This tablet is easy to setup and requires little configuration right out of the box. The express keys work as you would expect them to, the pen sensitivity starts at a pretty good level (not ridiculously sensitive or heavy like some tablets) and everything is setup to just work. That being said, there were a couple of snags along the way.
I tested this tablet in my usual, day to day, drawing setup. I primarily use an HP Envy 17 notebook PC and have a second LG monitor attached so I can easily get to any reference material I need for a project. Both screens are set to 1920x1080 resolution. I use a combination of Photoshop CS4 and PaintTool SAI to create most of my digital illustrations.
When I first started drawing I noticed was that the tablet was in 4:3 aspect ratio. This is not a huge deal and I was still able to draw OK, but the stroke is not what you would expect it to be when your screen is a wide rectangle and your drawing area is more or less a square. Luckily, there was a setting in the menu that automatically remapped the drawing pad to 16:9. The image above shows my attempts to draw a freehand circle in all 4 combinations of screen and aspect ratios.
The quality of the line with this tablet is somewhat choppy. Doing a really basic, freehand line test on all three sensitivities shows that there is a very wide range of pen sensitivity, but it also lacks finesse. The top line or left line is a quick stroke at full pressure to show line quality. The bottom or right line is a full range of pressure, from light to heavy and back to light, to show pressure transitions.
The medium or default setting worked the best and most predictably and would be appropriate for most users. The soft and heavy settings seemed overly exaggerated to me and offered very little sensitivity whatsoever, even to compensate for an overly heavy or light touch. There are some settings in between to fine tune your experience if you choose.
I used this tablet for about a week. It took a few hours to really start to get a feel for it and reduce line choppiness, but it did eventually come around. On the medium setting, the pen is able to do some nice, loose sketchwork and seamlessly switch over to tailored linework without needing to fiddle around with the sensitivity.
The pen seemed to glitch out every once in awhile and draw a full strength, straight line across the canvas instead of following the pen movements. I am not sure if this was from accidently bumping one of the buttons on the pen grip or the tablet just going haywire, but it happened a few times every drawing session. It was a bit disruptive but a quick undo would remedy the issue easily enough.
I also found myself needing to resync the pen before I could continue drawing at various points while working. At first I was resorting to unplugging and replugging in the tablet before I realized I just needed to resync the pen. As you can imagine, this was an extremely frustrating issue, but only happened two or three times during the entire testing process.
The express keys could be quite handy if you are unfamiliar with program hotkeys. Generally, I work with one hand on the keyboard and the other drawing, so leaving the keyboard to hit a button on the tablet was often more effort than it was worth. The window toggle key was the only one I used with any regularity to bring up references while working on a single monitor. The brush size and zoom keys were never touched outside of testing to see if they worked. The eraser hot key was an alright substitute for a built in pen eraser, but again, if you are already using Photoshop hotkeys, it is almost more effort to hit the button on the tablet than to punch the key on the keyboard.
I prefer to sketch and do linework in PaintTool SAI over Photoshop, so I was disappointed to discover that the express keys often did not respond in the same way in SAI as they did in Photoshop. This seems to be a common problem with various tablets, from my experience, and is primarily a fault of inconsistencies in the drawing software more so than the tablet. Thankfully, reconfiguring the keys was pretty simple and fast. If you rarely touch the keyboard during your workflow, I would recommend trying out the hotkeys as they do work well if they are correctly programmed.
After using this tablet for about a week, it was already showing a bit of drawing wear. This is not unusual for drawing tablets, but it seemed to mark up pretty easily with normal use. The pen nib also seems to wear down a little faster than expected and had developed a nice groove along the tip from where it was contacting the tablet. The pen tip can be removed and replaced, but no extra nibs are included, which we'd also like to see.