Huion’s graphics tablets have so far been fairly impressive and are generally considered to be solid alternatives to more expensive and highly regarded drawing tablets. However, Huion has turned up this surprising little unit - a graphics tablet spliced together with the left-hand side of a keyboard. Sounds logical enough. Most people using PS, Affinity, or Corel, for instance, will be well versed in the usual keyboard shortcuts and will probably find this set up very intuitive to use. Huion’s Inspiroy range seems to cover all it’s tablets that aren’t pen displays, i.e a screen you draw directly onto.
Work area: 226 x 142.88 mm (8.9 x 5.6 inch)
Android work area: 142.88 x 80.3.7 mm
Resolution: 5080 LPI (Lines per inch)
Express Keys: 5 customisable keys, 23 standard keys, and a dial
Pen: Battery-Free Electromagnetic Resonance
Pressure levels: 8192
Compatibility: Windows 7/8/10, Mac OS 10.12 and above
This graphics tablet then, one you’ll need to use with an external screen and get used to a bit of hand/eye coordination, is unique in the Inspiroy range not just because of its added keyboard and dial controller, but because of its wireless capabilities, too. They have a few other wireless ‘pen tablets’ as they call them, but not with this unique combination of attributes. A quick look elsewhere and you’ll see a similarly priced Wacom Intuos Medium Bluetooth, with a very similar size drawing area, but of course with no keyboard or dial. This seems to be aimed at a more core group of digital artists who prefer using keyboard shortcuts over the programmable buttons available with most other tablets. With that in mind, let's take a closer look.
Huion Inspiroy Keydial KD200: design & build
The Huion Inspiroy Keydial KD200 is unique in the world of pen tablets simply because it’s an amalgamation of what might seem a rather obvious pairing. Digital painters/photo editors, and the like, are going to be used to using keyboard shortcuts as part of their workflow. To date, drawing tablets, or pen tablets as they are sometimes known, have attempted to include this action in new ways - mostly in the addition of customisable shortcut buttons, in varying numbers depending on the tablet. Old habits die hard, and at least for a proportion of pen tablet users out there, myself included, the ‘muscle memory’ of reaching for those keyboard shortcuts is difficult to change.
It’s not that difficult. Just as it takes getting used to drawing digitally the same can be said for getting used to shortcuts of different kinds. It's all a matter of preference and comfort is all, faced with customisable buttons I mostly programme a few and then rely on the keyboard for the rest. So, having the two together is certainly going to please a good section of customers, minus a supposed 10% of those who are left handed, if you are then this isn’t really for you. With most other tablets you can change the configuration, with this the keyboard sits stuck to the left side of the drawing surface, meaning uncomfortable arm crossing whilst working for left-handers.
It’s a nice looking design, and feels well made if not a little plasticky. For the price though what do you expect? It sits comfortably on four rubber feet and because of the keyboard you can move your usual one out of the way all together meaning less clutter on the desktop. Couple this with its bluetooth capability and that means a very neat looking workspace altogether. Simply plug in the included wireless receiver (USB-A) and you’re good to go. It also comes with a USB-C to type A connector to charge the tablet up. An hour's charge on my part got me more than a day's use.
The driver was very simple to install, and I was able to use the tablet within minutes, no problems whatsoever.
Huion Inspiroy Keydial KD200: work area
A 8.9 x 5.6-inch work area is classed as medium in size. Having not used anything smaller to date this feels quite small at first. But within minutes of plugging it in to use it already feels perfectly fine to use on a 21-inch display, and probably perfect for a 13- or 15-inch laptop. Attached to the work area in this instance is the keyboard with 23 standard keys, 5 programmable ‘K’ buttons and a programmable dial with a button to change its function as you're working, which is pretty handy. You’re zooming in and out, click of button and you’re changing the size of your brush. Click again and you’re scrolling, and so on and so forth. It certainly seems to save a lot of time, and seems to come ready programmed to do this so that is even less messing around in initial setup.
Huion Inspiroy Keydial KD200: drawing experience
As with all of the other Huion pen tablets and pen displays I’ve used so far the drawing action, and overall experience, is pretty good. Actually it’s really good, and does what you’d hope and expect it to do. After an initial play around with the sensitivity in the driver window I found drawing really fast and responsive in PS and Affinity Photo. No discernible lag, great line quality and control were all very apparent. Graduation from thin lines to thicker with added pressure is all very consistent and predictable.
Huion Inspiroy Keydial KD200: stylus/pen
PW517 battery-free pen has the standard 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, and I don’t know if it’s just me, but having used many similar pens this feels more sensitive. Something to do with having a lower positioned nib? Not entirely sure how Huion’s ‘PenTech 3.0’ technology works, or why a lower than usual nib would help it perform better, but it seems to work. The pen also has a 60 degree tilt function, 2 customisable buttons on the side (always programmed to brush/eraser in my case) and a comfortable rubber grip. The pen comes with a rather nice inkwell-esque donut-shaped pen holder, inside which are 10 replacement nibs, as standard.
Huion Inspiroy Keydial KD200: should you buy it?
Huion’s small and medium Inspiroy pen tablets are all well pierced for what they are. Huion may not be the ‘Rolls Royce’ of graphics tablets but they certainly deliver in performance. The Inspiroy Keydial KD 200 currently sits at $169/£169, which is comparable to Wacom Intuos Medium (currently on sale at $169.95/£134.99) in spec, including being wireless, and both can be used to draw on an android phone. The obvious difference is the keyboard, and the dial, but mainly the keyboard. Arguably something like a Wacom is better in terms of build quality, but Huion is no slouch.
If you have a keyboard shortcut habit that’s hard to kick in the wake of shortcut buttons, or no buttons, then the Keydial might just be for you. The key remote is another thing that exists alongside tablets nowadays, particularly the Huion Mini Keydial KD100 which is another option for left-handed people as you can move the remote wherever is most comfortable, and you’re not limited to it being stuck to one side of the tablet. You’d need to buy it alongside a pen tablet though, if you don’t already own one. Both these options will certainly help smooth out your work flow though, and deliver a good drawing experience all round.