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Dell Canvas

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Dell Canvas
  • Dell Canvas
  • Dell Canvas
  • Dell Canvas
  • Dell Canvas
  • Dell Canvas 1
  • Dell Canvas 2
  • Dell Canvas 3

Summary

Key Features

  • 27-inch 2,560x1,440 touch screen
  • 1x stylus, 2x totems (Wacom EMS tech)
  • 100% Adobe RGB coverage
  • Thunderbolt or USB and DisplayPort/HDMI connection
  • US price: $1,799
  • Ships in April
  • Manufacturer: Dell
  • Review Price: to be confirmed

When Dell launched its new Canvas work surface yesterday, there were lots of questions about how it would work and who it’d be good for. Today, I came back to Dell’s CES 2017 booth to get hands-on and get some answers.

At its most basic, the Dell Canvas is a 27-inch touch screen monitor that can lie flat on your desk. You can draw on it with a stylus and use your fingers to interact with your work as well. However, Dell has made things a lot more interesting – and complicated – with the addition of custom hardware in the form of ‘totems’ and software for creating a Windows 10 workspace that’s just right for your needs.

Video: First look at the Dell Canvas

The touch screen is a 2,560x1,440-pixel affair that can display 100% of the Adobe RGB colour gamut, meaning it’ll be able to display every colour a design professional will ask of it. This is hugely important for those working on photography, graphics and video work.

The included stylus and totems are powered by Wacom EMR technology, which is great news as Wacom holds a fairly handy advantage in the world of touchscreen technology.Dell Canvas

The totems are circular knobs that sit on the touch screen and can be pressed, turned and moved around. They’ll do all sorts of stuff depending on the software you’re using. In Sketchable, for example, you can use it to rotate items, change colours, undo edits and more. It takes a lot of getting used to, especially because the software driving it is very new, but for two-handed working without a keyboard and mouse, it feels quite natural.

The totems are very similar to the Microsoft Surface Dial that ships with the Surface Studio PC. In fact, a Dell representative told me that some of the software functions the Surface Dial was able to achieve were inspired and assisted by the work Dell did on its totems. Teamwork wins again.Dell Canvas 1

The totems use the same software functions as the Surface Dial, meaning any applications that work with the Dial will also work with the totems. Dell also hopes to get the Surface Dial working with the Canvas.

It’s the second, smaller totem (known as the ‘knob') that sets the Canvas apart. Currently there aren’t any applications that support a second totem, but Dell says it’s shipping the Canvas with two because the cost of the knob is relatively low. The company imagines the second totem to be used in applications with knob-like functions, such as audio editing suites.

There are problems with the early prototype totems. They slide down the screen if you let go of them and the on-screen graphics that appear around them don’t quite scale correctly. These are teething troubles and Dell says both will be solved by the time it ships in April.

On the software side, Dell says anything with a touch interface will work with the Canvas, but totem support is more limited. Companies including Avid, Sketchable, Cakewalk and Solidworks are all working on supporting both the Surface Dial and totems.

There’s more custom software. First, Dell will give users the option to install Fences by Stardock, which lets you organise your desktop in a much, much easier-to-use way than Windows 10. You can pin folders around your workspace and drag items in off the desktop into whatever program you’re using. Anyone working on loads of assets at any given moment should really like it.Dell Canvas 3

Second, Dell has developed its own brand-new software called Palette (above), which lets you create custom floating menus designed for touch operation. It doesn’t support many software packages right now, but I was shown it working with Photoshop. It also supports key combinations, so even if a program you use isn't supported, you can set up keyboard emulation for every function that has a keyboard shortcut.Dell Canvas 2

The Canvas will also benefit from the Windows 10 Creators Update. In addition to behind-the-scenes updates, Creators will also feature a virtual touchpad (above), which will be handy if you’re working on a second monitor and want to move things around without having to reach for a real-world mouse.

First Impressions

It’s early days for the Dell Canvas, and the firm has both hardware and software quirks to iron out. The Canvas is exceptionally clever, though, and I think it’ll prove to be a popular alternative to the Surface Studio for people who already have high-end workstation laptops and desktops.

It’ll be available for pre-order in March for $1,799 and will ship in April.

Peter Kelly

January 7, 2017, 11:08 am

I'm really interested in this device and read quite a few early 'hands on' reports, but I wish those who could try them had more experience of the devices.

The software will always lag a little, but will come. However, it won't matter for a moment if the accuracy and speed of the pen is rubbish.

So, how precise is it? Does it suffer from parallax issues? Does it lag behind all but the slowest strokes?

danielfrisbee

January 8, 2017, 1:34 pm

I think drawing on this screen up close will bring the pixels into view in a way that the surface studio won't, since that has twice the resolution. That's the only sticking point I can see with this product so far. On my surface pro you can barely make out pixels and sketching in that regard is good, though the pen tracking isn't perfect (you can't draw slow lines as they wobble).

Peter Kelly

January 8, 2017, 3:09 pm

The pixels won't be an issue (unless you use a magnifying glass!). I use a Cintiq 24HD, which is lower resolution than either, and don't consider that a problem at all.

The real sticking points for artists and designers using these tablets is pen accuracy, speed, and smoothness. You need to trust that the point you hit with the tip of the pen corresponds with what you are looking at, otherwise it is impossible to draw properly. Also, any stroke you make has to be exactly as you make it, fast or slow, and follow your movement precisely. A jagged line is simply not acceptable.

The Cintiq is not perfect, but pretty good (gradually improved over the years with driver updates). The wobbly lines you describe on the surface pro would have me sending it back!

danielfrisbee

January 9, 2017, 2:56 am

I've given up on the idea of drawing on computers with a view to making a beautiful image, as the translation into digital just doesn't seem to convey what I did with the pen, however having accepted that and changed how I draw a bit, I've found sketching ideas down on the surface pro quite useful, and try to use the advantages over paper ie copying and pasting. The speed and accuracy and smoothness are pretty good, if you're drawing with vectors etc I don't think you'd have an issue with the surface products, and my experience of wacoms is a bit hit and miss. Perhaps you're right about the resolution, though it seems a shame not to have more, 27" monitors have had that 1440p res for a long time. I guess the only way to know is to try them out-!

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