Interview with Michael Cross
Watercolor with Pencil and Ink
News for July
Monoprice Tablet -- An Honest Reviewby Annie Rodrigue
I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought that Monoprice's graphic tablet was a "too good to be true" deal. After reading a few reviews though, I was convinced enough to try and invest a few bucks in it to see if it was really enough for my needs or if it would end up being a myth.
Of course, when I received it I couldn't wait to try it, and wanted to write my own review. But after some careful thought, I imagined it would be better if I could give it an actual stress test. And so, I decided to bring it to work and give it a big assignment: I had just signed a contract for a fully illustrated children's book. 27 illustrations to do in a month, the perfect test for this tablet.
Just to give you all a little bit of background about me: I'm a full time illustrator and animator. I've worked on all sorts of different projects, most of them required a tablet, and so for years now, I've pretty much exclusively worked with Wacom's products. It's hard for me not to make comparisons, and so throughout this review, I will be doing just that.
Here is what I will be comparing it to: the Wacom Intuos 3. Because I've always been on a budget, you can see that I've only worked with the small 4x5 tablet. In all fairness, I should be comparing my Monoprice 9x12 to an Intuos 9x12, but let's be honest here, I never could afford the bigger tablet until a year ago. Now, I work with the 12 inch Cintiq at my office and need a regular tablet when I am on the go with my laptop.
I tried to cover as many grounds as I could, and so, I've tried the Monoprice tablet on both Mac OSX (Lion) and Windows 7.
What's in the Box?
The Monoprice 9x12 tablet comes in a big box that includes: a starting guide, a CD with drivers, a stylus with nib and a stand for the stylus and a AAA battery.
Installation on Windows was a bit tricky. Monoprice includes a CD with drivers on it, and following instructions wasn't hard in any way. You must install the driver before plugging the tablet, then reboot the computer for changes to take place. That part went smoothly. But when came the time to plug the tablet, it just took forever for Windows to detect and install the new component. At first, I thought something was completely wrong with the tablet and was a bit annoyed. Once the component was installed though, everything was okay.
Note: I have to be fair though and mention that the USB plug of my laptop is getting a bit flimsy. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that because of this problem, it caused trouble at installation.
Mac OSX (Lion)
When I brought the tablet to work, I forgot the CD which included the drivers. After a quick search on the internet, I quickly found the site that offered a downloadable driver for the tablet.
Installing the tablet on Mac was extremely easy. I installed the driver and the tablet worked right away after that. Simple, efficient. That's the way I love it!
After reading the reviews of the tablet, a lot of people suggested that we should buy the more fancy stylus that Monoprice was selling. It was only an extra $10, so I thought I might as well try it too.
The dark stylus is the default one included with the tablet and the silver stylus is the fancy extra one at $10 (it comes with nibs and a AAA battery also) and the longest stylus is the Wacom Intuos one.
The first thing that came into mind is how light they were. I wasn't sure I liked it too much, but that was before I inserted the batteries. That made all the difference. To be extra objective, I weighed each stylus, including the Wacom one. Curious? Here are the numbers:
Default Monoprice stylus (with the battery) : 23g
Silver Monoprice stylus (with the battery): 22g
Wacom Intuos Stylus: 18g
I like when a stylus is fairly heavy, so I thought the Monoprices stylus both felt good in my hand. They are quite short though. especially the silver stylus. I personally don't mind all that much, but I think that anyone with bigger hands (most likely guys) might find it too short or uncomfortable.
The default Monoprice stylus really looks and feels like the Wacom stylus in your hand. The side button is easy to feel and reach. When I use it with the tablet, the pressure is a bit flimsy. Either you get the tiny line or a large line but getting to that middle range is a bit tricky. You can adjust pressure sensitivity in the driver software, but that wasn't enough for me who is used to working with either the Intuos or the Cintiq. Both are super precise, and while I didn't expect the Monoprice tablet to offer me that kind of quality, I still felt that it could be a little better.
The silver Monoprice stylus on the other hand, is a delight to work with. It is much more precise. You need to push harder on the stylus to get thick lines and so you have a nice middle pressure range that suited my needs perfectly! After a few tests, I stuck with the silver stylus and never switched back. There is a downside to that stylus though, the buttons on the side are hard to use. They are made of rubber and are not really buttons per say. It's difficult to feel them with your thumb, so sometimes you either push them by mistake or you are not able to push them at all. It took me a few weeks to get used to it. Now it's a bit easier and better, but still not as good as the Wacom version.
A big plus that comes with the Monoprice stylus, is the nib. I tend to go through nibs really quickly as I push hard on my stylus. The Wacom nibs are thin and easy to use up. And at the price they are selling them, you'd almost believe Wacom are making them out of gold. Monoprice's nibs are much thicker, sturdier and durable. They are also dirt cheap. For $2 you can get 10 nibs!
So far, the quality of the product itself hasn't led me to believe that it won't stand the test of time. The tablet itself is made of strong plastic, feels and looks sturdy and the stylus seems just as strong as it's Wacom counterpart. As with any other tablet the plastic sheet where you need to draw will get scratched, but with the exception of the Cintiq, I haven't found a tablet that stays scratch-free.
The wire could cause some trouble over time. I've found that tablets with wires that stick out will tend to split more easily. But that is all assumption. So far I've had no trouble with it.
A nice little extra that comes with the tablet are little plastic stands that allows you to raise the tablet at an angle. Nice perk!
The 9x12 tablet is $90 US. I also ordered the extra stylus ($10 US) and extra nibs ($2). Since I made a big order with other friends on their site, I can't say how much shipping I paid for the tablet exclusively, but I'm guessing that it would have cost me around $20. Considering I come from Canada, that was still a bargain. I did have to pay customs on the items, so for my part it cost me another $30 on top. $150 for a tablet this big? That is a great price! Considering how well the tablet works, I think it's worth every penny, and I was glad to stumble upon the product!
Anyone who wants to try tablets but doesn't want to invest too much into them at first should look into the Monoprice tablet. They have a smaller format that is half the price of the 9x12. Perfect for any student or artist on a budget!
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