This is a tale of two unlikely foes. California-based Monoprice is known as a seller of low-priced cables and accessories for all sorts of electronics. Meanwhile, Japan-based Wacom is the undisputed leader in the world of graphics tablets and is loved by artists worldwide. Their paths met when Monoprice decided to get into the graphics game as well by selling its self-branded tablet. This normally would not merit much attention as cheap tablets come and go but something happened. People took a chance and they were impressed. Suddenly, the cheap Monoprice began to win hearts and the Wacom tablets started to gather dust. Let's try to understand how this came about.


What attracted buyers to the Monoprice graphics tables are obviously the prices, but perhaps mixed in was a sense of adventure. Expectations were low but curiosity was high. After all, less than $50 for a 10x6.25 inch model was a bargain. A similarly sized Wacom would cost several hundred dollars. It was worth a try.


The Monoprice build quality is pretty decent and the products do not come off as cheap. In fact, they look a lot like the Wacom Intuous with a sleek black design. The drawing surface is a little textured which enhances the experience. The 10x6.25 inch version has 8 programmable hotkeys and 16 pre-programmed function keys for a streamlined workflow. The stylus is a touch thinner and shorter than the Wacoms but has identical weight and feels just as comfortable to hold. The battery-operated pen switches on and off automatically to conserve power. If it ever gets lost, Monoprice offers replacements at $8 apiece.


The Monoprice graphics tablets are available in multiple surface sizes including 4x3 inches, 5.5x4 inches, 8x6 inches, 10x6.25 inches, and 12x9 inches. The 8x6 inch variant has 1024 pressure sensitivity levels, 2540 lines per inch (LPI) of resolution, 100 RPS report rate, and allows large gesture drawing, making it on par with the novice-oriented Wacom Bamboo line of products. It includes an extra pen and trial versions of Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended and Corel Painter X. The 10x6.25 inch model, on the other hand, boasts of a very high 4000 LPI resolution, 200 RPS report rate, and 1024 pressure sensitivity levels. These Monoprice tablets are compatible with Windows 2000, XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Mac OS X 10.3.5 onwards.


Tests of the Monoprice tablet provided pleasant surprises. First, it exhibited remarkable accuracy by tracking both heavy and light strokes with ease even for minute pen movements. There were no visible lags even when used in OS X, which is notorious for the offense with Wacom tablets. Everything worked flawlessly down to the finest details.


Wacom tablets have set the standard for digital graphics over the years and they do work extremely well, but then they should considering their cost. Monoprice tablets provide surprisingly comparable performance at a small fraction of that cost and should be a boon to budding artists everywhere.