P-Active LCD XPC-1700B Review

Although it’s been around a while, the P-Active LCD XPC-1700B interactive graphics tablet pen display has only recently been made available to Mac users, thanks to a set of OS X drivers. Sold as a more affordable alternative to the Wacom Cintiq range of premium pen displays, its competitive price alone should warrant interest.

For creative professionals and serious enthusiasts it offers the ability to draw directly on screen, adding the kind of hands-on interactivity and potential subtlety to your work that’s missing with a mouse or track pad.

In the box currently is PC only software, the Mac drivers are only downloadable from the UK supplier’s website and are currently in beta. Disappointingly, once installed, the software wouldn’t fully function under Mac OS X Leopard 10.5, despite several attempts and prolonged restarts. Defining pen pressure, pen button commands and the like just wasn’t an option. Thankfully, under 10.4 things improved dramatically and all tablet settings were accessible via a simple on-screen menu. Here, with some tweaking, the P-Active LCD XPC-1700B starts to show its potential.

Performance is respectable, working well with all the creative applications we tried, which is good news as the manufacturers are a little vague about software compatibility. Screen resolution is fine, images appear sharp and detailed and don’t jar on the eye. The 17in display should suit most needs and doesn’t feel cramped. Brightness, contrast, colour temperature, positioning and response settings can all be adjusted to suit your personal preferences or restored to factory settings. An adjusting lever does a good job of maintaining optimum tilt position for different purposes and applications.

A solid if unspectacular build is let down by a cordless pen which feels bulky and cheap, and that needs to find space for an AAA battery, which is hardly conducive to creativity. Despite an impressive 1,024 levels of pen pressure sensitivity, no spare pens or replacement nibs are included in the package.

Furthermore, the pen’s additional bulk extends to the display itself, which weighs in at 11.5lbs. Connected by three rather cumbersome cables, including its own power supply, it requires a little desktop management to ensure your connections don’t become an issue.

OUR VERDICT

Wacom can rest easy – this isn’t yet a viable alternative to the Cintiq range. Hopefully the manufacturers will see potential in the traditionally creative Mac community and improve both Leopard compatibility and the poor-quality cordless pen. Until then, this is a welcome addition but very much a work in progress.

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