Update 17 April 2018: Calibration to remove parallax is now possible with Windows driver.
First of all, thanks to Artisul once again for providing a review unit so that I can feature it on the blog.
If you don't know what pen display is, it's a monitor that you can draw on. You need to connect it to a computer to use it.
My review will cover my experience on Windows and Mac.
What's in the box
- The display
- Pen pouch
- 10 replacement tips and nib remover
- 2x pen holder
- USB Y-cable for power
- Power brick with different socket head
- USB cable for connecting to computer
- mini-HDMI to HDMI cable
No driver disc is included so you have to download the driver from Artisul's website.
Design and build quality
The design looks nice and the build quality feels solid, sturdy. That's the same I've said for the smaller D10 and D13. It's good to see that the good build quality used here as well.
The exterior has a matte surface plastic finishing while the area where the buttons are have a more velvety touch.
The display has 8 shortcut buttons and a scroll wheel on the side. If you're a left handed user, you can change to left handed mode using the driver and turn the display around to have those buttons on the right (the Artisul logo in front will appear upside down). All the buttons are round except one that's a rounded rectangle.
There's a smaller button in the middle of the scroll wheel. All buttons have that velvety touch and a nice tactile click to them.
On the back are 4 large pieces of rubber to prevent the display from slipping.
The screen measures 15.6-inches. It's a medium sized screen compared to smaller 10 to 13-inch and larger 19 to 22-inch displays. The resolution is 1920 by 1080 and everything appears relatively sharp. The resolution is high enough for a display of this size and is very useable.
The screen uses an IPS panel so the colour reproduction is good. Colours look good out of the box so first time users probably won't have to colour calibrate it.
Since I use many monitors, I always calibrate my monitors to ensure I'm looking at the same colours across different displays. I measured 94% sRGB and 84% Adobe RGB with my Spyder5PRO colour calibrator. Artisul claimed 94% Adobe RGB but 84% is still quite satisfactory for most work purposes, and you can certainly use it for graphic design or creating digital art without having to worry about colour accuracy. By the way, 100% Adobe RGB is more for those people who need to compare printed proofs side by side with the screen.
IPS panels have decent viewing angles. Colours do not change much when this display is viewed from different angles. The contrast ratio is 700:1 and brightness is 300 cd/m2.
Response rate is 19ms which is slow but for drawing purposes I never noticed much lag. Any lag that appears are mostly from the software. Don't use this for gaming. But in terms of responsiveness, it's very similar to other pen displays I've used, including Wacom's products.
The screen has a matte anti-glare coat on it. This is not those glossy reflective screens which I do not like. The matte screen diffuse any reflections from light and makes them less distracting. The matte surface screen also provides a nicer texture to draw on with the pen. For reflective screen, there's always this friction when you run your palm on the surface, e.g. it's like running your palm on glass surface. But here, the palm-on-screen feeling is smoother.
Matte screens usually affects the sharpness of the screen but in this case, the sharpness isn't affected much, which is great.
A stand is included. It wasn't included with the D10 but it's now back.
I like the functional design. You just put the display on it. There's nothing to latch or click onto the display, nothing to screw on too. This means you can also use the stand with your other tablets, e.g. iPad, Surface Pro or even a laptop.
There are 2 parts to the stand, the feet and the resting plate. You need to attach (click on) the feet to the back of the resting plate.
The stand is capable of different angles, but depending on how the feet is set up, some angles are not suitable for drawing.
The feet can be rotated.
This position is for use when not drawing on the display
This is the lowest angle from the earlier position.
This is the optimal angle for drawing. The feet is rotated, and angled to push against the back plate so that you can draw firmly on the screen.
If the feet is not set up properly, the stand can droop down while you're drawing since you're pressing down. When drawing, you should always position the feet in a way that it does not move when you're pressing down. This may not be clear to first time users, but after you get it, it's quite intuitive.
The pen supports up to 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity. It does not use any battery so it does not require any charging.
The pen feels quite light but build quality is solid. The matte texture of the body feels nice to hold and prevents slip. The two side buttons have a tactile click to them.
10 replacement nibs are included. 5 are hard tips that glide smoothly on the screen. The other 5 have a more texture tip, feels like felt tip surface, and provides more friction on the screen. You can choose either to use depending on your preference. Since the screen is already matte, it provides a nice texture to draw on, I actually prefer using the hard tip rather than the felt tip.
Two pen holders are included. They are designed in such a way that they fit into the slot on the side of the display. So you can keep your pen there when it's not in use.
There's some parallax but you can calibrate using the driver software to minimise the parallax. The distance from the surface to the actual pixels is not a big gap so parallax is not really a big issue.
The design of the pen may present a problem. Because the part that holds the nib is bulbous in design, it makes it difficult to see the nib when draw near some edges. For example, for right handed users, when reaching the left side of the screen, the pen and the nib holder part will block off the nib, making it difficult to see where your cursor will be. It would be better is the nib holder is actually a conical shape that tapers down rather than this bulbous shape. This problem is not as obvious with smaller screens because you won't have to move your hand that far to the edge, and from your position, you're more likely to still see the pen tip.
Connecting to the computer
The USB Y-cable is used to connect the display to the computer. One end goes into the computer, the double ends will go to the power socket and the display. For the end that goes into the display, there's another USB extension cable you've to use.
In the photo above, the left goes to the display, middle to the computer, and the red-coloured USB head will go to the power plug. Setting up is easy, you just connect everything.
If your computer's USB port has sufficient power to power up the display, you may not even need to use the power plug. You are most likely able to use your other existing USB power plugs to power the display also.
Download the driver first. The drivers I've used in this review are Windows Driver 3.0 and Mac Driver 3.05. Note that there's also a driver for "For Windows 10 Creator 1709 Build" so check your Windows version to download the correct driver for your system.
For Windows users, the driver can only install with the display connected in advance. Mac users can just install straightaway.
Specific functions can be assigned to the shortcut buttons on the display. There are pre-configured functions to choose from, and that includes specific functions configured for Photoshop, Illustrator, Clip Studio Paint and Corel Painter.
If those are not enough, you can input your own keyboard shortcuts.
To configure the 8th button, you have to go to the Scroll Dial tab. You can only choose from the pre-configured functions, no customisable keyboard shortcut feature is available here.
You can assign 5 different functions to that one button in the middle of the scroll wheel. Each time you press that button, it will switch through the different function. For example, if you're in Photoshop, you want the scroll wheel to change the brush sizes, but when you're using the web browser, you want to switch the function to scrolling the webpage instead. Each time you press the button, a text label will appear on screen at the bottom to tell you which function is in use.
You can also change the pressure sensitivity of the pen. The options available for the side of the pen are only different types of mouse clicks.
Update: You can now calibrate to remove parallax.
You can use the driver to calibrate the screen to remove parallax. BUT Windows users do not have the calibration option, so the cursor is always directly beneath the tip at all times, and parallax becomes more obvious when the pen is near the edge of the display. Artisul said that this design is intentional. Basically, it's just like how you cannot calibrate on a Microsoft Surface Pro as well. The distance from the surface to the actual pixels isn't that much, so to me it's not that big of a deal because after a while you will get used to where the lines will come out from beneath the tip.
Also note that the cursor is offset slightly from the left or right of the tip. For example, for right handed users, the cursor will be a few pixels to the left. This is so that when you're drawing, the pen and the tip doesn't not block the cursor. The implementation works fine here.
For those using dual screens, there's this feature called "Full Screen Cursor" that will allow your cursor to move across two screens, sort of like how a mouse will move when you have a dual monitor setup. The implementation here is slightly different compared to other brands. In the ideal situation (not here), when you enable the feature (you can assign a shortcut button to), you want this pen display to map to the whole area of your other monitor. With the D16, only a portion of this pen display is mapped onto the extended monitor, the other portion is mapped to itself -- that's why you can control the cursor over two screen using only the D16's screen. Basically, it's like how you would use a typical mouse in a dual monitor setup. The implementation on D16 will take some getting used to.
It would be great, in dual monitor mode, to just lock the cursor for use with only one screen at a time. E.g. when you're using another screen, you're using this pen display like a screen-less graphics tablet.
Let's start with the Mac first. I suspect there is some issues with the driver.
Photoshop works fine mostly but there are some strange behaviour.
Photoshop Mac. Sometimes there can be jitter/wobble to straight diagonal lines. The example shown above is more obvious but most of the time it's less obvious.
Here it's less obvious. Maybe because the lines are thinner.
Photoshop Mac. Same try but with thicker lines.
Photoshop Mac. When it comes to tests, sure the lines wobble slightly. But when it's actually used for drawing, I don't think I would notice anything amiss. Do you see anything weird with the lines above? If you're very particular, then yes, there is still some wobble.
This is very likely a driver issue. I uninstalled the driver and there is no more jitter/wobble, but there is no more pressure sensitivity as well.
Wacom drivers need to be installed for pressure sensitivity to work in Illustrator (Mac).
This is Tayasui Sketches Pro (Mac). The app may have applied some smoothening. I noticed the lines in this app, regardless of what you are drawing with, is always very smooth.
Mischief (Mac) has some quirks as well. Strokes that go up looks fine. But strokes that come down looks very jittery.
Medibang Paint Pro (Mac) performs better than Photoshop. No big issues here.
Krita (Mac) also performs fine.
Clip Studio Paint (Mac) performs fine. I can feel that the pen is extremely sensitive here. Note the random blobs that may appear in lines. But when it comes do drawing, the random blobs seldom appear, unless you are drawing really long continuous lines.
For some reason, Photoshop on Windows perform better than the Mac version. So this issue with Photoshop could be a driver issue with the OS.
Photoshop (Win). There's definitely no worries of line wobble or jitter with Photoshop on Windows. Everything feels right.
There's pressure sensitivity with Illustrator but these are the quirks I encountered. Basically, it's not usable for drawing.
Medibang Paint Pro (Win) works well.
Mischief (Win) works well.
Sketchable (Win) works well.
Problematic Windows apps
Krita (Win) has problems. It's like the cursor will move in the opposite direction of the pen. If you move to top left, cursor will go to bottom right. If you face this problem, the fix is to set the Custom Scaling to 100% in the Display properties.
In Clip Studio Paint (Win) ver 1.7.2 has the same problem as Krita, and can be solved by the same fix. After the fix, both apps work nicely with pressure sensitivity and produce smooth lines. Clip Studio Paint can produce smoother lines and better tapered lines compared to Photoshop.
The D16 is a welcome addition to the Artisul line of pen displays. A 21.6-inch Artisul D22 will be coming soon.
The overall build quality is good, and it looks good.
Drawing performance and functionality is good as well generally speaking, but there are some issues with certain graphic apps. Those issues may or may not be a deal breaker depending on the type of work you do. But overall, I'm still quite satisfied with the performance.
Pros and cons at a glance:
+ Good build quality
+ Pen does not require battery
+ Pen is quite sensitive
+ 10 replacement tips included
+ Matte anti-glare screen does not have reflections
+ Nice texture on screen to draw on
+ 1080P resolution on the screen this size is sharp enough
+ Screen has good colour accuracy and viewing angles
+ Does not feel warm after long periods of use
+ Drawing performance generally good but depends on the OS and app that you use
+ Useful stand is included
+ Useful pen holder allows pen to be attached to side of display
+ 8 shortcut buttons and scroll wheel are useful
+ Can be used in left handed mode
- Some issues with apps on both Mac and Windows. Some with fixes, some without.
- Bulbous design of the pen's tip holder may block off the sight of the tip at far corners
- Windows drivers are at different places: Start menu and taskbar
- Parallax exists, corrected by calibration
- Implementation of dual screen mode is not ideal