||Max ≥ 220RPS|
- 1x 15.6″ Graphics Display
- 1x Battery-Free Stylus
- 1x 3-in-1 USB Cable
- 1 x Extension Cord
- 1x Power Adapter
- 1x Portable Stand
- 1x Pen Holder (comes with 8 pen nibs)
- 1x Quick Guide
- 1x Cleaning Cloth
- 1x Black Drawing Glove
My experience with this display is somewhat jaded. It’s a remarkable piece of technology and the hardware is solid, but for me, it falls short in the set-up and software support categories. With that in mind, I’m going to break down my hands-on experience based on those areas.
The packaging for the display is impressive. The box is a heavy-weight box that has an image of the product on the front. The back has some basic information on it including the specs that I’ve included above. When you open the box, you will find the display first and then the remaining accessories stored beneath it. The quick start guide that is included doesn’t provide a lot of information except how to plug the display into your computer and where to download the driver. On the XP-Pen website you can find the full user manual, but, to be honest, it’s not very helpful either. The first thing I thought about the display was that it is very sturdy. It’s got a great screen on it and the added dial and hotkey buttons are a huge perk.
The display is pretty heavy. I’ve seen some images online where it appears that people are carrying this display around like a standard tablet – like an iPad – and I just don’t see that being feasible. In fact, I would recommend getting a special carrying case or sleeve to store and transport the display in. It is portable, but not that portable. Part of the reason for that is the way it connects. Even though the description of the cable is listed as “convenient” on the XP-Pen website, I see it as a spider web of cables. I’m sure there is a reason for this, but I’m not sure why this tablet doesn’t just get power and connect to a computer using USB-C. The way this cable works is that it connects to the tablet through USB-C and then spiders out to an HDMI cable, and two USB-A cables. One of the USB-A ends is designed to provide power to the tablet and the other is supposed to connect to your computer for control. The HDMI end is just to connect the display properties of the Innovator 16. So, if all the information from the tablet is being pushed out using USB-C, then why couldn’t it connect to a computer with only a USB-C cable? I actually attempted to connect the display directly to my computer with a single USB-C cable and it did not work.
SET-UP & SOFTWARE
There is no assembly required to set-up the display. All you have to do is remove the protective film that is on top of the display, set it on the stand, and plug it in using the provided cable bundle. Unfortunately, this display is not just plug-and-play. I plugged the display into my MacBook Pro using a USB-C hub and the display was automatically recognized as another external display. I already have my computer plugged into one external display – a 34-inch ultra-wide – and there were no issues with the Innovator 16 being recognized or properly sized according to aspect ratio and resolution (NOTE: We did try this tablet with another larger display and both the monitor and the tablet had issues with correct aspect ratio/resolution sizing). So, even though I had basic connectivity as a second display, the actual drawing capabilities were not unlocked until I downloaded the driver and software to customize the display. XP-Pen provides it for free and it downloads as a zip file. For me, I simply opened the DMG file and installed it. I thought the process was completed, but as I started working with the software, my computer had to continually allow for different sets of permissions so that changes could be made to my system on behalf of the display.
So, even though software is provided, the installation and set-up process isn’t very smooth and the user experience suffers because of it. When I started having issues, I downloaded the full user manual and it didn’t provide any explanations or assistance in how the software operates. I was having issues with the alignment of the stylus on the screen. When I placed it on the screen, the cursor would appear a few inches away. So, I was always off just a bit. This made editing photos in Lightroom and Photoshop difficult. While there is an alignment option in the software it doesn’t seem to work properly and as I mentioned, the user manual did not provide any guidance.
After experiencing these issues, we did communicate with XP-Pen directly (they offer online support as well as phone and email support) and after providing some information on the system we were using and specifics about the problem, they were able to provide a solution. The steps are included here in case you happen to have the same type of issue when setting up the Innovator 16 (Note: this was completed on a MacBook Pro running macOS Catalina 10.15.7).
- First, make sure that your computer’s system settings have the display set to 1920 x 1080. For me, this meant clicking on the Apple icon and opening System Preferences. Then, selecting Displays. The display’s settings should appear on its screen. There are two options – Default for display or Scaled. In order to ensure that the display was set to 1920 x 1080, I selected Scaled to unlock that option.
- With the display connected, open the PenTablet application. (version 3.0.5; build 6645cb)
- On the Screen tab make sure the correct monitor is selected. In my case, the display was Monitor2. This will activate the resolution properly for the display. At this point, the stylus should be aligned with the display properly.
One thing to note here is that the display will interface with different programs and you can set the hotkeys according to different programs. This is a really nice feature and if the other parts of the set-up and interface can be improved, I think the Innovator 16 display will be a huge asset to digital designers and artists.
For me, the obvious win in this package is the hardware. The display is stunning and even though I had some issues with the set-up and execution of it, the hardware and its accessories are designed beautifully. The stylus was very responsive on the screen and even though I had those alignment issues, I was able to edit photos using the display and that was refreshing to me. The stylus is comfortable to use. I am used to the Apple Pencil and found this stylus to be weighted well and easy to work with. I also liked the availability of the hotkeys on the display. They are placed in a very convenient location and they have a solid tactile click to them so you know when they are pressed. So overall, the design of the display and its accessories are worth the investment.
For digital designers and artists, display tablets are becoming more commonplace than not. I personally love seeing the interfaces between iPads and desktop/laptop computers getting better, but display tablets like the Innovator 16 are a really nice option for creative professionals who utilize systems like this full-time. Overall, the hardware was impressive to me while the software and set-up was not. I would like to see XP-Pen improve the user experience and upgrade the installation process and then this would be a great investment.
Visit XP-Pen’s online store for any of the following countries.