With so many options available, choosing a Graphics Tablet and Display is not easy. To help make things easier, we reached out to XP-Pen to review one of their most popular displays, the XP-PEN Artist 22 (2nd Generation).

Before we jump in, it's important to make sure you understand the difference between a graphics tablet and a pen display monitor.

Pen Display Monitor: Built-in external monitors that hook up to your computer. They offer a natural experience and help take your creative ideas and illustrations to the next level. Apart from looking stunning, you can draw or paint directly on the screen using your favourite 2D Software or 3D Software which makes it more intuitive and responsive for the digital artist to use.

Graphics tablets or Pen Tablets: Don't have screens are more common and affordable. They’re basically large, pressure-sensitive trackpads that you control with a special stylus.

Happy artist with a very clean desk using the XP-PEN Artist 22 (2nd Generation)

XP-PEN Artist 22 (2nd Generation) Overview

Direct from the website: "The XP-PEN Artist 22 (2nd Generation) comes with a strikingly large 21.5-inch display. It also features 1080p resolution, has a superb colour accuracy of 86% NTSC , and it delivers more vibrant and realistic images and videos. Priced competitively, this is an incredible piece of hardware worthy of place on your desk at home and in the office.

The display supports a USB-C to USB-C connection, which allows you to connect your iMac, Mac Book Pro, or Windows computer without using an adapter. The battery-free stylus supports up to 60 degrees of tilt function and 8,192 pressure sensitivity levels, helping you to effortlessly create exquisite strokes and seamless shading.

With the adjustable stand, you can change the screen's angle from 16 to 90 degrees to suit your needs and create comfortably and freely. Also, the specially designed cable slot and detachable back cover keep your cables protected and organized."


Unboxing - So Satisfying!

Who doesn't love to unbox a new toy! When the monitor arrived at the office I couldn't wait to crack it open. First impressions were great. As soon as I picked up the box, I noticed that it was heavy which meant it wasn't going to be flimsy and unstable to use.

Once I removed the cardboard delivery box and saw the packaging, things started to get real. I wanted to rip into it, but remembered I needed to take some nice photos and record a screen protector removal video. Here they are:

Honestly nothing better than peeling off a screen protector. Enjoy the video!

Build Quality

Considering XP-PEN Artist 22 is one of the cheapest drawing displays for its size, the build quality is actually really solid. The display is almost completely made out of plastic, but the quality of the plastic is high grade and doesn't feel cheap at all. It looked great sitting next to Macbook and 4K LG Monitor.

It's worth mentioning that there was no flex or squeaking when putting weight on the display with your hand.

The stylus feels great too. I really couldn't tell much difference between my Wacom stylus and the XP-Pen stylus. This was made very clear when I kept picking up the wrong one all the time.

Setup and Configuration

The process of setting up the display was about as easy as it gets. There were two options available to connect the monitor to my Macbook:

  • USB-C to USB-C connection (the one I used)
  • HDMI to HDMI

Before I fired up the display, I installed the latest drivers which was pretty painless by visiting the XP-Pen website. Once connected, I flicked on the power and my Macbook adjusted it's screen arrangement straight away.

Unfortunately the pen wasn't recognised by the XP-Pen app at first. This caused me to scratch my head a bit longer than I should have. Resorted to a quick reboot and all was sorted. The app recognised the display and I was off and scribbling with joy.

The only other area where I had a little trouble was with the display buttons. Located at the top right of the display are 5 small buttons. The buttons allow you to control power, brightness, contrast, gamma and colour temperature. I know this wouldn't be a problem when you use it every day, but since all the buttons feel the same, it's hard to remember which one is the power button and making adjustments to display settings felt more complicated than it should have. Not a deal breaker, just something I'd love to see improved.

Edit: Newer models have improved the display buttons :)

Adjusting the Display Angle

Depending on what I'm drawing, I like to work at different angles. Sometimes I have the screen laying nearly flat on the table. Other times I'm probably at about 60 degrees.

The good news is that adjusting the screen angle is super easy and can be done one handed. You simply reach over the top of the screen, squeeze the lever towards the screen, and then lower or raise the screen. Once it's in a good position, simply let go of the lever and the display will lock into place.

Btw, for those than like a little more vertical, the screen goes to 90 deg.

Performance and Precision

I must admit that I really wasn't expecting the precision or lag speeds to be anything out of the ordinary. To say that I was surprised was an understatement.

The precision of the pen and the accuracy of where the interaction occurs is perfect. When drawing, the tip of the pen is super accurate in terms of where you expect the lines to appear.

As the name suggests, the screen is a 21.5-inch display. It features 1080p resolution which is more than enough to work with and doesn't cause any eye strain. However, I did feel that menu times suffered from pixelation. I think this comes from a life of using 4K monitors and Macbook Pros.

To be fair though, for the price point of this display, the resolution is absolutely fine and 100% useable. I think this is me just being a spoilt brat and needing to war glasses these days.

Surface Texture

For those of you that have used Pen Display Monitors before, you will understand that a smooth surface is not good. It makes everything slippery which is the worst possible thing for drawing.

The XP-Pen felt great to use. The texture of the surface provided just the right amount of resistance. The XP-Pen comes with a small glove that helps your hand glide over the monitor which is really helpful. It's not essential, the display only responds to the stylus, not your hand. But it does make you feel like a pro which is good to get your head in the game and creating a masterpiece.

Software Bonus

Not everyone can afford premium software packages for 2D and 3D project. This is why I was pleasantly surprised that XP-Pen comes with one free software package license. You can choose from 1 of the following tools:

Explain Everything is the most versatile digital whiteboard on the market. It’s used worldwide by millions of teachers, educators, tutors, kids and students.

ArtRage Lite is a realistic art media painting program for Windows  & Mac OS X, designed as a fun introduction to art software for first time digital artists.

ArtRage 5 is an easy-to-use, professional-level digital painting program for Windows and Mac OS. It combines the convenience of digital editing tools with all the fun and familiarity of traditional painting.

openCanvas is one of the best programs to use when transitioning from traditional painting to digital design.

Cartoon Animator 4 is a 2D animation software designed for both ability of entry and productivity. You can turn images to animated characters, control characters with your expressions, generate lip-sync animation from audio, accomplish 3D parallax scenes, produce 2D visual effects, access content resources, and wield a comprehensive Photoshop pipeline to rapidly customize characters and create content.


Studio Production Testing

In order to help make this review more interesting, I decided to invite a local Game Developer to put the XP-Pen Artist 22 through its paces.

Anthony Robinson is the Creative Director at Golden Age Studios. Having graduated from Flinder University/CDW Studios in 2020, Anthony has gone on to setup his own studio while also doing freelance work for high profile film and games companies.

Golden Age Studios is working on Tinker and Spell: Video Game, a 2D animated creature collecting RPG. Anthony uses everything from Photoshop to Unity on a daily basis which is the perfect use case for this Graphics Display.

"I really enjoyed my time with the XP-Pen Artist 22. I've used a Wacom Cintiq a few times over the years and never really looked at other options. I can confidently say that my experience with the XP-Pen mirrored, if not surpassed that of the Cintiq.

The display was super accurate. The tip of the stylus lands where the program detects the mark which make everything very precise. The screen was high resolution and was a great extension of my other monitors. I also experienced zero lag which can often happen with entry level tablets and displays.

The feeling of the pen on the screen is great (even better than the Cintiq) and the price is incredible when you realise what you get for your money.

In terms of concerns, I felt that  screen glare was an issue for my studio. I wasn't able to find an angle that removed any glare from the ceiling office lights. In addition to the glare issue, if I unplugged my laptop to work from home, I would need to shut down my laptop before activating and deactivating the XP-Pen software."


Pricing

This is where things get interesting. You can purchase an XP-Pen Artist 22 (Second Generation) for US$499.99. That is absolutely crazy when you consider what you are getting for your money. Not only is this a good second monitor, but it's literally going to take your 2D and 3D skills to the next level.

Full details about the product can be found at the official XP-Pen store:

Final Verdict

In all honesty, I didn't know what to expect from the XP-Pen product line. I didn't know too much about the company simply because I've been a Wacom user for 20+ years. Based on the pricing, I also wasn't expecting anything special. Before the display arrived, I figured you'd be able to draw nicely with a stylus, but the interaction, precision and sensitivity would probably be pretty limited.

I was wrong. So wrong. I honestly believe this is a great addition to every digital artists hardware setup. For anyone looking to level up their digital painting skills, you will no be disappointed. Being able to draw directly on a display and immerse yourself in your drawing is brilliant. It's genuinely hard to go back now.

In terms of using the display for 3D. I personally will keep using my Wacom Intuos touch. The main two reasons for this are: old habits and screen real estate. When working in 3D, I want a big screen. I want multiple monitors to displays panels and I need my keyboard from and center too.

So, would I buy one? For sure. Would I recommend it. Yes!

I think the XP-Pen Artist 22 is a solid investment and a great way to help improve your creative skills. It doesn't matter what software you use, if you're still using a mouse or trackpad to do anything design related, then you are kidding yourself. Save your pennies, do what you need to do. Invest in yourseld. You will not regret the decision.

Overall Score

I'm happy to award this a rating of 4.5/5!


Product Recommendations

No product is perfect, and user feedback is always important. With that in mind, this is what I would like to see improved with the product:

To find out more about the XP-Pen, and to have as much fun as we've had, follow the link below.

Graphics Drawing Tablets, Pen Display Monitors, Digital Art Pads | XP-Pen Official Store
Shop at XP-Pen for graphic tablets, pen displays, IPS drawing tablet monitors and accessories to Improve Your Creativity. XP-Pen offer drawing tablets for Beginners and Professionals Artists will enable you to draw, paint, write,design,edit, sketch, and share your digital art with ease.

Special thanks to XP-Pen for allowing us to provide this product review. Make sure to follow them on social media and keep updated with their latest products. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube.

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