This review is written by Zachary Blum.
- Active electromagnetic digitizer (pen has battery)
- 18.5 inch diagonal IPS display with 1920x1080 resolution
- 19 inches wide by 11.6 inches tall by 1.7 inches thick with bezel
- 16.1 inch wide by 9 inch tall active drawing area with 5080 Line Per Inch sensitivity
- 220 position reports per second
- 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity
- 0.5 inch hover detection range
- Pen tip and button detection support -- no tilt or touch detection
- 9 pound weight (4kg)
- Li-ion pen with 800 battery and red LED indicator
- 8 hotkey/expresskey functions (keys are mirrored on either side of tablet. 16 physical buttons, 8 possible functions)
- 40-position tilt stand
Box with a non-damaging shipping dent
Now is a great time to be a digital artist. We have more competition in drawing tools today than at any point in the past. Wacom, Huion, Bosto, Ugee, Yiynova, Samsung, Microsoft, and more make pen display tablets and tablet PCs. Some of these companies come up with their own designs and some of them modify components from upstream OEMs. So why did I choose Huion?
First it’s important to understand my point of view. I’m a hobbyist artist. I’m not a professional that gets paid to draw. I rarely take on freelance commissions. I draw what I want, when I want, how I want. I’m not professionally trained -- I’m self taught. Art is a hobby for me. It’s something I have been striving to improve at. I wanted an art device that lets me draw on the screen and doesn’t cost a fortune. I’m willing to spend on my hobby to a point. Unfortunately, this knocks Wacom out. The prices on their Cintiq models are just too high. Wacom clearly targets professional artists, not the hobbyist like me.
Second, it’s important to understand what helps make a digital drawing experience pleasant. Pens with pressure sensitivity are mandatory. The exact number of pressure levels are honestly not all that important as long as it’s above 256 levels. IPS displays are also important due to maximizing viewing angles and minimizing color shift in the displayed picture. Another helpful feature are hotkeys/expresskeys built into the tablet display itself. This reduces the need to have a hand on a keyboard or keypad to input shortcuts. Requiring all these features narrows the field down to the Huion GT-185HD and Bosto Kingtee 22HDX.
Third, post-purchase support is absolutely critical for pen tablet displays. Device drivers commonly need to span multiple generations of operating systems. Customers need to know that a company has their back if something goes wrong with a purchase that is easily double or triple the cost of a separate monitor and non-display pen tablet. Nobody wants a $600+ paperweight. I chose to go with Huion because they support both WinTab and new Ink API on Windows. I also found a lot of negatives online about Bosto. A blog entry from professional artist Ray Frenden citing specific support/PR blunders by Bosto made Huion the obvious choice.
What’s in the box?
My package was shipped DHL Express from Hong Kong to Maryland, USA with a stop in Cincinnati, OH along the way for customs. Shipping was quick. My package arrived intact with a shallow dent on one side. Nothing inside the box appeared to be damaged. The box contained the following:
- GT-185HD monitor tablet
- adjustable metal tablet stand
- Li-ion rechargable pen
- USB pen charging cable
- 8 replacement pen nibs
- nib extractor
- pen stand
- screen protector already affixed to tablet
- 3-prong power cord
- power brick with green indicator light
- VGA cable
- HDMI cable
- USB cable
- instruction booklet
- quickstart guide
- driver disc
- Phillips head screwdriver with magnetic tip
- promotional gifts of drawing half-glove and second screen protector
Inch of flexible foam padding all around
Box contents with pen-charging USB cable sneaking off the right!
Form and build quality
The tablet itself is covered in a smooth, black plastic. The same material is used for the hotkeys, monitor controls, and power button. There are little chrome accents around the zoom in and out hotkeys on either side of the unit. Most of the front is covered in a glossy glass with an optional matte screen protector held on by 4 pieces of tape in the corners. The screen protector is the plastic type but lacks a film along its back for easy adhesion to the display -- beware of air and particle bubbles.
Around the back there is a stand made out of metal and plastic that attaches with 4 screws. It features multiple stops in an all-metal gear system for flexible tilting. The stand arms are also metal with rubber grips along the bottom surface. At a tall angle the tablet monitor will rest atop its bottom edge, but at a more flat angle it will rest atop two rubber pads along the bottom edge of the display. There are also inputs for VGA, DVI, HDMI, and power on the right rear of the machine. A USB output is also present. A pen silo is located at the top left rear of the tablet.
Straight from the factory (note screen protector bubbles)
Right side view (power, HDMI, DIV, VGA, USB)
Stand has metal adjustment mechanism
There are a pair of manufacturing issues, unfortunately. I initially thought I had 3 dead pixels. Upon further review it appears as if there are little pieces of dust that somehow got below the glass but above the LCD. There is also an area with film between the glass and LCD towards the bottom right and left of the display. When the display is powered on this film does not appear to make an impact, thankfully. In everyday use I don’t anticipate these issues being a problem.
Film between glass and LCD (left side)
Example of squiggly dust or hair between glass and LCD
Not a dead pixel -- just some dust
The stock Huion pen is somewhere in the middle of all of the various tablet pens I’ve used over the years. It’s not as big as many of Wacom’s pens, yet it is bigger than the tablet PC pens I’ve used from Wacom and N-Trig. Huion’s pen is streamlined and clad in a textured plastic or rubber surface that’s easy to grip without slipping. It has a pair of buttons that can be assigned to different mouse clicks, key presses, and the ability to jump from screen to screen in a multi-monitor setup. The top portion has a port for USB charging of its battery. A little red LED underneath the pen buttons lets you know if the pen is charging. The pen buttons are a rocker switch, but both can be pressed simultaneously.
8 nibs, nib remover, stand cover, and pen silo at rear top of tablet
(top) Samsung S-Pen, Fujitsu T902 pen, Motion LE1700 pen, Huion pen, Wacom Intuos3 pen (bottom)
(left) Samsung S-Pen tip, Fujitsu Wacom tip, Motion Wacom tip, Huion tip, Wacom tip (right)
Function and drivers
The included driver disc was not recognized by my computer. I acquired drivers from the Huion website. The driver has the ability to switch between WinTab and Ink API, alter the pen pressure stiffness, assign pen buttons, provide a scratchpad for pressure testing, assign functions to the hotkeys/expresskeys, shrink the pen detection area, and calibrate the cursor position using 9 points. I have yet to experience any errors with the driver, and both Photoshop CS3 and Manga Studio 5 appear to have no issues working with the driver.
A quirk I did notice was during the 9-point calibration. If I hit each dot right on the center the parallax error I was observing would not be corrected. Instead I would need to compensate for parallax manually by always aiming for the outside edge of each dot closest to my face. Since I’m a righty that means all I deliberately chose to calibrate to the left of the dot on all 6 spots on center and left side of the screen. This actually fixed the parallax issue for me. This is important to correct because the pen tip is at least 1mm away from the display once it touches down on the glass. It could be as far as 2mm away from the LCD -- it’s hard to tell. Proper calibration can be achieved on this unit. In fact, the Huion did not seem to have any noticeable “bubbles” in its detection mesh (areas where no amount of calibration will get rid of cursor not lining up).
Huion driver menu
Pressure test scratchpad
Hotkey/Expresskey and active area configuration
Drawing on the tablet yields good accuracy. Strokes are rendered immediately with little to no perceptual lag. There is no driver pause or stroke repeat bug like what has plagued some other pen tablet displays and tablet PCs. Because there is no touch input the user does not need to worry about accidental palm rejection errors. I did not notice any jitter that I would say is unusual or unexpected given the number of Wacom tablets I’ve used over the years. The GT-185HD did have some trouble with the slow diagonal line test. This is not unusual, not as bad as the N-Trig-based Surface Pro 3, and not significantly worse than Wacom’s tablets.
No lag! Strokes immediately appeared without repeats or other abnormal behavior
Fast, straight line strokes. Little bit of weirdness on diagonals at the bottom center-left and center-right. Nothing unusual. Ignore the vertical lines at the bottom -- panning effect.
Slow diagonal strokes are wobbly. Remember, there is a wire-mesh behind the display that detects the pen location. Vertical and horizontal strokes are spot on, but interpolation can’t do its job as effectively when you go slow and steady diagonally. Weirdness in bottom center-right. Otherwise, not unexpected performance.
Subjective opinions from drawing
I decided the best way to give an opinion on the Huion GT-185HD is to do a speedpaint with it. Remember, I’m a hobbyist artist and I’m going to try and cram this speedpaint down into an hour. I’ll spare you the artist self-loathing and just give you a brain dump!
About the same distance as the tablet PC’s I’ve used for drawing. Camera says cursor is off but eyes from above say it’s right on target.
The very first thing I noticed was how spongy the tip of the pen feels. It has more travel distance than Wacom’s offerings. On one hand it’s bad because real pens and pencils don’t have such a squish-factor to them. On the other hand it’s great because it gives me fine-grained control over the pen pressure level. As the artist I get feedback as to how much pressure I’m applying rather than how hypersensitive Wacom tips can feel. I kind of like the feel of the Huion pen over Wacom’s offerings, but it could be fatiguing after a while. I found I was not pressing as hard as often as I do with Wacom pens sometimes. Overall, positive experience with the pen. Accurate and responsive. Only catch is to keep it away from the bottom half inch of the screen to prevent weirdness with half-completed lines and inaccuracy.
Next thought was that I hate the screen protector. The way it partially adheres to the display and creates little bubbles and visual deformations drives me crazy. I took it off and found I disliked drawing right on the glass even more. The glass has a lot of resistance to it when both my hand and the pen tip are trying to glide across it. The screen protector is very smooth and makes sliding the hand across a breeze. I put it back on and carried on. Huion really should look at imitating the cell phone market and finding a better way to adhere screen protectors. Their protectors are functional, but the bubbles and distortions are unwelcome.
Purely grayscale but sometimes had warps of color in it from the screen protector bubbles
While drawing I didn’t feel like the distance between the pen tip and screen was anything unusual. I also did not get bothered by the warmth of the display. Yes, the top center of the display does get quite warm. My hands are naturally colder than the rest of my body (thanks, mom) so the warmth helps me! Finally, the pen cursor’s relationship to the pen tip felt good and predictable. Calibration just about nailed it over the majority of the screen.
I hate it. There are a billion things wrong with this image. Excuse me while I complain about my art skills on Twitter.
While working on this image I found myself making liberal use of the zoom, brush size, and hand tool hotkeys/expresskeys. By having my left hand on the left side of the tablet I could support and nudge the tablet to help get some lines just where I wanted them. I felt like this improved my speed by reducing the number of trips I had to take to various controls in Manga Studio 5’s user interface. I also did not notice the dust particles pointed out earlier nor the film areas from the manufacturing issues section. The only distraction came from the screen protector.
Look under the wings to see the screen protector splotchiness.
Lifted and re-applied the screen protector for this photo.
At the end of my speedpaint I came through with an image. I felt that my skills were the determining factor in how well I performed. I did not feel like the GT-185HD held me back. In fact, I want to draw with it again! I’d like to give it a try on other programs like 3D sculpting applications. The GT-185HD is at least as good as the Fujitsu T902 I used to do all my art with and definitely more accurate than the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 I randomly draw on while taking “notes” during meetings at work. I see myself continuing to use the GT-185HD and feel confident in both the purchase and recommending it as a solid product.
Here's a video of a speedpaint from another artist who uses Clip Paint Studio EX.
- 18.5 inch IPS display with LED backlight provides excellent viewing angles with a lot of customization options
- Hotkeys/Expresskeys on sides (8 functions total mirrored across 16 total keys)
- Reasonable price of MSRP $600
- Driver supports WinTab and Ink API on Windows
- Huion support active on DeviantArt, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and email
- Very adjustable tilt stand and VESA mounting holes
- No touch support so no need to worry about palm rejection or capacitive grid bumps
- Good variety of display configuration options
- Plug and play -- everything you need included except an art program
- No buzzing, hissing, or strange noises
- Multi-monitor support
- 9 point calibration only. No 16 or 4 point calibration offered
- Center top of tablet gets warm during use
- Cursor wanders at screen perimeter about half an inch from the display edge
- Slow diagonal strokes can be jaggy
- Random rare diagonal lines during the straight line test -- did not appear in ordinary use
- A side-mounted USB port for charging the pen or a charging connector inside the pen silow would have been nice
- No pressure curve modification, just stiffness modification
- Manufacturing issues left dust and film between the glass and LCD on my unit
- Screen protector is impossible to apply evenly and commonly has bubbles. Can be distracting when drawing. Is an optional component though.
- Left, top, and right side pen detection issues at the edges about a quarter inch from the display perimeter. Cursor can run away from the pen tip when approaching the edge or fail to register for a quarter inch when moving the pen from the edge back onto the display.
- Pen tip is squeaky when sliding across screen surface sometimes
Huion is listening. The GT-185HD makes several significant display and form factor improvements over the GT-190S as well as usability improvements over the GT-220. It is a competent pen display drawing tablet. It is not perfect. There are a lot of improvements and tweaks Huion can make to improve their product. However, at present the positives undeniably outweigh the negatives. If you are in the market for an affordable Cintiq alternative the Huion GT-185HD is a serious option you can feel confident about. It’s a tool that will enable you, not hold you back.
You can find the Huion GT-185 HD at the following Amazon product pages. The Huion GT-185 HD is available in USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Japan.