Xencelabs Pen Display 16″ Review: Pro Tablet Made for Traveling Creatives

A laptop and a tablet displaying photo editing software are placed on a wooden desk. A man’s portrait is on the laptop screen, while a woman’s portrait is on the tablet screen. Above, the text reads "PetaPixel Reviews." A pair of editing gloves and a control deck are on the desk.

Just last month, Xencelabs announced a new “industry first” $1,249 4K OLED Pen Display targeted at professional digital creatives requiring quality and portability. The tablet has compelling features and big ambitions. Can it live up to these lofty goals?

With each advancement in screen technology, not only do these tablets get more useful for design, illustration, and photo retouching, but they also gain functionality as a useful second screen for workstations. I have a small display tablet that I often travel with just to have access to a second screen to work with while on the road. So, when I read about this particular Xencelabs tablet, I had to get my hands on it.

The system offers users a single point of connection with USB-C, or using a provided hub that can provide additional power and enable the screen get even brighter, making it all the more useful for the traveling photographer.

A digital drawing tablet with a stylus attached to the side is placed on a wooden table. Accompanying the tablet are a black glove, a rectangular accessory, and a small wireless remote with buttons and a wheel, all branded with the name "Xencelabs.

Following the very successful launch of the Pen Display 24 aimed at hardcore professionals, the Pen Display 16 is a great alternative choice for the professional who wants the same level of screen quality and pen accuracy while away from their normal workstation, or simply someone who wants to save a bit of money and space on their desk.

Boasting a 16-inch 4K (3,840 x 2,160 resolution) OLED screen, the new Pen Display offers users an appealing system that is accurate, customizable, has a ton of power, and can still fit in their camera bag to go on the road with them.

What’s in the Box

The image shows the packaging of a Xencelabs Pen Display Studio Series 16. The box features a vibrant illustration on the tablet screen, with text highlighting its 4K resolution, OLED display, and various features for creative professionals. The box is inside a cardboard shipping container.

Normally, I wouldn’t really deep dive into this but Xencelabs, with the bundle version at least, has ensured that a new user of their product will have everything they need for practically any connection type and situation they encounter.

A black protective sleeve with the Xencelabs logo in the bottom right corner is positioned inside an open dark-colored box, which is placed on a wooden surface. The sleeve appears to be designed for a tablet or laptop.

The Xencelabs Pen Display 16 is available in two versions; the Essentials, which includes a USB-C cable, cleaning cloth, two pens with spare nibs and accessories with a protective case, a glove, and the carrying case, and the “Bundle.” This latter choice includes everything mentioned above, plus the quick keys remote, a hub, a Wi-Fi dongle, a dual-angle stand, and a plethora of additional cables (including HDMI and a power adapter). The bundle choice adds a lot of extra accessibility and functionality for users.

A variety of black cables and chargers with colored tags are neatly arranged on a grey bag with a handle. There is also a black power bank with the brand name "Anker" printed on it, placed on the left side of the bag. The background is a wooden surface.

The multi-angle easel is capable of laying the tablet flat, or at 18.3 and 32-degree inclines, making it easy to adjust for most users posture and favorite positioning. The easel itself is made from a durable plastic and has rubber feet to help prevent any slipping when placed on most surfaces. It is easy to set up and is impressively strong.

A graphics tablet is positioned on a wooden desk with its back facing the camera. A pen rests on top of the tablet. The back features a unique ridged design with a logo reading "XenceLabs." Bookshelves can be seen blurred in the background.

Finally, there are two pen clips that mount on to the tablet by simply popping in to the built-in grooves along the back of the tablet so users can have a place to attach their pen(s) directly to the screen should they choose that instead of keeping them in the provided case.

Design and Build Quality

A work desk features a laptop displaying an editing software and a monitor showing a photo of a woman in a white dress. A digital drawing pad and a control device are on the desk. The scene is lit by sunlight through partially open blinds.

This new tablet features the largest OLED 4K display on the market, at least so far, making it not only a great pen display tablet but also a very viable second screen to use as just a monitor. The system weighs about 2.7 pounds (1.2 kilograms) and measures 16.25 x 10.25 x 0.47 inches (413 x 260 x 11.9 millimeters) with an “active area” of 13.5 x 7.75 inches (342.9 x 196.9 millimeters). The screen features one of the highest resolutions among its competitors and has a pixel density of 275 ppi (pixels per inch). The panel can display up to 1.07 billion colors and has a maximum brightness of up to 300 nits.

A sleek, black laptop with a visible logo is partially inserted into a matching black sleeve case. The sleeve and the laptop both have identical logos featuring a small, stylized flame icon. The items are placed on a light wooden surface.

The tablet features a nicely sized bezel encompassing the entire outer edge, and the screen itself is bright, clear, smooth to the touch, and easy to see, even in some direct light situations. What’s even better is the screen gets brighter if you use the provided hub with an external power source, bringing the max up to 300 nits. I still wouldn’t recommend using this in direct sunlight, but it’s still a lot cleaner and easier to see in bright situations than many other tablets I’ve tested.

A close-up of a tablet placed on a textured, geometric-patterned stand. The tablet screen is partially visible, with edges reflecting light. A stylus is attached to the stand. The background is a wooden surface that appears slightly blurred.

There is a single USB-C port along the top left of the tablet, which is why they provide the hub for an HDMI connection and external power, with the power button located on the top right.

Close-up of a tablet with a durable case, partially propped open on a wooden surface. The tablet's side buttons and part of the screen are visible. The case has a textured, geometric pattern and a logo resembling a flame.

Something I particularly enjoyed is the small 12mm thick body, making it particularly easy to pack up in a bag and travel with, should you decide not to use the provided protective sleeve and bag. The system is small and light enough that you could potentially hold it in one hand. It’s not as lightweight as an iPad, but it’s still easy to hold.

A black plastic case with a set of digital art tools is open on a wooden surface. Inside the case are a digital pen, a pen holder, a USB adapter, a ring-like tool, and extra pen nibs. The case is neatly organized with foam cutouts for each item.

Like every other Xencelabs tablet, the new one comes with two battery free pens capable of 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. One is a “normal” three button style pen, while the other is a thinner two button “pencil” style instrument. The pens fit in an included protective case that also houses a USB-A to USB-C adapter, the aforementioned Wi-Fi dongle, and a collection of extra nibs.

A small, rectangular black device with the "Xencelabs" logo on top is placed on a wooden surface. The device has various ports on its sides, including USB and HDMI connectors. The surface shows a weathered texture with different shades of brown.

The hub features connections for power, USB-C for the tablet and host computer, HDMI, and DisplayPort. Additionally, both the hub and tablet have a security slot connection that is compatible with Kensington NanoSaver locks.

A top-down view of a black rugged tablet with a stylus attached to the top. The tablet rests on a wooden surface, and the brand name "Xplore" and model info are visible on the back. Corners are reinforced with protective bumpers.

The bottom of the device includes a selection of eight rubber feet for gripping when placed onto flat surfaces (like the easel). Overall, the build of the Xencelabs Pen Display 16 feels very durable, and I suspect the tablet will survive the bumps of life on the road without issue.

Setup and Customization

Getting started is incredibly straightforward, and the company even includes a giant sheet of paper with instructions on how everything is meant to be connected and set up, plus a QR code that will automatically link users to the driver download location and any additional support documentation they may need.

After having used several Xencelabs tablets, they’re pretty much ready to go straight out of the box, save for driver updates.

Like the previous Xencelabs tablets, the system will display a series of quick links for the various detected devices including the two pens, quick keys, and tablet itself. From here, you can adjust the settings on the pens and tablets, including the color space, tilt and pressure sensitivity for the pens, and custom quick keys. You can also run a quick calibration to ensure the accuracy of the pen. I’ve never encountered an issue with the accuracy of the pens, but I’d still recommend running the calibration every time you change the resolution and orientation of your tablets, just to be safe. The overall setup, even going deep into customization, is intuitive and simple.

A digital interface displaying a "My products" page for Xencelabs devices. The sidebar shows menu options including Home, Pen Display 16, Thin Pen, 3-Button Pen, and My Quick Keys, with pictures of each product. The main section includes images and names of these products.

Switching the tablet from horizontal to vertical (portrait or landscape) modes can be done either through the computer’s system settings for the display, or even easier, through the Xencelabs software using a drop-down menu. This makes it easy for users to quickly swap between operating modes and letting users see more of their screens in the direction they need it.

Out of the box, it has five pre-calibrated color spaces that are ready to one-click-select, and they have a reported Adobe RGB (98%), P3 (98%), sRGB (99%), Rec 2020 (82%) and Rec 709 (99%) coverage. Testing these with a proper calibration tool, the Datacolor Spyder X2 Elite, I actually got results that were even more impressive, showing that the company actually gave themselves a little breathing room for their color accuracy since my results were about 1-2 percentage points better than promised.

A computer screen displaying the SpyderPro software interface. The software shows a profile overview with a color calibration graph and detailed information about the display. Options to set, verify, and save display settings are available along with a user guide link.

A screenshot of the SpyderPro monitor calibration software. It shows a profile overview with a color gamut graph comparing different color profiles, alongside various color settings and information. The interface includes options like calibration settings, display comparison, and brightness.

A screen capture of the SpyderPro software displaying a profile overview. The left side shows a color gamut comparison graph, and the right side provides display information, including brightness and contrast settings. A "Calibrate Another Display" button is at the bottom.

A black multimedia remote control with a screen in the center and buttons arranged around it is placed on a wooden surface. The remote has circular dials and navigation buttons, with a brand name visible on the top right corner.

Like all of the previous Xencelabs tablets we’ve tested, the Quick Keys Controller remote supports up to 40 shortcuts per application with context-sensitive labels and can last over 50 hours per charge when used wirelessly. It’s all pretty easy to setup and customize through the Xencelabs software.

Currently, the system supports macOS, Windows, and Linux. It’s worth noting that it doesn’t currently support Chrome OS or Android, and it does not support or have any touch capabilities. Honestly, the touch features I only really like for quick rotations/pinch/zooms of projects I’m working on, so their omission isn’t a deal breaker for my workflow. However, some competitors include touch functionality, which some users may value.

There’s something else worth noting for users who have multiple Xencelabs tablets. At least currently, the pens seem to be specific to the tablet itself. This means I can’t use the pen from my normal small tablet on the 16″ Pen Display or vice versa.

Probably the Nicest Display Tablet I’ve Ever Used

When retouching, it was amazing to be able to get so much detail on such a portable tablet, but as weird as it sounds, I almost wanted to reduce the 4K screen resolution when using the tablet as just a regular, secondary screen. It’s beautiful, but almost too much resolution for its size.

Screenshot of a display settings window showing two displays: a built-in display and a "Pen Display16." Below are various resolution options listed for selection, ranging from 3840 x 2160 to 1152 x 648, with the warning that using a scaled resolution may affect performance.

As for the actual functionality, the device is fantastic. It is absolutely silent in use, and the colors and contrast of the 4K OLED screen are gorgeous. I could only imagine it would be even more useful and enticing for digital artists, painters, and illustrators. Using the tablet directly from the USB-C connection on my Mac Mini and MacBook Pro was smooth and easy to work with and offered decent brightness.

However, connecting the device through the provided USB-C Hub that allows for an additional power source allows the screen to get up to 300 nits of brightness, which was absolutely fantastic to work on and actually a very visible difference to the naked eye. While I’m not a fan of the extra clutter from using the hub and the extra cables needed, the extra brightness that you get from it made me quickly forget about these quibbles.

I had the tablet sitting under my window, and had all of my lights turned on, including a directly overhead LED 5,500K lamp, and the anti-glare surface worked like a charm, providing me with a very comfortable and clean view in both day or night settings. I ran a Datacolor Spyder X2 Elite (latest release) calibration to get even more accurate results for the color in my workspace and was not let down.

A white background with a hand-drawn black horizontal gradient labeled "SLOW" at the top. Below it, a thick blue line labeled "FAST," a blue circle, and a small green star shape. The items appear to represent different speeds and shapes.

The battery-free EMR pens worked seamlessly swapping back and forth between them, and I finally took advantage of the virtual desktop to be able to use the pen to navigate to my desktop/laptop screen to grab files or windows and drag them over to my tablet screen to work with. That part took a little bit to get used to at first, but I’ve honestly grown to love it.

Both pens are completely customizable to your user preference including pen pressure, tilt angles and button actions. Both offer users the now industry standard of 8,192 levels of pen pressure, a “resolution” of 5,080 LPI, and up to 60-degree tilt. Also, both pens have the eraser-nib on the top of them! Honestly, as simple a feature as this is, many tablets surprisingly don’t include this feature on a lot of the pens.

A black Xencelabs digital drawing tablet and its accompanying wireless module rest on a worn wooden surface. The tablet features a round dial, multiple buttons, and an OLED screen, showcasing its sleek and functional design.

The Quick Keys controller is just like you’d expect from using any other of the Xencelabs lineup. The tablet’s operation and responsiveness are great. The only thing I’d say that this tablet is missing is the ability to clip the controller to the side or top of the tablet like you can with the Display 24″. Definitely not a deal breaker but when you get in a flow, it’s easy to find yourself with your free hand holding onto the side of the tablet like you would a drafting book or paper pad, so having the Quick Keys already there would just make the workflow so much more immersive.

A stack of XenceLabs drawing tablets is neatly arranged on a wooden table. A stylus rests on top of the stack. In the background, shelves filled with books and a television are visible.

The easel was a bit of a welcome surprise to find in the bundle. It is much sturdier than I would expect, considering how lightweight it is. It can be laid flat or positioned at two different angles (18 and 32 degrees) to suit most users’ range of motion and posture positions. The company adds that the tablet is compatible with its “Desktop Easel,” which will support a variety of viewing angles and even a standard VESA mount and quick release, which should be available soon.

A workspace featuring a laptop and a digital drawing tablet on a wooden desk. The laptop screen shows a design software interface, while the drawing tablet displays an image editing program. Additional accessories include a stylus, a glove, and a color calibration tool.

Like I’ve said before, Xencelabs’ tablets routinely provide a smooth and reliable experience. I’ve never once had any issues with their drivers, pens, or Quick Keys Controller. While there are other “mobile” tablets out there, this one is currently the only one that can provide me with the maximum resolution and screen brightness that I really want out of a display tablet either on the move or at home at my own desk. The colors are vivid and accurate, the tablet itself is silent and responsive, and the pens both feel great in the hand. The only downside is that the 16″ screen is a tad small when using the full 4K resolution, as the menus and text can be a bit of a pain to see, especially if you’re on the older side like me. But again, you can program your most-used commands into the controller and just switch the resolution to something easier on the eyes when needed.

Photo Provided by Dae Howerton

Photo Provided by Dae Howerton

Are There Alternatives?

There has been no shortage of competition in the pen and display tablet market recently, so the good news is there are a lot of alternatives ranging in size, features, and display quality for users to choose from based on their needs. Staying near the 16″ range, there’s the affordable $599 XP Pen Artist Pro 16 (Gen 2) and $899 XP Pen Artist Pro 16TP, the $829 Huion Kamvas Pro 16 (4K), the above mentioned $1,599 Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 and the $649 Wacom Cintiq 16 Full HD

If mobility is the most important concern, there is the $399 Wacom One 12 Display Tablet, the $299 Wacom One 13.3″ Creative Display (without touch), and the $599.95 Wacom One 13 Touch Display

If something larger is more your speed, there is the $1,099 Huion Kamvas Pro 19, the $3,500 Wacom Cintiq Pro 27 and the $1,899 Xence Labs Pen Display 24.

Should You Buy It?

Yes. While the price tag isn’t exactly cheap, this tablet is aimed at mobile professionals and the OLED screen is worth the $999 to $1,249 investment.