Anyone in the entertainment industry can clearly see that computers in their workflow are here to stay. You cannot go through a studio in this day and age and not see a tablet in some form or another. The primary supplier of these tablets is Wacom and since they own the market more or less they charge a huge amount of money for their devices. In all fairness the Cintiq line are beautiful pieces of machinery and craftsmanship and you really cannot blame them for charging a premium for such well designed hardware.
That said, other hardware companies are stepping out onto the playing field to try and knock the crown off of Wacom’s digital head. One such hardware maker is Bosto, a Chinese company which is currently making tablets called Kingtees in two sizes. They have a 14” device and a 19” device both of which I will be reviewing. I won’t review them completely separate but rather will call out difference in certain cases because once they’re plugged in and you’re drawing there’s not much difference between the two past the obvious things like the smaller screen on the 14″ unit. Everything else is pretty much the same unless otherwise noted. One last thing, there are two versions of the 19″ Kingtee and I am reviewing the Bosto Kingtee MA not the lesser priced MB. The specifications are the same but the body shapes differ, and the MB does not have the express keys and shuttle roller of the MA. The price difference is $50.
WHATS IN THE BOX
My tablets arrived from Shenzen in an actual wooden crate which I’ve got to say I’ve never seen before. It in and of itself was pretty cool. Once I pried away the wood I was left with two nondescript black boxes with no writing whatsoever on them. Both devices came very solidly packed in fitted foam and you should feel safe knowing that they are expertly packed. Inside the main box of each unit, two boxes held a digital DVI cable, a standard analog AV cable, a USB cable and an HDMI cable. It also came with a mini CD -Rom that had both SAI Paint on it as well as a Windows XP and Windows 7 driver. The Kingtees do not currently support Windows 8, but really who’s using it anyway? I was happy to see that Bosto includes just about every possible cord to connect the Kingtee to your computer. A rarity in the hardware world since TVs these days don’t even typically include an HDMI cable.
First I figured I’d try it with Windows since Bosto only officially supports that operating system. There is an open source driver for the Mac as well (more on that later) but it’s not officially supported by Bosto (yet). I installed the driver and hooked up the device at first with the HDMI cable but that didn’t work (most likely due to the lack of drivers for my port) so I switched to the included DVI cable and it booted right up. I didn’t even have to restart Windows to get it to work. Once I set up the monitors the way I like them I was ready to try it out. One note is that you must connect the USB cable to the USB-In port and not one of the USB Out ports or the pen will not work.
On the mini CD there is a standard driver installer as well as a copy of SAI Paint. The drivers installed easily enough and placed two icons on my desktop. One to invoke the driver itself should you decide to exit it, and a button configuration tool, which you use to set up the side buttons. Once I figured out how to use the software (fortunately there is an online guide) it was very easy to setup and extremely useful in my workflow.
Both the 19″ and the 14″ come with almost identical ports on the back, the only difference being that the 14″ device has only two USB ports as opposed to three on the 19″, one of which is needed on each device for tablet functionality. The device will turn on without it plugged in but the pen will not work without the USB plugged in which is actually very similar the Cintiq.
The 14″ tablet by contrast has 20 and two scrolling wheels!
My initial impression of both the 14″ and the 19″ tablets was that they seemed extremely light. In the 14″ one it’s a benefit because it easily makes it portable and I could easily see throwing it in a backpack and using it with a laptop on the go (provided you had a power outlet). It probably doesn’t weight more than a pound and a half and even came with a neoprene case!
Bosto is however developing two new 14” models. Due for release in June the 14WB has a Lithium-ion battery (5000MA, 60W), which solves the portability issue, and following this in August the 14WC is actually an all-in-one PC.
Both Kingtee screens have a very narrow effective viewing angle in comparison to the Cintiq. So for instance, if I lean to the left or back I will quickly lose the ability to see what’s on the screen on the Kingtee but can still see what’s on the Cintiq’s screen as evidenced by the pic below. It’s not drastic but it is noticeable so I bring it up in case you like to slouch when you draw.
Honestly most laptops are like this as well so I really can’t complain much and most artists draw directly facing the screen so it should not bother you much. By contrast, the Cintiq’s viewing angle is much wider. Bosto recommends the use of a Mounting Arm, such as the Ergotron LX Desk Mount LCD Arm available on Amazon for around $108 bucks, for optimum positioning so that you can adjust to the limited viewing angle. Even if you spring for this you’re still hundreds of dollars less than the Cintiq and the added ability to slide your tablet to the side and free up your desk for other work is a godsend.
Amazingly enough, both Kingtees remained cool during the whole time I used them which if you’ve ever spent a day over a boiling Cintiq is enough to make you switch alone.
The 19″ pen is charged by an pretty cool little USB charger (included) that you plug into a powered USB port and then slide the pen right into the sleeve and wait for it to juice up again. In the 14″ device you have to manually put three tiny AAAA batteries into the pen’s sleeve and power it that way. I am told the batteries last a month or more (400 hours use).
The Bosto Kingtee is a solid device to buy if you do not want to spend thousands on a Cintiq. It’s about as good as drawing on a tablet PC. It is missing some of the features of a Cintiq yes, but you get what you pay for and at $500 for the 14″ Kingtee and $700 for the 19″ Kingtee, you really can’t go wrong. And with a rumored 21.5” model in the pipeline the advantages can only get better. For the record, I do own a Wacom Cintiq at home and I also use one daily at work so I am without a doubt a power user who uses all the buttons on the Cintiq to my advantage. That said, some of my issues with the Kingtee are more because of what I am used to rather than its short comings. Your mileage may vary greatly if you do not have a Cintiq yourself. In the end I would say that if you do not have a Cintiq you will probably love either of these tablets. If you own one or use one at work, there will be a little learning curve but it’s still a very capable tool to add to your digital arsenal.
You can buy directly from Bosto at www.bosto.co.