I was at Basheer Graphics Bookstore when I saw a pamphlet listing the Huion products and what caught my attention was the price of their products. I had a moment of disbelief because they cost a few hundred dollars less than Wacom Cintiq alternatives. I thought it was some typo error. So I went online to double check and indeed the pricing is that attractive. Whether it's worth the money is another question. So I contacted Huion to borrow a tablet for a review. I asked for a simple tablet but they surprised me by sending me their latest GT-220, a 21.5 inch IPS pen display tablet. Wow!
This review is made possible by local Singapore distributor One Thirty Five.
Before I start, I've to say that I'm reviewing this on a Mac. Window users are going to have a different experience due to the driver and feature support. Windows users rate the unit much more favorably on Amazon.
Before I start, there are some important notes.
You have to install the drivers first before you plug in the display tablets. On Windows computers, if you have the tablet plugged in, unknown Windows drivers will be installed for you which is what you do not want because it will conflict with the Huion drivers. Alright, back to the review...
You can read the specifications from Huion's GT-220 product page so I will not duplicate it here.
There are several highlights for me. First, this is an IPS monitor so the image quality and viewing angles are fantastic. Second, the resolution is HD at 1920 by 1080. And thirdly, the tablet has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity.
What's in the box
The box came with the following items:
- Huion GT-220 Tablet Monitor
- Graphic Stylus
- Pen Holder (4 Spare Pen Nibs and 1 Removal Ring Included)
- USB Cable for the Rechargeable Stylus
- VGA Cable
- HDMI Cable
- Power Adapter
- USB Cable
I left out the driver disc in the photo above.
These are the connection ports behind. From the left to right: USB, power, HDMI, DVI and VGA.
The important thing to note here are the display cables included. The VGA cable is not going to give you as good image quality because it's using an analog connection. However, the only digital cable they included is the HDMI. I find it weird Huion chose to include a HDMI cable instead of a DVI cable where the latter is more widely supported by LCD/LED monitors nowadays -- although I noticed a trend that HDMI support in monitors is increasing.
I've two computers at home, a Mac Pro 2013 (that cyclindrical one) and the Mac Mini 2012. Both support HDMI so that's great. If you're using just monitor that supports DVI, you'll need a HDMI-DVI adapter.
There are two USB cables. One's for recharging the stylus. The other is for the tablet-computer connection.
There's a piece of plastic sticked to the screen initially. I'm still trying to figure out what those instructions mean.
This is the packaging for the stylus with a warning asking you not to unscrew the bottom part of the pen.
The pen holder is the type that lets the stylus lay down horizontally. I actually prefer the standing type like the Wacom. Not a big issue. You can unscrew the bottom anticlockwise to reveal multiple space nibs and a nib clipper for removing worn nibs. Huion included 10 replacement nibs. Very nice.
Design of the tablet
The IPS display tablet is 21.5 inch which I feel is a comfortable size to work with. The font sizes, palettes are not too small and can be seen clearly.
The whole display is quite thin, and lightweight (5.42kg), relatively speaking, which is great because you'll find yourself adjusting the tilt angle often to get into work mode or viewing mode.
The drawing surface is glass. Glass isn't really the best surface to draw on compared to a matte surface of course. I read that you can buy some sort of matte surface screen protector from Huion to apply over the screen which will give you a nicer textural surface to draw on.
For some reason, the LCD under the glass doesn't seem to be sealed. The set I have came with several dust spots inside on day 1. Several other customers also reported similar problems. I'm not too fussy but I imagine there are people who expect better given that they are not spending a small sum buying this. At least there are no dead pixels. See if you can spot the dust particles in the two photos below.
Somewhere in the middle slightly to the right. By the way, the colour cast is from my camera.
Just above the letter E at the Transparency palette
On the back of the tablet is the stand that props the monitor up. There's a latch you have to lift before you can adjust the tilt angles. When the tablet is upright, it's supported by the bottom edge of the tablet and the stand.
The power and menu buttons are on the bottom of the edge so when the monitor is upright, it's difficult if not impossible to press the buttons. It's inconvenient to use the power button which I use often. However, if you don't use the power button, e.g. shutting down the computer and letting the display go to sleep, then it's not an issue.
When the tablet is tilted down, it's supported by only the stand. The stand is not too big so if you draw forcefully on the screen, the tablet can wobble. Under normal drawing conditions, it's stable.
One major design flaw is the cable ports' inconvenient location just beneath the stand. When you tilt the tablet down, the stand will rest on the cables, and the whole unit will wobble, and I feel it will damage the cables in the future. So every time I tilt the tablet down, I would move the cables to the side to avoid the stand. Another potential downside is the durability of the cables because they are twisted even more when the table is brought down.
For Wacom tablet users, you'll probably notice the lack of express hot keys by the side. Personally, I've always preferred using keyboards because they are more versatile. So the lack of hot keys don't really bother me.
The screen is fantastic. The IPS panel has a good contrast levels of 1000:1. The colours on my display looks pretty good out of the box, and there's further option to tweak them via the menu buttons. I suggest tweaking it to get the best colours.
Viewing angle is 178 horizontal and vertical. This is very useful because with constant adjusting of the display tablet, viewing angles change, and if you're not using an IPS panel, colours will be different each time.
As for heat, the warm part of the display tablet is limited to the bottom half of the screen. It's not too warm so it's a non-issue.
The drawing stylus is made of plastic and feels quite hollow, but I like the lightweight.
There are two buttons on the side. For the buttons to work, the stylus tip has to be near the screen.
At the back is a port for charging via USB, so unlike the Wacom stylus, there's no "eraser" tip at the back.
You can use the stylus while it's plugged in and charging, and of course in wireless mode.
I don't like the feeling of drawing on the glass surface with the tip, but then I don't like drawing on glass with anything. Under certain rare situations, I find that the tip would produce a squeaky sound, but I don't exactly know why or how.
The stylus does not support tilt sensitivity.
Strange cursor movements will happen when the stylus goes past the edge of the screen. When you go upwards past the edge of the screen, the cursor will actually move downwards as it loses connection.
I've mentioned it upfront earlier but I'll repeat again. Install the drivers before plugging in the display tablet. If you do not have the drivers disc, you can download the drivers from Huion's website.
The system I'm using is Mac OS 10.9.5.
The Huion drivers options are very limited. There are settings for pressure sensitivity, side buttons and multi-screen options. For the side buttons, you can only set them to left, right and double clicks. That's all for the settings.
You can't calibrate the stylus to adjust the displacement, or distance against the screen. Is that a problem to me? Not really because there is going to be parallax error anyway, so I'll rather key the tip match directly on top of the cursor.
The keyboard is your best friend for extra functionality.
There's no lag when drawing. Strokes appear as fast as you put them out. But lag also depends on how powerful your computer is.
I only use Photoshop and Illustrator for drawing, and I draw mostly cartoons and hence deal more with line work.
These are drawn in Photoshop.
In Photoshop, I noticed that there's slight jitter in the strokes. When the strokes are viewed up close, the edges have the slight jitter. It can be very irritating because they are quite random. The consolation is the jitterness may or may not be obvious depending on whether you're looking out for them.
Also in Photoshop, sometime when you do quick light sketches, the one single line you draw may in fact actually be made up of multiple lines that combine together to form the line. You know when then you have to undo several times just to remove the line. I think this is because the tablet isn't very good at detecting really light pressure strokes.
For Photoshop usage, personally I think the issue with jitterness is not a big problem for artists mainly digital painting. But for cartoonists or those who create line art, who need the predictability, this is an issue to take note of. I hope this issue can be resolve with driver updates.
Most of my line work are drawn in Adobe Illustrator using their Brush tool. Illustrator makes some adjustments to the strokes to render them out smooth so there's none of the jitter you get with Photoshop. However because of those adjustments, those strokes will not be 100% representative of the pressure you use. I like some element of randomness and so prefer using Illustrator for line art.
I find that on occasions, I can start a stroke with a blob, so the solution is to start the stroke properly. It took a while to get used to feel of the pressure created by the stylus, and after that it's fine. No such problems in Photoshop.
To get pressure sensitivity for brushes in Illustrator, you actually have to install Wacom drivers to make the options available for the the brush pressure settings.
The left one's drawn with Illustrator and the right one with Photoshop.
If you use really light pressure, you can get the grainy type of lines that you can't get with illustrator. I was using the round brush in Photoshop.
Below are video reviews from other artists using the GT-220 with Windows. Some comments are similar to the ones I have made. But you should still check it out, if you have time, to see how it performs on Windows.
Concept artist Daarken reviews it using Photoshop. He uses it for digital painting.
Illustrator Ray Frenden uses Painter. He uses the GT-220 for line art.
DeviantRahll reviews it with some comparison to the Cintiq.
So you've reach the end of the review.
My conclusion is only for my experience when using the Huion GT-220 on a Mac. Unfortunately, I'm unable to test it on a Windows because I've no computers running that. So for Windows users, I suggest you check out the reviews on Amazon (links below).
I feel that the Huion GT-220 display tablet still has to improve to be a true competitor to the Wacom Cintiq.
It's not without flaws. The main downsides are the cable port locations on the back, dust problems inside the screen, jitter issues with brushes in Photoshop and the lack of driver setting options.
The major plus is the attractive pricing. It's a few hundred dollars cheaper than the Wacom CINTIQ 22HD which is in the same product category. It's a HUGE saving. The other plus is the wonderful image quality of the IPS screen.
Overall, the GT-220 does perform well enough for the kind of work I do and I feel that it's quite worth the money. But I'm definitely not going to buy it if I'm using it only for Photoshop.
There's definitely room for improvement. I hope future Huion tablets will improve and give Wacom a run for their money. It's great to have competition to spur better products.
I would give this a 3.5 out of 5 stars.