I’ve used this same warmup doodle to try and dial in my Wacom Cintiq 13HD’s pressure settings over the last two mornings.
This Cintiq 13HD is a confounding-ass piece of hardware. The screen is sexy as shit but drawing on the Yiynova feels better.
The pressure curve is more linear and natural on Yiynova/UC Logic tech. The Wacom goes from 0-60 and barrels past light strokes. I am thoroughly split in my allegiances. But I’m breaking towards a shittier screen with a better feel to the drawing (the Yiynova).
I’m continuing to tweak the Cintiq’s pressure curve at the driver level, but don’t have high hopes. I chased this dragon with my Cintiq 20WSX.
Unboxing the Cintiq 13HD.
The DP10U - A Portable, Cheap Cintiq Alternative
The Yiynova DP10U is a 10” portable Cintiq alternative with 2048 levels of pressure sensitvity and a price on par with an Intuos 5 medium.
Does it live up to the high bar set by the 19” MSP19U?
The Story so Far
In the past, my first step in Wacom alternative art hardware reviews was to spew a preamble explaining what these devices were and what the history of their discovery was. After my Monoprice graphics tablet and three Yiynova tablet monitor reviews, knowledge of UC Logic digitizer based art devices has spread. I’m happy to say we’re nearing the day where future art hardware reviews needn’t focus solely on comparisons to Wacom tech or contain lengthy explanations about who these alternative manufacturers are.
Yiynova can’t keep the UC Logic powered MSP19U in stock. The product is good, the price is fair, and the demand is high. People get it. That device sets the stage for its smaller cousin, the DP10U.
Who’s the Market for the DP10U?
With the 19” MSP19U cheaper than the 12” Cintiq 12WX, let alone larger Wacom models, I see the DP10U catering more to those looking for a portable drawing solution than those who want a stationary tablet monitor for their studio. The budget conscious may still opt for the DP10U independent of its portability, but the leap between it and the MSP19U in price is relatively small. The leap in usability between the two is a wider gap.
With four Monoprice tablets, two Huion tablets, and a Yiynova MSP19U in my studio, I’m up to my ears in drawing devices even after selling my Intuoses and Cintiq 20WSX. Did I need another device? Where does it fit in? My hope for the the DP10U was to toss it into my laptop bag with my 13” Air for serious production work outside of my studio.
Hardware and Software
The DP10U is thin and light and weighs in at 1.49 lbs. To give you a sense of scale, an iPad weighs 1.44 lbs and the Cintiq 12WX weighs 4.4 lbs. The DP10U’s frame fits just inside of the silhouette of my 13” Macbook Air.
The DP10U has a battery powered stylus with 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity. The 12WX uses older Intuos 3 era technology with 1024 levels but requires no battery. Batteries lasted months in my other UC Logic styli and I expect the same to be true here.
The DP10U uses one USB connection for all its power and a second USB connection on its dual-ended cable for pushing video. The combined USB dongle on the unit is a mixed bag. On one hand, it represents the single biggest coup of the device. Video and power via USB means there’s no external power brick or plug to carry and no video adapters needed. By comparison, the Cintiq 12WX requires a video port, a USB port, and external power.
On the other hand, the DisplayLink tech which drives the USB monitor is the flakiest aspect of the device. The drivers performed inconsistently across my test hardware over the course of several weeks. On my Macbook Air, Mac Mini, and two iMacs running Mountain Lion with the latest Alpha drivers from DisplayLink, the unit never let me down. It acted as a perfect external monitor. On four different MacPros with older versions of the OS and multiple external monitors, results varied.
A MacPro running Snow Leopard and two other monitors would drop and redetect the DP10U’s third monitor leaving me to watch blinking, blank, blue screens as OS X would find and lose the device repeatedly. Another MacPro running Lion would work fine for a while, drop connection to the pen, and then start the same flickering dance. Unplugging the tablet wasn’t enough to get the pen back. I had to restart the machines. If you’re a MacPro owner, I recommend avoiding DisplayLink technology and getting yourself the MSP19U.
[Note, 3-30-2012: The latest DisplayLink drivers seemed to have solved all the problems I was having with Mac towers.]
Working with the Unit
I draw from my shoulder and elbow more than wrist, but the 10” screen didn’t feel too restrictive. In my experience, embracing the smallness of the screen and turning it into my primary monitor, graphics app palettes and all, provided the best workflow. The UC Logic drivers for the DP10U don’t provide the ability to toggle between which monitor is the active tablet on the fly, though there is a setting in the actual driver panel one can toggle manually.
In any case, drawing felt good, and was consistent with all the other UC Logic tech I’ve reviewed. In OS X, as was the case with the MSP19U, there is no pointer calibration option. Unlike my experience with the MPS19U, the cursor tracking felt a little off center depending on how extreme my viewing angle was. It took some getting used to. As is true with every tablet monitor I’ve owned, Cintiqs included, tracking worsens near the edges of the screen and introduces some jitter on the margins. I did not experience shaky lines anywhere else on the unit except when the DP10U’s dual USB cable was connected via hub to a single USB port. Given the amount of bandwidth the video is probably soaking up, this isn’t surprising. Expect to dedicate two USB ports to the device. If you’re using a Macbook Air like me, there are no two adjacent USB ports within reach of the dual ended cable and you’ll need to buy an extension cable. I have a 1.5’ extension cable and it’s the perfect length for my 13” Air.
In use, the hotkey for turning brightness down stuck once. I watched as the display got dimmer without my input. While I applaud any device that takes manual labor upon itself freeing me for other tasks, I was fine with one or two clicks worth of dimming. I told the DP10U to let me handle the button presses from there on out and, luckily, haven’t had that singular instance of key sticking reoccur.
The TFT LCD panel is the single weakest aspect of the hardware. Viewing angles are miniscule. You’ll need to operate within a few degrees of the optimal viewing angle before screen darkening and color washout creep in. You’ll fidget and fuss and find yourself hunching over the unit scrutinizing what the best compromise between color and clarity and usability is. Even when found, that optimal angle is still a compromise.
As if to affirm the validity of recreational choices made by the headless folks in Apple advertisements, an iPad in your lap on the couch viewing angle works well. Assigning four programmable hotkeys (of six total) to the zoom, rotate, pan, and color picker tools kept me from reaching for my laptop too often.
Though it’s not the unqualified hardware success of the MSP19U, there’s an easy argument in favor of the DP10U. It sports 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity with a price cheaper than Intuos tablets.
If you need a portable tablet monitor, the DP10U’s minimum system requirements of a single USB port for power and another USB port for video make it a better choice over the Cintiq 12WX for many users. If you’re looking for a permanent, stationary fixture to plop into your studio, for a few dollars more you can get the MSP19U.
What was my personal conclusion? I’ve opted to pack my Huion 10”x6” graphics tablet in my bag when working portably. It has the same 2048 levels of pressure, an aftermarket, rechargeable, lighter Li-ion stylus, a detachable mini-USB cable, and more hotkeys. I’m a bit of an anomaly, though. I’ve been using tablets for so long that the cognitive dissonance between drawing with my hand down on the tablet while my view is directed up towards a standard monitor doesn’t hamper my ability. I’ll be keeping my DP10U; there’s nothing wrong with the unit and I like drawing on it quite a lot. It’s just not the best fit for my use case.
A Note About Yiynova Products
Since posting my original MSP19U review, I’ve noticed two things which require addressing. One, the monitor is continually out of stock. As soon as a shipment arrives, it sells out. My Amazon referral link supports this conclusion (coincidentally, buying any of the tech I review with my referral ID is the easiest way to support my digital art hardware testing efforts). Two, some folks are accidentally buying the in-stock, non-U-designated MSP19 and DP10/DP10HD. Don’t do that. Those units aren’t any good. The Waltop digitizer they sport has such a low LPI and report rate that only the fastest of lines are rendered with any fidelity. If you make a steady, measured stroke, the line quality will shake like a Bumble Ball in a paint mixer. Look for the U.
That said, the ASUS EEE Slates have long had 1024 pressure sensitive Wacom digitizers in them. The Surface Pro also has a Wacom digitizer, but reportedly lacks functionality in many apps (early hardware adoption is often risky, just ask my closet full of old art gadgets).
The thing both of those portable Cintiq-alike solutions have in common, aside from Wacom tech, is their operating systems. As a fairly devout Mac user who spends less than half of his time in a Windows environment (and even that time is largely just using Steam), the OS is a definite drawback for me.
But there’s a growing list of devices sporting Wacom Penabled™ digitizers with all flavors of OSes. I’ve spent a few weeks using a review unit Galaxy Note II Samsung sent me and it’s a pretty competent little device that has essentially become my portable, digital Moleskine.
A part of me wishes that a standard would be dictated down from on high at Cupertino – that the patents Apple holds for stylus technology were a precursor of things to come. The little competitors whose products I’ve reviewed are probably not enough to shake loose Wacom’s hold over the market. I’m not an analyst, but a big player, like an Apple, releasing competing tech would be disruptive.
My curiosity is piqued. I tend to use non-Wacom hardware, but I still have owned gobs of Cintiqs, Intuoses, Graphires, and even Bamboos (I try to test everything and see what sticks). At least we’re entering a time where the stagnant, static art hardware buying options are diversifying. It’s just a shame that one company is in a position to offer the majority of the solutions. It boggles the mind. Is the market so small that no one cares to knock Wacom off the pedestal? Too little to gain for too much effort?
Yiynova DP10U First Impressions
Very brief first impressions of the new, second generation Yiynova tablet monitor, the DP10U.
The old Yiynova DP10 and DP10HD use Waltop digitizers prone to jitter. The MSP19U I reviewed and this new DP10U use a UC Logic digitizer. That’s the same underlying tech in the Monoprice tablets I reviewed.
Proper review forthcoming.
The Yiynova MSP19U Cintiq Alternative Swings for the Fences
With the release of their second generation budget Cintiq alternative, the MSP19U, Yiynova gets it right
Yiynova took on Wacom’s tablet display monopoly last year with their release of the DP10 and MSP19. I purchased those units and they left me wanting.
The Yiynova used Waltop digitizers (digitizers being the bit of hardware that senses stylus position and pressure variance). There was significant jitter in the line quality. Creating straight lines was near impossible especially when making a deliberate, slow effort and the cursor jumped around like a ferret on meth. The display quality and fit and finish were fine, but the underlying tablet tech was a let down. My conclusion? The Waltop digitizer was junk and it let the otherwise competent hardware hanging.
After, I reviewed Monoprice’s graphics tablets. Those use UC Logic digitizers. They’re snappier in OSX than Wacom equivalents with less cursor lag and crisper fidelity in small movements. They sensed light pressure with more accuracy than any Wacom hardware I’ve owned. I was so pleased with the UC Logic based tablets that I purchased a heap of other equipment by them. I sold my Cintiq. I sold my Intuos. Eight months, four tablets and around nine styli later, I became an all UC Logic studio.
I wished that someone could pair the underlying, fantastic UC Logic digitizer tech with a tablet monitor enclosure. I even bought some hardware to try and make my own. But now I don’t have to. Yiynova must have been listening. The MSP19U is a second generation product that jettisons the inferior Waltop digitizers of the first model and replaces them with UC Logic internals.
Does the pairing live up to the sum potential of its disparate parts? Can a relatively unknown $569 tablet monitor compete with a $1999 Wacom Cintiq? Yes, it competes. It even bests the Cintiq in a few key areas. But I’m jumping ahead.
Unboxing, Specs, and the Physical Properties of the Unit
The Yiynova MSP19U is a 19,” 1440x900 tablet monitor with an adjustable, VESA-compatible stand and mounting bracket. It comes with one stylus, one battery, and several additional pen nibs. It has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and a 4000lpi digitizer.
The unit is light but not flimsy. Thinner than a Cintiq thanks to its LED backlighting, I find myself occasionally sitting the Yiynova in my lap like a digital art board.
At 19,” 1440x900, and 89.37 PPI, no one will mistake the Yiynova for a retina level display. It’s nearest Wacom neighbor, the 22HD, has a 22,” 1920x1080, and 100.13 PPI, screen. While the Wacom beats the Yiynova in sheer PPI, I always found the color of Cintiqs to be quite muddy thanks in part to an antiglare coating present on the monitors and dim backlighting. I went so far as to remove the glass from my Cintiq to scrape the coating off its back. It helped a little, but was still less than ideal and was not an activity for the faint of heart. Prying, scraping, and modding a $2,499 device to make it useable is a bummer and I went into a lot of detail about the shortcomings of Cintiq tech in my previous review if you want to learn more.
The LED backlighting on the Yiynova makes for a brighter overall display. It’s a little cool out of the box, but was fine once calibrated. If I had to choose between lower PPI or dimmer, muddier colors, I’d pick slightly lower PPI. This particular category is probably a draw.
The glass of the display sits above the LCD by around an 1/8th of an inch and looks to be about the same distance as my previous Cintiq. Until a manufacturer creates a unit with an iPad-like fused LCD and glass display, cursor parallax will be a concern (and is present for both the MSP19U and Cintiqs).
The stand allows for either complete verticality or nearly horizontal viewing angles and is easy to operate. Rotation is not possible, but I find it to be less of a necessity these days. Photoshop, Painter, Manga Studio, and nearly any art app worth it’s salt allow users to rotate the canvas arbitrarily.
There’s a VGA out port on the back of the monitor that will mirror the activity on your tablet to yet another external display. It’s an odd inclusion, but could be handy for making presentations or when teaching a digital art class. I do both from time to time, so it may be of some use.
Software & Hardware Installation
Setup was quick. I tested the unit on maxed 2012, 13” Macbook Air. The Air has a mini display/thunderbolt port, so an adapter was required to pair it with the Yiynova. All in, the MSP19U needs a VGA port, a wall socket, and a USB port to get rolling.
I already had UC Logic drivers installed on my system from my Monoprice tablets, so I only had to plug in the tablet to begin. The bundled driver software is the same version as the downloadable driver on the UC Logic, Panda City, and Yiynova websites, so use whatever is most convenient.
A quick note about drivers. Like with Monoprice tablets, I recommend installing drivers before plugging the tablet in, especially in Windows. Windows will install generic HID (Human Interface Device) drivers otherwise. They’re horrible and you’ll think your tablet is broken. It’s not. You’ll have to uninstall the generic HID driver from device manager, install the proper drivers, and only then plug in your tablet. This mistake accounts for five to ten support emails in my inbox a week.
Some stubborn apps enable tablet specific features (like pressure sensitivity options) only after detecting Wacom drivers present on a system. I install Intuos 3 drivers alongside any alternative tablet hardware to fool these apps into thinking a tablet is present. Painter and Illustrator are the two biggest culprits in my experience in both Win and Mac environments.
Does it work?
I tested the monitor with Photoshop CS6, Painter 12, and Manga Studio 4 and 5 in OSX and Windows. Much like the Monoprice tablets that came before, I found performance even better in OSX than Windows, but fine in both.
There are cursor calibration options in Windows, but no such options in OSX. I didn’t find cursor offset or parallax to be as bad on the Yiynova as on a Cintiq, and never found myself wanting or needing to futz with the cursor offset anyhow.
Cursor lag is similarly less pronounced on the Yiynova than a Cintiq and drawing felt more natural as a result.
A note on Paint Tool SAI. I’ve heard there are some issues running a multiple monitor setup with Paint Tool SAI, specifically, but that’s hard to blame on the Yiynova. SAI has been largely abandonware for some time, and it’s starting to show. I recommend using Clip Paint/Manga Studio 5. It’s a bit like a mashup of SAI, Painter, and Photoshop, and has largely replaced all those other apps in my workflow. My Windows box is a single monitor setup, so I was unable to verify these reports.
The drawing surface is slicker than that of a Cintiq and took a little getting used to. I found that long, deliberate lines could sometimes wobble a bit as my stylus tip slid on the glass, but it was a user limitation, not a failure of the digitizer panel.
Viewing angles on the monitor are worse than a Cintiq, but brightness is better. Viewing angles never veered into unusable territory, but the resolution and viewing angles of the LCD are the single largest area I’d like to see improved in the future.
Bottom line? Is it perfect? No. Are Cintiqs? No.
The Cintiq 22HD costs $1999. It has a slightly laggier feel to drawing, but a higher resolution display and has programmable hotkeys. It’s heavy and cumbersome. At the time of writing, the Yiynova MSP19U costs $569. It has a superior drawing experience in terms of lag and cursor offset to my eye, but a lower quality display and no hotkeys. It’s light and easier to move around a desk or sit in your lap.
Even without the price disparity, I would opt for the MSP19U. Cursor lag was the single biggest complaint I could muster against the Cintiqs and I think the 19U is the winner there. How well it draws trumps how good the image looks for me every time.
But, price matters and we should talk about it. The 19U costs 72% less than the Cintiq 22HD and 77% less than the 24HD. Even if it were marginally worse in all regards – and I find it neither heads and shoulders above or below, simply different – it would still be a steal.
My 19U is now a permanent member of the household. I don’t plan on, or feel the need to, replace it with a Cintiq.
Wacom has genuine competition on both the tablet and tablet monitor fronts. Spread the word. Make them feel some heat. There’s no reason this technology should be so expensive. The underlying hardware has been largely stagnant for a decade with no real innovation.
At $569, and with performance that often meets or exceeds Wacom’s hardware, the MSP19U is more than a viable alternative. It’s the disruptive agent of change the industry needs.
Buy the MSP19U using my Amazon affiliate link if you want to support my efforts to test digital art hardware.
Lastly, I want to thank you all. There have been more than 34,000 reblogs of my Monoprice review on Tumblr alone. UC Logic digitizers are a known quantity in the tablet space now and it’s thanks to you.
The Little Monoprice Graphics Tablet that Could
Monoprice makes graphics tablets? I thought they were just an outlet for cheap cables. It was news to me that they sell all sorts of audio, video, and computer accessories.
They have a reputation for making good stuff, cheap, including graphics tablets. But, on those, I never bit.
When reviewing the Yiynova Cintiq alternative, I researched all of Wacom’s competition, learning that those 1st gen Yiynovas used a Waltop digitizer (digitizers being the flat hardware panel that interprets pen movement and translates it onscreen). I decided to buy a Monoprice stylus to see if it would work on a Waltop digitizer. It didn’t. This roused my curiosity. If the Monoprice wasn’t a Waltop based tablet, what was it? The Monoprice tablets use UC Logic digitizers, a brand I hadn’t found during my prior research.
At the time of writing, less than $50 nets you a 6.25“x10” tablet and around $80 will get you a larger 9“x12”. With those prices, and my inclination to try any tools I can, I ordered the 6.25“x10” tablet with low expectations. Something so cheap can’t possibly be good, right?
After spending a week with the 6.25“x10” Monoprice, my Yiynova and Cintiq remain unplugged and I gave my Intuos away to a friend. The Monoprice tracks subtle pressure variances and small movements with less lag and more crisp fidelity than any of the others. It is, put crudely, fucking awesome, in both OSX Lion and Windows 7 x64.
It holds accuracy at obscenely small levels even when zoomed way out, which is where most tablets falter. The following screen recording in OSX shows how stable the Monoprice tablet is in both pressure variance and fine detail.
The Monoprice performed flawlessly in OSX. This is welcome news. With most tablets, Wacom included, OSX has long felt a second class citizen with slightly less accuracy and more lag present in the drivers.
I’ve found that some apps, in both Windows and OSX, enable tablet specific features only if they detect Wacom drivers present and running on a system. I recommend installing Wacom’s Intuos 3 drivers alongside the Monoprice ones. They do nothing for the tablet, but trick uncooperative apps into operating with the Monoprice.
Hardware-wise, the stylus is a bit shorter and narrower than Wacom’s and is about the same weight. It rests comfortably in my oversized meat-paw. The pen requires a battery, but has no on-off switch. It turns on when you use it and off when idle. The battery has lasted over a week with constant use and shows no signs of giving up. The battery slot inside of the pen feels a bit cheap, but is soon forgotten after closing the pen back up and represents the singular negative aspect of the hardware. An aftermarket stylus is available for around $8. I’ve tested a few aftermarket, UC Logic compatible styli, and like these (available from a vendor in Turkey) the most. Ten replacement nib packs are available for less than a dollar.
The tablet has a slightly textured surface and drawing feels tactile and a bit toothy. The hardware buttons worked fine and were fully customizable. Eight buttons is a lot to keep track of and I found myself using my keyboard more often than not when jamming on hot keys.
All the following images were drawn on the Monoprice in Manga Studio or Photoshop CS6. Included is a short video, sped up 2x, drawing in OSX with Manga Studio.
Drawing on the Monoprice leaves me feeling a bit punk rock. It’s better than it has any right to be – better than any of the other hardware I own. Its drivers outperform Wacom’s in OSX and I found myself making excuses to sit down and draw with it.
An off-brand graphics tablet by Monoprice out-performs tablets ten times more costly and replaced my Cintiq and Intuos tablets for daily use. Who would’a thunk it?
[Edit: Since this original post in April, I bought the 9“x12” and like it even more than the unit reviewed here. I sold my Cintiq and have done all my commercial work on either my 10“x6.25” or 12“x9” UC Logic tablets.]