A $50 Pen Tablet - Too Good to be True?

A $50 Pen Tablet - Too Good to be True?

I don't think many people would argue that Wacom is the leader in the drawing tablet industry right now, with many professional photographers and graphic designers using tablets from their $200+ mid-level Intuos line as the staple for precise mouse work, and some even shelling out the thousands for the Cintiq line tablets with a built in screen display; so when I heard about a sub-$100 tablet with great reviews and competitive features, I had to try it out. Introducing the Monoprice "10x6.25 Inches Graphic Drawing Tablet w/ 8 Hot Key"!

monoprice_tablet copy

Okay, so the name could use a bit of work, but at 62.5 square inches of touch surface area for just under $50, this tablet has more drawing room than other tablets at 7x the cost, and shares many similar features. The company that makes it, Monoprice, is a discount electronics retailer that brands many of it's own competitive products - and while you're not going to see the same build quality and attention to detail (think Yongnuo vs Canon), many including myself have found that this tablet offers a lot more than one would expect considering the price.



So, how is the build quality? It's simple, but not bad. The tablet arrived in a nicely branded box with some information on the key features of the tablet, OS requirements, and general info.


Inside the box I found the tablet suspended on a white cardboard layout with the driver disc, pen, spare pen tips, AAA battery, and the pen holder. While this setup was a bit light on padding, the actual package they shipped it in had a very thick layer of air cushions surrounding the box and everything seemed to be in great condition. One thing that did surprise me, however is that the pen has no "eraser" on the back, which I've never seen before. I'm not sure if this is due to a patent by a competitor or just a cost thing, but for me it's not a big deal as I don't think I've ever actually used it with pens that did have one. I normally just use the keyboard shortcut for whatever tool I need. The holder that the pen sits in when you're not using it is on a bit of a tilt and can easily be knocked over since the pen is fairly heavy with the battery in it as well, so that's something to look out for (I'll probably just swap it out with one of the circular Wacom ones).

The tablet itself seems to be made of the same plastics/materials as every other tablet I've ever seen. It says "made in China" on the back, but I think that's to be expected of discount electronics. There are four rubber pads on the bottom corners to protect your desk surface, and 8 plastic buttons on the front that act as programmable shortcut keys, as well as some more touch sensitive shortcut areas on the top of the drawing area. Being a tablet, there's not really much to mess up  - the paint they use for the key functions and whatnot seems to be good quality, none of it came off when I tried scratching it with a dime so I imagine it will take a long time to fade.

monoprice_penandtab copy



In terms of features, I really appreciate the shortcut keys on the side which you can program to open any application, or webpage, or perform any function you want (cut, copy, save, etc.) though one issue I have is that they've already permanently labelled them to correspond with specific uses, which is kind of useless if you do want to change anything from default. There is also a list of applications running along the top of the drawing area that offer more shortcut possibilities that one can select with the pen which are also customizable within the settings menu.

So what about the drawing area itself? How's the user experience? To start, here's the spec list from the product page:


As I already mentioned, the drawing area is pretty good. I might even say perfect if you're just using it for brushing in Photoshop, though designers may want a bit more room for precision. The resolution at 4000 LPI is about 1000 under the Intuos5 line. This is basically the amount of "fine movements" or spaces between each readable point on the tablet surface. I haven't noticed any issues with precision brush movements despite this, though in a side by side comparison the Intuos5 is a bit more fluid. The report rate is exactly the same (that's the amount of times per second that the tablet updates the data sent to your computer to show movement/touch). Again, this effects how "fluid" your cursor movement is as slower report rates would cause it to look jumpy. In the reviews, some other users have stated that they would appreciate more pen pressure levels. At 1024, this is only half of what the more expensive competitors offer and again this comes down to what you're using it for and what kind of precision you need. The pressure levels affect things like brush size, transparency, etc depending on your settings. Lastly, the "reading height" at 10mm is the amount you can hover the pen above the surface while the tablet still measures your movement. This is a comfortable height for me, about the height that one would lift a pen tip above paper to move on to their next word when writing.

Just like other tablets the pen has two buttons located on the side which can perform the function of a left click, right click, double click, etc. based on your settings as well. The drivers included work with both Windows XP and later, and Mac OS X 10.4.11 and later, however there are some bonus applications that the website says won't work with any Mac or Win 7 or later, they seem to be mostly plugin type things for programs like Word, Powerpoint, etc. that I can't imagine most would get much use out of. Lastly, there's a green LED on the top that flashes when you plug it in (USB 2.0) or touch the tablet with the pen. It has no other use or reason, it is just so you know the tablet is working.



So - is it worth the price? Absolutely, for $50 you might as well pick one up if for no other reason than as a backup or travel kit that you don't have to worry about. The pens are about $10 to replace if you drop/break it, but like I mentioned they already include a bag of replacement plastic tips which seems to be the most vulnerable component. You won't get the precision for fine details like you will from a $300 tablet, but for some this won't matter - this has all of the features I'll ever need and I can't see any performance difference from when I work with an Intuos unit, while it may not cut it for designers, I'd imagine most photographers would agree. The company offers a 30 day money back guarantee with no restocking fee, and discount bulk pricing for any order with 2 to 50+.



They pack this thing up with a lot more features than one would expect, and the 90% positive reviews speak for themselves. This is a great tool whether you're a hobbyist looking for an alternative to your laptop's track pad, or a professional wanting to save some cash. It's not going to offer you everything that the more expensive alternatives will, but the features you do get for the 700% price jump are minimal. Some of the included software seems rather useless and could use an update (as well as the shortcut button layout), but the drivers were easy to install, and the settings are incredibly straight forward to navigate and customize.

What I liked:

  • Decent drawing area size
  • Easy to install
  • Tons of shortcut customize options
  • Compatible w/ popular OS
  • Solid build
  • Includes basic replacement parts


What could use improvement:

  • Pointless shortcut labels
  • Could use more pressure levels
  • Includes outdated software


If you're interested in picking one up, you can buy it here.

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I have shopped monoprice for years for hdmi, speaker wire, toslink and other av connection items, but never saw that this was available. I may give this a shot to see if this is something I could be comfortable using.

Please don't make me buy things I don't deserve...

I bought one of theses a couple of years ago when I use to edit on a Windows based system and it worked great. Once I made the switch to Mac, I had nothing but issues with the software. It would work fine for an editing session and then not work on another.
Needless to say, I bought a Wacom and havent looked back.

James Robertson's picture

Hmm, I based this review on my experience using it on my iMac, and I haven't had any issues. There is a sleep function that caught me off guard at first, but once you tap it with the pen once it works again.

What specific issues did you have?

Monoprice is actually pretty legit when it comes the electronics they sell, including computer monitors, etc., so I would trust that they wouldn't put their name on this if it was total junk...

Am I the only one wondering why the tablet has dedicated Word and Excel buttons on the top? Those are probably the two programs at the bottom of the list for tablet use.

James Robertson's picture

They are customizable, like I said my one gripe is that they labeled the buttons to specific functions then give you the option to swap it out for whatever function you want, I think it would have made more sense to just put 1-8 down the side and then label the top icons A, B, C, etc.

I've only used it on Macs. Never had any problems. It has worked flawlessly. I did have the latest firmware, though.

I have one of these tablets and it is awesome. The most important thing is read up on it and load the manufacturers drivers from their website.

I have programmed all of the side buttons for my normal tasks an all of the top buttons to do things like change brush opacity, hardness, zoom in and out, invert mask, and merge all layers to the top. The top row of touch symbols allows me to change bruch opacities, create new layers, save, undo etc. Everything is customizable. I have also changes the active drawing area to about 5x7. The full board is uncomfortable to move around as it is so large. I couldn't imagine having a larger tablet.

The only thing I would like to upgrade is the stylus. Apparently you can get an upgraded one from amazon for about $15.

I bought this a couple of years ago. It has been Fantastic! The side buttons/top hot keys are easily programmable. I wish the side buttons and top keys were generically labeled (i.e., numbers, letters) since you will want to program them to your specific needs. I immediately upgraded to a better stylus for about $10 - so I have zero experience with the stylus that comes with it. I love that you can change the amount of space you use on the tablet to make it smaller - i.e., you can "virtually" make it a 4x6 tablet. The tablet works great and is very responsive - there is zero delay with it. I can't recommend it enough!

does it stack up against a wacom bamboo (which is about the same price)?

Looks like they have a 10% off coupon, enter code CATALO6S413 and just add some replacement tips to bring the total to $50.xx which allows the coupon to work.

James Robertson's picture

Good find!

nice :) regarding the no eraser tip, my sub $100 wacom bamboo tablet doesnt have an eraser either. dont miss it though. like you, i just use shortcuts.

I bought the Monoprice tablet after talking to digital artist Ray Frenden on twitter and reading his review. I love the tablet and recommend it to anyone who is looking for a great tablet and on a budget.


Thanks for the article been debating on a wacom for a couple of years, although as a traditional type artist wasn't sure it would be worth the amount that I would use it! I'm definitely going to give this one a shot as the cost is reasonable and if I don't use it a lot i won't feel so bad!

James Robertson's picture

For sure, that was my reasoning too. At the very least it's something I won't be worried about when I have to travel for work.

i bought this tablet after reviewing this post-
it was shipped within few days - so for $50 this is awesome investment-
I love it very much- so much easier then work with typical mouse

How is this compared to the Wacom bamboo which is 10$ more?

Lubos Borik's picture

Hi, I have this tablet and bamboo. Bamboo with the price is about half the size. I do not feel any other differences at work. Except that I can not set the "Hand" tool in PS on pen button (still awaiting response from Monoprice)

I own this Monoprice tablet as well as the new Huion H610 Pro and the Huion is a much better tablet in every way. The Huion is about $20 more but it's well worth it. Huion H610 Pro has 5080 LPI vs. Monoprice's 4000, double the pen pressure sensitivity at 2048, 230 RPS report rate vs. 200 for the Monoprice and the hot keys on the Huion are have a far better quality feel than the Monoprince, which feel cheap. Plus the Huion pen has a better quality feel and is rechargeable.

The feel, pen pressure response, smoothness overall and quality of the Huion is just so much better. Even the drivers installed easier than the Monoprice and I'm using WIndows 8.1.

The Monoprice isn't a terrible graphics pad, its pretty good for the money but I can see no reason anyone would buy it over the new Huion H610 Pro. Saving $20 isn't worth it. BTW, there is a Huion H610 (non pro) sells for the exact same as the Monoprice and that tablet is even better. I'd still skip and get the Pro version. I don't want to make this sound like a commercial from me, it's not. I'm just giving my opinion from personal experience with both.

Theres a new one out now.
NEW Monoprice 10 x 6.25-inch Graphic Drawing Tablet (4000 LPI 200 RPS 2048 Levels)
See here: