Review: Bosto 16HD Pen Display

I've reviewed several Bosto products in the past and the last one was in 2015. I haven't heard much of Bosto until recently when I was contacted by online retailer Tomtop who asked if I was interested to review the Bosto 16HD. I said yes and received a review unit.

When I last wrote about Bosto, I remembered saying I don't know where Bosto is heading to. Well, the last I checked on Bosto's website, they are still making pen displays, and they are also making those all-in-one computers with built-in displays you can draw on.

Bosto 16HD is a 15.6-inch pen display that features 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. A pen display if you don't know is actually a monitor you can draw on.

Official retail price is US $350. You can probably find it cheaper during sales.


The packaging looks nice.


In addition to listing the features, Bosto actually explained what those features mean and what they are used for. The information is useful for those picking up the box off retail shelves.


The first thing I saw when I opened the box is a slip-in cover that's made of felt.


These are all the things included in the box.


20 replacement nibs are included.


The Windows and Mac drivers are loaded onto this 16GB USB thumb drive. You can also download the drivers from Bosto's website.


A single cable (actually two fused into one) is provided. On one end are USB-C and micro-HDMI that go to the pen display. On the other end are the USB type A and full-sized HDMI that go to the computer. The pen display can be powered by USB port that supplies enough power.


The pen provided does not use battery hence does not require charging. Build quality is solid and has a nice weight.

However, note that there's actually another Bosto 16HD model that comes with battery-charging pen. The retail price is around US$50 cheaper which is quite a significant discount. If you don't mind charging the pen, that model could be more value for money


There are two customisable side buttons on the huge rubber grip.


The pen stand allows to the pen to rest horizontally and vertically.


The nib remover is beneath the pen stand.


The included stand is made of plastic and feels a bit cheap but build quality is solid. There are rubber support on the surface and back for grip.


Two pieces of metal support are located below the resting surface to allow deployment in various angles.


The Bosto 16HD uses a 15.6-inch IPS panel that supports 1080P resolution. There's some pixelation a display at this size but it's a very useable resolution.


The protective film must be peeled off to reveal the matte screen protector beneath. Do not peel off both the protective film (for the matte screen protector) and the matte screen protector.


First thing I noticed when I powered on the display was the colours that looked off. Bosto advertised 92% NTSC on their website and 75% AdobeRGB on the packaging.


After colour calibrating, the measures I got were 59% sRGB, 42% NTSC, 44% AdobeRGB and 42% P3. Colours are just not as good compared to other pen displays I've reviewed recently


I tried adjusting the various settings from the OSD menu, eg brightness, backlight, contrast, colour temperature, did the colour calibration four times (one on Mac) and the results were pretty similar. In short, the colours don't look that good out of the box, and they only look slightly better after colour calibration.

Maximum brightness was measured at 153 nits. It's not very bright but it's sufficient for indoor use.


The anti-glare of the matte screen protector is quite aggressive. However, it's not a problem if you just look at the display straight on and there are no lights reflecting of it.

The matte screen protector does provide a nice texture to draw on, but it's still on the smooth side which isn't really a problem because it's easy to get used to.

The matte screen protector affects the sharpness and visual quality of the display which wasn't that good to begin with.


The pen display is as thin as some laptops and may look like a giant tablet, but it's actually still a monitor.


On the right side are the buttons for the OSD menu and ports for the cable. There's no power switch so it will turn on as soon as your computer powers up.


There are no rubber feet on the back so the pen display has to be used together with the stand.


Interestingly, there are some dots at the top left and right of the display. I read the manual and found out that those dots are actually for the Bosto 16HDK model with the Express Keys. My model is the 16HD and doesn't come with those Express Keys but somehow those dots are still there. There's also another model called the 16HDT which features a touch screen and supports finger gestures.


This is not a laminated display so there's a gap, small one though, between the drawing surface and the LCD beneath. My pen had some misalignment issues so the cursor wasn't directly beneath the pen tip. But after calibration using the driver, the parallax and misalignment were fixed.

Driver


The drivers I've tested are Windows driver 1.1.2.3 from 18 Nov 2019 and Mac driver v1.32. The Mac driver that I downloaded from the website wasn't able to install for some reason but thankfully the driver on the thumb drive installed alright.


Driver installation on Windows was straightforward. On MacOS 10.14 and newer, you have to give permissions to the driver under System Preferences - Security Privacy - Accessibility - Privacy. Otherwise, the cursor may not move when you move your pen.


Driver functionality for Mac and Windows drivers is quite similar except Windows has the extra Windows Ink functionality, which you may need to turn on or off if there are issues with pressure sensitivity not working.


Here's where you can change the pressure sensitivity and customise the pen's side buttons.


Express Keys are only available and customisable on the Bosto 16HDK, not the 16HD.


Touch settings are only available and customisable on the Bosto 16HDT, not the 16HD


Here you can calibrate the pen to remove parallax.

There's no left-handed mode but it's not needed because design of the pen display is symmetrical.

Drawing performance

Drawing performance is fantastic with most of the drawing apps that I've tested on Windows and MacOS. I've tested Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, Medibang Paint Pro, Krita, Clip Studio Paint.

I noticed two issues, one of which could be a deal breaker.

With Photoshop (Win), there is noticeable input lag. There would be a gap when the line tries to catch up with the pen tip. And the animation of the line appearing is choppy, as if the refresh rate of the monitor is low which is not the case. All other drawing apps are responsive and don't have this issue.

With Medibang Paint Pro (Mac), the pen wasn't able to draw any lines. The pen still works, as in the side buttons still work, though. I didn't test other versions of the Mac driver so I can't say for sure if Medibang Paint Pro will work alright with other drivers. This could be a potential deal breaker if you use Mac and your main drawing program is Medibang Paint Pro.


Other than the two issues mentioned above, the overall drawing performance was great. Pen is accurate after calibration. Cursor would trail directly beneath the pen tip. Pressure sensitivity works well. Lines taper nicely, can turn smoothly, and transition from thin to thick smoothly. It's also easy to maintain consistent pressure so the line thickness remains consistent.


Drawing performance is predictable, and lines always come out how I want them to.

The two sketches above are from Medibang Paint Pro (Win) and Clip Studio Paint (Win). You can expect similar line quality from other drawing software, except Medibang Paint Pro (Mac).

Conclusion

Drawing performance of the Bosto 16HD is fantastic with most of drawing apps that I've tested on both Windows and MacOS. The two issues I've experience are the lack of responsiveness with Photoshop (Win) and Medibang Paint Pro (Mac) not being able to produce lines even though the pen was obviously working.

The main downside is the colour support is just not good enough. 60% sRGB support is alright but it's a visible step down from 99% sRGB monitors.

Pricing is quite competitive with pen displays from other companies. Perhaps you can find an even better deal when there's a good discount.

Pros and cons at a glance
+ Good design
+ Good build quality
+ 15.6-inch is a comfortable size to draw on
+ 1080P resolution sufficient for 15.6-inch display
+ Matte screen protector has nice texture to draw on
+ 20 replacement nibs included
+ Stand included
+ Carrying sleeve included
+ Pen does not require charging
+ Pen supports tilt and 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity
+ Initial activation force is mininal
+ Fantastic drawing performance on most drawing apps
+ Can be powered by USB port
- sRGB colour support measured at just 60%
- Maximum brightness measured at 153 nits
- Photoshop (Win) is less responsive than other drawing apps
- Matte screen protector affects sharpness of the screen
- Lines don't appear with Medibang Paint Pro (Mac) v25.2
- No Express Keys

Where to buy

TOMTOP
Bosto 16HD with battery-less pen (from China & UK warehouse)
https://www.tomtop.com/p-os2694-1.html?aid=chp
https://www.tomtop.com/p-os2694-1.html?Warehouse=UK&aid=chp

Bosto 16HD with charging pen (cheaper)
https://www.tomtop.com/p-os2224.html?aid=chp

BOSTO
http://bostotablet.com/

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