Select Page
Top 10 Military Fonts 2019 (Army, Navy & Stencil)

Top 10 Military Fonts 2019 (Army, Navy & Stencil)

Military fonts are something almost any graphic designer or digital artist has searched for at some point in their lives. From classic military stencil fonts to futuristic-looking dystopian fonts, there’s a surprising range of uses for these styles, past a simple Call of Duty montage title.

There are, however, a lot of really cheesy and badly designed military fonts out there. It’s a territory in which you’ll easily find fonts which are a little lackluster, underwhelming, or just plain badly designed. This is why we’ve put this guide together – to help you find some fantastic artisanal military fonts, which you can use in a whole variety of designs and styles.

We’ve chosen a whole host of different styles, and looked at the many takes on the classic military font, from stencils to Cyrillic, covering a range of style-eras such as WWII or Vietnam-style fonts. This is your all-in-one guide to the best 10 military fonts currently available.

Our Overall Favourite Military / Army Stencil Font

Targo 4F Stencil was the best stencil font we could find. Apart from their fantastic color choice in their demo images, Targo stood out to us for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it encompasses the classic military stencil feel quite well. Secondly, it’s multilingual meaning you can use it with alphabets from different languages, such as Cyrillic, Baltic, and Thai. Finally, it’s got a very slick, modern and versatile design which is easily adaptable to a variety of uses outside of standard military font use. It’s a great addition to any designer’s library.

The Top Navy Font We Found

While very stereotypical, the Old Navy font was our favorite Navy-style military font. It’s probably exactly what you need if you’re looking for a navy-style stencil font, being simple, classic and eye-catching giving you an instant Navy vibe. There’s not much more to say than this, as it’s a simple, concise and effective font set.

The Best Military Block Font

Manufaktur is a Soviet-inspired military block font, which was the best one we found by a long shot. One can tell it’s been designed with great care and taste, firstly from a design perspective and secondly from a usage perspective.

The font has 61 total variations, all different in weight and spacing combinations, offering a wide array of options to get some blocky Soviet / Swiss-inspired typography on the go. It was initially inspired by a cast-iron sign on an old Swedish industrial machine, which is also pretty cool.

The Best 10 Military Fonts Compared

Font Name Style $-$$$ Rating Buy Font
USAAF Air Force Stencil $$ 8/10 Check Price
Surplus Pro Stencil $$ 7/10 Check Price
The Old Navy Stencil $ 7.5/10 Check Price
Military Scribe Script $$$ 9/10 Check Price
The First Division Sans Serif $ 8/10 Check Price
Gorilla Block $$ 7.5/10 Check Price
Targo 4F Stencil Stencil $$$ 10/10 Check Price
Manufaktur Block $$$ 9/10 Check Price
Army Stencil Stencil $ 6/10 Check Price
War is in the Air Stencil $$ 7/10 Check Price

Top 10 Military Style Fonts Reviewed

In this next section, we’ve reviewed and broken down what we like, and what we don’t, about the ten best military fonts we could find. Each review has a few handy pointers such as a $-$$$ price rating, as well as any other handy details you might need at a glance.

Be sure, as well, to check out our buyer’s guide at the end of the article. This covers a few things to look out for when choosing a font, depending on your usage and intent (looking to stencil some fonts? Check out our mechanical pencils guide here). But more than that later.

Now, let’s dive in.

Surplus Pro

  • Classic WWII American Military Font
  • $$
  • Two Styles

If you’re looking for a simple, classic American Military Stencil-style font – Surplus Pro is undoubtedly the one for you. It looks exactly like the kind typography you might see in a war movie or video game, with a rugged look that can be brought to a whole new level by adding some grain and scratches to it, making it look a little more realistic.

Surplus Pro comes in two styles – one standard, and one rough version which has less-defined outlines and a more worn feel to it. The font comes in OTF format, which means it’s easy to use regardless of which OS or platform you’re using it on, and is very reasonably priced, even for E-Publication or Application use.

Click to Check Price

Military Scribe

  • Based on the Declaration of Independence
  • $$$
  • One style, upper and lower case

While it’s not what you might think of right off the bat when you’re looking for a military font, Military Scribe is actually a great option if you’re looking to do some dated-looking military typography.

It looks like the kind of writing you’ll find on documents like the Declaration of Independence and the various numbered amendments we so often hear mentioned. The creator behind the font referenced the work of three different scribes from the 1700s who wrote military documents and declarations at the time. The creator averaged the penmanship and styles of these fonts, creating a very versatile modern-use version, with more than 1000 characters available.

If you’re looking for military fonts of a war long gone by, then Military Scribe is your best bet.

Click to Check Price

Manufaktur

  • Soviet-inspired Military Font
  • $$$
  • 61 styles, of varying weights and spacings

If you’re looking for a font that is modern and tasteful, with a military feel, a sleek design and some great options in terms of variation, then Manufaktur is simply one of the best you could go for. Based on an old cast-iron sign on a piece of aged Swedish industrial machinery, this Soviet-esque typeface is one of the most versatile military fonts you could find.

With both uppercase and lowercase styles, and 61 different available variations, which fluctuate in weight, spacing roughness and emphasis, Manufaktur can be used for such a wide array of styles and intents. Additionally, the font supports glyphs from a range of languages from all corners of Europe and comes in OTF, TTF and web font formats.

All in all, this is one of our favorites from this list – we trawled through a lot of military-style fonts and Manufaktur left us with the best impression overall.

Click to Check Price

War is In the Air

  • Reminiscent of Vietnam Era Stencil Fonts
  • $$
  • One single worn style

Looking like the font from the ‘Born on the 4th of July’ poster, War is In the Air is an American Military-style stencil font which we thought was very reminiscent of Vietnam era military cargo packages, and clothing prints. It’s perfect for capturing that slightly more Hollywood-ized side of Military fonts, somehow feeling more on the lighter or more comical side of military fonts.

The font comes in just one style, all caps – just like a real stencil. It’s got some grit to it, and can easily be applied to real-world objects in Photoshop, with a few added effects to look like it’s really been printed on.

The creator of the font also offers 24-hour support if you’ve got any questions, queries or issues with their package – a great feature as far as we’re concerned.

Click to Check Price

USAAF Air Force

  • Air Force Style Stencil
  • $$
  • Inspired by references from actual aircraft

Inspired by photos and references from real aircraft, loading machines, cargo and more, USAAF Air Force is the ideal font to pick if you’re trying to find a Military font with a distinct aviation vibe to it. While it’s pretty simple and only arrives in one style, it really encompasses the feel of aviation and airforce style text.

It’s a simple, stencil-style block font with numbers, and should suit all of the air force-related typography needs that you’ll ever encounter. It’s available in TTF as well as PNG, which might be an added bonus to some designers out there.

Click to Check Price

Gorilla

  • Futuristic Military Style
  • $$
  • Regular, Bold, Italic and Bold Italic Styles

Reminiscent of the kinds of typefaces you might find in a futuristic battle-royale style video game, Gorilla perfectly captures a blend of futurism and military aesthetic in one fantastic package. It comes in four styles, from regular to bold italic, and is available in OTF format for easy use between programs and platforms.

Inspired by the likes of Nike, Under Armor and Adidas’ typography, this font is designed to work as a title case font suited to futuristic, industrial and brutalist designs. It’s got a harsh look, while still having some flow and direction so things don’t look to hard-cut.

All in all, it’s a great artisanal military font and is ready to use right out the box, perfect for branded campaigns or website headings.

Click to Check Price

The First Division

  • Elegant, Old-timey and unique look
  • $
  • Created by an artist skilled in stylized fonts

While the creator mentions using references from WWII aircraft names and aviation text, The First Division is almost closer to something emulating the style we’ve come to know through the Fallout video game series.

The First Division comes in three styles – one inline with holes in parts of the letters, one full black version, and lastly a letterpress version which replicates printed ink, perfect for getting some natural grain and a bit of a worn look in your creations.

The font also comes with some cool stylized glyphs, such as “and”, “from” and “Est. D”, all helping you create even more immersive and genuine vintage-style art. This is perfect for anyone looking for a military-style font with a distinct vintage feel, specifically from the 50’s, that might have been used on an Uncle Sam poster.

Click to Check Price

Army Stencil

  • Stereotypical Army Stencil Font
  • $
  • Available as an SVG file

Army Stencil is just what the name describes. It’s an almost comically stereotypical army font, combining the classic letter style we’ve all come to associate with military fonts with an under and over-line, as well as some camo-style accents on the characters.

The package is available in a whole host of formats from SVG to PDF, JPG to PNG and more. It’s also super affordable, ranking as the cheapest font on this list by a long shot.

There’s really not all that much more to say about it than that. It’s possibly the most stereotypical army font one could find and does just that job perfectly.

Click to Check Price

Targo 4F Stencil

  • Modern Stencil Army Design
  • $$$
  • Supports 132+ languages

Targo, our favorite overall Military stencil font from this list, is a hugely versatile and incredibly professionally designed font.

It comes in lower and upper case, in both regular and italic styles, and appears to be inspired by military stencil fonts, modern rounded typography, and a whole lot of different language scripts.

As we mentioned before, it’s got support for over a hundred and thirty languages, including many strange and special unique characters. It’s quite rare to find an artisanal font that holds so much support for various alphabets, languages and scripts.

While this might not be the first font that comes to mind when you’re thinking about Military fonts, it’s one of the most versatile and well-designed fonts you could find in the category. Sure, the stencil may look a bit too new for some peoples’ use, but overall this font set beats out all its competitors in almost every other way.

Click to Check Price

The Old Navy

  • Classic WWII Navy Style
  • $
  • Good pricing / licensing options

As you may have seen, The Old Navy was our top pick for a navy themed military font. It’s got a classic navy look, like the numbers and letters you might see printed on a giant marine tanker, or even a smaller Navy Seal boat.

It’s got two styles, one regular and one ‘grunge’ style, for that added effect of dust and grit that you often need with military designs. It’s very well designed, with letterforms and shapes exactly like the kind of thing you would expect from a US Navy-grade shipping crate.

There’s really not much more to say about this font pack – it’s all in the name. It’s ideal if you’re looking for a font in this style, for branding, logos, prints or posters or anything large and stand-outish!

Click to Check Price

Conclusion of the Best Military Fonts 2019

You should now have more than enough choices to consider when looking for military fonts for your designs. There is a wide variety of styles, sizes and ‘feelings’ in the fonts listed here, and you can easily combine them in various ways to create the military aesthetic you’re looking for. They’re all a little different and special, and we’re sure you’ll be able to find the right one for you from our list.

We’ve got more font guides coming soon, so be sure to look out for them!

Top 10 Low Poly Models & Packs on the Unity Asset Store 2019

Top 10 Low Poly Models & Packs on the Unity Asset Store 2019

Low Poly is an art style all you animators out there have no doubt encountered in the last few years. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the term refers to a simplistic and minimalist design style using only simple ‘polygons’ or flat shapes, with straight sides.

It’s become incredibly popular, with the help of a number of Unity-made games such as the VR award-winning action fest Superhot, or the deep and story-driven Virginia. It’s a style that’s here to last, as we see more and more indie games, emulating similar design principles, announced each month. Low Poly is also not very resource-heavy, meaning it’s an easy way to boost performance, especially on tablets or mobile gaming systems.

We’ve put together this list to help set you up with the essential low poly model packs on the Unity Asset Store so that you can start creating your own in-game world. We’ve picked these so that when you combine them, you’ll have everything you need. From characters to textures, props, scenes and more! We’ve even added a handy ‘what to look for’ section so that you can add assets of your own to this collection and start to customize your world.

Now, let’s get a little deeper into some of the details of these model packs.


Our Favourite Low Poly Assets on the Unity Store

Here are our top three picks from this list – they’re some essential items that will give you a lot to work with, and more than enough to get started on designing your own in-game world.

The Best Low Poly Pack We Found

a scene of six different low poly animated terrains

The PolyPerfect Ultimate Low Poly Pack is a great starter-kit for prototyping and creating your own low poly games. It comes complete with animals, nature, people, props, buildings and more, allowing you to create and design an immersive world to start you out. It also has free monthly updates, a really nice added bonus which gives you just that more bang for your buck.

Our Favourite Low Poly Animals Pack

two animated dogs standing in long grass

The Low Poly Animated Animals Pack is a great way to start creating simple live scenes, or animal NPCs in your in-game world. It comes with Wander Script v4.2, allowing you to drag and drop animals into your scene, bringing your game to life. It comes with demo scenes, unique sounds, and a whole host of animals from giraffes to starfish.

The Best Low Poly Software Tool

side by side comparison of two different renders

The Low Poly Mesh Generator Tool is a handy tool to have on-hand when designing a low-poly game. It allows you to generate meshes for any assets, from props to entire terrains, turning them into a simple low poly approximation with preserved colour. This means no late night searching ‘how to make low poly models’ on YouTube. This tool is a real help, allowing you to turn any model you’re working with into a low poly style version.


The Best Unity Asset Store Low Poly Model Packs Compared

Image Name Free Updates $-$$$ What it brings Check Price
Low Poly Animated Animals Low Poly Animated Animals $$ Nature Check Price
POLYGON - Modular Fantasy Hero Characters POLYGON Modular Fantasy Hero Characters Pack $$$ Variety Check Price
Low Poly Micro Monster Pack Low Poly Micro Monster Pack $ Challenge Check Price
Vistas Polybox Low Poly Vistas $ Beauty Check Price
1UP LOWPOLY - Gun Pack 1UP Low Poly Gun Pack $ Interaction Check Price
Low Poly Ultimate Pack Low Poly Ultimate Pack $$ All-round Check Price
Low Poly Village Addixon Low Poly Village Pack $ Towns Check Price
POLYGON - Nature Pack POLYGON Nature Pack (Low Poly Grass, Trees & More) $$$ Immersion Check Price
Simple Cars - Cartoon Vehicles Simple Cartoon Cars - Low Poly Car Pack $ Vehicles Check Price
Low Poly Mesh Generator Low Poly Mesh Generator Tool $ Flexibility Check Price

Best Unity Asset Store Low Poly Models Reviewed

Here’s our round up of the best low poly models available on the Unity Asset Store. We’ve labeled each one with three points of interest such as a $-$$$ rating, cool features, or extra requirements. We’ve also added a list of pros and cons for each one so that you can compare at a glance, and see which is going to work best for you.

While Unity is free, if you’re interested in upgrading to the hobbyist or enterprise plans, you can take a look at Unity pricing here.

Low Poly Animated Animals Pack

low poly animated animals

  • $$
  • Free Updates
  • Drag-and-drop living animals into scenes

If you’re looking for a low poly model pack containing a variety of animals, with the least headache, then the PolyPerfect Low Poly Animated Animals Pack is the one for you. Each animal comes rigged, with beautiful animations and demo scenes, unique sounds, illustrated environment textures and a few low poly nature elements for each habitat.

The pack includes a range of animal species like bears, penguins, spiders, dogs, sharks, wolves and more – making it a versatile model pack, which can be used whether you’re making an arctic exploration game, or a desert survival battle royale.

Finally, one of the best features of this pack is the ‘free updates’ feature, whereby any changes or updates to the pack are available to buyers for free. This includes requests for changes / additions to specific animals, as well as bug fixes and more features.

Bottom line: this pack’s bark is most certainly not worse than its bite.

Pros
  • Variety of animals
  • Animations are easy to customize
  • All animals have a ‘wander’ script

Cons

  • None we could find

Click to Check Price on Unity Asset Store

Synty Polygon Fantasy Hero Low Poly Characters Pack

low poly modular fantasy hero 3d models

  • $$$
  • Includes random character generator script
  • Comes with some simple fantasy weapon assets

When you’re designing characters for your game, whether they’re NPCs, companions, or protagonists, it’s extremely important that they’re varied. We all remember playing those CD-ROM games in the early 2000s, where the NPCs were all just copies of each other with different colour clothes – and it wasn’t fun.

This Fantasy Hero Low Poly Characters Pack from Synty Studios fixes all that, and makes character generation a breeze. All characters are modular, meaning different body parts, clothes and accessories can be swapped out. This comes together to make a whole host of individual and unique characters to populate your game world.

The pack is made up of 720 modular pieces with custom shaders for changing colours, made up of modular character assets like hair, heads, hands, bags, capes, and more. There are male and female versions of each body part, and the pack also comes with 120 pre-made characters for you to try out. It also has a random character generator script, which is great for creating non-essential NPCs.

Bottom line: Get ready to meet your new group of friends who just about put Borderlands’ random gun generation to shame.

Pros
  • Hundreds of combinations
  • Easy to customize

Cons

  • Some have had compatibility issues with other Synty packs

Click to Check Price on Unity Asset Store

Low Poly Micro Monster Pack

Micro Monsters Low Poly 3d model pack

  • $
  • 11 Individual Monsters
  • Comes with great animations

Boss fights always seem to cause headaches, whether you’re a developer or a gamer. They’re built up, intense, and often pivotal in terms of theme and story – and that’s a lot of pressure! So why not spend some time focusing on mini-boss fights?

This (surprisingly cute) Micro Monster pack from Bitgem is a wonderful little pack for adding some much-needed evil into your world. Whether you’re using them as creeps, mobs, mini-bosses or companions, these 11 hand-painted micro monsters might be just what you need to bring some challenge into your in-game world.

The animations are solid and versatile, and the creators of this pack are experts in 3d model and asset design, meaning it’s very unlikely you’ll be running into any errors or compatibility issues when using the micro monsters.

Bottom line: They might be micro, but they bring the atmosphere.

Pros
  • Tastefully designed
  • Comes with animations

Cons

  • None we could find

Click to Check Price on Unity Asset Store

Polybox Low Poly Vistas

  • $
  • Versatile visual styles
  • All models are outlined

If you’ve played Firewatch, you’ll know how much difference vistas can make in turning your skybox and in-game world from something lively, to something living. This, frankly, gorgeous low poly vista pack from Polybox is the perfect addition to bring a little extra flair to your in-game world without sacrificing performance or compatibility issues.

VR and Mobile-ready, this pack of vista-cutouts is heavily customizable and seamless, great for use in a variety of game styles (ie. not just the artsy ones). These super low-performance vistas mimic different natural environments such as mountains, deserts, cliffs, and hills; making them adaptable to a multitude of visual styles.

The cards snap together allowing you to alter and create your own custom vistas, and easily achieve those fancy parallax effects which just look so good. All cards can be UV unwrapped and are texture-ready, and the cards are optimized, as we mentioned, for use in mobile or tablet gaming devices, meaning you’re gonna save a whole lot of performance points.

Bottom line: Sit back and enjoy the view.

Pros
  • Low performance
  • Customizable
  • Simply & Smartly designed

Cons

  • None we could find

Click to Check Price on Unity Asset Store

1UP Low Poly Gun Pack

low poly guns 3d model pack

  • $
  • 1UP Magic Shadow Unlit Shader
  • Very tweak-friendly

Up to this point, we’ve got a game with roaming animals, fantasy characters, beautiful landscapes and angry little monsters – all we’re missing is guns! This low poly Gun model pack from 1UP is simply one of the best in the Unity Asset Store, and is going to work perfectly for most games that require a finger on the trigger.

In this pack, you’ll find all your common guns from your favourite games (Think CS:GO, Fornite, TF2). There are 18 unique weapons, with unlimited alternative colour, and 35 skin tone variations in this pack – all perfect for a low-poly fps. They’re really well-designed within the low poly style, and the textures are super small (4KB / 256px) which means you’re not going to run into any performance issues having everyone in-game running around with a rifle.

The package comes with an example scene, and is quite easy to tweak and edit to your own specifications, even for a beginner. Honestly, no low poly FPS or battle royale game is complete without a great set of weapon choices, and this is the perfect pack for just that.

Bottom line: This pack hits the target in the bullseye

Pros
  • Great performance
  • Very customizable
  • Short, sweet and simple

Cons

  • Sadly, no flamethrower

Click to Check Price on Unity Asset Store

PolyPerfect Ultimate Pack (Low Poly Textures, Models and More)

The ultimate low poly 3d models and assets pack

  • $$
  • Endless source of ideas / inspiration
  • All-round essential pack for low poly

While it’s great fun picking all your assets and models individually, it can become a headache, and is a lot easier to do when you’ve got a solid base on which to build, metaphorically. This Ultimate Low Poly Models pack from PolyPerfect is just that, and is a great all-in-one tool for laying out the framework and getting a step ahead in your game design process.

This all-in-one pack features over 500 prefabs, with colliders and various textures, so that you can design large low poly environments with ease, and all your assets in one place. The pack includes things like animals, a castle, nature, people, props, and more. Everything you need to build a truly immersive word from the ground up.

The design itself is beautiful, with none of the assets seeming rushed or not up-to-standard. The assets are also one material and true low poly mesh, meaning that mobile or tablet performance won’t take a dip compared to using other more complex assets. The pack also has the added bonus of offering free updates, meaning any requests you have can be seen to by the creators.

Bottom line: Seamless world building, polygon by polygon.

Pros
  • Everything you need in one place
  • Low performance requirements
  • Free monthly updates

Cons

  • Pricey (but worth it)

Click to Check Price on Unity Asset Store

Addixon Low Poly Village Pack

Low Poly Village Assets and 3d Models pack

  • $
  • No sample scene included
  • Simple and effective style

Whether you’re at a camp in an RPG or a survival game, or visiting a nearby town in an adventure game, villages are an important part of any in-game world. This simple low poly village pack from Addixon makes for the perfect pack to achieve a village feel.

The pack includes boxes, barrels and 8 hut styles, as well as some landscapes, trees, boats and more. They’re all designed with an island-style theme, which works pretty well in any context (as long as you leave out the palm trees).

While this pack is small and basic, with the right variation and placement it can really offer you a lot of freedom in designing villages, and making different villages feel unique and just that – different.

Bottom line: Don’t be the village idiot – this pack is going to make your life a lot easier.

Pros
  • Nice, simple variations
  • Tastefully designed

Cons

  • Palm tree undersides are not double-sided

Click to Check Price on Unity Asset Store

Polygon Nature Pack (Low Poly Grass Textures, Trees & Rocks)

Low poly nature and trees 3d model pack

  • $$$
  • Easy to paint
  • Active discord for 24/7 support

As we’ve already mentioned, nothing brings immersion to an in-game world like real-world reference. Therefore, it makes a huge difference when you’re able to really bring nature to life, with a varied and realistic palette of plants, shrubs, trees, bushes and terrain.

That’s why we chose this Synty Polygon Nature Pack – it’s got everything you need to start creating a wilderness, like low poly trees and plants, terrain and rocks, props and extra FX assets. This pack also includes a new addition to the Polygon series – their Hybrid Style Trees sets, allowing for a little bit of blurring between the lines of low poly and not low poly (think Fortnite).

The pack also comes with detailed terrain textures, with tiling maps ready for dynamic lighting making them compatible with static mesh ground pieces from other polygon packs. There’s also a custom stylized water shader, as well as animations for the trees and plants so that they feel living, and not made of rubber.

Finally, there are some truly awesome effects such as a nifty rock shader for moss and snow coverage, particle effects like butterflies, falling leaves, blowing grass, fireflies and more. This is truly a great model pack when it comes to 3d low poly models, and one you’ll want to be sure not to miss.

Bottom line: Become one with nature in one handy Unity Asset Store pack.

Pros
  • Comes with great shaders and animations
  • Plenty of variation
  • Lightweight render pipeline for mobile

Cons

  • Shader issues (currently being fixed)

Click to Check Price on Unity Asset Store

Simple Cartoon Vehicles Low Poly Car Pack

Low poly cartoon vehicles 3d model pack

  • $
  • Great price point
  • Sleek design
  • Now, we’ve been mostly on a more fantasy / RPG trend in terms of the Unity Asset Store packs reviewed in this article (except for the guns), but no video game is complete without a good set of vehicles. This car low poly model pack from Synty gives us just what we need, providing a number of cars of different shapes and sizes, for all uses. While there are some free low poly models of cars on the Asset Store, this one is worth every cent.

Each car comes with 1-4 variants, and these vehicles include everything from regular cars to tow trucks, logging trucks, milk vans, limousines and even a forklift. They’re all created with love, as most of the Synty packs appear to be, and while there’s not too much else to say about this pack it looks great, works great, and runs fantastically on mobile and tablets.

Bottom line: Get your game from A to B with this pack

Pros
  • Cars come with variations
  • Tiny package size

Cons

  • None we could find

Click to Check Price on Unity Asset Store

Low Poly Mesh Generator Tool

Low poly mesh generator tool

  • $
  • Make your own Low Poly Models
  • Requires one license per seat

This last low poly asset pack from Davit Naskidashvili is a great handy tool to have when working on a low-poly game. Despite the number of options on the Unity Asset Store, and the list of great packs we’ve put together here, there’s always going to be one model that you just can’t find in the right style. Breaking the immersiveness of your game is just out of the question, but so is leaving out that really cool sword model you found on the Asset Store – and that’s where this tool comes in handy (especially if you’re not into low poly modeling yourself).

The Low Poly Mesh Generator tool allows you to use classic methods of generating “low poly” or “flat shaded” meshes, baking low poly texture inside vertex colour, and averaging face normal. The tool works with all types of meshes from solid to skinned, and event terrains and complex meshes. It works really fast, and doesn’t take a lot of extra computing power to actually generate the low poly versions of each model. There’s also a Terrain to Mesh algorithm, which is some of the fastest terrain conversion around today.

The tool is optimized to be as user-friendly, and effective as possible, needing no preparation, combining final meshes into one, supporting substance material baking into vertex colour, and two texture baking. One thing, however, to be aware of is that the plugin doesn’t reduce triangle count – for that, you’ll need a decimation tool. That’s very important to keep in mind if you’re thinking about tablet and mobile optimization.

All in all, this is a real essential tool to have when working on a low poly project, no matter how big or small. It’ll save you a lot of headaches, make your life a lot easier, and bring a little wonderment and joy when you see your favourite regular models come to life in a low poly form.

Bottom line: Low Poly Everything. All the time.

Pros
  • Great host of features
  • Versatile and easy to use

Cons

  • Can create some artistic inconsistencies

Click to Check Price on Unity Asset Store


How to pick the best Low Poly Game Assets on the Unity Store

There are two reasons that low poly models and aesthetic are popular with game developers and animators.

Firstly, it’s a simple way to limit your design abilities and focus on creating a game or scene with a strong aesthetic theme, where everything feels like it’s part of the same world. This can take a lot longer to get right when you’re using photorealistic assets, or even creating your own models per your own design specifications.

The second reason is that low poly assets, being simple, minimal and light on rendering resources, often help increase performance. This means that games like Superhot have a much easier time running on a low-end rig when compared to something like Battlefield V – no graphics card upgrade needed!

Now, here are a few things to consider when looking for more packs to add to your in-game world:

  • Visual Style
  • Reviews
  • Free Updates

Now, let’s take a closer look at these points so that you know what to look out for, and how to get the best low poly Unity assets for your projects.

Visual Style

While the ‘style guide’ for lowpoly assets is a pretty rigid one, there still are some differences. While most low-poly style packs from different creators work together visually, there are always going to be some small differences that come from the style of whichever artist created them.

The first and most important point to consider when shopping for new assets is whether or not they fit in with the visual theme and aesthetic you’ve created in-game. Small differences can really throw off the immersion, and you ultimately want all your in-game assets to appear as if they come from the same source.

This is where tools like the Low Poly Mesh Generator come especially in handy, allowing you to edit and tweak styles to get everything meshing together nicely (please excuse the pun).

Reviews

A great way to tell whether or not the pack you’re inspecting does what you want it to do is by looking at the reviews. A simple Ctrl+F “animation”, for example, will help you check whether the animals / characters in your pack come with their own animations, or if you’ll have to create your own.

Once you’ve purchased the low poly models of your choice, the Unity Asset Store review section is also a great way to troubleshoot errors or issues you’re having, as it’s the easiest way for others who own the pack to contact its creators for support. This is great to remember when you get your next stack overflow error.

Free Updates

Free updates are a very cool feature of the Unity Asset Store, and allow creators to update their packs with new models, assets and features at no extra cost to you, once you’ve purchased the pack. Packs with this option will give you way more bang for your buck, and really help bring that community-driven aspect to the Unity Asset Store, when it comes to requests and modifications.


In Conclusion

Well, now you’ve got just about everything you need from the Unity Asset Store to begin work (or finish work) on your next Low Poly style AAA Indie Title. We wish you the best of luck in your game creation endeavours, and would love to hear what you’re working on, so don’t be shy – drop us a line!

10 Best Mechanical Pencils for Drawing and Writing 2019

10 Best Mechanical Pencils for Drawing and Writing 2019

We’re currently living in an age where technology is advancing faster than ever. From folding phones to drones built for crop dusting, technology is creeping into our lives in ways we could never imagine. That being said, it’s incredible that a good mechanical pencil is still an essential part of almost every artist’s arsenal. While something like a wireless pen mouse is great, it’s still simply not able to write on paper.

Whether you’re doing architectural or mechanical drawings, prototyping hand-drawn logos or fonts, taking notes or doing quick sketches – a mechanical pencil is vital for two reasons. Firstly, they’re erasable, and, secondly, they’re a lot sturdier and long-lasting than standard pencils. A good mechanical pencil can easily last you a lifetime, if you look after it.

There are, however, many factors to consider when shopping for high-quality mechanical pencils, from their shape, size and functionality to the ergonomics, hand-feel and more. As such, we’ve put together this guide of our top mechanical pencils. Each one has its own pros and cons, and there’s a handy buyer’s guide at the end of the article to help you make an informed decision.

Now, let’s put pencil to paper and dig in.


The Best Mechanical Pencil for Writing

The Parker Jotter 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil was an easy pick for us when it came to the best mechanical pencil for writing and taking notes. Parker is possibly the longest-standing titan of the pen and pencil industry, and this fantastic model comes in their iconic Jotter design for the first time.

It’s a sleek and comfortable stainless steel model, which comes packaged in a fancy Parker gift box. It’s built to sit at your desk until the day you retire and even has an eraser on top, under the metal cap.

The Best Mechanical Pencil for Drawing

The Pentel Sharp Kerry 0.7mm Mechanical Pencil is our top pick for mechanical pencils for drawing. It’s got a large body design, almost like a paintbrush. The pencil comes with an eraser, and also has a cap so that it won’t poke holes in your pocket when you’re carrying it around.

Many have found the larger body of the pencil to be ideal for drawing, whether doing illustration, drafting, or mechanical drawings. The lead included is Pentel’s Super Hi-Polymer HB lead, which is some of the best, and clearest, for digital scanning. It’s also got a nifty bonus – if you buy the pink version, five cents will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Who knew that buying a mechanical pencil could be such an altruistic endeavour?

Our Favourite Expensive Mechanical Pencil

If you’ve got a bit extra to spend, the rOtring 600 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil is a great choice. It’s got a full-metal body, with a balanced weight to improve accuracy and reduce fatigue. The pencil also features a cross-hatched metallic grip to reduce slippage, and has a fixed lead guidance sleeve with just enough of a gap to allow any ruler to be used without issue.

One of the coolest features of this pencil, however, is the Lead Hardness indicator which identifies which lead grade you’re working with as you write. But, we’ll get into more of that later on in the review. It’s one of the most expensive mechanical pencils on this list, but the price is justified, as far as we’re concerned.


Best Mechanical Pencils Compared


The 10 Best Mechanical Pencils Reviewed

In this next section, we’re going to take a look at the top mechanical pencils individually. We’ve included pros and cons for each pencil, as well as a bulleted list of notable points from each pencil so that you can easily compare them at a glance. We’ve also listed $-$$$ as one of these attributes, so that you can get a rough idea of what each one might cost. Let’s take a closer look.

rOtring 600 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil Review

  • 0.5mm
  • $$$
  • Full-metal body
  • All-round use

The rOtring is not only one of the most cool mechanical pencils around (if you’re into German engineering, at least), but also one of the most effective. Its great design is also the first indicator of the pencil’s incredible build quality, with its red-accented hexagonal body and cross-hatched metal grip.

The rOtring 600 is built to last a lifetime, and is fully decked out with features such as its brass mechanism for extra precision when advancing the lead. A small eraser on the back, as well as a nifty lead hardness/grade indicator which shows you what you’re working with inside the pencil.

This is a great mechanical pencil for drawing, illustration, drafting or writing – it’s an all-rounder. It comes in a black or silver finish, and as well as 0.35mm, 0.5mm and 0.7mm variants.

Pros
  • Lead hardness grade indicator
  • Hexagonal body to prevent sliding on drawing tables
  • Different sizing options

Cons

  • It’s on the pricey end of things

Click to Check Price on Amazon

Parker Jotter 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil Review

  • 0.5mm
  • $$
  • Stainless steel barrel
  • Designed for writing and everyday use

You’ll probably know Parker’s Jotter pens from their status as the ‘best of the best’ of pens. They’re fancy looking, heavy and comfortable, and hold that status for a reason. So, it’s only natural Parker would eventually go on to release a mechanical pencil in the same iconic design. This stainless steel beauty makes for a fantastic lifelong desk-companion.

There’s really not all that much to this mechanical pencil. It’s well-built, made from stainless steel, and fits a 0.5mm lead. It’s a very comfortable everyday pencil, and while it doesn’t feature a grip, its design sits smoothly in the hand to allow for hours of use on end. It’s a well-built partner for anyone looking to invest in a mechanical pencil that’s going to be around for years.

Pros
  • Stainless steel body
  • Decent price for a Parker

Cons

  • Smooth finish without a grip

Click to Check Price on Amazon

Pentel Sharp Kerry 0.7mm Mechanical Pencil Review

  • 0.7mm
  • $
  • Plastic and metal body
  • Great for drawing and drafting

If you’re prepared to take a small hit in quality for a big saving when it comes to price, then the Sharp Kerry from Pentel is likely the model for you. It’s also got a wider, bigger design than most mechanical pencils – almost more similar to something like a fountain pen. If you’ve got long fingers or big hands, you might find this to aid in your motor skills quite a bit.

The Sharp Kerry comes in 0.5mm and 0.7mm sizes, both with an aluminium pen cap, so that the lead doesn’t poke holes in your shirt pocket. It comes in a number of different colours, and as we mentioned earlier, each purchase of the pink model sees five cents donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

While this isn’t as fancy a mechanical pencil as the Parker or rOtring models, it’ll do the trick just fine. It might even suit you a little better, depending on the kind of shape and design you’re looking for. With the super comfortable weighting and weight-balance of the Sharp Kerry, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell it’s a more budget-friendly option.

Pros
  • Multiple size and colour options
  • Comes with an aluminium pen cap

Cons

  • Not a full-metal body

Click to Check Price on Amazon

Aviation Magnetic Control 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil Review

  • 2.0mm
  • $
  • Aluminium pencil
  • Much thicker lead for rougher work

If you’re one to use pencils for marking woodwork, DIY or building – or even just need a larger lead size for bigger drawings or less-fine writing work – then this mechanical pencil is going to along the lines of what you’re looking for.

Apart from looking like a space-age pencil, the Aviation features a magnetic ring which is twisted to extend and retract the lead. The leads itself is 2.0mm in size, which is 4x the diameter of its 0.5mm competitors. This means that it’s best for making clear, large drawings, notes or marks, and probably won’t be the ideal mechanical pencil to write your thesis with – although you never know!

It’s got a very reasonable price, and seems quality-built and made to last. And while it’s quite specific in its intended use, it can form part of a great arsenal of different-sized mechanical pencils for different purposes.

Pros
  • Cool magnetic ring for extending lead
  • Sleek design
  • Great price

Cons

  • Large and specialized lead size

Click to Check Price on Amazon

Zebra M-301 0.7mm Mechanical Pencil Review

  • 0.7mm
  • $
  • Stainless steel body
  • Best price vs quality trade-off

The M-301 mechanical pencil from Zebra is one of the best quality mechanical pencils on this list, and has the added bonus of being very cheap. A twelve-pack costs about the same as the Parker Jotter pencil.

It’s a great all-rounder, with a shape and size appropriate for drawing, drafting, note-taking and writing for hours on end. It appears to be a popular choice for an every-day mechanical pencil, that you can carry around with you everywhere.

It’s got a lightweight and durable stainless steel body which is accented with a rubber grip for ergonomic assistance. While it doesn’t have too many extras or cool features, it’s a solid choice that won’t leave you disappointed.

Pros
  • Non-slip grip
  • Full metal body
  • Great price

Cons

  • None we could find

Click to Check Price on Amazon

Paper Mate ComfortMate 0.7mm Mechanical Pencil Review

  • 0.7mm
  • $
  • Oversized grip for ergonomics
  • Classic design

The ComfortMate from Paper Mate, which comes in both 0.5mm and 0.7mm variants is really not a very special, or unique mechanical pencil. It’s on this list because it’s a classic – it’s simple, reliable, and comfortable (especially for those with motor skills issues). It’s probably the most similar to any cheap mechanical pencil you’ve used in school or college – only better-built.

The hourglass, oversized rubber grip is a wonderful feature for those who have trouble writing with thin pencils, or lose their grip after writing or drawing for hours on end. The ComfortMate has a plastic body, with an eraser-cap keeping spare lead safe in place in the upper compartment.

This is a simple and reliable go-to if you’re looking for something that isn’t too fancy or convoluted, and something that’s familiar.

Pros
  • Ergonomic oversized grip
  • Comes in packs of 2, 4, 5 and 12

Cons

  • Comes with very low-quality lead

Click to Check Price on Amazon

Uni Core Keeps Sharp 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil Review

  • 0.5mm
  • $
  • Auto-rotating lead
  • Full-metal body

The full name of this mechanical pencil is the Kuru Toga Roulette. The first part of its name, ‘Kuru Toga’ means ‘auto-rotate pencil’ in Japanese when roughly translated. If you combine this with the idea of a roulette, a clearer picture starts to form.

Every time pressure is released, the rotation mechanism twists the lead a little. In simpler terms, this means that every time you lift your pencil from the page, the lead with turn slightly, ensuring that your lead is constantly round and pointed, and you’re never writing with a side that’s been worn flat. This is a cool and nifty innovation, and while not cheap, the price isn’t ridiculous either.

The Kuru Toga Roulette features a gunmetal body, with a metal cross-hatched grip which is sweat and slip resistant. It’s got incredibly strong build quality, and would be ideal for less office-friendly work – although it’ll obviously work great as your desktop writing-mate.

If you’re looking for a bit of extra care and attention, both in mechanical and product design, then this is the one for you. Bonus points for a cut-out hole, allowing you to watch the rotating mechanism do its thing while you do yours.

Pros
  • Gunmetal Body
  • Rotation Mechanism

Cons

  • A little on the pricey side

Click to Check Price on Amazon

Staedtler Mars 780 2mm Mechanical Pencil Review

  • 2mm
  • $$
  • Metal clip and push button
  • Great brand

The Mars from Staedtler, like the Aviation Magnetic Control, is a larger-sized mechanical pencil for more versatile technical or artistic use. It’s got a 2mm lead, which is four times the diameter of most of the other mechanical pencils on this list. But has its own host of uses for which a 0.5mm just won’t cut it.

The metal tip and grip are machined together to the inside of the pencil separate from the plastic body, so you won’t get any bits or pieces accidentally unscrewed or coming loose. It’s got a quality build despite the plastic body, and seems more than sturdy enough for work outdoors or on-site.

This is a less-fancy option than the Aviation Magnetic Control if you’re looking for a 2mm lead, and comes at a pretty decent price that’s not going to hurt your pocket.

Pros
  • Metal tip, clip and eraser cap
  • Comes with a sharpener on the eraser cap
  • Lightweight body

Cons

  • Plastic Body

Click to Check Price on Amazon

Pentel Click 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil Review

  • 0.5mm
  • $$
  • Clear Plastic Body
  • Side-click Lead Advance

The Pentel Click is another simple and classic mechanical pencil that’s really not doing anything special. But it’s made to be a reliable and simple option for those who aren’t looking for flair and fanciness.

It comes in a pack of twelve, which is pretty incredible for the price, and each pencil is made from a clear plastic when it comes to the body. There’s a button on the side for click lead-advancing, and a comfort grip to make long hours of use comfortable. The Click also has a large, long retractable eraser which can be extended and retracted using the rotating mechanism on the back end of the pencil.

This is a simple, great choice which won’t bankrupt you, nor leave your side for a good few years.

Pros
  • Retractable / Extendable eraser
  • Side-click advancement

Cons

  • Plastic body, but that’s not really a con

Click to Check Price on Amazon

Lamy L117 0.7mm Mechanical Pencil Review

  • 0.7mm
  • $$$
  • ABS plastic body
  • Built-in eraser with cleaning needle

This spacey-looking pencil from Lamy, the L117, is a high-end option for those looking to spend a little, to a lot more on a mechanical pencil. There’s nothing particularly special about it in terms of features – it’s got an eraser, rear-end click advancement, and a flexible shirt clip. It’s also built from ABS plastic, which is really sturdy – but still not quite on the same level as a metal body.

It’s the design, however, that sets this pencil apart. It’s got that look that sets it apart from other mechanical pencils, and it’ll stick out in a pile on the table. It’s got the tasteful design of a stealth-spaceship but lacks the features thereof, so it’s a bit of a weigh-off you’ve got to consider.

Pros
  • Great design

Cons

  • Price
  • Plastic Body

Click to Check Price on Amazon


How to Choose the Best Mechanical Pencil

While these mechanical pencils are all pretty similar, there are certainly a few things you’ll want to take note of when shopping around. These are all little factors which will affect how well said pencil works for you, so be sure to take note of them when you’re comparing your final choices.

Here are some things you’re going to want to look out for:

  • Is it a plastic or metal mechanical pencil?
  • What size of lead nib does it use?
  • Does it have an eraser, nib storage, or any other handy features?
  • Is it built to last?

When it comes to something like a mechanical pencil, the shape, size and feel in your hand is the primary factor that you’re going to want to get right. You want one which fits comfortably in your hand, is well-balanced, and is easy to write or draw with for hours on end, without fatigue. It’s often a good idea to use any old pens you have at home for reference – find your favourite, and see which of these pencils is the closest to what you’re looking for.

Now we’ve sorted that out, you’re prepped and ready to write for eternity. What comes next, is your medium or intent. If you’re using the pencil for mechanical or engineering drawings, you’re probably not going to want a 2.0mm lead size. Conversely, if you’re using your pencil primarily for design and drawing, it’s unlikely you’ll find it easy to do any shading with a 0.35mm nib. It’s important to pair up the size to what you’re going to be using it for – the same way one might have varying paintbrush widths that work for them.

This goes hand in hand with the features of the pencil – for example, if you got for a simple click-and-draw, you can’t expect too much in terms of versatility or flexibility. On the other hand, if you get a pencil that’s got a lead-grade sensor, built-in eraser and sharpener, and comes with a pen cap, you’re going to find your workflow a lot more seamless than it might otherwise be.

Lastly, you’re going to want to make sure your mechanical pencil is built to last. A good mechanical pencil can last you a lifetime, so it makes very little sense to buy one that won’t.

In Conclusion

There’s a lot to a mechanical pencil, but there’s also not that much to a mechanical pencil. It’s really all about what you’re looking for, and to what lengths it’s ‘just a pencil’ or ‘my most important tool’ to you personally.

It’s going to take a while to decide on a model, that much is for sure, so just remember to use our handy buyer’s guide, and to trust your gut when deciding. If you’re looking to take your art to the next level, why not take a look at our list of the best tablets for animation?

10 Best Monitors for Graphic Design 2019

10 Best Monitors for Graphic Design 2019

Most, if not all, enthusiasts of graphic design and animation have experienced issues with computer monitors. Whether it’s issues relating to brightness, contrast and colour; or the realisation that what you create on screen looks very different to what you print or publish – we’ve all been there.

We’re currently in an age where technology is advancing faster than ever, and computer monitors are no different. Access to better tech gets cheaper every year, and a great example of that lies in this review. Many of the monitors on this list outperform those used in design and animation for blockbuster films created five years ago.

We’ve put together this list of the ten best monitors for graphic design, to help you find the perfect colours, display size and functionality to help improve your work, and remove as many hiccups as possible in the process. We’ve gone in-depth with each review, listing all relevant specs and information you might need, as well as including a handy buyer’s guide at the end of the article to help you understand some of the more confusing tech used in the latest models of computer monitors.

Whether you’ve got a six-screen desktop setup, or are looking for a new monitor to plug your laptop into, we’ve got options for you. Now, let’s take a closer look at our contenders.

The Best Monitor for Artists

The EIZO ColorEdge CG2420-BK 24.1″ Professional Color Graphics Monitor is the best monitor for artists. It’s made for one purpose – digital art – and serves that purpose to the utmost degree (with a price point that shows they mean business).

The wide-gamut IPS LED display (with accurate colour calibration, and a bundled calibration sensor) displays an astounding 99% Adobe RGB Coverage, 1000:1 contrast ratio, and a somewhat lacking but still great 10ms response time.

This EIZO monitor is going to produce some of the most accurate colour you’ve ever seen (or haven’t seen, because most monitors can’t produce the same colours), and is going to leave you with no colour or accuracy woes for the rest of your days.

Overall Best Graphic Design Monitor

The Philips Brilliance 329P9H 31.5″ 4K IPS Monitor is our top pick overall for the best graphic design monitor.

With a fantastic 10-bit IPS panel displaying over 1 Billion colours with wide viewing angles; covering 87% of Adobe RGB and 90% of NTSC Colour gamut over a 4K display, this monitor hits consistently high in all required fields for graphic design while maintaining a reasonable price point.

Apart from this, the great I/O options, built-in USB-C docking station, MultiClient Integrated KVM and smart swivelling base make it an obvious choice for workflow and ease-of-access.

Best Cheap Monitor for Designers

The Dell Ultrasharp U2718Q 27″ 4K IPS Monitor is our top pick for the best cheap monitor for graphic designers and animators.

Dell is known for making some great quality computer monitors, and this one is no different. With a 27” 4K display, very thin bezels, Dell HDR and two USB 3.0 Ports on the left monitor side it’s a great trade-off between price and performance.

It’s not only one of the most affordable monitors on this list, but one of the best within that category too. It also rotates to a vertical mode, which can really come in handy if you’re working on print-format design work.


Monitors for Graphic Design Compared

Name Image Best for Rating $-$$$ Buy
ASUS ProArt 32" 4K Professional Monitor Graphic Design, Photo and Animation 8 $$ Check Price
EIZO ColorEdge CG2420-BK 24.1" Professional Color Graphics Monitor Graphic Design, Photo and Animation 8.5 $$$ Check Price
BenQ PV3200PT 32" 4K IPS Post-Production Monitor Graphic Design, Photo and Animation 9 $$$ Check Price
Lenovo ThinkVision P27h-10 27" Monitor All-Round 7 $ Check Price
Dell Ultrasharp U2718Q 27" 4K IPS Monitor Graphic Design, Photo and Animation 7.5 $ Check Price
ViewSonic ColorPro VP3881 38" WQHD Curved Ultrawide Monitor Graphic Design, Photo and Animation 9 $$ Check Price
Samsung UH750 31.5" 4K Monitor All-Round 8 $ Check Price
LG 27MD5KB-B UltraFine 27" 5K IPS Monitor Mac Users for Graphic Design, Photo and Animation 10 $$$ Check Price
Philips Brilliance 329P9H 31.5" 4K IPS Monitor Offices and Collaborative Workspaces 9 $$ Check Price
Acer Nitro XV273K 27" 4K IPS Monitor Graphic Design, Photo and Animation 8 $ Check Price

The 10 Best Monitors for Graphic Design Reviewed

Here’s our roundup of the ten best graphic design monitors currently on the market. You’ve got an idea of the winners in different categories, but these are the in-depth reviews.

You’ll notice we’ve added a few important buying points to each, as well as a list of pros and cons, so you can compare and consider at a glance, without a headache. We’ve also included a price rating of $-$$$ so you can see what kind of range they’re in at a glance.

Be sure to also check out our buyer’s guide section at the end of the article which explains what you should be looking for in a monitor, as well as some of the confusing terms that are used for colour, size and resolution specs.

ASUS ProArt PA328Q 32″ 4K Professional Monitor Review

  • 32-inch 4K/UHD Display
  • 100% sRGB Colour Gamut
  • Three-Directional Adjustment with Tilt
  • Four Built-in USB 3.0 Slots
  • $$

The ASUS ProArt is named as such for a reason. While it’s not as advanced as the EIZO monitors in terms of colour gamut, it’s a great contender at a far lower price point. It’s great for animation, graphic design and even video editing, thanks to its features and specs. Do note that there’s an Adobe RGB version of this monitor offering 99.5% Adobe RGB colour gamut, however, we’re looking at the sRGB model.

The monitor arrives with a non-glare surface to ease long use in bright environments. It has a 6ms Gray to Gray response time, over a 3840×2160 display, with stereo speakers, input selection and a 5-way OSD navigation joystick for easy menu access. There are two HDMI ports, 4 USB 3.0 ports for easy plug n play, and few more I/O ports for added versatility.

This monitor is an all-round great choice. It has the bonus of being wall-mountable, low-power, and has a low-blue-light mode to aid with your sleeping patterns for late night or early morning use.

Pros
  • RGB to sRGB Colour Switching
  • Pre-calibrated Matte Display
  • Thin bezels

Cons

  • USB slots on monitor side, or on top if rotated
  • Monitor stand is very, very large

Click to Check Price on Amazon

EIZO ColorEdge CS2730-BK-CNX 27″ Professional Color Graphics Monitor Review

  • 27-inch 2K QHD Display
  • 99% Adobe RGB Colour Gamut
  • Five-year warranty covering colour accuracy
  • Three-directional adjustment
  • Hardware Calibrated
  • $$$

This ColourEdge monitor from EIZO is a beast, all things considered. It’s built to last and created for two things: accurate colour, and lasting picture. It’s the gem of gems when it comes to graphic design monitors, as far as we’re concerned, and its specs show that to be true. So does the price point, however.

The monitors Wide-Gamut IPS LED display can achieve an astounding 99% Adobe RGB colour range, making it a must-have for anyone doing large-scale print production design. This is the kind of colour gamut you’d want if you were creating a building-sized print wrap or something of a similar scale.

One downside of these specs is that the resolution is somewhat smaller than most monitors with a lower colour range, at 2560 x 1440 pixels. This is likely because a higher resolution, in combination with the rest of the specs, would bump the price up a fair bit.

The monitor has DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI inputs, as well as a 1000:1 colour ratio. It has a 10ms grey-to-grey response time, meaning it’s not amazing for gaming – not that you’re going to have any time for that when you try your hand at animation or design on this monitor.

Pros
  • Comes with a light-shielding hood
  • Arrives with a colour calibration tool
  • USB upstream for monitor control
  • Wall Mountable

Cons

  • Very high price point

Click to Check Price on Amazon

BenQ PV3200PT 32″ 4K IPS Post-Production Monitor Review

  • 32-inch UHD Display
  • Comes with Palette Master Element Color Calibration Software
  • 100% sRGB Colour Gamut
  • Calibrated for Brightness Uniformity
  • Remote OSD Controller
  • $$$

This monitor for BenQ was initially designed for post-production, and as such is obviously appropriate for graphic design and animation. This is one of the things we love about BenQ – they design their products with utility in mind.

Displaying a 100% sRGB colour gamut over a 32-inch display with a max resolution of 3840×2160, this monitor is perfect for anything from home animation work, to professional level graphic design. It’s LED backlit, with a 1000:1 native contrast, and a 60Hz refresh rate, making it great for hands-on design with a tablet or pen mouse.

It’s got HDMI, DisplayPort, MiniDisplayPort, USB Upstream and Downstream ports, as well as an SD slot and USB 3.0 port so you don’t have to dig around under your desk to plug all your devices in.

All in all, it’s a great monitor on all fronts if you can afford to spend a little more. It’s a little over the top for most home users, but it could certainly be the upgrade you’re looking for if you’re a professional or a professional-to-be.

Pros
  • Fantastic Calibration
  • Refresh Rate can be adjusted to 75Hz
  • Hotkey Puck Tool for OSD Settings

Cons

  • High price point
  • Calibration can be required frequently dependant on work environment

Click to Check Price on Amazon

Lenovo ThinkVision P27h-10 27″ Monitor Review

  • 27-inch QHD IPS Display
  • Great Price
  • 99% sRGB colour gamut
  • 4 Built-in USB3.0 Ports with quick charging
  • Three-directional adjustment with tilt
  • $

If you’re looking for a monitor that’s on the cheaper end of things, yet one that’s still got a large visual space to work with, as well as a great display and some nice nifty additions, then this ThinkVision model is the one for you.

While it won’t outperform any of the high-end monitors we’ve listed here, the drop price is a lot greater than the drop in performance. This makes it perfect for beginners, those on a budget, or anyone looking to pimp out their desk with two smaller monitors on either side of their main one.

With a 99% sRGB colour gamut, four fast-charge USB3.0 ports, a large 2560×1440 px IPS display, it’s meeting almost all of the add-on spec requirements of all the big players we’ve reviewed here. Connectivity options include USB-C, 2x HDMI, and DisplayPort both in and out. It’s also TUV Eye Comfort-certified, meaning it’s great for long periods of repeated use.

When you combine all of these features with its low price, wonderful glossy finish, and near borderless design, it makes for a great monitor. While you might not achieve a professional-industry standard, 100% accurate colour in the rarest of instances; this monitor gets you ninety-nine percent of the way there.

Pros
  • Great sRGB Coverage vs Price
  • Thin borders are great for multiple-monitor setups
  • Energy-saving

Cons

  • Some might need more I/O options

Click to Check Price on Amazon

Dell Ultrasharp U2718Q 27″ 4K IPS Monitor Review

  • 27-inch 4K/UHD IPS Display
  • Thin Bezels
  • Dell HDR-enabled
  • RF / Bluetooth 4.0 Compatible
  • $

If you’ve got a little more to spend than the previous Lenovo monitor, then you’re in for a treat. This monitor is our pick of ‘best cheap monitor for designers’ for good reason.

Dell pulled out all the stops with the latest Ultrasharp model, to provide a monitor that saves on costs, but doesn’t compromise on quality. While this monitor may lack some of the fancier flairs of the industry-level monitors on this list, this is a beast of a contender at an astonishingly low price.

First and foremost, the thin and tastefully designed borders, in addition to the 90-degree swivel, make this line of monitors very popular for multiple-display setups. If you’ve seen a desktop setup with monitors in sequence divided by perfect-looking, thin borders, then this is likely the monitor you’ve seen.

Encased within these super-thin borders is a 27-inch 4K IPS display, with a 1300:1 contrast ratio, three-directional adjustment with tilt, a 5ms response time and a 99.9% sRGB colour gamut. It’s got a 178-degree viewing angle, making it perfect for wall-mounting or alternate-placement setups, and it means that you won’t experience a hue shift when working with the monitor at an angle.

It’s also got a whole host of I/O support, with HDMI and DisplayPort, audio line out, one USB upstream port and two USB downstream ports. The Dell HDR is a nice addition, but it’s also just a minimal pro in the larger scheme of this monitor. The HDR10 support, however, is great, and instantly noticeable when the monitor is connected to a PS4.

All in all, this is a fantastic modern monitor meeting all industry standards, that would probably be a wise purchase even if you’re not doing animation or graphic design work. The price makes it all the more worth the while, although the base specs and standards are really what drive this monitor home as a winner.

Pros
  • Well-calibrated
  • Great connectivity options
  • Comes with a 3-year warranty

Cons

  • Not ‘true’ HDR
  • Limited Apple Colour Gamut Support
  • nVidia G-Sync / AMD FreeSync lack support

Click to Check Price on Amazon

ViewSonic ColorPro VP3881 38″ WQHD Curved Ultrawide Monitor Review

  • 38-inch 4K WQHD+ IPS Display
  • 100% sRGB Colour Gamut
  • HDR10 Content Support
  • Good I/O Connectivity
  • 2300R Curve
  • $$

First off, there are two things to note about this particular monitor. Firstly, it’s made for professionals who want a little something extra out of their monitor. Secondly, the price point reflects this target market pretty well – this is likely a monitor best left-avoided unless you’ve either got a huge budget or are really looking to step up your workspace.

This monitor has a massive 38-inch WQHD+ Display at an aspect ratio of 21:9. This means it’s a wide, quad-HD plus display, ie. a 4K max resolution, over a wide display with a curve radius of 2300. It’s also got an ultra-wide viewing angle of 178-degrees both vertical and horizontal. When combined with the anti-glare hard coating, as well as the 100% sRGB Colour Gamut, it’s a beast when it comes to dealing with graphic design and animation work.

The monitor also features a whole host of connectivity options. It’s got 2 HDMI Ports, a DisplayPort, a USB-C port, as well as 3 Down / 1 Up USB 3.0 connectivity. This means you can just about never touch your laptop or desktop’s connectivity ports again, keeping your workflow simple and streamlined.

All in all, this is just about the Porsche of all the monitors on this list. If you’ve not used a curved monitor for work before, you’ll probably want to give one a try before spending so much on a curved monitor, although if you’re going to bite the bullet you won’t be disappointed. There’s not much other to this monitor, as the specs speak for themselves, so you’ll have to find out the rest for yourself.

Pros
  • Huge screen
  • Great connectivity options
  • Well calibrated, and easy to adjust

Cons

  • Crazy price
  • Not ‘true’ HDR10 support, but very close

Click to Check Price on Amazon

Samsung UH750 31.5″ 4K Monitor Review

  • 31.5-Inch 4K UHD QLED Display
  • Picture-in-Picture and Picture-by-Picture Support
  • 125% sRGB Colour Gamut
  • Great reviews
  • $

This is another of the more affordable, and less specialized options on this list. Most popular for Xbox One and PS4 use, as per its reviews, this monitor produces a great, clear picture (with good colour, likely the reason it’s so popular for console use) and sits at a comfortable price point for such a wide screen.

The monitor features a maximum resolution of 3840×2160 (4K) over a 31.5-inch display, with 125% sRGB colour gamut, a 4ms GTG response time, 3000:1 static contrast ratio, a 178-degree horizontal and vertical viewing angle, as well as a stunningly low 100W Power consumption. It’s really topped out all of the specs in these categories, as well as having all the standard features of Samsung monitors such as MagicBright mode, a wall mount, an eco saving setting, and an eye-saver mode.

This Samsung monitor also has 2 HDMI inputs, 4 USB 3.0 ports, a mini DisplayPort and standard DisplayPort, and a headphone jack. It’s also got tilt, swivel and pivot, all-in-all meaning you could probably connect your laptop to it and never touch the laptop itself ever again.

If you’re looking for a nice monitor upgrade, mainly in terms of pure screen size, but additionally colour reproduction and image clarity, then this is a fantastic option. It’s not the professional upgrade, but rather the every-day use and multi-purpose upgrade, which you’ll struggle to find a good competitor for. It is, however, more than enough for most professional work in graphic design and animation, and a lot more versatile than some of the monitors geared towards these sectors.

Pros
  • Great price
  • Well-designed
  • Amazing and versatile colour reproduction

Cons

  • Can wobble if desk is bumped

Click to Check Price on Amazon

LG 27MD5KB-B UltraFine 27″ 5K IPS Monitor Review

  • 27-Inch 5K IPS Display
  • Built for use with a Mac
  • Thunderbolt 3 / USB C Inputs
  • DCI-P3 99% Colour Gamut
  • $$$

This monitor is not just the only 5K monitor on this list, but also the only one that doesn’t use sRGB or Adobe RGB colour gamut – rather DCI-P3. It’s pretty unique in these ways, but in others, it’s a pretty standard hulk of a monitor. Not everyone needs a 5K monitor, but those who do will find just about everything they’re looking for in this one.

Firstly, the DCI-P3 gamut is likely to display more of the CMYK colour range than your current sRGB monitor – that’s the only real difference. This monitor delivers a 5K display (5120×2880 px) at 27 inches, essentially allowing for a 27-inch retina display monitor. It’s built to reproduce the detail of a Mac, as is shown with its rare Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. This port is impressively able to transmit 5K video and data, while simultaneously charging a new MacBook Pro over a single cable.

Apart from the great IPS Panel, the monitor also features two pretty strong stereo speakers, as monitor speakers go, as well as three USB-C ports, a camera, an ambient light sensor, a mic, wall mounting, and a sleek look to top it all off.

This is the professional’s monitor, for the professional who’s a Mac user, and looking for the best screen quality, colour and detail reproduction that money can buy. Sure, it won’t come cheap, but it’s all the more worth it when you look at how fine-tuned it is to these specifications.

Pros
  • Good brightness
  • Works well with AMD Freesync
  • Designed for use with Mac
  • VESA Mount

Cons

  • Half-inch space between screen end and bezel

Click to Check Price on Amazon

Philips Brilliance 329P9H 31.5″ 4K IPS Monitor Review

  • 31.5-inch 4K UHD IPS Display
  • 87% Adobe RGB / 90% NTSC
  • Built-in KVM Switch
  • Hide-away webcam
  • Light sensor
  • $$

This Philips Brilliance monitor not only offers a great display and fantastic colour reproduction, but also has features that make it perfect for sitting in a conference room or office, for use with team members or clients, or collaborators on whatever it is you’re working on.

The screen itself is a 31.5” 4K UHD 10-bit IPS Panel. It offers fantastic brightness and clarity, as well as a strong colour gamut at 87% Adobe RGB and 90% NTSC. It has two HDMI ports, a DisplayPort in and out, USB-C, audio in/out, and astoundingly, an ethernet port.

The reason we’re glossing over the specs, as impressive as they are, is that the real benefits of this monitor appear from its workflow-oriented design. It’s got built-in KVM, meaning you can have two computers connected and working side-by-side on screen, simultaneously with individual controls. This is great for everything from presentations, collaborations, and even training programmes or tests.

It’s also got a webcam, which slides into the top of the monitor when not in use, a built-in USB C docking station with power delivery, making it an all-in-one cable for all things display, data, and power. The monitor also features a SmartErgoBase, which allows for super-simple rotation and movement, a great feature to use in hand with the other abilities of this monitor.

As we said before, this is a monitor for the workplace – if you’re working solo, or freelance, on your own or with a small team, it’s likely not the one for you (although the picture and colour would certainly still meet your standards). This monitor works, and fits best in a busy work environment where there’s much to be done, and with ease.

Pros
  • Built-in KVM
  • The best connectivity in this list
  • Good Adobe Colour Gamut coverage

Cons

  • All the extra features are not of much use to the home user

Click to Check Price on Amazon

Acer Nitro XV273K 27″ 4K IPS Monitor Review

  • 27-Inch 4K UHD IPS Display
  • 120Hz Refresh Rate
  • 130% sRGB coverage
  • 2 Speakers
  • Comes with a shielding hood
  • $$

If you’re working with animation or video games, or graphic design related to gaming, then this monitor’s likely already on your radar. It’s got all the requirements of a great gaming monitor built in a versatile format, allowing it to be used for animation and graphics work with great success. While the price is a little steep, it’s still a steal considering some of the features you’re getting from this monitor.

With a 3840×2160 px 4K display, this monitor delivers a huge image. It’s nVidia G-Sync compatible, with a 120Hz refresh rate which can be overclocked further to 144Hz using two display ports. The screen covers 130% of the sRGB space, as well as 95% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut, which is incredibly wide even for the monitors on this list.

The monitor is adjusted and configured to be easy on the eyes for long periods of repeated use, and this is only helped by the included shielding hood which aids focus, and removes glare (as well as helping colour representation fall on a more consistent basis. The monitor also has 2 DisplayPort connectors, as well as 2 HDMI, and 4 USB 3.0 ports. More than enough for most gamers and designers.

This monitor really is a great compromise of price and quality, and it works great for anyone looking for a sharp, clear image with fantastic colour and performance.

Pros
  • Great refresh rate
  • Good price
  • Wide colour gamut

Cons

  • Light Bleed issues
  • HDR isn’t great

Click to Check Price on Amazon


What to look for in Monitors for Designers and Animators

There are quite a few factors to consider when buying a monitor. Understanding these factors better, as well as many of the confusing terms used for monitor specs, will help you make a more informed decision, and end up with a monitor that’s perfect for you.

The most obvious and simple factors are shape and size. If you’re working from a tiny coffee table, you probably won’t want a 34” ultrawide monitor – and conversely, if you’ve got a giant workspace, an 18” little LED monitor probably isn’t ideal. Monitor sizes are measured diagonally, and as such it’s a good idea to take out your tape measure, and create a cardboard cutout of the screen size you’re looking at to see how it’ll sit in your workspace.

Related to this, but slightly less important is the base. More and more people are going for wall-mounted monitors so as to save on desk space and clutter – so if you’re looking for a wall-mountable one, be sure to double check the specs.

Connectors are also a very important factor. There’s no use in buying a monitor for graphic design if you’re going to end up using a converter attachment to connect it to your graphics card. This can cause issues with colour, tearing, and other less-obvious areas – so always be sure to double check that the I/O ports on the monitor are compatible with your existing setup.

Another factor that’s a little more of a luxury is a USB connection. Many ‘professional’ style monitors for designers and animators are starting to arrive with USB ports built into them, to make plugging in and removing devices easier. We’d really recommend this as a feature in your monitor of choice as solves a lot of headaches of being a designer. A few seconds saved each day adds up.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the terms you might have heard used in monitor specs and descriptions. They’re all pretty simple when you understand them, and knowing what they mean will help you make a more informed decision when it comes to biting the bullet.

What is an IPS Monitor?

IPS is a type of LCD Panel, like OLED (which you’ve likely heard of in the last few years). The type of LCD panel used in a monitor affects things such as contrast ratio, viewing angle, response time and black levels.

IPS stands for “In-Plane Switching”, referring to the shifting patterns of the liquid crystals in the display (LCD stands for ‘Liquid Crystal Display’). In short, this means that IPS monitors have the ability to produce more accurate colour performance and consistency, at a higher range of viewing angles (up to 178 degrees vertically and horizontally).

IPS monitors can also display different colour ranges, such as Adobe RGB – imperative for serious graphic designers who are trying to keep up with professional agencies.

What is Contrast Ratio

Contrast ratio refers to the ratio of luminance (or brightness) between the darkest dark, and the brightest white on the screen. In most cases, a higher contrast ratio is better.

Static Contrast ratio refers to a measurement of this ratio at a single point in time, where as Dynamic Contrast Ratio refers to a measurement taken over a period of time. In most cases, the static contrast ratio is the most important, and the figure to keep an eye on.

Do keep in mind, however, since most manufacturers test their own contrast ratios, it can be a less-accurate metric on which to compare monitors. It’s one of the aspects of computer monitors that is often abused for advertisement/catch-phrase purposes. For example, your 1 000 000:1 contrast ratio probably isn’t quite that high.

sRGB and Adobe RGB Explained

This is where things get a little confusing, and this comparison probably isn’t super important to you unless you’re an industry professional looking to go the extra mile. As a precursor, gamut refers to the range of colours available in a given monitor, or application. Note that the range refers to the difference between the colours, not the number of colours.

sRGB is “standard Red, Green, Blue”, and is the industry standard pretty much entirely, throughout the world, for everyday application. It’s got a smaller range of colours than Adobe RGB. It’s used in almost every app, web browser, and design tool you use every day, and has the bonus of helping maintain consistency over all platforms.

Adobe RGB, on the other hand, allows for a higher range of colours, or colour gamut, over the same number of colours. While this can cause issues in terms of being displayed on sRGB tools, or accidentally converted to sRGB when opened with the wrong program, there are some upsides.

Obviously, the higher colour range is desirable for print and production, allowing you to be far more accurate with your colours than you can with sRGB. It can also be converted to sRGB down the production line, making it a little more reversible than the former.

Largely, however, noone but the real professionals will be able to tell the difference. In addition, You’ll have to adjust your workflow to incorporate this somewhat rare and tricky colour range in a manner that doesn’t cause issues – so always be sure to double check what your monitor supports, and if it can switch.

What does UltraWide, 4K QHD and 5K mean?

These terms all relate back to monitor size, but less so on a physical level. 1920×1080 pixels is the standard minimum for what makes a FullHD image. This is the basis on which most of these terms are constructed, so knowing that, let’s break them down simply.

  • UltraWide – This refers to monitors with an aspect ratio significantly higher than 2:1. For example, a 4K UltraWide display has an aspect ratio of 12:5, instead of the usual 16:9 for a standard 4K display.
  • 4K – This refers to a monitor or image with a horizontal resolution of 4000 pixels or more.
  • 5K, 8K etc – Like 4K, the name denotes the horizontal resolution of the screen. For example, an 8K television has a minimum resolution of 8000 px horizontally.
  • QHD / WQHD – QHD means Quad HD. This means that any screen of 2K resolution or more meets the QHD minimum. If a 2K screen has twice the horizontal resolution of an HD screen, then it has the same vertically – meaning it’s four-times the minimum Full HD resolution. WQHD or Wide-Quad HD is essentially the same thing, only emphasising that the screen in question has a widescreen style display, ie. a higher aspect ratio.

All in all, you’ve got to take all of these factors into consideration when you’re looking for a new monitor. They’ll help you understand the decisions you’re making, as well as which specs you’re winning and losing in.

While colour gamut, for example, might not be as important to a hobbyist designer, it’s still cool to know what it means, and help you make informed decisions.


In Conclusion

These reviews have surely been a confusing affair of specs, stats, comparisons and numbers, but you should have a pretty good idea by now, regardless of where you’re headed. Be sure to refer to our buyer’s guide when choosing your final product, and we’d recommend always checking out a YouTube video or two before making your final purchase.

We hope you can find the perfect monitor for you, and would love it if you shared any of your latest creations on your new monitor for our community to check out!

10 Best Graphics Card Under $100 (2019 Guide)

10 Best Graphics Card Under $100 (2019 Guide)

In the current technological climate, as prices fall and spec standards rise as they do, having a powerful graphics card is an integral part of working as a digital creative.

With even your most mid-range laptops arriving with non-integrated graphics, and some even having more powerful cards than their package-built desktop counterparts, there’s really no excuse for not having a decent GPU in your daily-driver rig. While tech may be innovating at an astonishing rate, a good old GPU remains a staple.

However, we really don’t have to fork out hundreds and thousands to get good performance these days. While you might be dreaming of a new RTX card that’s going to cost you a month’s rent, this is not necessarily the only option. Whether you’re doing animation, design, playing games or even just watching 4K movies, you can get some fantastic power and performance at a much more reasonable price from a cheaper card.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, this is probably information you’re familiar with.

In this article, we’re going to look at this year’s best graphics cards for under $100. We’ve reviewed different cards from different manufacturers, with varying specs and abilities, in order to best showcase what GPUs under $100 have to offer. Let’s boot up and get those fans spinning!


The Best GPU Under $100 for Animation

The ZOTAC GeForce GT 730 Zone Edition 4GB is our overall favorite for the best GPU under $100 for animation. While you probably know you’re not going to get a bomb upgrade to your animation rig with a $100 graphics card, this is still quite the baby beast.

If you’re currently sitting with a less powerful or outdated card, you’re going to see a really nice jump in performance if you upgrade to one of these. Provided, of course, you have the necessary 8-16GB RAM, a decent processor, and an SSD.

Our Top Graphics Card Under $100 for Gaming

The NVIDIA GeForce GT 1030 OC 2GB is our top pick for the best gaming graphics card under $100. We chose it as our top pick for this category as it comes with some great features designed for gaming. These features include a full 4K / 60Hz Quad HD Output; one-click overclocking, as well as drawing very little power, and being quite customizable through Gigabyte’s included control software.

The Best Video Card Under $100 to run in Crossfire / SLI

The MSI AMD Radeon R7240 2GB is your best bet if you’re looking for a graphics card under $100 that you can easily run in Crossfire / SLI. This model, being AMD, supports Crossfire and allows you to run two graphics cards linked as one enhanced graphics processing unit. Further down in our review of the card, we talk about the pros and cons of this feature, and go into a little more detail.


Best Graphics Cards Under $100 Compared

Graphics Cards Under $100 Reviewed

Here are our favorite 10 graphics cards under $100 that we reviewed. You’ll see each one has a handy pros and cons table, as well as some notable features listed for each, making it easier to understand and compare them at a glance. We’ve also listed a budget rating ($ – $$$) for each card, so you can see if it’s cheap, mid-level or pricey.

MSI Gaming GeForce GT 710 2GB Review

  • 2048MB DDR3 1600MHz
  • DVI, HDMI, and D-Sub Outputs
  • Supports DX12
  • Max Resolution of 2560 x 1600
  • $

The GeForce GT 710 2GB from MSI Gaming is a solid, mid-range graphics card with a price well under the $100 mark. It’s a great daily driver, that supports just over 1440p display – quite a feat for such a cheap card, and one you would have paid around four times as much for a few years back.

It’s got a great compact design, making it perfect for small stealth builds, or a homemade Steam Machine. It’s got Afterburner Overclocking Capabilities, and with 2GB DDR3 RAM, DirectX 12 and a 954MHz core. It’s great for design work, doing some basic animation, or playing some games at a decent quality level.

Sure, you’re not going to be racking up 60fps on the latest Battlefield on Ultra settings, but with enough RAM, an SSD and a decent CPU, you’re going to be well-equipped to bring your setup up a notch, to the next level. It’s a simple, sturdy and well-rounded card that won’t leave you disappointed, adding a little kick into the mix.

Pros
  • Only uses 20W of power
  • Overclockable
  • Occupies 1 PCI slot

Cons

  • Doesn’t support 4K resolution

Click to Check Price on Amazon

NVIDIA GeForce GT 1030 OC 2GB Review

  • 2048MB GDDR5 6008MHz
  • HDMI and DVI Output
  • 4K@60Hz Resolution
  • $$

The GeForce GT 1030 OC 2GB is a powerhouse at a steal from Gigabyte, as far as we’re concerned. It’s got incredible power for such a small little card, and at less than double the price of the MSI GT 710, it’s got great bang for your buck.

While small in form factor, the GT 1030 has some great features that one might only expect in a higher-end card. For this very reason, it’s our pick for our favorite GPU Under $100 for gaming. Some of these features include one-click overclocking, full 4K / 60Hz resolution, two gigs of GDDR5 RAM, and a whole host of possibilities in terms of tweaking and optimization using Gigabyte’s included command center.

The card runs using very little power (running more than efficiently on a 300-350W power supply), and is built in the ATX form factor, with fans built to run silently and powerfully. It’s a great purchase if you’re looking to upgrade your gaming rig on a budget. It can also manage to hit 60fps on most non-AAA without much of a drop in graphics settings – this makes it a bit of an everyman in the budget gaming department.

Pros
  • 4K / 60Hz Resolution
  • Easy Install
  • Runs cool and quietly

Cons

  • No-dual HDMI monitor support

Click to Check Price on Amazon

ZOTAC GeForce GT 730 Zone Edition 4GB Review

  • 4096MB DDR3 1600MHz
  • HDMI, DVI and CRT outputs
  • Full 4K Resolution
  • $$

The GeForce GT 730 Zone Edition from ZOTAC is our top pick for a budget GPU under $100 for animation, as it’s got a whole lot of RAM and a decent processor too. It’s got a very small form factor, which is made up mostly of its heatsink (there’s no fan on this card) so be sure that your case has adequate cooling before setting your sights on this baby beast.

The GT 730 4GB has a host of great features which make up for the lack of performance when it’s compared to newer, similar cards on the market. Some of these features include it being triple-display ready; using only 25-watts of power (meaning one can easily run it on a 300W power supply), supporting full 4K Quad HD resolution, as well as having a low profile form factor.

Now, while this is a 4GB card, the memory is a little slower on this one, as well as the processor, compared to, for example, a 2GB GDDR5 card. This card is a little outdated and starting to reach a point of outdated performance. However, if you’re without a graphics card in your setup, or currently using one with lower performance and handling than this one, then it’s a no brainer to upgrade your animation rig with this little fighter.

Pros
  • 4K Full Quad HD Resolution
  • Triple-Display Ready
  • Low Profile Form Factor

Cons

  • RAM and Clock speed might be too slow for some
  • Handling with games is inconsistent

Click to Check Price on Amazon

EVGA GeForce GT 1030 SC 2GB Review

  • 2048MB GDDR5 6008MHz
  • HDMI and DVI Output
  • DX12 Compatible
  • 4K Full Quad HD Resolution
  • $$$

The GeForce GT 1030 SC from EVGA is a great card, and while it just about hits the $100 mark, you’re not going to find much better performance for the same price. It comes loaded with a fair bit of fast memory, a more-than-decent clock, as well as a whole host of NVIDIA support that comes included, such as NVIDIA GPU Boost 3.0, Vulkan API and many more.

The card clocks in with 2GB of high-speed RAM, as well as being DX12 compatible, and has both HDMI 2.0b and DVI outputs. It has built-in 3D gaming support, and was designed to be used for 3D gaming as part of NVIDIA’s foray into that field.

While 3D gaming hasn’t quite taken off as predicted, this build still makes the card great for standard gaming, as well as animation. You could also use it quite efficiently for video editing, and rendering when combined with the power of a good CPU.

All in all, this card is quite a run-of-the-mill, powerful, yet reasonably-priced option. It’s also a bit of a do-it-all, in that you could use it for animation, gaming, video editing, or even just for a performance boost in your desktop overall.

Pros
  • DX12 Compatible
  • 3D Gaming Support
  • Comes with a host of handy NVIDIA features
  • Includes a swap-out low profile bracket

Cons

  • Low Profile and High Profile Brackets take a bit of fiddling to swap out

Click to Check Price on Amazon

ASUS AMD Radeon R7 250 1GB Review

  • 102MB DDR5 SDRAM
  • Supports DX12
  • 2560 x 1600 Max Resolution
  • $$$

This little 1GB card from Asus really isn’t anything special – but that’s not to say it’s not any good. It’s basic, yet powerful for its size, and has quite good support for modern gaming and animation integration. While it’s not the most powerful card you’ll find for under $100, it’s one of the most reliable, and a great quality model at that.

The Radeon R7 250 from ASUS comes with 1GB high-speed DDR5 Ram and supports a 2K resolution running DirectX 12. It uses a PCI-e 3.0 connector, and has a low profile form factor, and a dust-proof fan which increases the life of the card by up to 25% – quite a smart achievement, as far as we’re concerned, as we know how much of a killer dust can be.

The card also comes with ASUS’ GPU Tweak II, allowing you to customize performance and capabilities on the fly, as well as their signature one-click gaming booster for an instant jump in performance and handling.

This is a pretty simple and straightforward card, and is perfect if you’re looking for a basic, solid upgrade with no frills, a great build quality, and enough performance to handle all your day to day and basic creative stuff.

Pros
  • 2K support
  • Runs non-AAA titles without much effort
  • Decent all-rounder for a small upgrade

Cons

  • Price is a little steep when compared to performance.

Click to Check Price on Amazon

ViewMax GeForce GT 740 4GB Review

  • 4096MB GDDR3
  • DX12 Compatible
  • HDMI, DVI and CRT Out
  • 4K Full Quad HD
  • $$

While buying a graphics card from a relatively new or unknown manufacturer can always be a bit daunting, with the market for graphics card being dominated by a few titans. As such, many will avoid GPUs from brands they don’t know.

However, the ViewMax GeForce GT 740 is a card that defies these expectations. With a high-quality NVIDIA chipset and great specs, it’s a perfect example of why sticking to what you know best isn’t always the right move.

This card comes with a whopping 4GB of high-speed RAM, is compatible with the latest DirectX and OpenGL, as well as supporting all common output types in a 4K Full Quad HD resolution.

It comes with all the frills of a top-end NVIDIA graphics card, such as NVIDIA’s adaptive vsync technology, unified architecture, PhysX and CUDA technologies. All these, in combination with the specs, help this card get the utmost performance capability on its budget-limited build. It would have otherwise been our pick for the best graphics card under $100 for gaming, had they included one-click overclocking and GDDR5 RAM.

This is a fantastic card for its price, with features and support ensuring it won’t soon become obsolete, or stop being able to keep up with new developments in gaming, animation and design/video editing. If you’re looking for a strong, general upgrade within the price range of $100, as an overall performance booster, then this is undoubtedly the card for you.

Pros
  • Great Price vs Performance
  • 4K Full Quad HD Output over HDMI
  • 3K Output over DVI
  • Dual Simultaneous Display Capable

Cons

  • GDDR5 Memory would have been an amazing boost

Click to Check Price on Amazon

MSI AMD Radeon R7240 2GB Review

  • 2048MB DDR3 SDRAM
  • HDMI, DVI and D-Sub Outputs
  • Low Profile Design
  • 2160p UHD Max Resolution
  • $

This simple little no-frills card made it to our list because it caught our eye when we learnt that it’s crossfire compatible – AMD’s equivalent to NVIDIA’s SLI. Which allows you to run two of the cards in tandem as one graphics unit.

Now, many people use crossfire or SLI for different purposes, with some receiving better performance boosts than others. However, none of the other GPUs on this list had crossfire / SLI, and so this one stuck.

It’s got a decent amount of RAM and a core fast enough that it won’t struggle with too much medium-to-high intensity jobs. It’s built for gaming, but many buyers also report it to be fantastic for video editing, and one could even use it for less-intense animation work, or the odd render.

If you’re running two of these cards in crossfire (which would still somehow be under the $100 mark!) then be sure to do your research so you can best optimize the cards together, not sacrificing any performance in the process. Crossfire and SLI are, generally speaking, being moved away from in the industry, however they supply certain benefits you really won’t find in a singular GPU.

All in all, this is a great card to go for if you’re hunting for flexibility or versatility, or if you already own one, and need a jump in performance but don’t want to upgrade.

Pros
  • Crossfire Support for running two cards in tandem
  • 2160p UHD Max Resolution
  • Up to four simultaneous displays
  • Works with a 300W power supply

Cons

  • Not the best performance for its price

Click to Check Price on Amazon

ASUS Geforce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB

  • 4096MB GDDR5
  • HDMI, DisplayPort and DVI Output
  • 8K Full 8x HD
  • $$$$

This GeForce GTX 1050 Ti from ASUS is quite a beast that sits just under the $200 mark, and is most definitely worth the extra budget if you can afford it. It’s got amazing build quality, and super high specs for a card at its price, and will boost your gaming, animation or any other visual experience to the next level in most systems.

This GTX 1050 comes with 4GB of high-speed RAM, with a clock speed of 1290MHz, allowing you to get some great, high-speed performance out of it. It’s got a strong metal alloy build quality, as well as a dual-ball bearing fan which is meant to wear out slower, and last far longer.

These in combination allow it to run up to 50% cooler than previous designs. It supports up to three simultaneous displays, and runs on an impressive mere 300W power supply.

This is a great option for a powerful upgrade if you’ve got some extra cash to spend, and the tweaks one can achieve with ASUS’ included software allows you to angle and optimize the GPU to whatever task is at hand.

Pros
  • Triple-simultaneous Display
  • Runs ultra cool
  • Low power requirement

Cons

  • Still struggles with some AAA titles

Click to Check Price on Amazon

Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1050 2GB

  • 2048MB GDDR5
  • HDMI, DisplayPort and DVI Outputs
  • Max Resolution of 8K 8x Full HD
  • $$$

This card is a slight downgrade from the ASUS GTX 1050 we mentioned just above. It’s got a slightly lower price point, half the RAM, but still outperforms most of the cards on the $100-or-less list. It’s a solid mid-range purchase that’s still close enough to the $100 mark, yet allows you a bit of wiggle-room to squeeze some extra performance out of it.

The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1050 clocks in at a strong 2048MB of GDDR5 high-speed memory, with a clock speed of just over 1400MHz without using the boost function (which can get it up to around 1500MHz).

It’s got a Windforce 2x Blade Fan design for easy cooling, especially if you don’t have a case with good airflow, and supports an 8K display at 60Hz. It also supports up to three outputs in multiview mode.

All in all, it’s a solid card. It’s great for gaming, and will certainly help out with animation, video editing, and design. It’s a great purchase if you’re trying to stick closer to the $100 mark, but have a few extra singles to spend.

Pros
  • DirectX12 Support
  • 8K Display Support
  • 300W Low Power Usage

Cons

  • Significantly larger than a lot of the other cards here

Click to Check Price on Amazon

ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX 560 4GB

  • 4096MB GDDR5
  • HDMI, DisplayPort and DVI Output
  • 5K Display Support
  • $$$

The ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX 560 is a quality card that packs in a few extra features, sacrificing a drop in display size (still at an impressive 5K) and is a great upgrade to any computer system.

It also features ASUS’ AuraSync Colour tech, allowing you to sync your graphics card lighting with any other ASUS components in your system. This makes it just about one of the cheapest custom-lit cards on the market.

It arrives with 4GB of high-speed memory, and a clock speed of 1285MHz in boost mode. The DirectCU II fan technology offers a far quieter cooling option, which is 30% cooler and 3x quieter than previous ASUS models – a plus for some of us who like to display our rigs on desks, but are bothered by constant white noise in one ear.

It supports a 5K resolution over a maximum of three displays, making it ideal for a multi-monitor setup on which you still want to achieve good performance. The power requirements for this card are a little higher than that of the others on this list, with a minimum recommended PSU of 400W, but that’s a small sacrifice to make for such a well-performing card.

This GPU is a solid choice for anyone looking for a general upgrade, something with pretty lights, or happy to sacrifice an 8K display for a bit of a drop in price.

Pros
  • ASUS AuraSync Lighting
  • Runs Super Quiet
  • Up to three simultaneous displays

Cons

  • Doesn’t go all the way to 8K

Click to Check Price on Amazon


How to Choose the Best Graphics Card for Under $100

It’s quite easy to find a good graphics card under $100, and we think we’ve shown this to be true with the varied list we’ve provided here. However, it’s still a tricky task to decide which of the bunch is the best for you.

This depends on a number of factors, such as your existing computer specs, what kind of work you’re doing, and how much you have to spend within the $100 range. Here’s a little buyer’s guide for picking the best graphics card under $100.

How to Pick the Best Video Cards Under $100

There are a few things to consider when picking from a long list of GPUs which are all quite similar in terms of their performance and abilities. Here are some pointers we’ve put together in an order that we think helps eliminate units that won’t work for you, leaving you with a refined selection of graphics cards built to your needs, that you’re still able to choose between.

Size

Size is probably the most important factor in buying GPUs under $100. Many of these kinds of GPUs are built to certain sizing standards, such as ATX motherboards or Low Profile cases. There is no worse feeling than arriving home to a fresh package of tech upgrade, only to realise that it doesn’t fit in your setup – so be sure to have your case’s measurements and connector types on hand when shopping to avoid little mistakes that will throw off your whole upgrade.

Power

While most of the cards on this list require a mere 300-350W power supply, and it’s unlikely anyone reading this has a power supply with a lower wattage than that in this day and age, it’s another factor to double check. If you’re running a very basic low power supply, then you might even want to try to find a package deal to get a new PSU and GPU together at a discounted rate.

Cooling, Fans, and Noise

You’re also going to want to consider how loud the card is, and how much cooling it needs. For most people, a little bit of fan noise is a worthy trade-off for an upgrade in performance, and most graphics cards can cool themselves decently with a quiet fan at around 30%-50% speed.

However, some of us are pickier than others, and need quiet. In other cases, cheaper graphics cards might not come with a fan, and rather just a heatsink, meaning you need to ensure your case is properly ventilated, leaving no room for dust or heat build-up to occur. This can be a tricky process, but is most certainly something you can set up yourself.

Performance

Lastly, you’re going to want to take a look at the specs of the card. The clock speed, the amount of RAM, and perhaps some benchmark tests to see how it performs in comparison to other cards. If you’re running a system with an outdated i3 processor, and no RAM, then you’re not going to see the performance boost you want, even if you were to go for an RTX card. With modular computer systems, it’s all about eliminating the bottleneck.

Lastly, you’ll probably want to consider these other points in a less-pressing manner:

  • Brand or manufacturer
  • Does the card have a decent warranty
  • How many screen outputs does the card have
  • What’s the maximum resolution?
  • Are there any known issues with this card that might affect your system

How to get better performance out of a 100 Dollar Graphics Card

So, you’ve upgraded your graphics card, but you’re still not seeing as much of a boost in performance as others experienced? Well, it could be a number of issues – such as system optimization and age – but it’s most likely the other parts in your system.

Firstly, an SSD is a great upgrade to start with to eliminate that all-too-common typical ‘slow computer’ feel. While SSDs can be expensive, they’re almost more important than a CPU or GPU in an upgrade, as they allow the whole system to run faster, to a degree. They’re eliminating any bottlenecking happening in terms of storage, allowing you to expand outwards faster with your other parts, and do so more precisely.

RAM is another easy way to get some life back into a system that’s starting to slow down. In fact, you’d likely see a more immediate and recognizable boost in performance by upgrading RAM and the SSD instead of the GPU – so consider this carefully. RAM generally works on a basis of equal numbers, so if your system has 4GB RAM, upgrade it to 8GB. If it’s got 8GB, don’t add another four to get to 12GB, but rather match the existing 8GB to get it up to 16GB.

Lastly, and least conveniently is the possibility that your processor, the brain of the computer’, is slowing everything down. This is a tough cookie to swallow, as unless you were super clever and careful when choosing your motherboard, you’re likely going to have to get a new one, and reinstall your operating system if you’re upgrading your processor. This can be a lengthy and tiring process, but is definitely worth it if you’ve exhausted all other options before this. It also just feels great to start with a freshly wiped, clean and new system.

If you’re going the route of a CPU upgrade, we’d recommend looking for upgrade kits that come with a motherboard, CPU and RAM as you’ll have far fewer headaches trying to pick out the right parts, as well as likely save a few bucks here and there.


Conclusion

You should now be more than well-equipped to pick out a new graphics card that costs less than $100. We’re confident there’s at least one on this list that’s perfect for you, and we hope you enjoy a boost of speed, visuals and (hopefully) productivity with your upgraded system.

Don’t forget to share your two-cents about what you think of the cards we reviewed, and please do let us know if you think we left out a graphics card under $100 that’s absolutely killer.

10 Best Digital Notepads of 2019

10 Best Digital Notepads of 2019

If you’re anything like us at Pixelsmith, you’re a hands-on kinda person who likes to be able to work, sketch, jot notes and plan in a natural manner – but still be able to organise and store everything digitally. Until a few years ago, this wasn’t really possible, or at least not ideal. Now, however, we’ve been proverbially saved by digital/electronic notepads.

Coming in all different shapes, sizes and mechanisms, these notepads are a fairly new innovation on the tech scene that’s starting to catch on and see some interesting and innovative variations. These notepads serve all kinds of functions from direct to digital notes, sketches that you can store both on paper and digitally, and even screens that feel and bend like paper. The possibilities are simply endless.

We’ve put together this guide to our ten favourite digital notepads of the year, all with their own pros and cons and special nifty features. We’ve chosen some top picks, compared them all by size, price, and features, and reviewed each one individually with their pros and cons so you can find the best digital notebooks for you.

Best Digital Notepad for Sketches

Unsurprisingly, Wacom’s Bamboo Slate comes in on top when we’re looking at digital notepads for sketching. It’s responsive and accurate in terms of pen strokes and sketching style and is one of the perfect ways to begin your creative process by hand, and easily transfer it to the digital workspace.

Following Wacom’s long history of making great tablets, pads and various styles of digital sketching devices, the Bamboo Slate keeps this trend of quality products from Wacom going.

Our Favourite Digital Writing Pad

The RoWrite Smart Writing Pad is our top pick for a digital note-taking pad. It’s straightforward and easy to use, when paired with an Android or iOS device via Bluetooth, all your notes or sketches show up immediately in real time, where you can edit or adjust them.

This is a great way of organising and storing your writing while still being able to jot down notes by hand. In addition, when not paired the tablet stores everything you write internally so you can transfer, edit and organise it later.

Best Electronic Notepad Pen of 2019

The Moleskine Pen+ is a pretty innovative creation from one of the most common household names in ‘analog’ notepads. Featuring a design that doesn’t look all that different from the original Moleskine pens which clip onto the covers of their notebooks, the Pen+ Ellipse is a technological advancement like no other.

It has an infrared camera alongside the pen tip allowing for it to trace and track all of your notes, sketches and drawings. These can then be transferred to your device either live or when whenever you’re ready to connect. The ink tip in the pen is simple, tiny and replaceable, and the pen itself also has a comfortable triangle shape. In addition, it comes together with one of the best digital notebooks we could find.

Best Digital Notebooks Compared

Top Digital Notepad Reviews

These are our favourite digital notepads in no particular order. You’ll notice they each have a handy short list of their main attributes or focuses, as well as a pros and cons list underneath each product. This should help you get an idea of each tablet at a glance.

reMarkable Paper Tablet Review

Pros

  • Always Synced
  • Built to be Distraction Free
  • Anti-glare easy readability
  • Feels like a pen and paper

Cons

  • Pen tips need to be replaced frequently
  • Pen isn’t pressure sensitive
  • Price doesn’t quite match up with features

The reMarkable Paper Tablet is one of the most interesting and innovative takes on a digital tablet we could find, and stuck out to us for this very reason. While it’s got a very high price point compared to all the other devices we reviewed, nothing felt quite like the paper tablet when it came to a balance between functionality and niftiness.

The display is large and sunlight-friendly, and uses CANVAS technology to produce a display somewhere between that of a Kindle and a piece of paper. It’s made for writing, reading and sketching, allowing you to import and export PDFs, eBooks, notes and doodles via WiFi capability.

It can convert handwritten notes to typed text, sync over wifi, and without a backlight or a glass screen, it’s very easy to read and use for long periods of time in various kinds of lighting and brightness. You can also share your notes via email, or annotate your PDFs by hand, saving them with your notes written on top. Of course, since we’re in the modern age, as soon as a note is saved to your Paper Tablet, it’s available via the cloud on all devices you have synced.

  • $$$
  • 10.3” CANVAS Display
  • Global Sync

Click to Check Price on Amazon

Wacom Bamboo Slate Smartpad Review

Pros

  • Incredibly accurate tracking
  • Good battery life
  • Strong functionality in terms of cloud and export

Cons

  • None we could find

Wacom is well known for their digital drawing tablets, both those with and without screens. They’re the leader in this field, with most professionals working with drawing tablets using Wacom products near exclusively. With the Bamboo Slate Smartpad, Wacom haven’t stopped short of their usual excellence even in their venture into this new field.

The slate itself, underneath your drawing or writing pad, is the mechanical factor here in conjunction with the pen. You simply place your pad and draw or write as you usually would, and the Slate uses electromagnetic tracking and pressure sensitivity to record your movements and super accurately reflect them on your synced devices. It’s a nice balance of working digitally, yet still with analog tools that you’re familiar and comfortable with.

The Bamboo Slate Smartpad is aimed to be a creative tool more than anything else. How you use it creatively, however, is totally up to you. The app is great for handwriting to text transcription, accessing your saved notes on the cloud, and great search functionality. In addition, you can export any of your notes to a number of file formats for different graphics and design software.

  • $$
  • Great Build Quality
  • One of the most trusted tablet brands

Check Price

RoWrite Smart Writing Pad Review

Pros

  • Live view
  • Great colour and style pen options
  • Carry folio is well designed
  • Good price point

Cons

  • Paper refills have to be the exact dimensions or official RoWrite paper
  • Battery life could be better

The RoWrite Smart Writing Pad is a really hot contender behind the Bamboo Slate, almost like it’s younger sibling. It serves all the same functionality, with a few slight differences, at a better price point, yet not from a titan brand.

Again, the pen uses regular ink for you to sketch and take notes as you please, but uses pressure sensitivity to digitally capture everything you do. It also comes with handwriting-to-text transcription tools, a host of pen styles, thicknesses and colours, and strangely enough, captures video of all your strokes. The reason for this feature is unclear, but we thought it could be useful if you’re creating tutorials or other video content using this tablet as a medium.

As with the Slate, the Smart Writing Pad allows you to sync to the app when you wish (until this point, all notes are stored in the app, ready to sync and edit), and also offers live viewing so you can watch what you’re writing or drawing live, in the editing app – once again a feature handy for tutors. It’s great for use in the office or at school, but even better just to have as a creative tool in your arsenal, especially if you’re someone who’s a digital content creator.

  • $$
  • Live tracking view on synced devices
  • Great selection of pen style and shape tools

Check Price

Boogie Board Writing Tablet Review

Pros

  • Simple, functional
  • Sleek design
  • Connect to PC via USB Cable

Cons

  • Contrast isn’t as strong as other Boogie Boards
  • No undo for mistakes

The Boogie Board Writing Tablet is a little step back from the digital notepads we’ve already looked at in terms of its aims. It’s meant to be simple and straightforward – you take notes, you share them onto your device if you need, and you start another note.

We’d imagine it would fit best as part of a classroom, or teaching program, or for use on-site in various professions in place of a simple analog notepad. It’s got a slick black display with bright, light writing making it easy to read in any environment, and your notes can be shared via Evernote, or to your device via Bluetooth.

With a battery the lasts for up to five days, a sturdy, child-friendly build and small form factor it makes for easy transporting, allowing you to easily take it wherever you need to go. It also has handwriting recognition when saved to Evernote. It’s a simple eWriter, but a good one, and if you’re looking for something simple then this is likely the one for you.

  • $$
  • Simple and functional
  • Great for kids
  • 9.7” Display

Check Price

Rocketbook Everlast Reusable Notebook Review

Pros

  • Super lightweight
  • No frills
  • One of the cheaper digital notepads out there

Cons

  • No sync options – camera scan only
  • Frixion pens don’t work as well as standard pens with the Everlast

The Everlast notebook from Rocketbook is a hot take on digital writing tablets. It comes in at an incredible price point, and of course sacrifices some functionality for the price, however, Rocketbook have found great workarounds to a lot of these issues.

It uses a combination of a Frixion erasable pen, and a phone app for scanning pages. Once you’ve drawn or written your notes to completion, scan them into the app and wipe the page clean with the included cloth – pretty neat. Each page also has seven different symbols along the bottom, which you can assign to apps like Drive, Email, Evernote or Slack. A simple selection of one of these symbols instantly sends your current note to the desired destination.

You can, however, use any pens (including colour) in this notebook, making it great for the creative on the go. If you’re looking for a quick and cheap way to take notes by hand and store them digitally, then this is the one for you. It’s not terribly fancy or finicky, but very effective and useful for what it does.

  • $
  • Looks like a standard ring bound notebook
  • A4, A5 and Mini size options

Check Price

iskn The Slate 2+ Review

Pros

  • Use any pen or pencil
  • Works with any paper you desire
  • Doubles as a drawing tablet

Cons

  • Calibration can cause issues
  • Some customers felt the stylus was too sensitive

The Slate 2+ is a pretty standard take on digital notepads and falls somewhere between the Everlast and SmartPad in terms of how it works. It’s got great reviews and seems quite popular among artists, more so than those looking for the best digital paper tablet for the office or school, at least.

It’s a sturdily built tablet that works with all your own pens and pencils, not requiring any fancy digital pen to use it with. It takes paper up to 0.27” in thickness, which you clip in and align, and simply go ahead and draw on.

You can use the Bluetooth sync or USB cable on the Slate 2 to then sync it to your computer or personal device, to watch and edit your creations in real time. You can also use it standalone and sync your creations at a later stage, or use it with a stylus as a regular drawing tablet with Photoshop, Illustrator, and other similar programs.

The battery lasts for around 7 hours, and the Imagink app that it comes with offers a great selection of different artsy tools for drawing whatever you desire. It’s a great choice for those with a focus on art and design, and will easily find its place in your regular creative setup as it’s incredibly versatile, with functionality that can be tailored to your personal needs.

  • $$$
  • Doubles as a standard drawing tablet
  • Great for drawing

Check Price

Moleskine Pen+ Smart Writing Set Review

Pros

  • Great quality pen and paper
  • Very cool and innovative tech
  • Moleskine Notes app is quality
  • Ncode paper can be replicated and bypassed

Cons

  • Pen is just a rebranded Neo Smartpen

So, as we previously mentioned, the Moleskine Pen+ works in two parts with the pen forming one, and their smart notebook forming the other. This means you can’t effectively use either of them independently, but together the set is a quality piece of innovative electronic notepad tech.

When writing or drawing, the pen uses an infrared sensor to detect movements across the dotted Ncoded paper in the diary. When synced with the Moleskine Notes app, you can transfer all your notes and sketches to organise and edit them digitally. There are handwriting to text transcription features, colour editing options and more, all stored on the app.

Your strokes can also be paired with real-time audio, again making this a great tool to use for instructional or tutorial purposes. It’s also easy to export and share your notes as PDFs, images, vectors or text files, although it’s probably still best used as a fun creative tool and a breakaway from solely using digital or analog for these kinds of purposes.

  • $$$
  • Size and shape of a regular Moleskine
  • High price point

Check Price

Newyes Robot Pad Review

Pros

  • Simple, straightforward
  • Child-friendly

Cons

  • Limited Functionality

The Robot Pad from Newyes is essentially just a digital whiteboard. It’s got one-use note functionality, meaning that it doesn’t store your notes anywhere, nor sync them, but simply is a place to write things down, then erase and repeat. In many ways, it’s like the Boogie Board only in a simpler form.

It’s super thin and weighs nearly nothing, allowing for easy carry and use on the go (ie. for shopping lists, or something for kids to draw on in a restaurant), and comes with two big magnets on the back so you can attach it to a fridge.

It’s plain and simple, with no frills, and isn’t really a work or productivity focused tool. It would be best used simply as a digital whiteboard, or as something for children to sketch on in car rides or on an airplane. You could even use it for notes at a talk or something similar, although be warned – the erase button clears everything, so don’t write anything important on it that you might forget!

  • $
  • Simple memo pad
  • No sync, export or save options

Check Price

Rocketbook Wave Smart Notebook Review

Pros

  • Microwaveable
  • Great partner app

Cons

  • Limited Reuse
  • Pretty simple overall

The Rocketbook Wave is an interesting variation on their Everlast notebook. While not fully reusable, like the Everlast is, its mechanisms still piqued our interest and we felt it deserved a place on this list. This was not only because of the name brand, but also because it seems like some of the tech in this electronic note pad could serve interesting uses in the future.

Unlike the Everlast, it’s not fully reusable – the manufacturers say it’s got a realistic 5-20 reuses available, depending on a number of factors. It also uses a Frixion erasable pen, and similar smart note syncing functionality (complete with the app designated smart sending), and has 80 pages each with a dot grid pattern, and a QR code which tells the app the page number. Like the Everlast, there is no sync, but rather a page scanning via camera feature.

The microwave feature is the most interesting part though. To clear the notebook, simply pop it into the microwave until the pages appear blank. This heat sensitive technology isn’t particularly groundbreaking nor special, however, it’s a very interesting use of it and we’d be interested to see where Rocketbook takes it in the future.

  • $
  • Not fully reusable
  • Microwaveable (?)

Check Price

Elfinbook Everlast Smart Notebook 2.0 Review

Pros

  • Reusable up to 500 times
  • Fantastic Price

Cons

  • No sync functions
  • Partner App needs improvement

The Elfinbook Everlast is your replacement option on a budget for the Rocketbook Everlast. It’s just about identical in how it works, and how it looks and feels, from the erasable Frixion pen to the scan-only, sync-free functionality.

Half the pages are lined, and half blank making it ideal for a bit-of-both approach to drawing and taking notes, however, it can be hard to open or turn pages due to the tight ring binding on the side. It also wipes clean with a damp cloth, although one isn’t included in the package so you’ll have to prepare your own ahead of time.

The scanning itself is pretty accurate, and while this is really nothing special, it’s still a decent quality product that works and described, and will serve its basic function. We’d personally recommend the Rocketbook product more, however, if you’re on a tight budget then this is the better choice.

  • $
  • Erasable Pen
  • No sync, Camera Scan only

Check Price


Digital Note Pad Buyer’s Guide

After writing these reviews, we decided to put together a short guide on what to look out for when shopping for a digital notepad.

More than just an electronic notebook with a pen, you’re going to want something that not only works for you in terms of what you’re going to use it for, but it helps if the technology helps teach you to work in new ways that you might not have otherwise discovered.

Firstly, you’ll want to check if it has sync capabilities. If you’re a creative, artsy tech head like we are, you’re going to want a notepad that has a simple sync function, so you can either move your notes onto a device to edit and share, or store them on the cloud without fear of losing them.

Secondly, and quite an overlooked factor, is the pen itself. It’s important that you look at the measurements and dimensions of the included pen to make sure it’s going to be something you can use comfortably without having to really adjust to the size and shape of it (especially when you’re using a pen in a new and innovative way).

A good way to do this is to go to an art shop, find the pen or pencil most comfortable for you and write down the measurements – other than this, you could just pick one of the tablets which allow you to use your own pencil.

Lastly, always remember to check the dimensions of your tablet. It’s easy to think it looks bigger, or smaller, than it really is. This could lead to issues, either with you being disappointed by how small your digital notepad is; or buying one that’s too cumbersome to be effectively portable.

Conclusion

You’ve now got a nice variety of options at various price points, all with different features and extras, to choose from.

If you’re still undecided, we’d recommend either the Wacom Bamboo Slate or Rocketbook Everlast. We felt these were the two best-made and most functional digital notebooks without too many frills that you’re paying an arm and a leg for.

Please do send us over some of your creations from these nifty little devices, we’d love to see what you came up with and how you found them to use!