Monoprice, The Little Tablet that Can
Tablets are a frustrating but necessary tool for artists. Most, including myself, think that Wacom is the only player in this arena. My friend Ray Frenden had been raving about this cheap tablet sold by Monoprice. Yeah, that's right. Monoprice! The cable company. Ok, so maybe Wacom isn't the only player.
I kind of brushed it off for a while even though I was intrigued. At the time I was using a Wacom Cintiq 12wx (after years of using a Intuos 3 and then 4). I had the oportunity to upgrade to the 21 inch and sold my 12 inch Cintiq. Well, life happened and the while I used the 21 inch for a while, I just couldn't pay the steep price for it. I had long since gotten rid of my Intuos so I started contemplating my options for a new input device. That's when I decided what the hell. This Monoprice tablet is only $49.60 for the 10x6.25 size. What is there to lose? If I hate it, I'll return it. I read Ray's review and placed an order, reluctantly.
The tablet showed up and sat in the box for a month until I sold the 21 inch cintiq for the original owner. I opened the box and wasn't impressed. I had been spoiled by Wacom's tablet designs. This thing, while solid, looks a little antiquated. It has 8 (programmable) function keys down the left side that just looked like a birth defect compared to the Wacom's scroll wheel. The tablet itself though has a nice footprint with sturdy rubber feet and the surface has a little more tooth to it than the Wacom's which I do like. It feels more like drawing on paper than silk.
I had to install the Wacom Intuos 4 drivers on my Mac to get it to work. That's something that wasn't in the manual but a tip from Ray (thanks man!). Once I got the software installed and reprogrammed a few of the function keys I was off and running. I used the tablet for the Scream painting (below) that I did for Corel and was very impressed at the quality of this "cheap" tablet. It may be entry-level-priced but it definitely should be considered a viable tool. "It boasts a 4000 LPI resolution, a 200 RPS report rate, and 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity on the pen, allowing you to produce light, wispy strokes, as well as heavy, bold strokes, depending on the pressure used."
I have had NO problems with Corel Painter or Photoshop using this tablet. All brushes performed as they did (or better) with the Wacom tablets I've used in the past. As you can see from both the painting and the pencil sketch (both done in Painter), the strokes produced by this tablet are top quality. The cheapness of the tablet's form factor quickly fades away after using it for a short period. The only drawback for some is that the stylus does not have an eraser. Something I never used anyway. There is a AAA battery inside the stylus but I haven't had to change it yet.
I definitely recommend spending the small price and giving this tablet a try. I'll be keeping it around and at this point I do NOT miss the Wacom products.