Wacom has long held the crown as the top maker of graphics tablet hardware, but they have not iterated upon the technology in meaningful ways. The products have remained staid and safe and prices are high as ever. Graphics tablets are a market ripe for disruption.
The Monoprice 19” Tablet Monitor is poised to blow that market open. The extremely aggressive $389 price point is paired with the best overall hardware quality of any Cintiq competitor I’ve reviewed to date.
Hardware, Software, and Performance
The Monoprice uses the same digitizer technology as the Huion H610 which I reviewed highly. It has a 19” 1440 x 900 resolution TFT LCD, a pen digitizer with 5080 lpi resolution and a 200 RPS report rate, a rechargeable, lightweight stylus with 2048 pressure levels, and both DVI and VGA inputs. The monitor’s build quality is better than its sub-$400 price tag would imply and the stylus feels as light in hand as a comparable Wacom stylus despite its internal battery.
The unit is small, sleek, and streamlined in appearance. The glass is flushmounted to the plastic bezel and the display has a glossy finish. The included, VESA mount compatible stand allows for tilting the display forward and backward from nearly flat to almost vertical viewing angles.
The included VESA-mounted, adjustable stand.
The stylus responds quickly with little perceivable cursor lag in either OS X or Windows. Pressure input felt a bit loose. The Monoprice stylus is a rebranded Huion P80 stylus. I’ve owned several of Huion’s rechargeable styli and the one bundled with the Monoprice was the loosest of the bunch. Ratcheting up the firmness in the driver’s options ameliorated much of that feeling, however.
The drivers are a utilitarian affair with the requisite pressure curve and monitor mapping knobs and switches with one caveat. Multiple monitor support is currently absent in Windows. Multiple monitor setups work fine in OS X. Right and left click are the only assignable keys to map to the stylus side buttons in OS X, but middleclick is mappable in Windows. As there are no hotkeys on the monitor, you’ll be using a keyboard with your free hand anyhow, so I didn’t find the sparse options too limiting.
The utilitarian driver menus of the Monoprice 19” Tablet Monitor.
When drawing slow and diagonal lines, a small amount of wobble and jitter seeps in. Comparable to the performance of Intuos 3 era tech, this is nothing that will keep you from making detailed art, but, if you’re the sort to labor over slow, less decisive marks, you will likely notice some shake. I was able to complete all of my client work on the Monoprice and often hopped back and forth between it and my Cintiq Companion with no discernible break in workflow. Cintiqs are smoother with a slightly laggy, buttery feel. The Monoprice has more snap and less lag, but the strokes are more raw because they have less line correction at the driver level. Drawing on the Monoprice feels a bit better than drawing on Yiynova’s MSP19U though they have nearly identical internal hardware.
The weakest aspect of the Monoprice is its TFT LCD panel. The LED backlighting is clear and bright, brighter than all but the most recent Cintiqs, but viewing angles are shallow and the unit is best used at either a down-on-your-lap or nearly vertical angle. The more parallel you can keep the screen and your face, the more accurate the screen is going to look. I recommend picking up a monitor arm if your budget allows. Being able to position the unit at an optimal angle is important enough to warrant one. Colors skewed towards the cool, but were easily combated with a quick trip to the on screen settings menu of the display. If this unit had an IPS panel, I’d have little to critique.
I mounted the Monoprice on a monitor arm to combat the lackluster viewing angles.
For a price lower than a large Intuos tablet, let alone a Cintiq, and performance equal to the more expensive Yiynova MSP19U, it’s hard to go wrong with the Monoprice. Hell, you could disable its screen entirely and use it solely as a graphics tablet for another monitor and still come out ahead, dollar wise.
Would I recommend the Monoprice? Yes. In fact, of all the Wacom alternative hardware I’ve tested, it’s the easiest for me to give a thumbs up. There are caveats to the hardware, but the price is hard to argue against. The Monoprice is a worthy product that steals the crown away from the MSP19U as the best bang for your buck in graphics tablet monitor hardware, full stop.
I can’t wait to see what happens next.
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