The affordable pen display maker adds touch capability and throws in a compute stick for good measure.
No, it's not as good as a Cintiq, but at $400 retail, it's a very good value
Anyone who’s ever made an online purchase from a vendor without a physical store has likely faced this doubt: how to trust the entity on the other side of the transaction? Add to that the risk of purchasing relatively expensive but little-known hardware imported directly from China by an internet reseller. Are your Spider senses tingling yet?
That was certainly how I felt last year, as I plunked down a cool $1K to purchase the Yiynova MVP22U (v2) tablet monitor from their U.S. distributor The Panda City.
At the very least, I was able to take comfort in the fact that The Panda City has an Amazon storefront so worst case I could get a refund from Jeff Bezos if the product failed to show up or work as advertised.
My fears were certainly justified when the first unit I received started acting up within days of the unboxing.
But only a couple of hours after submitting an RMA request, The Panda City’s customer service person Vicki (I wonder if that’s her real name or a catch-all Americanized name for their support team?) arranged to send out a replacement. When it arrived at my door a week later, I just boxed up the defective unit and attached the pre-paid return label.
Fast forward seven months and the second Yiynova monitor developed a similar problem (image flashing on and off).
I gritted my teeth as I completed the RMA request form found on The Panda City website. Surely this time I’d have to send the monitor in for them to diagnose the issue and either fix or replace it.
But within an hour of pressing send on my email, there was a response back from Vicki. She apologized profusely for the problem and told me a new monitor would be shipped via Fedex the following morning.
And a week later, the new unit (sporting updated firmware) arrived at my doorstep. To top it off, inside were a pair of Yiynova artist’s gloves and a new pen as an apology for the down time.
I guess I could be upset that two monitors have failed on me, but that’s an issue with Yiynova. Have any of you experienced similar issues with their products? Let us know in the comments section below.
In the meantime, I choose to focus on the laudatory customer service I received from The Panda City. They and Vicki could have given me a hard time or expected me to send my monitor in first. Instead, they just took my word for it, expedited delivery and sent me a valuable bonus as well.
(Cynics among you may wonder whether they merely offered me special treatment because of my blog’s reach. I don’t think that’s the case. I didn’t identify myself as SurfaceProArtist when I submitted the RMA request and this site’s reach was a tenth of its current size during the first incident late last year).
Needless to say, The Panda City has earned a happy customer who looks forward to shopping from them again. Just imagine how much better our tech lives would be if most major vendors took such proactive care of their clientele?
Is it possible for a screen to be too big?
If you’d asked me that question a year ago, I would have immediately said, “Absolutely not!” But after using a 27-inch monitor with my Windows desktop for a few months and more recently working with the 22-inch Yiynova MVP22U V2 tablet monitor, I’m no longer so sure.
Anyone who runs a graphics program understands the appeal (some might argue necessity) of a large display. Interfaces have so many toolbars and menus and icons that there’s often precious little room left for your canvas.
I’ve tweeted with several artists who refuse to consider the Surface Pro because its screen is just too small. I sympathize with this point of view especially for users of software whose developers keep dragging their feet on publishing Windows 8 tablet friendly versions (I’m looking at you, Adobe!).
But there are advantages to smaller displays as well.
For one, you can hold the Surface Pro right up to your face and not see any jaggies on its 1080p display. Even at 13- or 15-inches, HD resolution is very acceptable for close work. But blow up 1080p to over 20-inches and suddenly aliasing is a serious distraction even at monitor distance.
The second advantage of a small display is that your hand and pen don’t need to cover a lot of ground to hit any point on the screen. The limited real estate will definitely force you to do more panning and zooming with your free hand, but at least your pen arm won’t have to travel as much as two feet to hit the file menu (see the picture above).
And with all the Windows tablets and convertibles on the market, the ability to perform touch gestures with your free hand is a given. But with interactive pen displays like the Yiynova, don’t even think about it (unless you’re willing to spend $2500 for the Wacom Cintiq 22HD Touch).
So am I giving the Yiynova a thumbs down? Not at all. It’s a great device for the price. I merely suggest that any of you considering it or a similar sized alternative think about your workspace, the distance at which you work from your canvas and the dimensions in which you like to work.
Now on to the Yiynova MVP22U itself:
I purchased my device via The Panda City, the US distributor which operates its storefront on Amazon.com. This adds a welcome degree of security in purchasing a relatively unknown product from an even lesser known vendor. And I was able to put that customer service commitment to the test when my first unit developed a power issue almost immediately.
I contacted the vendor via Amazon support. Panda City responded within the day, came back with a suggested fix the next and when the fix didn’t resolve the issue, agreed to send me a replacement immediately. I only shipped back my original once I’d received the new one and confirmed that it was working properly.
The Yiynova inexplicably uses a VGA input via a permanently attached cable. Fortunately, it ships with a VGA to miniDisplay Port adapter which simplifies connection to the Surface Pro. The cable also has a USB breakout which supplies pen control.
Although it’s not exactly ugly, the MVP22U won’t win any design awards. (For pictures, see my unboxing post here.) I’m unsure about the material of the white front. The display must be glass, but it feels more like plastic, reminiscent of the white polycarbonate iMacs of 2004-2006. The rest of the monitor is black, with six small clips holding the front in place. These clips protude slightly higher than the front surface, so they give the monitor a rather homemade feel. And the eight programmable buttons at the top center of the display seem positively retro. They’re also awkwardly placed to be useful. I’m not a button-mashing guy anyway, so I haven’t bothered to test them.
The adjustable stand will support the monitor in a variety of angles from nearly upright (78 degrees) to about 12 degrees. It’s impossible to lie the monitor completely flat, but I find the slight incline very comfortable for working. The Yiynova can be used in portrait mode but only in the upright position. I can’t imagine attempting to draw on it that way. The adjustment mechanism itself is very easy to use and I appreciate that there are no fixed angle settings.
There are four external buttons for power, menu, up and down located behind the lower right side of the monitor. This is an unfortunate location because the power is very difficult to reach while the monitor is reclined.
There’s a clip-on pen holder in the back that’s handy for storing the stylus. The pen itself is larger than any tablet pc stylus. It feels more like a Sharpie with a rubber grip. Unfortunately, the pen buttons are too close to the barrel and are very easy (for me at least) to press accidentally. The buttons also have significant play, which feels very cheap. I spoke to another Yiynova owner, who tells me her pen buttons are stiff, so it might just be a defect in mine. The stylus does not have an eraser tip. The pen nib is hard plastic and is unfortunately not interchangeable with other brands of nibs. The nib is notched and significantly shorter than Wacom’s and I find myself missing the resistance of their softer felt tips.
I’ve read claims that say the Yiynova is a Cintiq killer. Having never used the latter, I can’t say. What I do know is that the UC Logic digitizer powering the MVP22U is very accurate and responsive.
In my previous post, I described my setup with the Surface Pro 2 docking station and the Yiynova. I was concerned that the Wacom feel drivers and the tablet monitor would conflict, but it worked great right out of the box (tested primarily with Clip Studio Paint 1.2.7 set to Tablet PC).
I didn’t want to create potential driver conflicts on the new Surface Pro, so I connected the MVP22U to my Windows 8.1 desktop for testing of the drivers and setup software.
Although the desktop recognized the tablet monitor without any drivers, I was unable to get any pen pressure response in Manga Studio 5.0.3. So it appears that you must install the UC Logic drivers if you plan to use it on a desktop.
I panicked the first time I booted my machine following the driver installation because I suddenly had no pen response at all. After uninstalling the drivers and recovering pen control, I tried running the native Windows calibration tool and found that it didn’t recognize the pen touches.
So I ran the driver installation again and this time, after a brief delay, I could navigate the interface with the pen.
The drivers create a new control panel item called Tablet Setting where you can configure your monitors, program your pen buttons, adjust and test pressure sensitivity, program your express keys and calibrate your screen. The tool offers 4- or 9-point calibration.
Once I went through the tablet settings, I was able to see pressure sensitivity in Manga Studio and Photoshop.
As I wrote at the beginning of this post, aliasing is very evident when you’re working very close to the tablet monitor. I adjusted the pc’s Cleartype settings, which cleaned up the display of small fonts significantly.
When the Yiynova is connected to the Surface Pro, I mirror the display in order to pan, rotate and zoom with my left hand on the Surface’s screen while I draw with the pen in my right. On a traditional desktop, you have to resort to using the onscreen gadgets which is far less interactive.
On the positive side, the large display makes it easy to hit just about any target on even the most cluttered of interfaces.
The screen is so big that I find it difficult to see the whole canvas. I have to lean back or zoom out to take everything in. Without multitouch support, the pen has to do a lot of traveling to get from one side of the screen to the other. Since you’ll be leaning over the monitor to draw, you’ll need to keep your keyboard off to the side, which can be a bit awkward too.
One area where the large screen is vastly superior is during comic book lettering, where a nine point font is virtually unreadable on the Surface Pro. I laid out and lettered nine pages of a comic project yesterday and I was extremely grateful for the Yiynova’s ample screen.
So to get back to my original question: is a big screen always better? It really depends on your needs and understanding the limitations of the form factor.
Is the Yiynova MVP22U V2 worth considering? Absolutely, especially for the relatively low cost vs. comparably sized Wacom hardware.
I personally think that the sweet spot size-wise is somewhere between the Sony Flip’s 15.5 inches and the $400 Monoprice’s 19-inches. Unfortunately both those products are hampered by other limitations (N-Trig digitizer tech for the Sony and 1440x900 resolution for the Monoprice).
So for the time being at least, the MVP 22U is the only game in town.
Comics artist, illustrator and addon creator Ray Frenden has a blog definitely worth bookmarking. Along with nearly daily updates of his trippy artwork, he also offers useful reviews of graphics hardware.
Recently he began reviewing Chinese alternatives to Wacom tablets from Yiynova. These products, such as the 19-inch MSP-19U which retails for $599, are sold in the U.S. by The Panda City's store on Amazon.com.
Until now, the items Frenden has reviewed have been too crippled for my taste, despite offering significantly lower prices than their closest Wacom competition. But the product listed below, the MVP22U may warrant serious consideration. Offering a 22-inch 1920x1080 screen with pressure sensitivity, this sounds like a serious Cintiq competitor. I would normally be leery of purchasing a "no-name" product but Frenden's experiences with other Yiynova products have been very encouraging.
The MVP22U is due out later this summer and I'll definitely keep an eye out for it.