XP-Pen Artist Display 24 Pro Review – Is This The Photographers Ultimate Retouching Tool?
As a creative, there’s a huge learning curve that happens in your growth as an artist when you get deeper and more knowledgable with the tools available to you for the craft. Whether that’s a photographer, illustrator, painter, graphic designer, or animator…when you start the learning process there’s a big “leap” to be made for your learning curve, and that’s typically the jump from using your mouse to click away on your edits, to using a Pen and Tablet like the familiar Wacom Intuos lineup. Speak with any photographer or designer and they’ll tell you the same thing, once they made the leap, they never looked back.
Now after years of using pen tablets for my editing and retouching, I decided it was time to make the leap and test out the next step up by editing on a graphics display and that’s where the XP-Pen comes in. I had reached out to the company since they were new to me and figured I’d start my testing with them since we had just covered one of their other tablets which sparked my interest. Thankfully the Marketing team at XP-Pen was happy to oblige our request for a review and decided to one-up my inquiry by sending their beast of a graphics tablet, the Artist Pro 24. This thing is a beauty and a beast of a tablet, but, is it the ideal solution for photographers & retouchers?
Before we dive too much more into this, there are a few things that need to be disclosed. First, as I loosely mentioned above, this is the first time I’ve ever used a graphics display tablet for editing and retouching, so this review won’t be too heavy technical and comparison based, since other than stats and write-ups I’ve got nothing personal to compare it with. So be aware, there may be things that are better/worse from other brands but I’ve just not tested them myself. Second, we need to understand what a Graphics/Pen Tablet really is and what it’s capable of!
What Is A “Pen Display Tablet”
In the most basic terms, a graphics display or pen display is a graphics display “monitor” that you can “draw” directly on either with the included “pens” or in some cases direct finger touch input. You plug this display directly into your existing computer/laptop set up just like you would a monitor and it will work as a display but with the added benefit of being able to use a pen that’s pressure-sensitive for drawing and retouching.
Tablets from XP-Pen, Wacom, and Huion give you a little something extra by being impressively color-accurate and calibration capable so you can be sure that not only are you seeing things in typically a high-resolution fashion, but verifiably color accurate as well! While many of us who’ve been retouching for a long time have worked with normal pen-tablets, the graphic display pen tablets let you edit directly on your images! Letting you see and exactly where you’re making adjustments, adding an extra level of precision to your edits. Plus it’s just a great feeling and fun to use while you’re retouching!
So now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive into what the XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro is and the specific details.
What is 2K QHD?
2K QHD is a type of display resolution. A screen’s resolution is the number of pixels it has in relation to its surface area—the more pixels, the sharper the image. A display is considered to have 2K resolution if it has 2,000 pixels. With 2560 X 1440 pixels, the Artist 24 Pro fulfills this criterion.
The Artist Display 24 Pro is the very first 23.8-inch, 2K QHD graphics display. With double the resolution of FHD displays and unprecedented vibrancy, the product offers a creative experience that exceeds all limits. You can seamlessly enhance and refine your work on programs such as Photoshop, CorelDraw, 3D Max, and CAD.
What Impact Does 2K QHD Have?
Having such high resolution allows the Artist 24 Pro to deliver vibrant, dynamic, and realistic images, with accurate color and deeper contrast. This allows you to capture the tiniest of details, leading to a more visually appealing creation.
Key Features of the XP-Pen Artist 24Pro
- The Artist Display 24 Pro is the first 23.8-inch, 2K QHD graphics display from XP-PEN.
- Fuel your creativity with brilliant color and blazing graphics as you draw the color gamut coverage is up to 90% Adobe RGB.
- The Artist 24 Pro supports a USB-C to USB-C connection
- The PA2 Battery-Free Stylus supports up to 60 degrees of tilt function
- The Artist 24 Pro comes equipped with the USB Hub that can be used to connect additional devices such as your mouse or even a memory card reader.
- With the Artist 24 Pro’s adjustable stand, you can change the product’s angle to suit your needs from 16-90 degrees, allowing you to create with ease.
- Unlike most mechanical keys, the display’s touch-sensitive keys are specially designed to avoid sticking.
- The XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro supports Windows 10/8/7 and Mac OS X 10.10 (and higher). The product is also compatible with popular digital art software, such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, SAI, CDR, GIMP, Krita, Medibang, Fire Alpaca, and Blender 3D.
What’s In The Box?
- 1 x XP-Pen 23.8” Graphics Display
- 2 x Battery-Free Stylus
- 1 x USB-C to USB-C Cable
- 1 x HDMI Cable
- 1 x Power Adapter
- 1 x Power Cord
- 1 x Pen Holder
- 8 x Replacement Pen Nibs
- 1 x USB-C to USB Adapter
- 1 x Quick Guide
- 1 x Cleaning Cloth
- 1 x Black Drawing Glove
As soon as I opened the box it was shipped in and was able to look at the design and care that went into the packaging, It was clear this was going to be an “experience” to remember. The Artist 24 Pro display is HUGE, even though I knew it was coming and it was a 24″ device, setting it on your desk is a whole other thing. The tablet is clean, sleek, very sturdy, and heavy, (at least from my expectations)! Clearly, they meant business with this device and it’s designed to hold up to a lot of pressure, including having it nearly flat and drawing on it with your body leaned up against it. The buttons and jog dials are available on both the left and right sides of the device, making it a quick and easily accessible system for both left and right-handed users.
Even the pen(s) were surprisingly nice. Solid and smooth to the touch, with a very impressive case for the pen when traveling which has the spare nibs inside. In fact, I feel like the only “missed” opportunity that XP-Pen had with the overall presentation of this device was the inclusion of some sort of travel case/bag so you can bring it with you quickly and safely from home to the office or client location. (This is actually a feature I brought up to them and would LOVE to see if they offer something like this in the future or even a 3rd party partnership!).
- Dimensions 632 x 370 x 44.8mm
- Display Area 526.85 x 296.35mmmm
- Color Gamut 90% Adobe® RGB
- Display Resolution 2560 x 1440
- Red Dial Wheel 2
- Shortcut keys 20
- Stylus Battery-free
- Tilt 60°
- Pressure Sensitivity 8192 levels
- Color Depth 16.7M
- Contrast 1000:1
- Resolution 5080LPI
- Report Rate Max ≥ 220RPS
- Accuracy ±0.01 inch (center), ±0.1 inch (corner)
- Reading Height 10 mm
- 1 x USB-C port, 2 x USB Hub, 1 x HDMI port, 1 x DC port
- Response Time 14 ms
- Viewing Angle 178°
- Aspect Ratio 16:9
- Adjustable Stand 16-90°
- VESA Mount 100 x 100 mm
- Brightness 250 cd/m2
- Compatibility Windows® 10/8/7 and Mac OS X® 10.10 (and higher)
- Price – $899 – Amazon | XP-Pen
The Software/Installation & Customization
For the most part, the drivers and installation of the tablet was pretty straight forward, the only complications I had in the beginning were due to the fact I was running the latest macOS, which meant I had to manually go into the system settings and authorize the tablet’s software in several locations to enable the touch interface of the display. The good news is the installation guide comes with step by step instructions on how to take care of this should you run into any hiccups. But the downside is I had to install, reboot, uninstall, reboot, and then install and reboot again before I could get my first real testing in. A frustrating process, but realistically it was more of an Apple side problem than the XP-Pen’s.
Once I had done this the system immediately detected and responded to my commands without any problems. Then you’ll want to calibrate and set up the display based on your personal resolution requirements and surface area preferences. What do I mean by this? Well much like with the Intuos Pro tablets many of us are familiar with, you can set boundaries and areas that you wish to limit the “editable” zones in proportion to the screen. If you don’t want to be editing using the full 24″ you can reset it to a smaller window, and just be sure to set your app to fit in that area.
Additionally, you can set up the buttons and job dial on the left and right side of the tablet, AND the buttons/pressure tip of the pen for a truly customized workflow experience. For the purpose of my testing, I kept things rather simple and used the left express buttons for the default setup with the jog dial setup for zooming in/out for easier macro/micro retouching.
Immediately out of the box, the pen presentation is impressive. With a stylus ready to use, and a spare in a nice, sturdy, and protective case (which also houses the spare nibs), the device looks and feels high quality. Again, I’m only able to compare this to my personal Wacom Intuos Pro Small tablet that’s like…6 years old now…but that being said, the pen felt lighter, smoother to the touch, and much more balanced like a REAL pen should. The way it sat in my hand as well as slid across the display just felt natural and comfortable.
The battery-free pens boast a tilt capability of up to 60° and up to 8192 levels of Pressure Sensitivity, allowing you to make very VERY smooth, steady, and fluid strokes. Additionally, this system even includes a 2-finger “glove” that allows you to protect the screen from your hand (grease/oils/sweat) while you’re working with it. I thought it was kinda strange at first, but after an hour of using the tablet, the glove was actually quite welcome and useful.
As I mentioned above, I’ve not ever used a Cintiq, but when compared to my Intous Pro Small, the pen for the Artist 24 Pro felt more responsive to pressure and the angle that I was holding it at. It honestly was a lot of fun to just draw and play with (believe me I’m no artist…but it was still fun to mess with). This accuracy was a blast to work with while retouching, specifically while dodge and burning on skin work. There wasn’t any guesswork or accidental missed strokes due to pen lag that has been an issue in previous generations of devices using battery-powered pens. I’m truly looking forward to getting hands-on with a Cintiq and any other similar brands display tablets to start offering comparison reviews and input on this, and with that in mind, I’d love to hear any questions you might have as a Cintiq user. I’ll have this tablet for a while so I’m able to dive back in and address anything you may be wondering about!
Build Quality, Ergonomics, And “Feel”
Time to talk about the tablet itself. The giant display is like most monitors, kind of plastic feeling, however, given its size I appreciate this since using metal or some other heavy-duty material would make this thing weigh a ton! So between the casing, the stand on the back, and the display itself, the device was very solid, especially for its price. Granted, I’ve not ever been hands-on with its competition, so I can’t personally say if it’s better or worse than the others on the market. I do plan on testing the other versions out there and I’ll come back to update this review once that happens.
Moving on, the buttons as I mentioned above, are very responsive and the scroll wheels are equally tactile. All of these buttons and dials are completely customizable so you can set them up for each application you plan on using to give you your preferred workflow and feel.
The only complaint I had was the touch-sensitive buttons on the top right of the display. While they work great and are actually quite responsive, I had that bad habit of accidentally turning them on/off as I’d rest my hand on them while taking retouching breaks while “in the zone”. Entirely my own fault, and likely just need more time with the device to get genuinely comfortable (and find a new spot to rest my hand), but still have to nitpick for these things after all!
The display stand can be adjusted to a variety of inclines based on your personal preference from almost vertical, to nearly flat. I messed with a few different positions and felt the most comfortable using it in its flat-most position, but that comes likely from over 10 years of using normal pen tablets flat on my desk. I did enjoy being able to retouch on the display in its most upright position but it got tiring on the arm after a short while. Clearly, there’s a lot of experimenting with layouts in both the display and your workspace (sitting/standing) to find the ideal positioning for you.
The only downside I found with this device in terms of its ergonomics was a strange one. It’s possible my “con” view of this was simply based on my current desk and setup positioning, but, after a long day in front of the display tablet (vs the standard normal tablet) is neck and back strain. Why? Well, the difference between the normal tablets and the display tablets is, with a display tablet, even though you’re able to see and edit directly on your image and have pinpoint accuracy on all the little details, instead of sitting at your ergonomically designed chair and monitor workspace, you’re instead, hunched over this monitor while you work! It’s not something I noticed when working on a single image here and there, but I decided to spend an entire day using it to work on some e-commerce retouching for a client and after about 5 hours…boy did I notice a crick in my neck.
Truly this is another nit-picking moment but it’s worth mentioning, especially since it’s my first time using a device like this. An additional bit of “con” nitpicking is the cables. Depending on the computer you’ll be connecting this too, you’ll need to power it (1 cable), plus connect the USB/USB-C, (2 Cables), and connect the HDMI, (3 cables), along with any additional adapters and dongles you might need to do so on your computer. Meaning this adds another level of cable management complexity to your workstation. While it’s a minor thing, if you’re trying to keep a neat and tidy workspace, it can get a bit overwhelming if you’re not going to leave the display plugged in and on your desk at all times. If you’re like me, the thing is great but just too big to leave there 24/7, so you’re left with a bunch of cables dangling around on your desk in between sessions.
Something else worth bringing up in this section is the added feature of a USB hub built into the back of the device containing 2 USB-A type connections letting you connect external Hard Drives, a mouse, memory cards/readers, or even simply charging your phone with.
Given how many new computers (I’m looking at you Apple), have been reducing the number of connection options on their devices, even if I don’t _really_ have a use for them, spare USB connections are ALWAYS a welcome addition.
The Display / Screen
Something that made me happy about this device was it was completely able to be calibrated using the color monitor of your choice (Datacolor/X-Rite), which ensured the colors I saw on my fully calibrated computer and monitor were as close as possible on the Artist 24 Pro. Doing some quick googling, the Wacom Cintiq of its similar size has a higher resolution display, (and at a much higher price), but it still has a 90% Adobe RGB coverage, making it a pretty decent monitor on top of its ability to be a working pen tablet!
The first thing most people will notice when looking at the Tablet in action is that it looks laminated but it’s not really the case. The screen is designed specifically for a more accurate landing for your pen tip and as a result, it looks sort of like the older “anti-glare” screens that used to be available on MacBook Pros back in the day. I haven’t really tested this thing out in the “sun” yet but I feel like this design would also make it easier to view and work on the surface in brighter light scenarios as well, making it a definite “pro” on the list.
Beyond that, the menu settings provided a bunch of options for manual color and brightness adjustments which were nice, but when compared to my 27″4k monitor, it couldn’t get as bright. I’m not 100% on its official NIT scale yet, (I’ve emailed the team at XP-pen for these details but as of writing this I’ve not gotten that back), but it doesn’t’ seem to get very bright by comparison. Granted I found no scenario in my personal working where I needed to bump the brightness of the display above 70% but I know that I have to play devil’s advocate here and list this as a possible con since I’m sure there’s someone out there who needs the screen to be a little brighter than I do.
Who Is This Tablet For and Is It Worth It?
So let’s just get this right out in the open. The Artist 24 Pro retails for about $899 USD and Wacom’s Cintiq Pro 24 sells for $1,999! That’s quite the price jump to account for, and when you look at the spec sheet side by side, there’s not a ton of difference except for the really obvious one. The Cintiq is a 4k display with a 350nit brightness whereas the XP-Pen is 2k with 250nit brightness. Other than some design/esthetic elements, that seems to be the real difference you’re paying for or saving on. Is the extra 2k resolution and bump in brightness important to you? For me, and as a photographer, I don’t believe it’s deal-breaking in the slightest. Firstly, I actually lowered the brightness of the screen for my work, so I don’t believe the extra power would be groundbreaking for photo retouching. As for the 4k Vs 2k argument, that’s all personal preference really.
Given that most retouchers I know tend to zoom in and out very aggressively while editing, meaning micro and macro edits, I don’t think the 2k difference will impact your work. Unless you plan on using this display as exactly that, a “display” when not being used to work on. I mean I tested using it in full screen and since most photo retouching is small details (at least for portraits) I ended up resizing my photoshop window to only occupy the left half to reduce the amount of motion I had to do, and still ended up zooming in significantly for my editing to keep the motion to a minimum.
Working on landscapes, yes, wow, was it worth having photoshop in full screen to be able to make big sweeping painterly strokes to dodge and burn the skylines and clouds to perfection. It even made me feel like I was an actual artist/painter for a moment! (Believe me, I am NOT haha). But, did I need that real estate? no…not really.
To be perfectly honest, if you’re an illustrator, designer, painter, animator, colorist, or anything else more on the creative spectrum beyond just photography, this tablet would be a no-brainer acquisition! Is it awesome to have and use as a photographer/retoucher? Absolutely! But I personally feel I could get the same work done on a smaller unit like on the Artist 12, 13.3, or even the 15.6 Pro Tablets and achieve the same result. (You can actually get the 13.3 Pro tablet WITH a travel case for only $366.99 which is just slightly more expensive than the same size non-display tablet from Wacom!) Maybe I’m wrong and the larger size is really what I’ll love, but coming from nearly 10 years on a “small” tablet, I feel like with an HD graphics display on that same size I’d be able to do the same level of quality work, and have more desk space and portability to go along with it. I’ll confirm this once I actually get to test it and update accordingly of course.
XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro – What I Liked
- Having a USB Hub on the back is a welcome and useful addition
- The Price point was unbelievable at less than 1/2 the cost of the Wacom equivalent
- Able to color calibrate the display for maximum accuracy with my X-rite and Datacolor Spyder
- The pen is incredibly accurate
- No pen lag or jitters noticed at all
- 24″ display is huge and usable even just as a monitor
- 2k resolution!
- 90% Adobe RGB Color Space Coverage
- Stand allows you to work at multiple angles
- Easy software setup
- Fully customizable express hotkey buttons, (20 in total!) on both sides for left or right-handed configurations
- Rubber feet on the stand made it feel secure and wouldn’t slip
XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro – What I Didn’t Like
- Not super bright (250cd/m vs 350 reported on the Cintiq)
- Uncomfortable / neck stiffness after long periods of use
- No “touch” capability (meaning fingers). This isn’t a deal-breaker, but having the ability to pinch and zoom or swipe around on the screen with the option to enable/disable like on the Wacom devices would be a great feature
- USB Hub doesn’t push much power so you can’t really use it to charge devices quickly (this is a minor issue really but worth mentioning)
- So, many, cables! Depending on your system it requires 3 cables to use, power, HDMI, and USBC meaning it’s a lot to connect, and a lot left laying around on your desk when not in use.
- Lack of travel case/bag for moving and storage
- Touch-sensitive power/setting buttons are easy to trigger
- Can’t customize the dial wheel sensitivity/speed
- No “eraser” on the back of the pen
Editing with the XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro
As I’ve said throughout this review, editing on the XP-Pen’s Artist 24 Pro tablet was honestly one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had testing and reviewing hardware in this business in a LONG time. It is a gorgeous device despite its minor flaws, worked flawlessly, and it actually re-amped my interest and passion in editing and creating again since the pandemic slowed everything down. Obviously, my workspace isn’t really designed for a perfect ergonomic usage of the device, BUT, I still loved every second of it. Honestly, I’d be hard-pressed to not recommend it to anyone who works in any sort of multimedia creation given its low cost of entry.
The large size of this display clearly means it’s not meant for the traveling creative, but more so designed for a permanent workspace, giving you the space to edit or create freely with a large and beautiful display. The Pen worked and felt fantastic, with no jitter or lag experienced at all across my testing, and it was incredibly accurate out of the box, not even accounting for the ability to increase the accuracy by running the built-in pen calibration software.
Maybe it’s the rookie display tablet editor point of view, but I’d recommend to every visual creative to at least find a way to test out a graphics display tablet like the Artist 24 Pro to see if it’d fit in your workflow. I think that once you do you’ll opt to work on them as much as possible moving forward, I know I am, and will be!
From opening the box to finishing an edit in Photoshop, the XP-Pen was honestly a joy to use at every step of the journey, (except for the cable management). I’ve only had it a short while now, but the more I use it in my workflow the more I’m finding myself loving it! Especially since it can also be used simply as a monitor, (should you choose to), giving you more flexibility in your work setups. The only real thing to figure out here is the size and what is ideal for the work you do?
Personally, I do love the 24″ device, but I believe that the larger device is meant more for an illustrator/painter than a photographer/retoucher. Given how most of us in this field need to travel frequently and work a LOT on the road, a smaller display tablet may be the better choice, so I’ll definitely be testing other sizes moving forward and again, will update this review once that happens as well.
Regardless, the XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro, is an incredible device that offers creatives a cost-effective solution for editing and creating directly on, especially when you consider it’s half the price of its major competition, (the Wacom Cintiq), while still offering nearly every major big-league feature!