First impressions of the Artisul D13 drawing tablet

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Wacom’s days of creative dominance appear to be numbered as challengers like the Surface Pro 4, iPad Pro, and various Huion and Yiynova offerings are collectively banging on its door with compelling and much more cost effective alternatives. Now, a brand new, art-focused hardware company Artisul (literally “art is soul” according to its own website) joins the fray with its D13, a 13.3-inch 1080p external drawing monitor.

Artisul D13 02

It’s specifications are as follows:

  • Dimensions: 389.0mm (L) x 250.7mm (W) x 14mm (H)
  • Weight: 1.1kg
  • PC And Mac Connection: HDMI & USB
  • Screen Size (Diagonal): 13.3 inch
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Resolution: 1920 (L) x 1080 (W) pixels, IPS
  • Response Rate: 19ms
  • Pixel Pitch: 0.1529 x 0.1529 mm
  • Displayable Colors (maximum): 16.7 million
  • Color Gamut: 75% Adobe RGB
  • Industry Standard Pre-Sets: 6500°K whitepoint Default
  • Backlight Unit: LED
  • LCD Brightness: 300 (cd/m2)
  • Viewing Angle: 178° (89°/89°) H, (89°/89°) V
  • Graphics Input: HDMI
  • Pressure Sensitivity: 2048 (levels)
  • Resolution: 5080 LPI
  • Accuracy: ±1mm
  • Reading Height: 10 mm

While the D13 is sold and packaged by Artisul, the device itself is branded UC-Logic (makers of a competing digitizer technology to Wacom’s and Microsoft/N-trig’s own), and is produced by Yiynova. Wonky origins aside, the device exudes a professional appearance and solid build quality with the exception of a noticeable creaking found in the bottom half of the monitor, which is in my experience an odd signature trait with Yiynova’s otherwise solid devices.

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The D13 is a $600 USD direct alternative to Wacom’s wallet-crunching Cintiq 13HD, which currently retails for $800 USD, the exact price of the base model Surface Pro 4. The D13 carries the exact same resolution, screen size, and a similar overall layout. It also features a battery-less pen, a first for Yiynova as well as UC-Logic. Unlike the Cintiq 13HD, the D13’s pen does not carry tilt functionality, though Yiynova indicates they are working on it. Also unlike the 13HD, the D13 omits the adjustable stand, which retails separately for $50 USD. I happen to find this omission quite offensive.

Artisul D13 07

The D13’s button arrangement is quite interesting. In addition to its six programmable buttons, the D13 features a press-able, multi-mode scroll wheel, which rotates in a dial in the center. What scrolling the center wheel does depends on what “mode” it’s in. For example, a “Zoom” mode will cause scrolling the wheel to either zoom in or out of the drawing program’s canvas, depending on which direction you rotate the dial. The “Brush size” mode behaves similarly. There are several other modes as well, all of which are configurable.

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One particularly unique party trick the D13 has over the Cintiq 13HD, one that I’m very enamored with, is found in how it’s powered. For some historical context, most of these external drawing monitors are hulking devices with at require at minimum three separate plugs: display (HDMI or VGA), USB (for pen input), and power.

While it still needs to attach to the computer’s HDMI for display, I’m happy to report that the D13 can in fact be powered exclusively by a single USB 3.0 port. One down, one to go. Mind you, to power the D13 this way, you need a legit, full-powered USB 3.0 port, not those pansy ones you find in portable devices like most laptops and Surfaces. If such a gas-guzzling port is not an option, the D13 can also be powered through traditional means.

Artisul D13 06

As for drawing experience, I need to spend more time to get to know the device, but as of now, I can report that it has noticeably better pen performance than the Surface Pro 4, with little to no jitter in slow strokes, better pressure sensitivity range, and better lightweight stroke performance. Interestingly, however, it’s a slight step down from the Cintiq 13HD and it’s bigger, battery-powered Yiynova siblings. It’s hard to compare it with the iPad Pro since the iPad Pro not only has a different feature set, but also access to fundamentally different apps from the rest of the crowd.

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While I do think it’s a tad overpriced for what you get (though nowhere near as bad as the abominable 13HD that once cost north of $1000 USD), the D13 is a very welcome entry to a market that needs all the competition it can get.

Look forward to my more in-depth review in the coming weeks.