(Review unit on loan from Viewsonic)
Viewsonic Notas is a 13.3-inch pen display released in 2020 targeted at teachers and students. It is a graphics pen display so it can be used for creating digital art as well. You can find the full list of specifications here (PDF).
Price is unknown currently as the product is not official released for sale yet.
This is a good looking pen display with solid build quality and satisfactory drawing performance. For a pen display targeted at teachers and students, the performance is good. However, there are some potential issues with the Mac and Windows drivers, mentioned further below.
The items included in the box are:
- Pen display
- Flip cover stand
- 3x replacement nibs
- Nib remover
- USB-C to USB-C cable
- USB-A to USB-C cable
- mini HDMI to full-size HDMI cable
- Quickstart guide
The pen display can be connected to your computer via a single USB-C cable for video and data.
If you use HDMI cable to connect, you will need another USB cable to provide power. Using the USB-C cable is obviously the better option since it reduces cable clutter.
Design of the pen looks good. Build quality is solid. The huge rubber grip is comfortable to hold. There are two side buttons and an eraser button at the back. The pen is not powered by battery so no charging is required.
The pen has tilt and 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity. There are only three replacement nibs provided.
The pen display comes with a matte screen protector already applied. The glossy reflective plastic film for the matte screen protector has to be removed first. Make sure you don't peel off the matte screen protector.
The screen protector may develop scratches in the future. There are some scratches on mine.
On the back are four large rubber feet for good grip on the table.
There are six customisable shortcut buttons.
On the other side, from left to right, there's the OSD toggle button, back button, two USB-C ports and a mini-HDMI port.
The pen display weighs 0.8kg, and is 7mm which is thinner than the included pen.
The pen display may be as thin as some tablets but it's not a tablet. A pen display is a monitor you can draw on. And since it's monitor, you'll need to connect it to a computer in order to use it.
The included flip cover stand allows the pen display to be deployed at a more comfortable angle for drawing.
Downside of the stand is it can only be deployed at one angle for drawing. The pen display is likely to topple when you deploy it more vertically because the base is so small.
When you use the vertical deployment, the desktop is actually upside down. This is not a pen display suitable for use as a main display for other purposes other than for drawing. For example, when you're done with drawing and maybe want to watch some Youtube videos, browse the web, after you prop up the pen display, you have to change the desktop orientation via your OS settings, and change back when you want to draw again.
While the gentle inclined angle is more comfortable for drawing, it's not that comfortable for drawing for long periods of time. I'll still put it on an adjustable stand which I can also use to prop up the pen display higher.
This pen display is not designed for left handed use together with the case. If you change the orientation so that the physical shortcut buttons are on the right side, those ports will go to the left but there's no opening on the case for the ports. Or you can just use the pen display without the case.
The anti-glare on the matte screen protector isn't that aggressive. The matte texture is nice to draw on. When viewing from side angles, there's minimal colour shift but noticeable drop in brightness.
Resolution of the 13.3-inch IPS display is 1920 x 1080. Pixelation is noticeable but not too bad on a 13.3 inch display.
Image quality is affected slight but it's a good compromise for the nice textured drawing surface. All matte screen protectors will affect image quality anyway, to varying amount.
Colours of the pen display look good out of the box. I measured colour support for 100% sRGB, 82% NTSC, 85% AdobeRGB and 92% P3. Colour accuracy is reasonably good.
After colour calibration, the colours are able to match those on my M1 Macbook Air (2020).
Maximum brightness is just 143 nits which is comparable to pen displays from other brands. To get maximum brightness you have to set the display mode to FPS (out of the options available under the ECO setting: RTS, FPS, Game, Movie, Standard, Text).
The visual settings that can be changed via OSD are brightness, contrast, RGB and colour temperature (warm, cool, user).
For the OSD to remember the settings you configured, you need to ensure there's enough power supply to the pen display. If there's no enough power to the pen display, your configured settings will revert to default settings.
Unfortunately for me, my M1 Macbook Air 2020 could power the pen display via USB-C but not at full power. When I restart the Mac or reconnect the cable, the OSD settings (e.g. brightness) reverts to default, and I have to change the brightness again. My Windows laptop was able to provide a bit more power and was able to retain the OSD settings with Windows start but not when I re-connect the cable.
So using a single USB-C cable may not be sufficient.
The drivers I've tested are MacOS driver from 18 Jan 2021 and Windows driver from 27 Jan 2021.
The Mac and Windows driver have almost similar functionality except for the additional Windows Ink.
The driver does not have Switch Display functionality. When using a dual display setup, you can't move the cursor from the pen display to your other display and control the cursor with the pen. This is a deal breaker if you have intention to use this pen display with another display.
You can set your own keyboard shortcuts to the physical shortcut buttons.
Default mapping to the desktop works fine. There's no calibration for the pen. There's slight cursor offset with the pen but thankfully nothing too serious that I would click on wrong things constantly, or affect drawing. Cursor offset is noticeable near the top and bottom extreme edges.
Unfortunately there are major glitches with both drivers. The MacOS driver cannot remember the settings, and changing the settings doesn't really change anything. E.g. You can adjust the pressure sensitivity but the pen performance doesn't reflect the changes. For Windows driver, pen pressure adjustments work but the shortcut buttons sometimes revert to original settings.
Changing the orientation does not work with MacOS driver so the pen display cannot be used in left handed mode. Changing the orientation with the Windows driver reverses the movement of the cursor but not the desktop, so you'll have to change the desktop orientation using the OS settings.
Drawing performance is good. The pen is sensitive with minimal initial activation force. Line quality is good for the most part.
Here are some glitches I discovered. Pressure sensitivity does not work with Adobe Illustrator (Mac). With Medibang Paint Pro (Win), sometimes there's delay before the line appears and you can't draw dots by tapping on the screen due to that delay. A restart of the app usually fixes the problem with Medibang Paint Pro.
Here's the line quality test with Medibang Paint Pro.
1. Initial activation force is minimal. Thin lines are easy to draw with minimal pressure.
2. There's slight jitter when drawing diagonal lines slowly. This is weird because this issue usually affects portable tablets, not pen displays. But thankfully, the jitter isn't serious enough to affect drawing.
3. Lines are able to transition from thin to thick smoothly.
4. Dots can be drawn by just tapping the pen on the display.
5. It's easy to maintain consistent pressure to draw lines with consistent widths.
I did not have any problems drawing the flower due to the jitter.
These were drawn with Clip Studio Paint (Mac)
Affinity Photo (Mac)
Pressure works fine with Affinity Designer.
Medibang Paint Pro (Win)
Krita (Win). Tilt sensitivity works.
The Viewsonic Notas pen display is a good looking pen display with decent drawing performance.
The main issues I had were with the driver and OSD not being able to remember the settings. Hopefully these issues can be solved with firmware or driver updates in the future.
If you're a teacher or student using the pen display, if you're not creating art, the issues with the driver may not be important because all you need is to have the cursor follow the pen tip. However you won't be able to customise the pen or shortcut buttons because the drivers are so glitchy. The consolation is pressure works well at default settings with most drawing apps.
Ideally, this pen display is for right-handed people who will keep the pen display connected to their Windows computer at all time.
Pros and cons at a glance
+ Beautiful design
+ Solid build quality
+ Good colour accuracy
+ Good drawing performance
+ Sensitive pen
+ Flip-cover stand is included
- Maximum brightness just 143 nits
- Only 3 replacement pen nibs included
- OSD may not remember settings when pen display is not fully powered
- Mac driver cannot remember its settings
- Windows driver cannot remember shortcut button settings
- No Switch Display in driver
- Left handed mode does not work with Mac
- Left handed model with Windows means you can't use the flip cover case.
- No pen calibration with the pen
- Stand can only be deployed at one angle for drawing
- Slight misalignment with the cursor tracking at top and bottom edges but nothing too serious