Grand Aspirations in a Slim Package – Huion Kamvas Pro 24 (4K) Pen Display Review
Written by Krisztián Vértes
Huion was kind enough to supply digitalEPIGRAPHY a Huion Kamvas Pro 24 (4K) for this review.
Studio work heavy-weights (literally) representing the best of the 4K pen display segment: Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 (left) and Huion Kamvas Pro 24 (4K) (right).
When transferring the Epigraphic Survey’s documentation procedure from traditional ink drawings to digitally “inked” pixel art, one aspect seemed to be of high priority from the get-go: owning the largest possible screen for studio work. Each epigraphic assignment has preferences regarding the applied method and the workflow utilized to get the desired results. In some cases, such as dealing with small fragments, artifacts, or ceramics, one might be able to get away with working on a smaller canvas from start to finish. However, as soon as we implement this data into a larger context, we need more visual space in front of us. Luckily, there are several options to “expand the view,” tailored to the artist’s or the employing institute’s allowances.
At the least expensive end of the spectrum (concerning the field component as well) must be the iPad Pro tethered remotely to the computer by Astropad Studio, used in tandem with a large monitor. As a step up, one can utilize a small and inexpensive pen display (again, used in tandem with a separate monitor), such as the excellent, brand new XP-PEN Artist 12. As we move towards larger screens, at 16 inches, we hit the sweet spot between portability and usability. Around that size, there are plenty of options that could be applied for both studio and fieldwork. As XP-PEN’s Innovator 16 pops in mind regarding this segment, we must stop for a second and talk about resolution. Most pen displays currently on the market at 16 inches or less utilize a full HD screen resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels). Depending on the assignment, this pixel density might result in somewhat pixelated line drawings. Long story short, if you want an uncompromised drawing experience and work with lots of details, you need to invest in a large screen with good resolution. Even at 16 inches, we recommend opting for 4K (UHD, 3840 x 2160 pixels). For a long time, Wacom’s Cintiq Pro 16 was the only (and of course pricy) option if one wanted ultra-high definition in a more portable package. However, this resolution/size combination is becoming more and more popular among other manufacturers lately .
The Huion Kamvas Pro 16 (4K) packs 3840 x 2160 pixels into a portable package. (Image source: Huion)
Huion’s Kamvas Pro 16 (4K) features a 15.6 inch, fully laminated UHD display with an anti-glare design providing stunning, detailed images across a wide 178° viewing angle. Powered by Quantum Dot technology, Kamvas Pro 16 plus pen display brings you brilliant, true-to-life colors than ever before with a 145% sRGB wide color gamut. At the same time, the 1200:1 contrast ratio delivers deeper blacks and brighter whites. Read more…
And with that, we arrive at the other end of the spectrum, represented by pen displays accustomed with screens 24 inches or larger. At that size, your drawing tablet becomes an unmovable object, genuinely tethered to the studio, essentially becoming a separate purchase that can’t be transported to the field. If you can justify owning such a large display, there are, of course, several options to choose from. Chinese drawing tablet maker, Huion certainly has you covered in this range. Their Kamvas portfolio goes from 22-24 inches, starting with the inexpensive Kamvas 22 ($449), and ranging from Full HD (1920 x 1080) to QHD (2560 x 1440) with the Kamvas Pro 24 ($899).
The Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 has excellent color reproduction and exceptional pen sensitivity, but it’s wrapped in an immense chassis that “owns” your table.
These are all excellent machines, but when upping the resolution to 4K, no other company has had a device on offer but Wacom. We must reiterate that the aging Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 is still a top-of-the-line drawing display, but at $2000, it is a “premium” package that stretches most of our colleagues’ budgets. Nonetheless, the scenery of the high-end pen displays is about to change. Huion stepped into the game with their Kamvas Pro 24 (4K), which was kindly offered for digitalEPIGRAPHY to test in the preceding weeks. The company’s first large 4K tablet just out of the box looked to be quite a compelling offer to replace the Survey’s arsenal of aging studio displays. Let’s see how it performs in real life and measures up to the etalon Wacom Cintiq Pro 24.
Maximum screen, minimum bezel
As expected, the Pro 24 (4K) arrives in a massive box containing the screen and all the accessories neatly packaged in their separate compartments. Taking out the machine might need an extra hand or two as the screen weighs 6.3 kg, almost a kilogram less than the Cintiq but still plenty heavy on its own. Nonetheless, once placed on the desk, it requires a surprisingly modest space relative to the screen size. This feature needs to be emphasized as one of the few complaints regarding Wacom’s Cintiq line is their overly generous border around the drawing area. Unfortunately, the Survey’s precise line drawings require the artist to lean over the canvas area, eliminating the alternative of using monitor arms. Although it is not the ideal posture, as we pointed out in a previous article, the intended drawing position is something to be considered when deciding on such a large pen display. While giving the artist more “elbow room” can be ergonomically justifiable on smaller devices that are often picked up, having an enormous bezel on a screen that sits flush with one’s desk might be unnecessary. Therefore, for us, the Kamvas’ thin bezels were a quite welcome feature, resulting in a significantly smaller footprint in the studio.
The Cintiq’s design, with its overly generous bezels (677 x 394 x 47 mm total dimensions), looks “outdated” placed next to the slim Kamvas Pro 24 (589.2 x 364 x 22.7mm total dimensions).
Using our Wacom comparison and drawing angles, Huion has a similar attitude towards its “stock” offers. The only adjustment built into the tablet comes in fold-out rubberized legs that position the display at an approximately 20° angle. We don’t necessarily like these legs prolonging on the side; however, it is nice to have the option to prop up the device if necessary.
When it comes to drawing angles, the Huion Kamvas Pro 24 (4K) (left) utilizes the same design language as the Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 (right).
We do like how little the Kamvas itself “protrudes” from the surface with the legs closed, furthering the illusion of drawing on a piece of paper. In this respect, Huion replicates the latest iPad Pro’s success at a much larger scale. We wish the company continues on this road, eventually providing just a paper-thin digital canvas flush with the table. Perhaps one day this dream will come true.
With the legs closed, the Kamvas Pro (in the foreground) lays close to horizontal, as opposed to the Cintiq Pro that sits at a slight angle (in the background).
Connectivity and accessories
The largest Huion is well equipped with accessories, including all the necessary connectivity options, a drawing glove, and a lightweight shortcut remote as a bonus.
The now-standard cables are to be found packaged with the display; HDMI plus USB-A to USB-C cables intended for older machines and a USB-C to USB-C data cable for modern, single-cable connection. This alternative is a must at this price point, although Huion’s stock offer seems way too short (1 m) for many desktop arrangements. One must be careful replacing this cable, though, as only cables with power, video, AND data functions can provide such simple connectivity to the Kamvas Pro. When connected, both power and computer cables stick out in the back. Huion’s seemingly cheap solution might hurt your eyes, considering the amount of care that went into the otherwise minimalistic design. However, in practice, this exposure quickly becomes an advantage over Wacom’s Cintiq Pro, where all cable slots are hidden behind a removable plastic shield. The Kamvas Pro is undoubtedly more “serviceable” and less ordained to collecting scratches as it doesn’t have to be turned on its head every time you fiddle with cables.
Connecting the Display
(1) Huion also managed to shave a bit off their power brick (right) compared to Wacom. It is still on the heavy side but could be kept hidden under your table.
(2) We always found Wacom’s protective shield on the back hard to remove. Thanks to Huion’s simplistic solution, the screen is less prone to be damaged.
(3) Several connectivity options are lined up on the back of the Kamvas Pro 24 (4K), such as (from left to right) USB-C, Display Port, and HDMI.
Moving on to the actual accessories, we’ll find a couple of worthy additions over the standard accessories to be expected with such a device. Let’s look at the pen first. The new stylus (PW 517) is the same as the one we’ve already tested with the Inspiroy KeyDial K200. It employs Huion’s next-generation design, called PenTech 3.0 in their terminology. It is battery-free and supports tilt and 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity while delivering better stability thanks to the pen nib being positioned somewhat lower than before. There is a large rubber grip around the enclosure, and – although thinner and lighter than Wacom’s stylus – the pen is comfortable to hold during longer drawing sessions. It also has a side rocker with two customizable buttons. The pen delivers a solid drawing experience with even brushstrokes and no wobble effect when painting long, curved sun-shadow transitions.
Huion’s new PW 517 pen is more prolonged and slimmer than Wacom’s Pro Pen 2. There is no eraser button at the top.
The doughnut-shaped pen holder is a secure place to keep the pencil when not in use, and it contains ten extra pen nibs, of which five are felt nibs intended to simulate drawing on paper. These newly developed drawing tips feel way less plasticky against the glass and initiate more drag to the surface. We were delighted to find them included with the Kamvas Pro 24, and once tried, we could never go back to using the stock option. It is highly recommended for anyone trying to salvage the essence of using traditional media in their digital art. If you don’t opt for Huion’s higher-end pen displays but still use a Huion tablet, the felt nibs can be purchased separately.
The five felt nibs are the real treasure of the included pen holder. Using these nibs elevates the drawing process immensely.
Finally, there is the remote. As our seasoned readers know by now, digitalEPIGRAPHY is obsessed with Shortcut devices .
Shortcut wizards for Photoshop (from left to right): Delux T11 Designer Keyboard, Xencelabs Quick Keys Remote, Wacom Express Key Remote, and TourBox Controller.
We tested several shortcut devices during the past few years, pointing out their strengths and shortcomings. Most straightforward and most portable of all is Wacom’s rugged Express Key Remote, which can be easily picked up and dropped onto a large Wacom Display or just held in the hand while drawing. With 17 programmable keys and a touch ring, Wacom’s little device is quite capable, even if it’s hard to distinguish between its tightly arranged uniform buttons at times. Yet another time-saving option is offered by Delux with their Designer Keypad, mimicking a compact “half-keyboard” extended by a multifunctional dial. With its labeled keycaps and more conventional arrangement, it can be a charming alternative for those accustomed to reaching for their regular keyboard for shortcut execution. Delux’s Keypad is highly customizable, and using your stickers on the keycaps makes it even more efficient (see the photo above). Finally, we should mention TourBox, which is - most unconventionally of all - a mix of custom-shaped buttons, knobs, and dials building its success around navigating a sea of options all at once. Although built around very different concepts, one common feature of these remotes is that they rely on the user’s visual muscle memory to remember what happens when a button is pressed, or a knob is turned.
Providing yet another take on controlling the drawing process, the Kamvas Pro 24 (4K) arrives with the KeyDial KD100 shortcut remote, adding a whopping 18 customizable buttons to streamline your workflow. This accessory has been offered on Huion’s website as a standalone device for some time. It is $49.99 when purchased independently, and it is similar to the keyboard portion accommodated by the Inspiroy KeyDial K200. Except that on the KD100, there are neither any preset options nor any labels for guidance. We’d easily take the K200’s key and dial functions over the KD100’s arrangement.
Nonetheless, with this new keypad, you’re essentially getting a “blank slate” of identical buttons to be adapted to your liking. One can always label them on their own for better recognition. Still, we’d have appreciated a distinctive shape added to these buttons instead of this intimidating uniformity.
The KeyDial KD100 is a capable little remote with 18 customizable shortcut buttons. The multifunctional knob at the top can zoom, scroll, change brush size, etc.
It is connected either wirelessly through the included USB dongle or wired via USB-C. Recharging the remote also happens through the included cable. One charge provides about 100 hours of continuous use, which is generous. What is worrisome is the lightness and plasticky feel of the device. Although the KD100 is rather barebones, the added functionality of using physical shortcut keys while drawing is undeniable. The buttons can be easily customized thanks to Huion’s driver, and the dial can accommodate three different functions alternated by pressing the button in the center. Unfortunately, you won’t program macros (combined sequential key presses) to these buttons. If you’re looking for more functionality beyond the basics delivered by the KD100, you’d have to look at the Delux T11 Designer Keypad or the TourBox controller.
The Huion KeyDial has rubber padding on the back, but it lacks the magnets found on Wacom’s Express Key Remote (allowing it to stick to the Cintiq’s bezel); therefore, it's best kept on the desk.
We’ve already written about Huion’s minimalistic but fully functional software when reviewing the company’s drawing pads. Here, some core settings are controlled through a colorful panel by pressing and holding the power button on the pen display. This panel is responsible for adjusting brightness, contrast, color channels (RGB), color temperature, enabling HDR, and changing the aspect ratio. The screen is plenty stunning out of the box, being a QLED panel supposedly covering 100% sRGB and 95% Adobe RGB with a 1200:1 contrast ratio. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile playing with these settings to tweak the appearance to one’s liking.
Huion’s screen settings panel is hidden under the power button (press and hold). It is the place to adjust brightness and quickly switch between various screen modes.
All the other adjustments, including display configuration and remote-control button customization, happen through Huion’s driver that must be installed from their website. Once both display and remote are connected, they should appear in the driver’s drop-down menu, ready to be personalized.
Programming the Shortcut Buttons, Dial, etc.
(1) The driver’s start-up window allows for quick screen calibration, drawing area customization, and tailoring specific settings to certain programs.
(2) You can also select your device or set up the KeyDial KD100 through the drop-down menu at the button of the main panel.
(3) The Mini KeyDial KD100 has 18 customizable buttons. They can be programmed to any expected functions, including keyboard commands, mouse clicks, multimedia controls, etc.
(4) The dial is pre-programmed to zoom, scroll, and brush size adjustments. It makes a clicking sound when rotated, which helps with incremental changes.
(5) Dial sensitivity can also be adjusted on a 1-5 scale, adding more fine-tuning to zooming in/out or scrolling through brush presets.
(6) The remote can be placed directly on the screen thanks to its rubber padding; however, it can slide off at extreme angles. Dial functions are briefly displayed as they change.
Using the Kamvas Pro 24 (4K)
As said before, Huion’s largest 4K display comes with a beautiful, fully laminated screen. Although an anti-glare layer is applied to its surface, it isn’t too aggressive, and the software provides enough brightness to see what’s underneath, even in intensely lit studios. Naturally, the matte surface applies some texturing and graininess to the image. However, it makes drawing on the glass more natural. Adding HDR (high dynamic range), hence altering light and dark tones, might sound gimmicky on a drawing tablet. However, it works, albeit not as effectively as on Apple’s latest Pro tablets. Full lamination also brings those pixels closer to the surface, causing minimal to no cursor offset, which is on par with Wacom’s Cintiq Pro.
The laminated display eradicates the pen tip and cursor gap, resulting in a gratifying drawing experience with minimal parallax: Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 (left) and Huion Kamvas Pro 24 (4K) (right).
As expected, this large and beautiful, high-resolution screen truly shines when used for relatively complex and grandiose epigraphic projects. The Kamvas’ drawing capabilities were tested on a large-scale Photoshop inking project, including multiple background layers, many separate scenes of which many received color-coded texture. During the past three weeks spent with the Kamvas Pro 24, we didn’t notice any lag or jitter affecting line quality while drawing slow diagonal lines, which is often the case when adding texture to line drawings. Another elevating factor in the drawing experience was the pen’s responsiveness combined with the “pencil-on-paper” feel of using the new felt nibs. There was no noticeable lag between pen strokes, even with rapid movement when creating dotted textures.
Once the screen was calibrated, the colors were set, and hotkeys/dials assigned, Huion’s tablet was a pleasure to use. Lines tapered as expected, and brush strokes turned smoothly as well. Maintaining straight lines with uniform thickness didn’t seem to be an issue. However, we can’t fully attest it as we primarily work at a very high dpi with the canvas magnified to a point when brush strokes look pixelated. Tilt sensitivity also worked as it was supposed to, providing excellent alterations when shading certain colorized elements of the line drawing. In our few-week experience, we didn’t notice any unexpected behavior of the little KD100 either, with the remote’s buttons always working correctly and shortcuts getting executed immediately.
The gapless design, the 4K resolution, and the large canvas all together provide an excellent drawing experience on Huion’s prestigious display.
During our short time with the tablet, the Kamvas Pro 24 (4K) performed evenly, with no hiccups, no unexpected behavior, generally letting us focus on the art process. As you can gather from this review, the screen is the absolute star here. Still, equally importantly, it is presented in a non-obtrusive, minimalistic chassis with superb build quality.
There are multiple layers (with no pun intended) to deciding what makes one’s drawing experience ideal. Many of us have used traditional media before coming to digital art. We want to get reassurance from our devices that what we already know as an artist doesn’t have to be re-learned approaching computer technology. Muscle memories shouldn’t be dismissed when using a digital screen instead of paper. In short, using technology should be familiar, simple, straightforward, and should stay in the background in order to focus on the drawing process. And fulfilling this promise is precisely why Huion’s most expensive tablet to date is highly recommended by digitalEPIGRAPHY.
If you feel like this could be your next studio display, the Kamvas Pro 24 (4K) can be purchased for $1299 directly from Huion or through several retailers throughout the world. However, before deciding on such an investment, you should consider how you’ll use it in your studio. If you need the screen to be propped up further than the 20° angle allowed by the fold-out legs (or you’d like to use it as a monitor replacement as well), you may want to consider purchasing a monitor arm or Huion’s adjustable stand. Even with the extra spending, you will end up with a gorgeous and flexible premium drawing display that is on par with Wacom’s Pro offers for nearly half the price.