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XP-Pen currently has two series of pen tablets for digital artists. There’s the Star series which features a more angular design and the Deco series which has rounded and curved design. Other than the design differences, the functionality and features of the Star and Deco series are kinda comparable. Maybe there are other significant differences but I find it difficult to spot.
Deco Mini 7 comes in two models, the XP-Pen Deco Mini 7 Wireless (US $59) and the wired (US $49).
These are the items included:
- P05D battery-free pen
- USB-A to USB-C data cable
- USB-A to micro-USB adapter
- USB-A to USB-C adapter
- 10x replacement nibs
- Nib remover
- USB-A wireless receiver
These are the USB-C and micro-USB adapters included so that the tablet can be used with Android.
I experienced connection issues with the wireless receiver under certain situations.
With the desktop Mac I’m using that already had lots of wireless devices (Bluetooth and wifi) connected, the connection with the tablet was choppy. Sometimes the cursor would move slow, sometimes in a choppy manner. This choppy connection issue happens when the tablet is one keyboard length away, which isn’t too far away. Wireless connection is strong if the tablet is just besides the receiver which tells me that there is definitely some wireless interference somewhere.
When used with my laptop which is not connected to other wireless devices, connection is good.
So if you use multiple wireless devices, this is something you should take note of, unless you plan on placing the tablet just beside your USB port.
This by the way is a review unit from XP-Pen.
The active drawing area is 7 x 4.37 inches. I usually recommend people get a graphics tablet that’s at least 10 x 6 inches because that’s a size that works well with laptop’s small display as well as much larger 27 – 32 inch displays.
It has been a while since I used a smaller tablet like this and I’ve got to say that I still recommend people to get 10 x 6 inches if they have the budget to do so, and if they intend to work on the tablet for long periods of time.
When you pair a small graphics tablet to a large monitor (I’m using 27-inch monitor), a small movement with the pen will translate to a large movement on the display. It will take time to get used to be able to control the cursor movement precisely. That’s the main concern when getting a smaller tablet. But 7 x 4.37 inches is not that small. Smaller ones can be 6 by 4 inches.
Oh, to protect the drawing surface from scratches, XP-Pen has this protective plastic/film that you have to peel off. It’s quite challenging to peel that off so keep scratching it with your fingernails until you see a tear and pull it off.
Build quality is solid. The rounded corners and curved edges are nice.
There are 8 customisable physical shortcut buttons on the side.
Left handed users can use the driver to turn the tablet orientation 180 degrees. Since this is wireless, you don’t have to worry about the cable going up or down.
The L-shaped data cable is USB-C so you can have the cable point in either direction. That cable is used for charging the internal battery which is rated to last at least 10 hours of continuous drawing. When charging, the tablet can still be used. The tablet will power off after 5 minutes of inactivity though to conserve battery life.
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10 hours continuous use to me is kinda short if you’re going to be drawing a lot. If you draw 4 hours a day. You’ll probably have to charge the tablet every 3 days. If you don’t want to deal with the charging, just get the wired Deco Mini 7 model which is $10 cheaper.
This is the P05D which supports tilt sensitivity and up to 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity.
It’s not powered by battery so no charging required.
The pen has good build quality. Design looks good and it’s comfortable to hold with its large rubber grip. The nib moves slightly just like others from most styluses.
The driver I’m using is the XP-PENMac_3.0.8_210112(New UI Beta Driver) released on 14 Jan 2021.
I tried the XP-PENMac_184.108.40.206119(Official Driver) released on 20 Jan 2021 but it didn’t work for me – the cursor could move but I couldn’t click on anything.
These XP-Pen drivers are suppose to work for MacOS 10.14 and 11 Big Sur. Thankfully at least one worked for me.
And finally there was one issue. The MacOS driver has to be launched each time you want to use the tablet. Apparently installing the driver, at time of this review, does not mean the driver will do its magic in the background all the time.
The workaround is simple: just use MacOS System Preferences to have the driver launch (and hide) automatically each time you power on.
And don’t quit the driver or the tablet won’t work (cursor won’t move) again. Use the red cross button or just hide the app to background.
Here’s where you can customise the 8 physical shortcut buttons, aka ExpressKeys
The most important thing here is you can rotate the orientation 180 degrees. This is for left handers.
Pressure curve can be adjusted by moving the square dot around.
These are the other shortcuts you can set to the pen’s buttons or ExpressKeys. The more useful ones are probably “Switch Monitor” which will move the cursor to another display if you’re using dual monitors, and Precision mode which will slow down the cursor’s movement so that you can draw more precisely.
Drawing performance is excellent on MacOS. I did not test the tablet with Windows though.
The pen is very sensitive. Pressure and tilt sensitivity works well. Lines can taper smoothly. Transition from thin to thick lines, vice versa, is smooth. Line were able to come out just the way I want them too.
Initial activation force is low, even lower compared to pen displays which is not surprising.
Pressure and tilt also work well with Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer and Adobe Illustrator.
Drawing on Android
Using with Android is plug and play, no driver installation needed.
Tilt and pressure sensitivity work with Android. But since there’s no driver, you won’t be able to adjust the pressure curve or use the ExpressKeys.
The tablet and your Android device have to be in portrait orientation for the cursor tracking to match.
Shown in the photo above is the tablet used together with the Samsung Tab S7+. This use case does not make sense because you can already draw on the Samsung tablet with the S Pen.
To have the tablet able to work with Android is a nice extra. Note that the cursor may not appear with certain Android devices. That’s a risk you have to understand if you want to buy this tablet specifically to use with an Android tablet. E.g. You may have a large tablet that doesn’t come with an active stylus and want to use Clip Studio Paint (Android) which is an awesome drawing app.
Design and build quality is good. Drawing performance is excellent. Performance is consistent and predictable.
There are only minor issues I noticed.
First, MacOS driver has to be launched each time before the tablet can function. Workaround is to set the driver to launch at login since installation doesn’t do that for you.
Second, if you use multiple wireless devices with your computer, you may expect some wireless connection issues.
Third. 10 hours continuous battery life is kinda short to me. If you draw a lot, definitely check out XP-Pen’s other wireless tablets that offer longer battery life, e.g. 14 hours with US $69 XP-Pen Star 05 and 16 hours with US $86 XP-Pen Star 06 (one of top three tablets I always recommend), but they are more expensive.
If I want to buy a Deco Mini 7, I may probably go with the wired model.
Pros and cons at a glance
+ Nice looking design
+ Good build quality
+ Up to 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity
+ Tilt sensitivity support
+ 8 physical shortcut buttons
+ 10 replacement nibs included
+ Tablet usable while charging
+ Has left-handed mode
+ 5 minutes auto power-off to conserve battery life
– MacOS driver has to be launched manually for tablet to work
– Wireless connection issues with other wireless devices
– 10 hours battery life feels short
Where to buy
At the time of this review, XP-Pen Deco Mini 7 Wireless is US $59 on XP-Pen’s online store.