I’ve been meaning to post this follow up review ever since, but I’ve kept checking the Monoprice and Huion sites weekly hoping for signs of a new set of Windows drivers that could vastly improve this device. Unfortunately, the only driver download available from Monoprice dates back to October and the product manager with whom I’ve corresponded hasn’t been able to confirm whether any updates are even in the pipeline.
The Monoprice’s drivers appear to be rebadged Huion drivers for its GT-190 tablet display. I am not 100% certain that the drivers are identical, but except for logos, the drivers’ control panels are exactly the same. The Huion archive was updated in December, so I am currently running that driver version. However, except for the English language product manual, the other files in the .zip are dated 2012 and earlier.
Neither the Monoprice nor Huion archives contain Windows 8.x-specific drivers, so it doesn’t appear that any software development is occurring on the Windows side. And boy, does the Monoprice Interactive Pen Display need it!
As I wrote in my unboxing, this tablet monitor makes a very good first impression given its low price. Packaging is professional, industrial design is very nice, build quality is excellent and the rubberized stylus has a nice size and feel.
Unfortunately, it all goes downhill from there.
Cable connections are in the lower back of the monitor and face downward. You’ll have to hold the display upside down to attach either the included VGA or optional DVI cable as well as the USB cable for pen input. You’ll also need to be careful about how the cables are threaded out of the back as they tend to interfere with the monitor’s stand.
Software installation is painful.
Monoprice could save Windows users hours of frustration by publishing a bright red warning label with the following instructions contained on page 4 of the manual: “Important! Do not plug the monitor into your PC until after you have installed the driver software.”
They should also highlight this critical bit of information from page 6: (Following driver installation) “Unplug all other monitor connections from your PC.”
And last, but not least, from page 8: (After setting the display resolution), plug in the included USB cable. “Windows will then finalize the installation of the monitor and its driver.”
Suffice it to say I didn’t follow these directions and it caused a lot of wasted time and hair pulling.
So to summarize: the pen display won’t work in multi-monitor mode in Windows. Install the drivers first. Unplug your current monitor and plug in the Monoprice. Start up your system and set the resolution. 1440 x 900 is maximum, but don’t be surprised if your video card doesn’t support those dimensions (a couple of the machines I tested didn’t but the display worked ok in a lower res). Lastly, connect the USB cable from the display to your pc. The pen drivers should install automatically. I don’t recall if it’s required, but to be safe you’ll want to reboot your pc after the pen driver installation.
Your pen will also need charging out of the box, so be prepared to plug it in to another USB port via the supplied (but too short) cable. Charging will take an hour, but thankfully I’ve only had to do it once over the two months I’ve owned the device.
By default, the pen drivers will display an icon in your system tray. Left clicking on the icon will load up the control panel. You can also access the control panel directly under Control Panel\Tablet Setting.
Don’t be surprised if your system doesn’t seem to respond to your pen’s taps. Using the Monoprice drivers, default clicking sensitivity was set too low. No matter how hard I pounded with the pen, I couldn’t get clicks to register. (You’ll want to keep a mouse handy in case this happens to you). Changing the click pressure setting in the control panel corrected this issue. With the Huion driver I’m currently using I didn’t experience the problem, though I still had to set click sensitivity all the way to Heavy in order to get maximum range of pressure.
Once you’ve got it set correctly, pressure sensitivity on the pen display is amazing. I don’t know if anyone has the hand control to draw at a specific pressure level every time, but my ham fists are able to get a great range as illustrated below.
The control panel's calibration purports to offer three calibration options from 4 points to 25 points. DO NOT TOUCH THIS!!! Once you attempt to calibrate your display, your pen will only work on one half of your screen and touch targets will be off by several inches.
I verified this problem on four different machines, including one running Windows 7.
Fortunately (using a mouse) it’s easy to ignore the calibration by going back in to the control panel and un-ticking the calibration box.
I’ve already bemoaned the atrocious viewing angles of the Interactive Pen Display during my unboxing. The only decent angle is nearly upright at about 80 degrees. If you’re not comfortable working at that angle, I’d advise forgetting about the Monoprice. I like to rest my hand on the drawing surface and generally work with no more than a 10 or 20 degree incline so it’s been pretty painful to acclimate to this new approach.
Color reproduction is hideous. A tiny move of the head will result in wildly different colors. Adjusting the display gamma with my video card software improved color display a bit, but I wouldn’t advice doing much color work without testing on another monitor.
My unit also has two small areas with dirt under the glass. They could be easily mistaken for dead pixels, but if I look at them from the side, it's apparent that they appear to be specs of dust floating between the digitizer layer and the display.
OS X users can use the Interactive Pen Display in multi-monitor mode so the low resolution and display issues are easier to ignore. But since you can’t even mirror your display on Windows, the pen display must be your main monitor.
I’ve actually been using it this way for the past month, setting aside a gorgeous 23-inch high res Dell display that I normally use on my desktop. I lived with 19-inch TTF monitors in the past and you eventually get accustomed to the display’s limitations. Nevertheless it’s kind of ridiculous to have to adapt one’s entire workspace and work habits to accommodate a piece of low end hardware.
After reading this you may ask why I didn’t return the Monoprice for a refund within the 30-day grace period. I certainly should have, but I keep hoping that some future driver update will correct the most egregious Windows issues. And, at the very least, my daughter will have a low-end Cintiq pretender to use with her MacBook Pro when she’s out of school in the spring.
If you’re on a tight budget, the Interactive Pen Display is still worth considering, especially for Mac artists. Despite its limitations, it certainly beats drawing on an Intuos tablet that could cost the same or more.
For Windows artists, the pen display is a much harder sell. Now that the price of the original Surface Pro has dropped to $599, I’d definitely recommend it over the Monoprice.
But if money is tight and you haven’t taken a plunge on a Windows tablet or convertible, or if you absolutely must have a larger workspace, the Interactive Pen Display is worth considering. But please make sure you go in with eyes wide open and expectations in check.
The device has been in short supply since it was released in early December. The Monoprice site currently says it’s back-ordered until April. So perhaps the manufacturers have gone back to the drawing board and are ironing out some of the hardware issues. But until they publish new drivers, the Interactive Pen Display will satisfy only the most forgiving of Windows artists.