For many years, I’ve dreamt of owning a Wacom Cintiq. It’s the rockstar equivalent of owning a legendary Fender Strat.
Like many a digital artist, I have been lusting after a device that will let me directly draw on a pressure sensitive screen. I’ve been using Wacom tablets for 15 years – and while they have been excellent – they’ve never been a truly natural way to draw.
Drawing with a tablet takes practice – and even with experience, it’s not a completely seamless process. The reason for that is simple: when using a tablet, there is an inherent disconnect between mark making and observation.
Prior to the Yiynova, the only viable option available to me was the Wacom Cintiq. With prices starting at $1999 for the 22HD model, moving all the way up to $2800 for the 24HD model, the Cintiq was just too expensive for me to consider. Unfortunately, up until recently, there weren’t any alternatives.
Then, about two months ago, I read Ray’s review of the Yiynova MSP19U (retail $569US at Amazon). His review really made an impression on me. Could this device really be good alternative to the Wacom Cintiq?
Determined to learn more, I searched the Internet. And then I re-read Ray’s review. Multiple times. Finally, on December 31st, I pulled the trigger and ordered my Yiynova MSP19U (hereafter referred to as Yiynova 19U, for brevity). I was nervous and excited. But mostly nervous. In my mind, the Yiynova sounded too good to be true.
Would this be a worthwhile purchase? Or would I have just blown close to $600 on a device made by an unfamiliar company? With credit card in hand, I decided to take a bullet for the Internet.
Unboxing the Yiynova 19
I ordered my Yiynova 19U from Amazon for $569 + $25 in shipping on December 31st. At that point, there was already a two week backorder on the device. (I’m sure this was a direct result of Ray’s review.) Finally, a week and a half later, my Yiynova 19U arrived. Inside the Amazon box was a sturdy box labeled 19 inch Tablet Monitor.
There was a small sticker affixed to the seam of the box showing that the unit had been tested on January 5, 2013 – presumably to minimize the likelihood of sending a defective product. (I’m assuming all Yiynova units are manually tested before they are sent out – but I can’t confirm that.)
Inside the box was the tablet monitor itself, a warranty sheet, documentation, a stylus (with AAA battery), two replacement nibs, a nib puller, a stylus “clip” that affixes to the back of the tablet monitor, a power cable with power brick, and a quick start guide for both Mac and PC users. The Yiynova 19u comes with a 1 year parts and labor warranty, serviceable by The Panda City.
The Yiynova 19U has a reflective surface, with an approximate 2″ bezel. The unit includes an adjustable display stand and a hybrid VGA / USB cable. The unit weighs approximately 9 lbs. It’s light enough to lift, and perfect for use in a desktop environment, but too bulky to take along as a portable drawing studio.
If your machine has DVI or DisplayPort inputs, you’ll need to purchase an adaptor to connect the Yiynova to your machine. Fortunately, I had a new VGA to DVI cable laying around, so I didn’t have to go out and purchase an extra adaptor. The VGA / USB cord measures roughly 4 feet.
I skimmed over the User Guide and quick start guide. The important thing to note about the documentation is that it includes an installation guide and setup for both Mac and PC. If you have Wacom drivers on your machine, you want to uninstall them first before setting up the Yiynova.
The packet below shows the replacement nibs and nib puller. I’m not sure about the nib’s longevity, or where replacements can be ordered from. But I do know that a regular Wacom nib replacement will NOT work with the Yiynova stylus.
Setting It Up
There are three connections required to make the Yiynova 19U operational: power, USB, and display. It would have been nice to have more length on the VGA/USB cable, but for me, it’s not a deal breaker.
The VGA/USB cable cannot be removed from the Yiynova side – make sure to give it some slack so that the chord is not under tension. There is a power connector next to this cable. I thought that the L shaped power connector was a little odd, because it has a tendency to crimp when resting on a flat surface.
The Yiynova stylus feels lighter than the Wacom Intous5 stylus. Unlike the Wacom stylus, the Yiynova stylus requires a AAA battery. It’s a perfectly serviceable stylus, but it definitely has a cheaper feel than the Wacom stylus. The Yiynova stylus has a clicker button on the side, similar to the Wacom stylus. The Yiynova stylus was comfortable to hold and draw with. It’s also important to note here that there is no eraser tip on this stylus. I rarely used the eraser tip on my Wacom, so I didn’t miss it on the Yiynova.
The Yiynova includes power and adjustment controls on the lower right hand side of the unit. The adjustment controls work, but in my opinion they aren’t particularly intuitive. You can adjust the color values (RGB), whether the display is standard or widescreen, brightness / contrast, and horizontal / vertical position. The display is 1440 x 900. Out of the box, the colors are a little on the cooler side – but these can be adjusted. Unlike the Cintiq, the Yiynova does not include custom buttons on the side of the unit. Again, I rarely made use of those buttons, so the lack of buttons on the side weren’t important to me.
Here’s how the Yiynova 19U fits with my overall setup.
Time to test this puppy out!
Hands On with the Yiynova
The first thing I noticed after powering the unit on is the display itself. The viewing angle is limited – the optimum viewing angle is when you’re looking directly over the screen. The Cintiq has a better viewing angle than the Yiynova, but as I’ll be using it first and foremost by working directly ontop of it – the limited viewing angle isn’t a problem for me. The specs that come with the device mention that the viewing angle is 85 degrees on the left and right and 80 degrees up and down. The display type is TFT color LCD with an LED backlight. If you’re coming from an IPS or Retina Display you’ll notice the difference. It’s not a deal-breaker – but something you want to be aware of.
It’s recommended to reboot your Mac after installing the Yiynova driver. The driver itself appears in your Application folder, in a subfolder called PenTabletSetting. Launch the TabletSetting.app and you are presented with a window. The first tab of the window is a barebones info panel. The second tab lets you assign custom functionality for the stylus’s upper and lower button. In this section, you can also map the monitor. The third tab includes a slider that allows you to affect the amount of pressure sensitivity (light to heavy), with a small panel to test your stylus pressure. Your test marks in this panel can be black, red, green or blue strokes. To be perfectly honest, Yiynova’s driver is pretty bare bones compared to Wacom’s – but it gets the job done.
The surface of the Yiynova is made of glass – the stylus glides across it without any resistance whatsoever. This took me a few tries to get used to, but I’m very comfortable with it now. In my testing, I used a SmudgeGuard 2 glove (shown below) to keep the glass surface clean.
The glass thickness creates a slight parallax situation (very much like the Cintiq does), but again – having been used to drawing with a Cintiq, this wasn’t really a problem for me. The tablet resolution is 4000Lpi, and there are 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity. The Yiynova can only be used in landscape mode.
Here’s a sample of what I created using the Yiynova:
Based on two days of on and off testing, the Yiynova works great with two apps I use all the time: Manga Studio and Photoshop. My drawing stokes were smooth – there was NO LAG. In short, drawing with the Yiynova was a pleasure. The tablet works with Sketchbook Pro 6, but the pressure sensitivity is more coarse. Pressing down slightly creates a super thick line. I’ve tried adjusting the settings on both the Yiynova and Sketchbook to improve the coarseness – but that hasn’t helped. It’s more than likely a driver issue on the Yiynova side, and I’ll follow up on this with The Panda City to see if a fix is in the works. Also: I haven’t tested Illustrator (only because I rarely use that app) or other drawing apps.
I really like the Yiynova 19U tablet. It’s satisfied my Cintiq craving in a way I never thought possible. To be fair, the Yiynova is not perfect. But it more than satisfies my expectations. Drawing directly on a screen (as compared to using a tablet) is simply faster for me, and that translates to improved productivity. With the Yiynova, I’m not hitting the Undo key nearly as much as I used to – because my strokes are more accurate.
As far as long term reliability, it’s still too early to tell how reliable over time the Yiynova will be. I also don’t have any data on the stylus battery life or how fast the nibs wear. I’m hoping to get at least 5 years of usage from this device. Its build quality is solid, so as long as I continue to take care of it, it should last me a good long while. Here’s hoping!
For future hardware updates, I’d love to see a miniDisplay or DVI output (instead of VGA) and a better IPS panel – ideally at the same price point. The drivers, while functional, could use a bit more polish. But for this price and for what the Yiynova can do out of the box, I’m happy with what I have. I’ll post an update in 6 months…
As of this writing, the Yiynova is out of stock on Amazon. Hopefully The Panda City will restock more soon, as I believe they have a hit on their hands. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please add ‘em to the comments below and I will attempt to answer them by updating this post.