Xencelabs is an upstart company who are making their mark with the aptly named Pen Tablet Medium. I reviewed this graphic tool a few weeks ago and came away impressed, because it not only matched the performance and basic features of another well-known tablet, it achieved all of this at an even lower price point. However, If using the tablet isn’t enough or want additional functionality for creative workspace than you might to splurge on the Quick Keys Remote, which interested users can currently buy this separately or bundled with the medium tablet.
But what is the Quick Key Remote exactly? First and foremost, this is a productivity accessory that can enhance artist workflow. If you’re a meticulous professional – and there’s many types out there – you already know how much time can be saved by just having a decent set of function shortcuts at your fingertips. The Quick Keys Remote certainly serves its purpose but getting everything to work requires you get the firmware in order to properly calibrate.
Fortunately, this isn’t a problem since the layout and options are self-explanatory, whatever navigation or keyboard shortcuts you want to program on either the dial or buttons is doable and can be renamed for convenience.
Well as its name implies, the Quick Keys Remote is a handheld slab that streamlines various functions per application, up to 40 shortcuts in fact. A thick-looking remote with eight hardware key flanking a cool OLED display, a rotary dial and center button to switch up to four application modes, and a dedicated ‘set’ button that allows you to switch five shortcut groups. Around back the surface is made of matted rubber, so it grips nicely and won’t slide around on flat surfaces along with charging (green/amber) and connectivity (blue) indicators and a single USB-C port. This is a very nice looking accessory.
The Quick Keys Remote connects wirelessly and communicates when the tablet is on, though the remote must be turned on separately in order to work. It also requires that you connect a Xencelabs USB dongle and download the driver dashboard to make it operable. Purchasing this separately comes with the dongle, Type A-to-C adapter and carrying case, but bundling this with the pen tablet only nets you the remote itself. Either way, you’ll be able pair both tablet and remote to one USB dongle in the dashboard just in case you’re concerned about misplacing anything.
Using the Quick Keys Remote is about as intuitive as it comes in lieu of having more buttons on a pen tablet or display. The customization is easy, inputs are responsive and having the OLED screen show current shortcuts is more than helpful.
Inevitably, I must compare this to the Wacom Express Remote, which works similarly except the differences being more buttons and a touch ring (i.e. dial). Both units have their own advantages (the tactile dial on the Xencelabs is superior compared to Wacom’s overly sensitive touch ring) and disadvantages (the Wacom having 17 configurable buttons versus 8 on the Xencelabs) in overall performance. Which is “better” is really going to depend on your workflow and personal preferences.
For myself, I appreciate having the OLED screen to remind me which presets I have enabled, and the build quality, though heavier, felt slightly better in my hand. Battery life is also comparable, with both averaging between 25-35 hours under typical usage before needing a wired charge.
If you’re adamant on boosting creative efficiency while putting the cumbersome keyboard off to the side, then adding the Xencelabs Quick Keys Remote to your digital art set makes perfect sense. Serious digital artists know that improved productivity means more income, which is just one of the perks this accessory promises – and delivers – by streamlining your workflow output in one comfortable and stylish package. Best of all, it’s less than a hundred dollars so you’re not breaking the bank either.