Impressions: Yiynova MSP19U+

posted in: Hardware impressions | 0

As a graphics artist, game developer and video dude I come into contact with a lot of different hardware. I value quality but I’m not too keen on spending money for unnecessary features. I am also a big fan of open source software and generally try to support the underdogs whenever it is feasible.

After working with my Wacom Graphire4 Classic XL for at least 6 or 7 years, I decided that it was time for a new drawing device. Owning a Wacom Cintiq was a big dream of me for years but even at times when I had the money I was reluctant to buy one because of the steep price. But – oh lucky me – not long ago Cintiq-like devices by other manufacturers finally popped up and last month I decided to order one. After some research I decided to buy Yiynova’s MSP19U+. It is a 19″ pen digitizer monitor and I ordered it at yiynova.eu.

BTW: Yiynova also has a 22″ device in their line of products but I wasn’t sure if I needed the larger drawing area of that device so I saved around 200€ and opted for their 19″ device.

Feel free to write questions in the comments section below this post or use the contact form on my website. I may even update the article.

[First Version: October 28th 2014] [Second Version: February 1st 2015, updated driver information and added an Illustrator example]
The Yiynova MSP19U+ on my desk
The Yiynova MSP19U+ on my desk. It’s a great desk. Very clean.

Why do I need a pen digitizer?

I was hoping that I could draw larger strokes with more precision and that I would be able to lean on my drawing area – the inverse position I had with my Graphire4 where I lumped in my chair and kinda scribbled in my lap. But in the end it comes down to saving time because I won’t have to correct as many strokes as before.

I also wanted to try out if the additional pressure levels (2048 compared to 512 of my old Wacom tablet) bring something new to my drawings.

Was it worth it?

Short answer: Yes. The device saves me a lot of time and drawing has become more fun for me. It’s worth every cent.

Long answer: Not everything is perfect. Read the rest of this blog post.

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Let’s go into detail

Now that you know that this review will turn out positive I can go into some details of the device. Keep in mind that I’m not in a position to compare the device to Cintiqs. It’s my first digital drawing tablet with a screen and I can only compare it to my old Wacom Gaphire4.

Screen

The device has a resolution of 1440×900 Pixels, which is pretty low by today’s standards but it still suffices to work precisely. The main drawback of the low resolution is that you can’t have to many UI elements on this screen before it feels cluttered. But depending on the program you’re drawing in this can become a non issue. I prefer Krita which has a very minimal interface focused on drawing and it never feel like my screen is cluttered.

Yiynova MSPU19+ in front of my main screen
Yiynova MSPU19+ in front of my main screen. Both screens are color calibrated. The little difference in color comes from the angle of the Yiynova tablet in this picture. But this isn’t the best picture to compare colors…

As you can see on the very first image of this post: the screen is glossy. But I have never noticed this while I was drawing. The smooth surface feels nice while drawing but of course nothing like paper – I got used to this right away, though. I guess the tips of the pen won’t wear off as fast thanks to this.

The distance between the glass and the screen is noticeable and will cause parallax errors. From what I read this is also the case with the more expensive Cintiqs, though. The driver allows to calibrate the pen position so it can take your viewpoint into account, which in theory should cancel the parallax errors. But if you change the position and/or distance of your head you’ll get some parallax errors again. I also found out that I achieved the best calibration results by closing my non-dominant eye when I calibrated the pen position.

The viewing angle of the screen isn’t big but given the low price I find the screen more than acceptable – I mean: You get a huge drawing tablet and a screen for less than 600 Euros (excluding VAT) last time I checked.

I calibrated the colors of the device with my Spyder3 and I’d say they look just the same as on my other screen (let’s say 99% the same).

Stand

Yiynova MSP19U+ stand placed at around 85° to my desk
Yiynova MSP19U+ stand placed at around 85° to my desk

The device comes with a very solid stand that allows to tilt it from almost flat (I estimate around 10°) to an 85° angle. I didn’t measure it, though. There are two rubber thingies at the bottom of the screen that prevent it from slipping.

The stand is actually mounted on a 75x75mm VESA mount and one of my next investements will an Ergotron LX monitor arm, I guess. As you can see in the photos, the placement of the device on my desk isn’t optimal.

Connections

The device has rather short VGA and USB cables. I had to extend both of them to reach from the front of my desk to the back of my workstation, which is under the desk.

And then there’s an A/C adapter, of course. Fun fact: If you only plug in the USB cable (no VGA and no A/C) you can still perfectly use the device as a drawing tablet. Um… this may become important if you really have to conserve power sometimes. 😉

Drivers

I was still working with Windows 7 when the device arrived. As I had to find out, the drivers on the disc that came with the device would crash on my system after some minutes. According to an email from Yiynova’s European support team, the version on the disc (version 8) was made for Windows 8. So after some worrying I installed version 5.02g from yiynova.eu and it works like a charm. The driver comes with a configuration tool that sits in the task bar. It provides the bare necessities like screen selection, calibration and allows to assign shortcuts to the express buttons on the side of the device.

Yiynova driver menu examples
Examples of the menus of the v5.02g driver provided by Yiynova for Windows 7. Since I use a German Windows version, some parts of the UI are German.

After I had build a new workstation in January 2015, which runs Windows 8, I was able to try out the current driver. It doesn’t offer more options as far as I can tell and works flawlessly.

Yiynova Driver V8 Menues
Examples of the menus of the v8 driver provided by Yiynova for Windows 8. Since I use a German Windows version, some parts of the UI are German.

Be sure to install the drivers before you plug in the MSP19U+ for the first time or Windows will install a generic HID device driver for it and you’ll have to uninstall this generic HID device via Windows’ device manager – good look finding it in there, by the way, as I had 10 generic HID devices on my PC and had to deactivate them until I found out which one was the Yiynova device (it was the last one of course). And then restart the PC!

This error, which the manual mentioned but I totally overlooked that, cost me a lot of time.

Express buttons

The 8 express buttons are on the left side of the device but the screen can be turned in 90° steps in the driver’s settings so lefties can just rotate the device 180°. The buttons are rather hard to press and make a loud clicking sound.

They’re probably my biggest grudge with the device because the driver executes the assigned shortcuts very slowly.

Wait, slowly? What’s this supposed to mean? I’ll try to explain: If I press the express button that executes Ctrl+Alt+Z then the keys are virtually pressed but this happens so slowly that I can actually see Photoshop cycling through the different tools for the “in between shortcuts”. I can see how first Ctrl seems to be pressed, then Ctrl+Alt, then Ctrl+Alt+Z, then Z gets released, then Alt and finally Ctrl get released just as slowly. This takes at least one second for me which is uncool as my work pace is rather fast. So in the end I use my keyboard instead of the express keys – except for single key shortcuts as they do not cause delays. E.g. I assigned the space bar (move canvas in most programs) to the uppermost express button.

Because I assume this problem is software related newer drivers may have already fixed that but I couldn’t test it as the newest drivers crash.

Pen

I have the P2X pen model and it is great. It’s as easy as that. Great work, Yiynova!

It requires one AAA battery, which gives it a good weight. The center of balance feels right and the pressure can be applied very smoothly and precise. It takes quite a bit of pressure to use all 2048 pressure levels, which I find great. It doesn’t have an eraser at the end, like the pen of my old Wacom tablet but I never used that anyway because turning the pen around was such a slow process compared to pressing a key for the eraser tool.

The pen has two buttons and they’re placed at just the right spot for me. They are easy to press (but not too easy so it doesn’t happen accidentally) and can be assigned various functions via the driver (I use them for right and middle mouse button clicking).

I wasn’t able to drain one AAA battery in the three or four weeks I have worked with the device so I assume that the pen does a good job to conserve power. And yes: Wacom pens don’t need batteries. But since the batteries seem to last long and are cheap: I don’t care.

One thing the device doesn’t have: tilt sensitivity. I would’ve loved to try that but don’t miss it.

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Compatible Software

I was either working with Photoshop or Illustrator (both CS4) with my Wacom tablet. And both of them worked right away with the MSP19U+.

I had some grudges with Photoshop and switched to Krita, though. I may write more about Krita in another blog post. It’s focused on digital drawing whereas Photoshop is more of a digital image manipulation tool with good drawing capabilities.

Here’s an example of the Yiynova MSP19U+, Krita and my hand working together:

#gamedev comic: Aiming for success?
A comic that I drew in Krita with the Yiynova MSP19U+

And here’s something I made in January 2015 with Illustrator:

Ragey McInterwebz
A comic that I drew in Illustrator CS4 with the Yiynova MSP19U+

 

Support

The Yiynova support here in Europe is great. I had to contact them with a little hardware issue and some software related questions and they always responded fast and in a very helpful and friendly way. I had the impression that they really care about artists. I even received free artist gloves yesterday. Just like that. Awesome!

Conclusion

I got a very good product for a great price. There are some shortcomings but their impact is minor for me. It is a pleasure to work with the device and for my current skill-level the device it is just perfect.

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Steffen Wittig is a graphics artist, game developer and video dude. Besides all of that he also works as a software developer and studies Media and Computer Sciences in Reutlingen, Germany.

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