Price When Reviewed: £339.99
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Illustrator Ricardo Bessa reviews a Cintiq rival that's £200/$200 than Wacom's cheapest tablet – but is it a case of getting what you oay for?
Once considered the only option for digital creatives, Wacom has seen more and more competitors pop up in the market. This was likely a driving factor for the release of its new budget model, the solid – but still fairly pricey – Wacom Cintiq. The Gaomon PD1560 is one of the newest rivals on the scene, and as someone who’s always used Wacom tablets, as I was very curious to see how it measures up.
With a 15.6-inch widescreen display and with the Express Keys on the shorter side, it makes for a pretty long tablet and a sizeable working space – not bad for a budget model.
I was impressed at the number of extras included – in addition to the tablet, stylus and cables, you get an adjustable stand, a stylus holder with extra nibs, a drawing glove, a stick-on screen protector and a case to transport the tablet in. Some of these didn’t feel particularly solid: the case is made of a felt-like material, which doesn’t feel very durable, and the stylus holder is light plastic and very easy to knock over. But it feels refreshing to have all the trimmings packaged in, rather than having them available as highly priced accessories that can be bought separately.
Setting up was, unfortunately, not particularly intuitive. The stand requires some screwdriving but that was easy enough – and all of the required tools come included. But getting the drivers and tablet to work on my iMac took way longer than it needed to, and I only got there after a few reboots. A couple of different issues including a non-responsive tablet, followed by a repeatedly blinking screen happened – but seemingly fixed themselves. I’m not sure if this was an issue with the driver or my computer, but it definitely influenced my first impression.
There may have been a few setbacks initially, but the tablet ran pretty smoothly afterwards – I tried it both with Photoshop and Clip Studio Paint and both worked pretty well.
The drawing experience
As someone used to working on a Wacom Cintiq, the drawing experience in the Gaomon feels different - a little less organic, but okay overall. Gaomon boasts 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity – equal to its Wacom rival – but while decent enough, it feels less precise than the Cintiq’s with more noticeable parallax.
The stylus is entirely plastic and I definitely missed the eraser tip I'm used to with Wacom pens. It also needs recharging via a USB cable, which can take around 80 minutes for a full charge according to the manual – but that’s not too disruptive as you can keep working while plugged in.
The glass screen feels exactly like that – a glass screen, a bit hard against the plastic nib and, to some extent, prone to reflections and glare (above). The customisable Express Keys on the left side are, however, a great bonus – there’s plenty of them, enough for 10 shortcuts, and the user can adjust the settings and rotate the tablet to better suit left-handed users. And yes, Gaomon has decided to call them by exactly the same name as Wacom.
When it comes to the image quality, the screen actually pretty good, and the range of colours looks great. Everything is crisp and clear, and the colours were actually fairly close to my own monitor right out of the box. A lot of the screen settings are also highly customisable, which is great in theory – however, the only way to navigate these menus is through remarkably counterintuitive controls on the side of the screen. Even after braving them, I found the only one I’d be using on a regular basis – the Brightness Adjustment menu – to be of little use. There’s barely any noticeable difference between brightness at 0 and 100, which can make night-time work a bit rough on the eyes.
Of all design choices in this tablet this feels like the poorest – it makes adjustments unnecessarily complex and I don’t understand why they couldn’t just be controlled through software instead. While more of an annoyance than a serious grievance, it feels representative of many design choices of Gaomon PD1560 as a whole – the raw function and performance are there, but some corners were cut on the user experience/quality of life side.
In itself, the Gaomon PD1560 is a competent product and it certainly does what it sets out to do. However, when measured up against the Wacom Cintiq, there were several factors in which it felt, to put it simply, inferior. The parallax is just a little too noticeable; the pressure detection is slightly less organic; the glass screen just a little less comfortable; the UI is less friendly; the build feels just a little less solid, and the stand feels ever slightly less firm. While I don’t think any of these factors are deal breakers or make this tablet less of a valid tool, it did highlight the countless small ways in which Wacom’s design manages to be comfortable and intuitive enough that it becomes invisible – until you try something that’s not quite as precise.
One very important point stands, though – it’s also a lot less money. At £339.99/$359 at the time of writing, this product is almost £200/$200 cheaper than its direct Wacom equivalent, while also including all the extra accessories that its rival sells separately. While Wacom Cintiq feels like a more solid product overall, there’s no denying that the accessibility of Gaomon PD1560’s price point is a big factor for anyone for whom the Wacom is out of reach.
Two hundred pounds has a different weight to different people, and is often a huge amount for students or hobbyists. As such, it’s up to the individual customer whether the Cintiq is worth the investment, or whether they’d rather save on a product that might feel different but will effectively be able to do the same job. In this context, I find the Gaomon PD1560 to be a worthy rival to the new Wacom Cintiq, and much more deserving of its label as a budget option.
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