XP-Pen Star G640 tablet review
Be bound to a computer long enough and you’ll know that at some point, your hand, or wrists start to go south on you. Just the way it is and no one I know has escaped it. The perennial question is, what options are there?
Years ago I ditched the mouse in favour of a trackball. I am on my second Logitech unit and I have always loved it. The trackball under my thumb and other buttons under my fingers, as my hand rested on the mouse that never had to move meant I could put the mouse anywhere and not be worried about getting uncomfortable But lately I have noticed my thumb joint complaining at the end of the day. It seems that it’s finally had enough of spinning the ball around. Now what?
After a trackball, the options start getting really limited. My first port of call was Apple’s trackpad. I am used to my big Wacom, so the idea of a pad I could drag my finger over, the same way I would use the pen on the Wacom, seemed like a pretty neat alternative. But at AU$170, it’s a BIG ask. What’s more, the damn thing is Bluetooth only, and I built my Hackintosh without a Bluetooth card… I mean, why would I want one? I am not a fan of so much wireless stuff, especially where there is no tangible benefit. So between the insane asking price and the Bluetooth thing, that idea was blown out of the water.
After a morning of looking at available options, none of which made me feel inspired, I had a thought about another tablet. I was not keen to use the Cintiq as a daily driver. Yes, it would have solved the issues having a desktop I could drive with a pen but I save it only for the work I bought it for, digital drawing and zBrush. But a smaller, non screen tablet, that might be an option. So after looking at the offering from Wacom, the cheapest of which was in the $300 range, I headed over to XP-Pen to see what I could see.
If you’re in the creative field and a user of tablets, XP-Pen is a brand you probably have heard of. It often comes up as Wacom’s only real competition, and if I’d known at the time, I probably would have bought XP’s big screen tablet instead of the Cintiq, if for nothing more than the price – less than half of Wacom’s asking price for effectively the same thing. To say I was amazed at the range of tablets XP-Pen offers would be an understatement, they literally seem to have a tablet for every use and price point.
After a bit of looking and back and forth review reading, I decided on the wee little XP-Pen Star G640. About the size of Apple’s trackpad, it’s a bare bones tablet with no ‘features’ other than a pen with two buttons. But at $60 delivered, it was honestly hard to not want to give it a go…
The box turned up within a few days and setup was next to non existent – I downloaded the driver, made the needed fiddles and away I went. Within about 15 minutes, my initial concerns about holding the pen getting in the way of using the keyboard were put to rest, typing and pen holding (I’m doing it now!) felt completely natural. My other concern about the scaled proportions, the tablet is nowhere near the size of my screen, were also put to rest – with the right settings and about 5 minutes of practice you don’t even notice and it’s no different than using a traditional mouse. I should also note that the pen, while plastic, does feel solid and is not overly ‘fat’ giving it the feel more like a Bic ballpoint. My only real niggle with the pen/tablet is that while you can set up screen scrolling via mapping the pen button, as you can with a Wacom, it is not that great and I ended up ditching it, instead opting to use my trackball mouse which has a scroll wheel.
After about two weeks of use, I am totally at home with the little tablet, which I use left handed (as I am left handed), keeping the Logitech trackball to the right of the keyboard to use for scrolling. Switching between them is absolutely no issue and I have found that my hands and shoulders feel a lot more relaxed overall as I mix it up over the course of a working day. And while I bought the tablet more as a mouse replacement, I am finding I am even using it for little graphics jobs, where firing up the Cintiq is more of a pain. The fact that is has a reasonably solid range of pressure sensitivity makes it decent for drawing though be warned, with the pen pressure setting on, screen clicking through tapping the pen (as opposed to a pen button), sorta does not work very well, if at all. While turning it on/off is not a big deal, you’ll need to keep that in mind.
All in all, if you are in the market for a new ‘input device’, or even are looking to try the whole tablet experience to see if it’s fight for you, I can not recommend the Star G640 enough. It’s a simple, good quality little tablet for a price that really can’t be beat. I am impressed enough with little XP-Pen, that I would not hesitate plonking down more for their more advanced offerings.