XP-Pen Star 03/JW Concept XP-03 Review: Budget Intuos Pro Alternative

 

Is the JW Concept XP-03 (or the XP-Pen Star 03 as it is known internationally) the graphics tablet for you?

After years of using it, I finally got fed up with my Genius EasyPen i405x  graphics tablet and decided to get an upgrade. I initially thought of getting a Wacom Intuos Draw since it was discounted on Lazada. Thankfully, I didn’t pull the trigger on the purchase since I saw that there were other graphics tablets on the site. While browsing, I came across the XP-Pen Star 03. I did my research and found that it was a really good graphics tablet. My problem was that shipping for the item would take around 2 to 3 weeks. Additionally, I was scared that I might get a defective unit and it would be hell to have it replaced.

With these thoughts swirling in my head, I decided to hold off on any online purchases. Instead, I went and checked out several computer stores in our area. I finally managed to find one that had a really good deal on the Wacom Intuos Draw and was about to buy it when something caught my eye. Next to the store’s display of Wacom Intuos Pros was another graphics tablet. It stood out because it looked a lot like the XP-Pen Star 03. However, the brand on the box said JW Concept XP-03. Intrigued, I tried to search the net for this specific brand and the results brought me to this page.

Hands-on time with XP-03

After reading Sukinichii’s review, I went ahead and bought the JW Concept XP-03. Setting up the graphics tablet required that I download the drivers on this site. Yes, the package contained a driver/software CD but my computer didn’t have a DVD-player. The download was relatively easy though and once I had that on my computer, setup was a breeze.

What’s so good about it?

Size and Price

What initially drew me to the JW Concept XP-03 or the XP-Pen Star 03 was its size. Compared to the i405x, this was a behemoth. It measures 14.1 inches across with a vertical width of 8.2 inches, and a height of .4 inches. An issue that I had with my old i405x was its cramped work area. With the XP-03’s 10.2 inches by 6.6 inches working area, my hand can move more freely and I don’t have to worry about my wrists hitting the edge of the tablet (as what usually happened with the i405x). With its dimensions, the tablet reminded me of the Wacom Intuos Pro Medium. What makes it a better option (in my opinion) though is its price. At only PHP 3150 (around US$63), the graphics tablet costs less than a fifth of the Intuos Pro Medium (retails for around PHP20000-PHP21000).

Pen Pressure Sensitivity

Aside from its size, another reason why I bought the JW Concept XP-03 was for its 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity. When I started using it on Photoshop, I immediately loved how dynamic my lines now looked. Whereas before I struggled with my linework, now it’s become a lot less challenging. Of course, I still think that my linework still needs improvement. However, I can say that it’s now a lot better than when I was using the i405x. Also, I loved how I don’t have to change batteries or charge my pen every so often.

Pen Holder

While it was relatively easy to change nibs on the Genius Easypen i405x, the nibs themselves were also easy to misplace. Following Wacom’s example, the nibs for the XP-03’s pen are all safely tucked inside the pen holder. Now, this is a feature that I wholeheartedly appreciate since I tend to be forgetful which results in me losing my belongings. With the XP-03’s pen holder, the nibs are always within reach.

What you might not like

Express keys

Let’s get this out of the way, the JW Concept XP-03’s Express Keys look ugly. Yes, they are functional and I prefer them over the i405x’s. However, they stick out like a sore thumb aesthetically. As for functionality, the Express Keys works out of the box with Adobe Photoshop. On programs like Clip Studio Paint/Manga Studio though, it’s a lot more difficult to use the defaults. Of course, users can easily change the default shortcuts on the keys using the XP-03 software. With that said, I’ve never really used them that much since I’m more comfortable using keyboard shortcuts.

Driver/Software Issues

The XP-03 generally performed well on CSP and even on Paint Tool Sai. If you’re using Photoshop though then you might have to prepare for some troubleshooting. In my case, the XP-03 would only register straight horizontal, diagonal, and vertical lines whenever I alt-tabbed out of and then on to PS. I’m not quite sure what causes this but I did manage to address this with a temporary fix. All I had to do when this happened was open a new PS document and the tablet would be functioning normally again. After this, I then went back to the doc that I was working on and continue where I left off.

Note: I’ve tried uninstalling and reinstalling the drivers as well as a complete reformat on my computer and the issue still persists. I initially though that this might be either be a driver or a software issue. However, I have not tried this on another computer so it’s also possible that the issue might be with my own hardware.

The Alternatives

One of the challenges many digital artists face is finding a good graphics tablet that’s also affordable. And if they’re in the Philippines, this can prove to be more than just a challenge. Choices are mainly limited to Wacom’s Intuos Small and Genius’ EasyPen lineups. While these graphics tablets are readily available, they also aren’t for everyone.

Wacom’s cheapest Intuos lineup cost anywhere around PHP4000-PHP6000 depending on the bundled software. Additionally, the pens on these graphics tablets only supported 1024 levels of pressure. If you want to go up to the Intuos Pro lineup for higher levels of pressure sensitivity, then expect to shell out anywhere from PHP14000 to as much as PHP25000. Depending on the size, Genius’ offerings are around a third or half the price of Wacom’s. Yes they are cheaper but their pens only have 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity. Additionally, software support on Genius’ graphics tablets is severely lacking. I used to own a Genius EasyPen i405x and it constantly I encountered issues when using it together with a wireless keyboard and mouse (also from Genius).

Conclusion

In the close to four months that I’ve had the JW Concept XP-03, I can say that it is the best graphics tablet I’ve used thus far. It’s certainly an upgrade over the Genius EasyPen i405x and could go toe-to-toe in terms of functionality with Wacom’s regular Intuos lineups. With that said, it also isn’t without its flaws. Artists who use Photoshop might find themselves getting frustrated with its buggy performance on that app. Aesthetically, it’s also not the most good-looking tablet out in the market. Despite these issues, I’d still take the JW Concept XP-03 over any other tablet around the PHP3000 range. As a beginner/intermediate artist, the 2048 pressure levels on the pen as well as the large working area makes this just the right tablet for my needs.

Specs

  • Dimensions -14.1 in x 8.2 in x .4 in
  • Active area – 10.2 in x 6.6 in
  • Weight – 610 grams
  • Report Rate – 230 RPS
  • Resolution 5080 LPI
  • Pen Pressure Sensitivity – 2048 Levels
  • 8 Express Keys
  • Windows and Mac Compatibility

Accessories/What’s in the box?

  • 1x Passive Pen
  • 1x Pen Holder
  • 1x USB Cable
  • 1x Remover Ring
  • 8x Pen Nibs
  • 1x Installation CD
  • 1x User Manual

Relevant/Affiliate Links:

Sukinichii’s review
XP-Pen Star 03 at Lazada
Genius EasyPen i405x at Lazada
Wacom Intuos Draw Small at Lazada

8 thoughts on “XP-Pen Star 03/JW Concept XP-03 Review: Budget Intuos Pro Alternative

  1. Great review! And thanks for the pingback. ❤
    Sorry to hear you had problems with the software compatibility as well. It seems like a recurring problem because I encounter new ones every time I reformat my PC as well, thankfully with temporary fixes. Hope you find a permanent solution, though!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello I am the one who bought JW Concept tablet just like you. I read ur review because I have to know how to install the driver. Although I uninstalled all the other tablet drivers, but still I cannot even start to install the driver. Can u let me know some other ways to install this driver? Thank u for reading this comment 🙂

    Like

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