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Review of the Huion Kamvas 13

By Tjeerd Royaards

Kamvas-13-pen-display-01

China-based drawing tablet brand Huion contacted us in May to ask if we would be interested in reviewing one of their products. They sent us their smallest (and most portable) tablet, the Huion Kamvas 13. I’ve been testing it for the past month, and in this review I'll share my thoughts. For the sake of full transparency: Huion sent us this tablet at no charge, but we are not influenced in any way as to our review of the product. So you’ll get my honest thoughts here.

The Kamvas 13 retails (in the Huion online shop) for € 207.00. The main competitor would be the Wacom Cintiq. You can still pick up a Wacom 13 for around 200 euro at stores that have it in stock, but it seems it’s no longer produced by Wacom. Their most modestly priced screen tablet, the Wacom One, starts at €370.

There were two reasons I was really interested in doing this review. Firstly, the first drawing tablet I ever bought, back in 2014, was a Wacom Cintiq 13HD. I was interested to see how this 2023 tablet would compare to one almost a decade older (the Wacom still works and I use it when I travel) and how Huion would compare to Wacom in general. Second, the Huion tablet promises to do away with all the clutter of cables. Anyone owning a Cintiq (or any other drawing tablet that hooks up to your computer) will know the hassle of the 3-in-one cable (power connection, HDMI and USB all need to be connected for the tablet to work). The Huion instead, although it also has the tradition 3-in-1 cable, can be connected with a simple USB-C to USB-C cable. The tablet will run your computer’s power supply. This is a major improvement, making it way easier to take the tablet with you and draw anywhere.

There’s a growing number of cartoonists that have moved on from drawing tablets, in favor of purchasing an iPad Pro. The reviews I hear are glowing and, although I don't have that much experience working with it myself, it seems to work really well. The only obstacle is the price tag. An iPad Pro starts at €1000, not including pen or stand. Since political cartoonists aren’t in the top tier of well-compensated artists (most struggle to make a decent living with their drawing), the existence of a 200 euro table that connects to your laptop or your phone with one simple cable could provide a decent alternative. For me, it makes sense. For my work as editor of Cartoon Movement, I am never without my laptop when I travel anyway.

The review

I’m using a MacBook Pro from 2022 to hook up to (unfortunately, my Fairphone isn’t compatible with the tablet, so I could not review it connecting to a smartphone works). I’m using the latest version of Adobe Photoshop for the actual drawing.

Right out of the box, I compared it to my 2014 Wacom 13HD. The Kamvas 13 is lighter and smaller (less plastic frame around the screen), but not by much. Setting it up was quite straightforward, just download the driver from the Huion website and plug it in.

1The Wacom 13HD (left) from 2014 compared to the  Huion Kamvas 13 from 2023 (right). Both come with 3-in-1 cables.

The Kamvas 13 comes with a 3-in-one cable, although the power connection ends in a USB, so you’ll need to hook it up to a power plug with a USB port. Most of us have plenty of these lying around from old smartphones and other devices, so that’s not too much of a problem. It also comes with a pen stand (with spare nibs), a drawing glove to prevent smudging the screen and a separate stand (which is actually quite sturdy, although I tend not to use a stand with a small tablet).

The one thing it notably does not come with, rather unfortunately, is a USB-C to USB-C cable. This needs to be purchased separately at the Huion shop for 30 euro, making it a rather expensive little cable. However, I did try another cable lying around my house but that did not work, so it’s a cable you’ll need if you want the simple set-up.

2The Huion allows you to connect with your laptop with a single cable.

My recommendation to Huion would be to include this cable as standard. As a potential buyer I would be fine with a bump in the price for this to be included, as for me (and I suspect many other digital artists) this cable is the unique selling point of Huion. Another welcome addition would be a pen case. I understand the need to buy a sleeve separately (I always use an old laptop sleeve anyway), but a protective case for the pen would be very helpful, especially given the focus of the tablet to be used while on the go. Better yet, wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the tablet manufacturers made the pens all the same size and shape, so we could have a universal pen case?

The user experience of the Huion is ok. The experience is much the same as drawing on the 2014 tablet, showing that the technology hasn’t much changed in the last decade, which is actually fine to me. It certainly isn’t a bad tablet, but there are a couple of issues that show you why Wacom is market leader. The first issue is parallax (offset between the tip of the pen & the mouse cursor); although the distance between the cursor and the pen nib is fine on most of the screen surface. It tends to get worse towards the edges of the screen, noticeably so when you are trying to select an icon at the bottom of the screen or on the side. I tried calibrating pen and screen multiple times, but to no avail.

3Parallax tends to occur on the edges of the tablet screen.

Other issues are more difficult to pinpoint. The pressure sensitivity is absolutely fine, but at times I did feel like there was just a bit more lag and it was a tiny bit less responsive than its Wacom counterpart.

4Testing pressure sensitivity.

 Conclusions

How does the Kamvas 13 compare to similar products by Wacom? How does it compare to an iPad Pro? For me, it comes down to two things. First, the price tag. As an artist who’s stuck in his ways (using Photoshop) and who lugs around a laptop at all times anyway, it makes sense to save hundreds of euros to buy this instead of an iPad, especially since I have a large but stationary drawing tablet in my studio. Since it seems the equally priced 13-inch Wacom models are going out of production, I’d lean in favor of this one. In all honesty, that's also because I do not need any bells and whistles (like touch function) on my drawing tablet.

The second reason (and clincher for me) is the option to simply connect via one USB-C cable. This makes it far less of a hassle to draw on location; still more than with an iPad, but minimally less so. I don’t draw that much on location, but I’d gotten used to the pitying looks from fellow cartoonists as I untangled my rat's nest of cables and went on the hunt for at least one power outlet. No more. The only real drawback I can see is that you still need a table to set down your laptop, so drawing standing up or on the move isn’t an option. However, even that might be solved by connecting to your phone instead, if it’s compatible.

In conclusion, the Kamvas 13 is a decent product for a decent price. I only wish they’d include the USB-C cable, so there would be no need to buy it separately. That said, you should only consider this if you are, like me, looking for a second tablet to use while traveling, or if you're just taking your first steps into the world of digital drawing and don't have a massive budget. It's good value for money, but if you're a more serious cartoonist who is looking for a tablet as his main drawing tool, I'd recommend spending a little more or saving up for an iPad Pro.


New cartoonist: Dennis Goris

Gun bedtime story

We are happy to welcome US cartoonist Dennis Goris. Dennis has spent a career in messaging and branding for national and international nonprofits and institutions in Washington DC. He still consults with progressive organizations and individuals but is happiest producing daily cartoons designed to afflict the comfortable. Check out his Instagram to see more of his work.