(Nearly) Uncompromised Digital Inking on the Budget – Huion Inspiroy Dial Q620M
Written by Krisztián Vértes
For this review, Huion was kind enough to supply digitalEPIGRAPHY an Inspiroy Dial Q620M.
With the generous drawing area and some clever shortcut solutions, getting around on your screen using Huion’s Inspiroy Dial Q620M is a breeze.
Although we generally prefer XP-PEN’s solutions for quality alternatives to Wacom products, other companies are out there serving up a considerable selection of devices for one’s drawing needs in the studio. We’d like to draw your attention to a couple of Huion’s hybrid devices that recently ended up on our drawing table. Admittedly, it’s been a while since the last time we gave a thorough look at digital pen tablet and display maker Huion’s portfolio. One direction the Chinese company has been exploring in the meantime was bumping up the resolution of their high-end graphic displays. Their Kamvas Pro line now comes equipped with 4K in both 16 and a whopping 24 Inch flavor, and we’re dying to check them out as a possible Wacom replacement in our studio. However, the device we’d like to discuss in this review is positioned at the opposite end of their range, the brand new Inspiroy Dial Q620M. The Q620M is one of the many screenless pen tablets Huion currently sells, and not the cheapest option at that. The unique perks of having a multifunctional knob and a selection of shortcut keys require an extra investment above the average pen tablet. Let’s see if these additional features make it worthy enough for digital epigraphers on the budget.
Let’s put it out there immediately: the Q620M currently costs $109.99 on Huion’s website. It is almost double the price of the Inspiroy H610X that has approximately the same input area and the same eight programmable buttons. Although purchasing the excellent would require reaching even deeper into one’s pocket, with that, you’d get not only a dial but practically half a keyboard to execute all the shortcuts in the world.
Huion's Advanced Inspiroy Pen Tablet Accommodates Half a Keyboard to Provide Extra Functionality
The Inspiron KeyDial K200’s combination of keyboard, multifunctional dial, and pen tablet into one compact device can provide the versatile studio setup for some.
The well-established drawing tablet maker, Huion, recently launched its award-winning (Golden Pin Design, Good Design, and Red Star Design Awards) pen tablet and keyboard combo, called the Inspiron KeyDial K200. With its innovative design, the KeyDial promises to be a one-stop device for artists who are not particularly attracted to pen displays and don’t want to shell out extra money for a shortcut remote. Of course, most of the KeyDial’s functionality can be achieved in the “traditional” way, using just a keyboard and mouse. However, factoring in the drawing aspect, the five programmable keys, and the multifunctional knob, Huion might have an appealing combo on offer. Read on to know more!
The extra adapters are for your Android device to connect; however, they can be used to attach a more comprehensive selection of computers as well. The pen is very similar to the one with the KeyDial K200 (sans tilt sensitivity).
We’ll do more math regarding the prices, but first, let’s see the device itself. The sense of holding a quality product strikes you immediately upon taking the tablet out of its box. The all-black packaging also contains the USB-A to USB-C charging cable, a USB wireless receiver, a couple of adapters (USB-A to USB-C and USB-A to micro-USB), an artist glove, and a quick start guide including the driver CD. You’ll find a pressure-sensitive (8192 levels) battery-free digital pen (PW-500) and a penholder with extra nibs also included. Build quality of both tablet and pen is excellent. The flat dark grey rectangle looks sleek and elegant. All corners are rounded off, and there is a lighter grey panel around the shortcut button area with a matching curved design. Even the back panel looks professional. It has a pattern of parallel diagonal lines, but more importantly, it also has four rubber pads to prevent the tablet from sliding around while being used. At 8 mm, the tablet is almost flush with the table, giving your drawing hand excellent support. The active drawing area is very generous at 266.7 × 166.7 mm (10.5 x 6.56 inches). Although larger pen tablets exist (Wacom’s Intuos Pro line goes up to 16.8 x 11.2 Inches), the Q620M never feels “claustrophobic.” Huion says in their marketing material that a matte fingerprint-resistant material covers the Inspiroy Dial’s work area. Amazon says it is a “matte finish frosted board.” Either way, drawing on this surface feels a lot like drawing on actual paper, with more apparent friction than using any of Wacom’s pen displays, not to mention “ice-skating” on the iPad. And we are happy to confirm that it doesn’t collect fingerprints.
The ease of drawing is also due to the very light and expertly built pen, Huion provides with their tablet. It has an excellent rubber grip around the two programmable buttons. It is the same pen Huion delivers some of their Kamvas Pros with, and it has that quality feel. Based on our short two weeks of use, the nib didn’t have much wear, which is good news considering the rough textured surface it must glide on. Drawing feels even better once you replace the stock pen nibs with Huion’s new felt nibs. Unfortunately, only the black plastic ones (ten) are included in the pen holder case, so this must be a separate purchase. We’d like to note that there is no eraser button on top, which is not a dealbreaker for us but must be a slight oversight for some.
The “extra perks”
There are eight customizable shortcut buttons on the left, the bare minimum for digital studio work. The dial with its triple duty is a much-welcomed addition to speed up productivity.
The Inspiroy Dial Q620M has eight shortcut buttons on the right, neatly arranged in a vertical row of identical black press keys. There are no labels on the keys, except some tiny LED lights coming in different shapes as a minimalistic distinguisher between functions. The LEDs are also used to indicate battery charge. The more lit up, the more charge you have. Very clever. The buttons feel very tactile, even slightly on the rigid side, but they are plenty responsive, causing no problem executing commands assigned to them. And now about the real star that is the dial. One would think that having such extras on a drawing board is slightly gimmicky, but being able to quickly adjust specific measures of a drawing or cycle through lists can be tremendously helpful. This is not Huion’s intervention by any means, the Logitech Craft already had it three years ago, and Huion’s K200 mentioned above also has one. What is particularly lovely about the dial wheel is its slight resistance accompanied by an audible “clicky” sound when rotated. The usefulness of it when adjusting brush sizes or zooming in and out can’t be overstated. The only drawback of this fixed placement at the upper right corner occurs when one accidentally bumps into the dial, thus executing a command. What makes the dial even more versatile is the multiple functions you can assign to it. By pressing the button on top, one can cycle through three predefined settings, with the active one conveniently displayed at the bottom of the screen. The more obvious setup options can cover zoom, scroll, step back and forth or change the brush size, but you can assign virtually anything to this button. Well, with one exception: we couldn’t figure out how to rotate the canvas using the knob, no matter how hard we tried.
According to the company, the dial is also compatible with Microsoft Windows radial protocol, e.g., it behaves as a Surface Dial. It means that PC users get some extra functionality accessing specific software (Photoshop is not one of them). Unfortunately, working on a Mac, we couldn’t try these out, so we must take Huion’s ford for it.
Setting up and using the Inspiroy Dial Q620M
Huion’s driver for the device will look familiar to our colleagues who have experience with any pen tablets. Downloading (is there anybody using a CD slot these days?!) the driver from Huion’s website is simple enough, you type your product name, your OS, and you’re good to go, a la Wacom. Upon installation, you’ll be asked to permit certain admin functions before you are asked to calibrate the working area. Pressure sensitivity can be adjusted through a pressure curve; however, the preset value seems to work just fine.
Customizing the Pen Tablet
(1) Dial and buttons are customized by clicking on the area. We set the knob to assist with zoom, brush size and undo/redo functions, but it can accommodate the same variety of shortcuts as any button.
(2) A shortcut can be a keyboard key combination, a mouse key, or a multimedia command. These keys can also switch between or run any applications. What they can’t do is macros, aka command sequences.
(3) Calibrating the work area is a simple affair. There are options to change the screen ratio or to set up a dedicated functional space. This way, for example, one can limit the drawing area to Photoshop’s canvas real estate.
Our everyday use of such devices involves two very different scenarios, each with the respective settings. Getting around the internet, writing a Word document, and even photo editing requires speedy and precise clicks and hovers, while digital inking in Photoshop is all about precision. We found that Huion’s little device excels in most of these tasks, assuming you’re willing to learn the coordination a screenless pen tablet requires.
Survey Artist Dominique Navarro on Using the Wacom Intuos Pro for Digital Inking
Dominique Navarro developing an inked line drawing for the Taharqa Gate using the Wacom Intuos Pro (Photo by Krisztián Vértes).
Without a display-screen surface to draw directly on, the Wacom Intuos Pro tablet requires that one relies completely on eye-hand coordination, drawing on the tablet while looking at the monitor, which in my case was my MacBook Pro screen.
Using the Wacom Intuos Pro since 2012 has thoroughly developed my eye-hand coordination so that it has become second nature. Curious at the challenges for a beginner, I asked a colleague who had never tried it before to test the tablet for her immediate reaction. She found the eye-hand coordination less difficult to manage than she had assumed, but where she became disoriented was learning to use the Wacom pen as it relates to the tablet: the hovering mouse cursor on the screen when the pen is held above the tablet, the physical distance from pen-tip-to-tablet (about 1/4 inch to a few millimeters above), and how it all relates to actually drawing a line on the screen. These are all minor discomforts that lessen with greater use and familiarity. She found drawing a straight line or creating a smooth curve challenging, but I explained that for every difficulty she encountered, there are personalized settings, tips, tricks, and shortcuts that can accomplish the desired results effectively, using a combination of customizable features in both Wacom and Photoshop. As with anything, it is a matter of familiarizing yourself with the tools you are using. Read on to know more…
With that said, resizing photos, selecting certain areas, and fine-tuning drawings with an actual pen in hand feels more natural than using a trackpad. The ability to quickly save images for the web, zoom in and out, copy, paste, etc., all can be executed by the turn of the knob or press of a button. With such aids, one can be more productive and use less time poking around on the keyboard. Unfortunately, that keyboard can’t entirely go away as it is still needed for typing text and executing those other shortcuts that don’t cut the eight-button limitation. And with both keyboard and tablet taking space in front of you, you might run into some spacing issues.
Arranging monitor, keyboard, and tablet for all the different use cases can be problematic unless you have a flexible monitor arm.
Luckily, we use Samsung’s excellent space-saving monitor in the studio that can be quickly and easily raised or lowered to the optimal viewing height of any use case scenario. We enjoyed using the Q620M with just the screen in front of us at desk level, while moving it backward makes more sense for editing and typing tasks. Indeed, none of this is relevant if you operate your studio work through a laptop, where customization is less of an issue. Either way, we found it challenging to execute the precise outlines the Epigraphic Survey required when there was no visual feedback in front of us.
Looking at drawing performance, there is not much to report over what we already said using the KeyDial K200. Line drawings can be executed just fine most of the time, with strokes, curves, and sun-shadow transitions being smooth without producing any “wiggle-effect” in Photoshop. Survey artists (and any artist seeking precise, elegant stroke placement) must rely on having a clear visual of the brush tip on the canvas BEFORE touching the screen. In this regard, the iPad remains a no-go for digital inking, at least while it has a capacitive screen that only registers your input upon your pen contacting the surface. On the other hand, this little pen tablet can “see” the stylus while it’s still being hovered about 5mm above the drawing area, therefore allowing the artist to achieve the highest precision. One must remember, though, that we’re offering a cheaper alternative to pen displays in this review but not a pen display replacement. We still have a strong opinion about pen displays being far superior to pen tablets regarding precision.
Minor occasional annoyances can be caused when quick switching of tools in Photoshop or prolonged brush stroke placement.
We didn’t notice any serious flaws with the pen performance, although sometimes it had to be pressed a little more efficiently to the surface to register. Pen pressure is not a feature we use for digital inking, but it seemed spot on during the little painting session we did in Photoshop. We had a minor issue quickly switching between tools when the actual tool wouldn’t work right away but only on the second touch of the surface. As you can see in the photo above, we got particularly annoyed by this problem while moving the canvas around and using the eraser. Also, when drawing long curves particularly slowly, sometimes a long straight line appears at the cursor. It must be a weird performance issue. Again, these are by no means permanent problems but happened only sporadically. Also, the tablet accomplished equally well both connected and in wireless mode (the range is 10 meters, and you need the little USB dongle that comes in the box) with virtually no lag in either case. The built-in 1100mAh battery offers 20 hours of drawing on a single charge, but after 15 minutes of inactivity, the tablet goes into standby mode, which can be overruled only by pressing a switch. This can be a good motivating factor for not ever to stop drawing.
Working with the Huion Inspiroy Dial Q620M is a surprisingly satisfying affair, especially when you can have a large screen right in front of it providing instant feedback.
The Huion Q620M is a surprisingly capable drawing performer for the price, especially with the added benefits of having eight shortcut buttons and a multifunctional dial as your aids. The overall quality of the hardware feels leagues above what the USD 109.99 suggests. The drawing area feels spacious, the pen is satisfying to hold, and the response is instant in wired and wireless mode. Aside from the occasional hiccups and misbehaviors, Huion’s little pen tablet can be recommended for those colleagues looking for a budget drawing solution. In the end, it all comes down to the fact that with using a pen tablet instead of a pen display, one must learn new ways of hand-eye coordination to get satisfactory results. If your expectations are tailored accordingly, you’ll find the Huion Inspiroy Dial Q620M an excellent addition to your studio.
The subject of our review can be purchased directly from Huion for $109.99 (€109.99 in Europe) or from many of the retailer stores out there. At the time of this review, it was discounted ($89.99) at Amazon US.