What can you say about a tool that fundamentally changed HOW you work to such a point that you now cannot consider most work without it? While it's not as earth shattering as the smart phone this tool is becoming just as indispensable to this freelancer. The tool in question is the UGEE 2150 Drawing Monitor. Not a tablet or a self-contained unit and not a priced in the thousands of dollars either, the 2150 is 21.5-inch monitor that hooks to your computer as second (or in my case a third) monitor. Combined with its pressure sensitive pens it becomes a direct draw electronic canvas with a very short learning curve. In no time, I was used to working with the pen.
My idea was to use the 2150 in sculpting with zBrush. Somethings you can just do with a pen easier than a mouse. The pleasant surprise was how well the pen and monitor works with most of my applications. Let me correct that... how well it works with my main applications as I have not had time to use it on all of them. As you would guess I'm not using it to write this article either but I use the 2150 on just about everything else from Photoshop to iClone. No more switching back and forth constantly from the pen to mouse. In fact, they are so interchangeable on most apps that at times I found myself using either one without a second thought.
The pen with its two programmable buttons seemed just as capable as the mouse. Unlike older digital tablets the direct draw feature also eliminates the disconnect between drawing on a pad with the result on the screen. This is drawing directly on the screen. The response is instant and accurate. Using the pen to push buttons, open menus and save files was no problem. My keyboard lay at angle to the left of the 2150 and like a lot of us... I'm used to one hand on the keyboard and one hand on the input device so this seemed natural.
The setup was straightforward. I hooked up via HDMI (and it requires a USB connection). My system, Windows 10, picked up the monitor right away and I setup its position with the usual Windows dialog box showing all three monitors. The pen... while physically being used on the 2150 was working on my main monitor but a quick look at the Pen setup software provided by UGEE allowed me to select the proper monitor and do a quick calibration, four or nine points, by pressing the pen on the crosses that appear in certain areas on the screen. That was it. I was ready to go.
I wasn't really taking into consideration that it was a monitor and would therefore just work... as any monitor should... with the software on my system. After that little light bulb turned on I was even more excited to get started using it. It was just a matter of using it for an afternoon to change HOW I worked and this is after 20 plus years of freelance! Wished I would have had this thing sooner. Adding detail to zBrush sculpts was great but that was just the start. Except for my video editors... I use the 2150 with the pen on almost all my production applications like 3DS Max, iClone, Character Creator, Photoshop, and others.
As to the hardware itself. the monitor has a very pleasing form factor with an indispensable stand on the back that allows for several positions from almost flat to almost straight up and down. I bought a monitor arm for mine but ended up not using it as the collapsible stand worked better. Sometimes a monitor arm is not sturdy enough to draw on so you have sit it down on the desk anyway or the shakiness can be problem. It seems no matter what angle... drawing on it is no problem.
The monitor does have a pale green cast to it like it has an improper color profile but I had little time to look into profiling as there doesn't seem to be a simple solution in the documentation which like most modern documentation is little to nothing. But then again... how much documentation do you need for a monitor? It displays at 1920 X 1080 with 5080 LPI (lines per inch) and has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity on the pens. It works with Windows and Mac OS according the UGEE website. Left and right-hand use supported. Response time 14ms. One drawback it the location of the cord plug ins on the back of the monitor. Be sure not to crimp them when moving or set the stand on them.
So... how do I feel about all this? With the change in work habits? A little uneasy to be honest. A review or even a couple of weeks of usage certainly doesn't tell you how it's going to hold up and that can be a bit worrisome. In its defense... the UGEE 2150 has been around for a while and reliability doesn't seem to be a problem as there is no mention of reliability problems. For now, I'm plowing ahead and using the UGEE 2150 as my main input device for a lot of artistic and no so artistic applications. In fact, I'm looking forward to finishing this review so I can put away the keyboard and get back on the pen.
REVIEWERS NOTES: Prices vary from $400 to $700 (US) so shop carefully. Available at Amazon and eBay with eBay having the best prices. There are other vendors available at cheaper prices but the trust factor was unknown to this author. This is NOT a tablet. It has connecting cables. See the video for more info.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. M.D. is currently working on VR projects and characters. You can learn more about MD at his website.