The sub-$400 Monoprice Interactive Pen Display was probably one of the most anticipated releases of 2013 and the posts I wrote at the time continue to be among my most widely read ever. Everyone loves a bargain, especially starving artists.
In the event you haven’t read those posts, I concluded back in January that the budget 19-inch tablet monitor just wasn’t worth the investment due to terrible viewing angles and very inferior pen drivers.
A couple of months ago, Twitter follower @Drewvis let me know that Monoprice had posted new device drivers on its site. He also mentioned that attaching the pen display via DVI (rather than VGA) had yielded dramatically better viewing angles. Drewvis recently published his own review of the tablet monitor which you can find here: http://astrowagon.tumblr.com/post/89350457697/final-review-monoprice-19-interactive-pen-display.
MAKING THE RIGHT CONNECTION
Somewhat skeptically, I took the Monoprice out of mothballs and attached it to my desktop via DVI. At first I didn’t notice much improvement. In addition to its limited view angles, the pen display’s screen is highly reflective, so I had to be careful to angle it so that it didn’t reflect too much of my white ceilings. Next, I cranked up the brightness of the monitor to cut down on reflections. Reflections are a real problem during the day in my brightly lit office, so I also switched to white user interfaces rather than my preferred dark settings.
And lo and behold, the monitor is indeed more useable. Where once I could only find what seemed to be one angle to view the screen, I now had a wider field of view to work within.
According to this graphic on the Monoprice site, the pen display has a 70-degree view horizontally and vertically. I think they’re being generous (perhaps it’s closer to 50), but anything is better than one degree!
Connected via DVI, it’s now possible to recline the monitor so that I can draw at a more comfortable angle. Previously, I had to stand it almost vertically (at its maximum 80-degrees) to be able to see my drawing clearly. The monitor will recline all the way to 10-degrees, but I’ve found that about a 60-degree incline is sufficient to rest my hand and preserve picture quality.
This is not a choice one should have to make, but you have to expect some sacrifices at this price point. And it certainly beats having to purchase a full-motion monitor desk mount.
SETTING UP THE PEN DRIVERS
I still am unhappy with the Windows drivers Monoprice has posted on its site (the most recent are dated April 29), so as I did the first time around, I checked whether Huion Tablet had published more recent drivers for its compatible GT-190 tablet monitor. Coincidentally, Huion just posted a new set on June 20 here: http://www.huiontablet.com/download/
Getting the drivers to work is not easy. I uninstalled the Monoprice driver and rebooted, also unplugging the USB cable that runs from the computer to the tablet monitor.
I installed the GT-190 drivers and rebooted again. Once I was back on my desktop, I plugged in the USB cable. The tablet driver should have already started up, but in case it hasn’t, the installation leaves an icon on your desktop. Once the driver is running, you’ll need to double click on the tablet driver icon in the system tray to load the control panel.
At the top of the control panel, you can map your two pen buttons and set tip sensitivity. There is a nice visual display that displays how much of an impression you are making as you tap with your pen. This makes it much easier to visualize how lightly you can tap before your pen will register a mark. I could have set my pen pressure all the way to the right, but I didn’t want to have to press so hard to achieve 100% pressure.
To calibrate your monitor, you’ll first need to select the Require Admin button. Even if your pen is recognized, you will always need to start the calibration process with your mouse. The calibration tool has five points, all located toward the center of the display. This is unfortunate because parallax tends to increase as you get toward the edges of your screen.
The pen targets go from red to black as you tap them. When you tap the fifth target in the center of the display, the control panel exits.
As I wrote when I first tested the Monoprice, it’s a delight to finally draw with the pen configured properly. I can achieve a range of line widths in a single stroke that I’m unable to reproduce on either the Wacom Surface Pros or the N-Trig Surface Pro 3. Pressure levels may be a marketing ploy, but there’s a tangible difference in drawing with the two 2048-level devices I’ve used vs. 1024 or 256.
EXTENDING THE DESKTOP
The last reservation I had against recommending the Monoprice was its inability to work in dual monitor mode in Windows. This meant that you either had to connect it by itself or in mirror mode with your system monitor. Due to the pen display’s low resolution (1440x900 max), this probably meant you’d have to run your other monitor in a sub-optimal setting.
With the new driver, it’s now possible to run the pen display in extended mode at its own resolution. This is a huge improvement.
On my puny GeForce GT 630 display, the NVidia driver doesn’t offer 1440x900 as a display option, so I had to set the Monoprice to 1280x800. Not ideal, but this setting doesn’t distort text too badly.
To set up two monitors, I first disconnected my system monitor and ran all of the above set up with the pen display as my sole monitor. Once I was sure the display was calibrated and the pen was running well, I shut down the system and reattached the system monitor.
Upon boot up, I ran the Screen Resolution control panel to extend the displays and set each monitor’s resolution.
So a little over six months after its release, the Monoprice Interactive Pen Display is now much more useable and I can recommend it to anyone willing to put up with its eccentricities in exchange for significant savings vs. competing products. If you’ve got just under $1000 to spend, I’d still recommend the Yiynova MVP22U(v2). Yiynova also sells the MSP19U+ for just over $600 (but I’ve never seen or tested it first hand). The latter’s display specs are very similar to the Monoprice (TFT, 1440x900), so it’s very difficult to justify an additional $200 investment.
The Monoprice certainly compares favorably to a large Intuos Pro Pen & Touch, which lists for $499. And for only $50 more than the Medium sized Intuos, the Interactive Pen Display is an excellent option.
As with all things tech, a better version is probably around the corner, but for the next few months at least, the Monoprice Interactive Pen Display has earned a spot on my crowded desktop.