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Xencelabs Introduces Professional Pen Tablet Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

24 February 2021

Nothing quite beats a pressure sensitive tablet for image editing. Until today, though, our options were pretty much limited to Wacom. That wasn't a bad thing, but with the arrival of Xencelabs and its Pen Tablet Medium, we finally have a real choice. And a lot of chew on.

Yesterday we attended a briefing with the company as it introduced its first product and told the story behind its development.


Head of Product Michael Thompson started the briefing by revealing he worked at Wacom for 10 years and was responsible for the Cintiq line of products. He's been with Xencelabs for two years.

He made the point that the new tablet was co-designed by professional artists in several disciplines. They had a significant impact on the design of the product.

One example of their influence is that the Medium is not touch sensitive. It's the first thing artists turn off, Thompson said, so the company left it out entirely.


Thompson then tackled the pronunciation of the company name, which we found particularly helpful. It's "sense-labs." Which makes perfect "sense" for a pressure-sensitive tablet company.

The name also marries the artist emphasis of the design and the science behind the product.

Although it's a new company, it is international with main offices in Vancouver (hardware, software design and brand development), Paris and Shenzhen (manufacturing, sales, marketing, engineering) as well as Korean and Japanese sites. CEO Yuanzhi Li and President James Zhang, who came up with this idea, are in China.

Half the development team came from Wacom.


During the briefing, we experienced a moment of truth.

Thompson was introducing the Quick Keys control pad with eight buttons, an OLED display between the two rows for button labels and a nice big dial. The unit was displayed vertically with the button label names reading across the narrow width of the display so they would be legible in that orientation.

As we listened to him describe the unit, we wondered if you could use it horizontally. That would make it easier to use the dial for scrolling or changing brush size. But what would happen to the button labels? Would you have to read them sideways?

No, they orient themselves horizontally.

It's that little extra design touch that seems to have been a company theme.

You get two different pens with the unit. It works wirelessly or wired (for the day when the internal battery no longer holds a charge). It is not touch sensitive so you won't be moving the cursor accidentally across the screen. The buttons are separate so you can work them with your other, non-drawing hand.

That theme seems to carry into the software, too.

You can define the behavior of the tablet and control pad with the driver software, defining sets of keys and the color of the lights on the hardware (or even if they're on).


One of the issues that has plagued Wacom owners over the years has been driver compatibility as their operating systems evolved. Upgrade your operating system and suddenly your tablet is a brick because the driver isn't compatible and the company has no update available.

The problem isn't unique to Wacom, though. Printer and scanner manufacturers have all faced the same daunting task of keeping up with operating system evolution.

It isn't possible to predict how Xencelabs will handle this challenge, of course.

But it was at least reassuring to find out that current driver is compatible with some rather old operating systems.

The Pen Tablet Medium driver is compatible with macOS 10.12 Sierra and up, Windows 7 or later and Ubuntu 14.04 64 and newer plus Red Hat7 64, Debian 64 and other Linux installations.


The 16x9 aspect ratio matches today's screens. It's a very thin device with an aluminum bottom that weighs 2.22 lbs. The front lip curves down to the table to avoid a sharp edge but the drawing surface follows it, preventing the device from accumulating dirt and crumbs.

The active area is 10.33 x 5.88 inches in a 12.6 x 9.13 carbon black body that is 0.3 inches deep.

The power switch is a slide at the top edge and there are three buttons related to tablet behavior above the drawing surface. The Quick Keys device has all the other buttons.

Those three buttons can be reprogrammed but by default go to tablet settings (left), sets pen pressures (middle) and switches to alternate displays (right).

We found it a smart move to take the other short cut buttons off the tablet. Having buttons on a tablet is always a bit awkward. Having them on another device on the other side of the keyboard, say, lets you work with both hands.

There are illuminated corner lights on the drawing surface whose color you can select (and it matches the Quick Keys dial) or turn off entirely.


The tablet includes two 6.2-inch pens that function using electro-magnetic resonance. The 3-button pen is thicker than the thinner pen. The company tested all sorts of pen designs before deciding on these two rounded ones.

Both pens feature the lightest activation pressure in the industry of 3gm instead of 5gm to 8gm or more.

Pressure sensitivity is a very refined 8192 levels.


As we said above, the Quick Keys device works well in either orientation. It provides a set of eight soft keys that can be switched to five sets of programmable definitions for 40 total shortcuts per application.

You can export and share the settings.

It isn't essential to the tablet, Thompson acknowledged, but if you like shortcut keys, they've spent some time making sure you'll love the Quick Keys device.


Xencelabs provided three specifications sheets for the Medium and Quick Keys:

It's worth pointing out that the tablet includes the tablet, a 3-button pen with eraser, a thinner 2-button pen with eraser, 10 nibs (4 felt), nib extractor, poen case, USB calbe, USB C-to-A adapter, drawing glove, pen carrying sleeve for tablet and cables.

The Quick Keys device includes the box itself, a case and a USB cable. By purchasing the bundled tablet and Quick Keys, you save $10.

Thompson said the company didn't want to nickel and dime its artists. You can see they haven't.


The first product shipments are arriving today and will be available at the Xencelabs estore and Amazon. The tablet warranty is two years.

Xencelabs Redraws the Rules on Digital Tablets for Creative Professionals

New Company Gives Artists and Designers a New Professional Tablet Focused on the Nuances of the Drawing Experience

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Creative professionals have constantly had limited choices when it comes to digital design tools. Xencelabs Technologies is changing the market landscape, delivering new design technologies customized to the specific needs of digital artists and designers.

The new company was founded by a group of experienced creative design professionals with a shared passion for designing a new class of digital drawing tools. Xencelabs (pronounced "sense") merges the ideas of human senses, innovation and a "laboratory" approach to experimentation and progressive product development.

Recognizing the need for digital design tools that support the way artists and designers really work, Xencelabs is launching with its new Pen Tablet ready for the market. This product was developed in collaboration with creative communities, including photographers, illustrators, motion picture, TV and production artists, to name a few, to closely match the traditional hand-drawing experience. The result is a digital tablet alternative ensuring the optimal mix of comfort, customization, ergonomics, intuitive use and compatibility with different devices and operating systems.

"Our Pen Tablet prioritizes a faster and more efficient creative workflow with a satisfying, natural drawing experience," said Michael Thompson, Head of Professional Product at Xencelabs. "This product aims to address common nuances to help enhance the work of creative professionals daily."

Xencelabs products are available in different configurations: Pen Tablet Medium and the Pen Tablet Medium Bundle with a Quick Keys remote option. The Quick Keys enables artists to incorporate shortcut keys into their regular workflow through an easy-to-use interface. Both product configurations come with two different sized pens. Additionally, a range of accessories are available for purchase separately.

Designed for the Best Digital Design Experience

The quality of the experience begins where the pen meets the tablet surface. The new Xencelabs tablet offers a clean and minimalist design without unnecessary keys, enabling users to fully benefit from its 16:9 native aspect ratio. With only 8mm thickness, it features a seamless and gently curved palm rest for comfort. The tablet can be used wirelessly or with a USB cable.

To meet a range of artistic preferences, the Xencelabs device is the only pen tablet that comes with two battery-free pens of different diameters. The thin pen has two buttons while the three-button pen accommodates for artists doing 3D work. Both pens come with an eraser, 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, 3 gram initial activation force, tilt recognition and virtually no lag.

The Keys to Success

The Xencelabs team understands every artist works differently. The Quick Keys is an optional remote accessory to the Xencelabs device and offers five sets of eight keys -- for a total of 40 customizable shortcuts per application. This is particularly useful to make logical key groupings for specific steps in a workflow. The OLED display on the Quick Keys shows the assignment of each key and can be used in a portrait or landscape mode.

For environments where physical security is important, the tablet and the Quick Keys remote feature a Kensington NANO Lock Slot.

Exceptional Value

The Xencelabs Pen Tablet includes as standard all the essential accessories including, the medium sized tablet, pen case with 2 pens, 10 extra nibs and nib extractor, a USB C adaptor, USB dongle and cable, a drawing glove and an all-in-one carrying sleeve.

The bundle version includes the Quick Keys remote.

The standard Pen Tablet Medium is available now at $279.99 and the bundle at $359.99 from authorized resellers and at the Xencelabs estore --

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