This post was created by Brendan Hawke, thanks for bringing such great product review feedback!
Working for DRN, I have been fortunate to test a wide range of digital products but there are few that I have been as excited about as the Gaomon M1220 Art Tablet. I have several friends who make their living as digital artists and creatives and I have always been fascinated by their art tablets. I’ve fiddled around with a few of them but never owned one myself. To me there is a kind of magic to the idea of a tablet with no batteries somehow communicating detailed information about the movements of a fully disconnected stylus. My wife is also an artist and art teacher and she has been very keen to experiment with a digital art tablet. Thankfully, for our first art tablet, the Gaomon M1220 did not disappoint.
The box for the Gaomon M1220 is about the size of a keyboard surrounded by solid cardboard. There are a few small plastic pockets and a cover for the tablet but the majority of the packaging is either fully recyclable or highly reusable. I think it’s common for art tablets to provide extras but this was something else! The Gaomon comes with a pad with Photoshop shortcuts, a special arty cover for the tablet interface, a two fingered glove, a huge supply of replacement nibs and a nib clip, a USB-A to USB-C converter (which actually works!!!) as well as the cable, stylus and tablet. They also provide a giant Santa sack to store and transport their haul around. It feels absurdly generous given the price of the device but after looking at their website, some of this might have been part of a special bundle or review copy.
The stylus automatically clicks the left mouse button when pressing the tablet. There are two buttons on the side of the stylus that convert the left mouse click into a right mouse button click or an ‘eraser’. The tablet is covered in buttons – 8 programmable keys and a wheel on the left and 13 buttons on the top as part of a ‘multimedia bar’. The tablet itself is quite large, 10 x 6 inches, which I appreciate as it allows you to make more precise lines and detailed adjustments than you could if it were as small as many of its competitors. The interface cover looks fun but I preferred the tablet without the cover as it has dots you can use to orient yourself. That said, it’s nice to have so many extras.
You can plug the tablet straight into any Mac or Windows PC and start using it. However, there is a dedicated driver and software that can be sourced free from their website that provides access to key features, such as the ability to adjust the size of your working area and customise the function of the programmable keys and wheel. Frustratingly, you have to manually type in the website as there is no QR code or file within the device to take you there. It has been a long time since I manually typed a complete URL, I can’t believe how lazy I’ve become and how little patience I have!
Once you have plugged in the device you can instantly use it to take control of your mouse. It took me a while to stop swiping the tablet like a touchpad and to adjust to the idea of the tablet as a map of my display. I don’t own Adobe Photoshop as it’s not really relevant to any of my jobs. I considered starting a free trial as it is pretty clear that the M1220 has been optimised for use with Photoshop but I have a wide range of alternative art programs that I love to use and decided it would be a good test for the device’s versatility.
My first stop was Pixlr, a free, online photo editing application. I used the tablet to draw a few stick figures and a misshapen dog/horse hybrid, while my wife used the tablet to draw a thrilling Keith Haring inspired piece. A good test for the tablet from both ends of the talent spectrum. The tablet’s pressure sensitivity was excellent and we found that even when we barely graced the interface, it would show up on the screen. The pen’s tilt recognition was also on point (excuse the pun). The website specifications state it has ±60° tilt recognition but we found we could hold the pen at quite extreme angles and still have it pick up what we were doing. We were also pleased with the pen resolution and were able to make fine adjustments to our artworks.
The associated software for the M1220 was very user-friendly and enabled us to maximise the area of the tablet that we could use to create our art works. Customising the user-defined buttons is exciting because they can be used to do so many things – launch programs, replace the mouse or keyboard keys, switch applications etc.
The last program I used to evaluate the tablet was an open source, tablet stylus sensitivity test. I think art tablets are still an emerging technology as these tests are pretty rudimentary. However, the M1220 handled it well, demonstrating a capacity to identify a pretty wide range of pressure levels. The specifications say it can identify 8192 different levels of pressure which I can believe but can’t fully verify.
There are a few gripes I have with the Gaomon M1220. As stated above, I would have liked a QR code or file as an alternative to manually entering the URL of the generic download page for the Gaomon website. Preferably something to take me directly to the associated software and manual so that I wouldn’t have had to search for the device software I needed. They also provide a ‘quick start’ guide in 13 different languages which provides very little useful information despite being the size and shape of a proper manual. The manual on their website is excellent and very thorough, but it took me a while to realise that the booklet that came with the device had no guidance on how to use it.
Finally, the device claims to have a 10mm reading height but that might only be for a stationary stylus as we both found we had to keep the pen very close to the tablet to ensure it could be registered on our computers. With experience, I’m sure this won’t be an issue and we will be able to guide ourselves on the tablet, but a greater reading height would have helped us a lot.
The Gaomon M1220 is a very generously priced tablet with many useful features and so many extras! It is competitive in all the areas that matter with particularly impressive tilt recognition and pressure levels as well as an industry standard level of pen resolution. It has a large interface and heaps of customizable buttons that make it particularly versatile and adaptive to any type of art software. There are probably better tablets out there at double or triple the price, and I personally would love for the reading height to be a bit more reliable, but for a beginner looking to dabble in digital art, this is a great product at a great price.
DRN would like to thank Gaomon for providing the review unit.