This review was contributed by guest reviewer Kris Yim.
Hi everyone, I’m Kris.
This is a review of the Ugee 2150, which is a “tablet monitor,” also called a pen display tablet, a screen tablet, or simply a Wacom Cintiq alternative. I’ll try to make this review as clear as possible for those who are completely new to the world of graphics tablets, those who are familiar with Wacom’s products, and even those who are familiar with other Cintiq alternatives.
A bit about me: I have experience with Wacom’s Graphire and Bamboo graphics tablets (now discontinued) and I’ve used a Cintiq 21UX, as well as “off-brand” alternatives like the Huion GT-190S and the Yiynova MVP22U v3 (sheesh, what a mouthful).
Let’s jump right in!
THE SHORT REVIEW
Excellent buy. It works as well as a Cintiq, but has no buttons, glass screen, some parallax. Full HD screen, great viewing angles, nice size. Rechargeable pen, no eraser, but no lag. Fair price. Looks exactly like the Huion GT-220, but with a different adjustment stand, and better drivers in my opinion. Nobody’s heard of Ugee but you shouldn’t have to worry especially if you buy from Amazon. It’s actually great.
THE LONG REVIEW
1. The Basics: What IS it?
If the terms graphics tablet, Wacom, Intuos and Cintiq are already familiar to you, then skip to the next section. If you’re new at this: a graphics tablet is NOT like an iPad, Android tablet, or a Surface Pro. They don’t have built-in operative systems that you can interact with independently. Instead, the most basic graphics tablets (like Wacom’s Intuos and Intuos Pro) are plastic surfaces that you plug into your computer and maps the location of your stylus to the location of the mouse cursor on your desktop. So, it can replace your computer mouse, and lets you make digital art with increased precision. A tablet monitor is an LCD monitor with graphics tablet technology built inside, so you can draw directly on this monitor with the included stylus!
Remember, graphics tablets and tablet monitors are accessories to desktops/laptops, and cannot work on their own! If you want to draw on an independently-operating tablet, consider investing in a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, or a Cintiq Companion (different from a regular Cintiq!).
2. The Lowdown: Specs at a glance
To rival the best, the Ugee 2150 has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, a 1920x1080 display resolution over a 21.5 inch screen with really nice viewing angles, a really responsive pen with no noticeable lag, and has a VGA, DVI-I, and HDMI port. That’s all you really need to know. Their website can tell you that it has 5080 LPI (lines per inch) and a 233 RPS (report rate), and some other technical stuff, but frankly, I couldn’t tell the difference between the 5080 LPI in this product and the 4000 LPI on Yiynova’s equivalent. They both felt great. Don’t get caught up in the numbers (who’s verifying them anyway?) -- all you need to know is that it works, and it’s snappy.
3. Differences from the Wacom Cintiq
There are countless reviews and resources to learn more about Wacom products. They’ve dominated the industry for decades, and have been considered the only company to take seriously in the field of digital art. If you can afford a Wacom product, then seriously, go for it. You can’t go wrong with their build quality, design, customer service, and the support of millions of artists who can help you solve the problems you might encounter. But in terms of value, it really depends on who you are. If you’re a professional artist, a Cintiq may be a worthy investment. But as a hobbyist, tired of the lower end Wacom Bamboo tablet, and craving the Cintiq form factor, the Ugee is an extraordinary compromise.
As I’ve mentioned in the previous section, the display resolution is an IPS LCD with native Full HD (1920x1080) resolution, and 2048 levels of pressure. So, it seems like the Ugee does everything the Cintiq does. And I’d have to agree, for the most part. I don’t feel like there’s anything I can’t do on the Ugee that I could do on a Cintiq. Older Cintiq alternatives have poor viewing angles (color becomes distorted or washed out when viewed from the sides, top, or bottom), and they were usually smaller. But this device fixes those issues.
There are some sacrifices though. The biggest one being the glossy, glass screen. The good news is that it is very difficult to scratch. The bad news is that it’s very smooth, and doesn’t feel as natural as drawing on paper, or on a matte surface like on a Cintiq. Also, it’s extremely reflective. So be careful about ceiling lights and windows. You might have to play around with the placement and angle of your device in order to see clearly. Personally, I don’t mind the glass, and I have no issues finding an angle good enough to evade windows and lights. I had a POSRUS-brand matte screen protector (designed for the Wacom 22HD) on my Yiynova MVP22U, and it will work perfectly on this device. It reduces glare and provides a nice tooth to the drawing surface. The reason I didn’t get another for the Ugee is because installing a screen protector is a nightmare for a screen this big: air bubbles and dust particles are almost impossible to eradicate completely.
The second main difference is the lack of Express Keys. That’s Wacom’s lingo for assignable buttons designed to speed up your workflow, so you don’t have to reach across your desk to use keyboard shortcuts. In the case of the Ugee, you’d have to do exactly that. If you want Express Keys, consider the Yiynova MVP22U v3, though its buttons are awkwardly located on the top of the device. I think several Bosto tablet monitors have buttons too. Some buttons can be finicky, though. If you really, really really on buttons or rocker wheels, then I’d suggest saving for a Cintiq.
I’ve read some Youtubers incorrectly claim that the Ugee has tilt sensitivity. Which means that, certain programs like Photoshop can detect the angle of the pen and modify the brush stroke accordingly (only a limited amount of brushes support this feature). The Ugee does not support tilt sensitive brushes at the time of writing. The vast majority of brushes in most software do not support tilt sensitivity either, though, so this is hardly a problem. I came across another reviewer who thought “tilt sensitivity” meant being able to draw with the pen at a slight tilt. What? Of course you can draw with the pen at an angle. Don’t worry about it.
Also, the Ugee is smaller than the Cintiq 22HD, since it lacks Express Keys. This is good if you have limited space on your desk.
Lastly, you usually never have to worry about software compatibility with Wacom tablets. With these off-brands, there’s never any guarantee. Also, you won’t find any help from the software creators either. I emailed Mischief about some issues I was having with its compatibility with the Huion GT-190, and they just never bothered to respond. Their website states that it’s only tested on Wacom products. Thankfully, I found that the Ugee (as well as Yiynova products) work great with Mischief (aside from very rare, brief hiccups). I’ll talk more about software support in a later section.
4. Similarities to Huion and Yiynova products
Here’s something you should know, and it might not matter to you, but it’s worth thinking about. Note: this section is a bit of a rant, and unless you’ve already researched other Cintiq alternatives extensively, you may be sorely confused. I invite you to skip to the next section if you’re solely concerned with this product by itself.
I’m not sure how nobody has noticed this, but the Ugee 2150 looks literally identical to a black Huion GT-220 (Huion also offers a silver colored one, whereas the Ugee 2150 only ships in one color). Not only that, but Ugee’s 19 inch tablet monitor, the 1910B, looks literally identical to the Huion GT-190 (To complicate matters, some outdated photos of the 1910B show the menu buttons in the bottom-center of the unit, as opposed to the Huion’s bottom-right buttons. However, if you purchase a 1910B, the buttons will appear in the bottom-right). So you might conclude that perhaps the Ugee is a rebranded Huion, or vice versa, but you’d be wrong. These companies aren’t affiliated with each other. That’s apparent because their non-monitor graphics tablets aren’t alike, and are clearly competing with each other.
The only visible difference between these companies’ tablet monitors is the logo branding, the included stylus, and the detachable adjustment stand, which I will talk about later.
What do these similarities imply? I’m not sure. My suspicion is that both Huion and Ugee contract the same factory to manufacture their monitor parts. It shouldn’t be so surprising that these Hong Kong-based, Shenzhen-manufactured companies to share factories to cut costs. In fact, you’ll find many of these companies use the exact same adjustment stand for their tablet monitors (but not Ugee).
But there IS an important difference: even though the Ugee 2150 looks identical to the black Huion GT-220, it shares the same UC-Logic digitizer as Yiynova’s tablet monitors. In other words, the technology that registers the stylus location and pressure, which is built in behind the LCD panel, is different. Huion develops their digitizer technology internally, though if I had to guess, I’d say it’s somehow derived from UC-Logic. They then sell these products to Monoprice and Turcom (so when you buy a Monoprice or Turcom tablet monitor, you literally are buying a rebranded Huion product). However, the Ugee is not a rebranded Huion. Both Ugee and Yiynova are partners of a separate company, UC-Logic, which develops their own digitizer technology.
Addendum: There may have been a time in which UC-Logic sold their digitizers to Huion and Monoprice. Some prominent artists on Tumblr have claimed that Huion and Monoprice products are built with the UC-Logic technology as Yiynova devices (known to work better than the Waltrop digitizers that older Yiynova devices had). Because of this, there are claims that the styluses for these products are compatible with each other. This may have been true once, I’m not sure, but those times are long gone. I would not recommend buying a stylus from one company, and hoping it will work for another kind of tablet monitor. Even between Yiynova and Huion, since technology varies slightly.
The world of Chinese manufacturing is shadowy and labyrinthine indeed. To add to the sketchiness, Ugee didn’t even bother printing anything on the box that it shipped in.
5. Drivers and software compatibility
Having used both the Yiynova MVP22U v3 and the Ugee 2150, it seems clear that Ugee and Yiynova share the same kind of digitizer, and as a result, similar driver software. The drivers and styluses are not inter-compatible, though, but the install files, interface, system tray icon, etc. are identical if not unmistakably similar.
The Windows 8/8.1 drivers allow you to toggle Digital Ink, switch monitor mapping, customize the two pen buttons, test and tweak the pressure, and calibrate your stylus mapping. I keep Digital Ink off, but you may need to toggle it if you’re having issues with pressure sensitivity in some art programs. Make sure you switch the monitor setting if you decide to use your device as an extended monitor.
I prefer the UC-Logic drivers to Huion’s, because it seems to work better with Windows 8.1, at least at the time of writing. For example, the Ugee and Yiynova drivers registers the stylus even during the Windows 8 login screen, whereas Huion’s drivers would not load the drivers until after I logged in. Ugee/Yiynova drivers also allow you to rotate your calibration, so you can use the device upside down for whatever reason (some people do this so the cables come off the top instead of the bottom).
In Huion’s defense, their drivers allow more pen button customizability. Huion’s drivers allow you to assign keyboard keys to your pen buttons, as well as some other goodies that I haven’t tested yet. It depends on your workflow. I always assign right click and middle click to my pen buttons, so I don’t consider this a loss.
I’ve had better experience with software compatibility with Ugee/Yiynova drivers, though this may be addressed in the future. With the Huion, I experienced sporadic issues with Mischief, and it would not work with Paint Tool Sai 1.1. The Ugee and Yiynova work perfectly with SAI and Mischief, aside from very rare, brief hiccups that fix themselves in a matter of seconds. The Huion, Ugee, and Yiynova all work with Photoshop, Illustrator, Autodesk Sketchbook, and even obscure software such as Pixologic’s Sculptris.
6. The Monitor Itself
This is a well built device. It’s got a sleek, minimal design, and Ugee didn’t even bother to brand it anywhere on the front. It looks good. The biggest complaint I have is the placement of the ports. They are located on the back of the device, facing downward. This makes it extremely awkward to reach, and also prevents the device from leaning flat against the desk.
By contrast, Yiynova devices have the wires exit from the side of the device, allowing them to lay much flatter against the desk. The downside of the Yiynova, though, is that the cable is hard-wired into the device, and cannot be detached. So, you’d have to send in the device for repair if the cables erode. Overall, I prefer the detachable cables, even if the poor placement may damage them over time. To me, it seems cheaper to replace some cables than to send the whole unit back for repair, assuming the warranty is still in effect.
There is a bit of distance between the glass surface and the actual LCD behind it. This is common to all Cintiq alternatives, though older 19 inch tablet monitors seem to have greater distance. If I had to guess, it’d be about half a centimeter distance. It’s not bad, but the parallax may be distracting for some users.
My suggestion is not to move your head too much for the duration of the calibration. In the following photo, the pen appears over the dot from my point of view, but it is actually quite far from it. But since you won’t be shifting your head as you draw, so it’s best to calibrate it according to your normal working position.
If you decide to purchase this product, you may find the monitor too bright, especially at night. Dimming the backlight of the display is more difficult than it seems: I found that lowering the brightness setting on the Ugee 2150’s on-screen display only seems to darken the colors, crushing the gray scale, instead of actually just dimming the backlight. It’s set to 50 by default, so lowering it adds black to all colors, and raising it washes out all the colors. I have to keep it at 50 if I don’t want the colors to look like crap, but it made it very difficult to stare into for long periods of time.
But, then I discovered a solution! If the monitor is too bright for you, what you want to do is change the color temperature preset to “User,” and then individually modify the Red, Green, Blue values to a lower number. They’re set to 100 by default, so I lowered each of them down to 45. Now I have no problems using this device up close for normal amounts of time.
7. Adjustment Stand
Like all tablet monitors, it comes with a detachable adjustment stand that allows you to alter the angle of the display for a better drawing experience. Yiynova, Huion, and Bosto devices come with the same exact adjustment stand, but Ugee’s is different. It’s very similar, though, but the main difference is that it slightly elevates the Ugee 2150. This works especially well because, for some inexplicable reason, the menu buttons are located on the underside of the device. So, Ugee’s stand allows me to access the menu buttons even when the monitor is upright. By contrast, the stand that comes with the Huion does not elevate the monitor, so the downward facing menu buttons are inaccessible when the monitor is upright. And that’s just ridiculous.
However, it feels a little bit flimsier than the one that ships with other Cintiq alternatives, but not enough that it impedes its function. I quickly forgot about this minor quip after noticing the difference in build. It comes with rubberized feet so it does not slide across the desk when you lean against the monitor while drawing, and it holds the angle of the monitor well.
However, the angles of the stand are limited by cables that come out of the bottom of the unit. Because of the poor placement of the ports, lower angles cause the monitor to rest on the wires. Although the stand is capable of lower angles, the wires prevent them.
8. Stylus, Pen Holder, and the Drawing Experience
The Ugee comes with their P50S stylus, which has a built-in rechargeable battery which you cannot replace. The pen is plastic, feels comfortably weighty, and has a rubberized grip that covers most of the center of the pen. Like the Wacom, it comes with two programmable buttons near the tip. Unlike the Wacom, there is no eraser side to the pen. This isn’t a problem for me, since I always used hotkeys anyway, but some may be turned off by this.
If you really do your research, I’d say this pen feels better to hold than Huion’s rechargeable pen, Huion’s battery pen, Yiynova’s P2H pen (battery-powered), but not as good as Yiynova’s P2X pen (battery-powered). However, I should note that I prefer a battery-powered pen, because I hate having to keep track of that little charging wire.
I found that Huion’s rechargeable stylus (and to a slightly lesser extent, their battery stylus) actuates to full pressure much too quickly. While their tablets also support 2048 levels of pressure, I suspect the spring mechanism inside the pen gives way much more easily, so it takes a lot less strength to get full ink flow. I enjoy the wider range of Ugee’s pen. While it takes a bit of effort to get the thick lines, I at least have the option of decreasing the pressure curve with an external program like Lazy Nezumi Pro (for Windows only, anyway). If you’re very a light handed artist, you may want to consider the Huion instead.
However, I would not recommend messing with the pressure settings in the drivers. The “click sensitivity” is set to the lightest setting by default, and I would leave it there. You’re welcome to experiment, but I found that this didn’t alter the pressure range the way I wanted it to. The heavier I set the setting, the more it ignores my light strokes. I lose the full range of pressure and my light strokes become choppy. This doesn’t bother me, though, because the default settings feel comfortable to me.
There’s also a small quirk with UC-Logic digitizers, as I have noticed on the Yiynova as well. The cursor seems to wander a little bit at the very edges of the screen. This is a minor problem because I rarely find myself drawing in those corners. To give you a better idea of this issue, I never have any problem clicking the start menu.
The Ugee comes with a Wacom-like pen holder that, thank god, has a hole in it. Huion’s pen holder doesn’t have a hole for you to put the pen in vertically. You’d have to lay it on its side, which seems pointless, because why not just lay it flat on a desk?
Final note on the pen: I was just thinking to myself that, despite the Ugee 2150’s similarities to Huion, at least their pen is original, right? But I was reading the guest review of the Bosto 22U Mini and guess what do I see?
Everything I know is a lie.
At the time of writing, this product is retailing for USD $669 on Amazon. I purchased it on Amazon for $599 with free shipping, and I have to say, I’m extremely disappointed by the price bump. The price was actually increased while I was finishing this review. I raved about how great of a deal the $599 was, and I actually had to go back and edit my review to account for the increase. I guess Ugee just decided that they could charge more for it and get away with it. Still, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a fair deal. The Huion GT-220 is currently $799, which is an okay price. It’s way better than Cintiq, but the way I see it, if you’re going to convince someone to invest in a relatively unknown product from a relatively unknown company (however known it may be in China), it shouldn’t approach one grand. A lot of artists don’t have that kind of money. Let’s hope Ugee comes around and drops the price again, but I’m not holding my breath.
10. Final Thoughts
Considering the price and the features, the Ugee is my favorite. But you can’t really go wrong with Yiynova and Huion either. I can’t speak for Bosto, but you should definitely check out other reviews on their products! It’s good to be an informed buyer.
+ Solid build quality, feels sturdy (equal to the Huion GT-220)
+ Minimal, attractive design (equal to the Huion GT-220)
+ 2048 levels of pressure (the range of pressure feels better than the Huion due to the pen)
+ No noticeable lag, feels fantastic (equal to Yiynova and Huion)
+ Extremely insignificant jitter (equal to the Yiynova MVP22Uv3, and less than the Huion GT-190)
+ Supports HDMI, DVI-I, and VGA (equal to Huion and Bosto, superior to all Yiynova devices, which use adapters)
+ Smaller and lighter than a Cintiq 22HD (slightly smaller than the MVP22U due to less bezel)
+ Unbeatable price, almost 4x cheaper than the Cintiq (better value than Huion and Yiynova)
+ Better, brighter colors than a Cintiq because it lacks a matte surface (equal to Huion and Yiynova)
+ Attentive customer service via email (though none are as kind as The Panda City, the USA seller for Yiynova)
+ Even better with a monitor arm
+ In my opinion, the pros vastly outweigh the cons
- No Express Keys
- Cables attach close to the bottom of the unit
- Wire clutter
- Pen needs a charge (though it will last literally months)
- Glossy, reflective screen
- Some parallax because of the distance between the glass and LCD
- Limited driver/stylus customizability
- Somewhat sketchy Chinese company, but like, what do you want
- Flimsy but functional adjustment stand
- Unit may not be air-sealed, so dust may creep in behind glass over time
- No tilt sensitivity for tilt-sensitive brushes (despite what some Youtubers say)