The most exciting part of Microsoft's Surface Studio — an all-in-one PC announced back in October — was its ability to fold down from a traditional, upright monitor position into a sloped surface much like a drafting table, allowing artists and designers to use it like a giant drawing surface.
Now Dell is taking the idea of a digital drafting table and offering it to anyone with a PC. It's unveiling a product today called the Canvas, which is a sloped monitor — not an all-in-one with a PC inside — that's meant to sit on your desk, plug into your existing computer, and be used for sketching, animation, or anything best made with a stylus.
Like the Surface Studio, Dell's monitor also comes with a puck-like controller that, when placed directly on the screen, pulls up a circular menu that can be used for controlling Windows and specific apps. Dell's peripheral is called the Totem — as opposed to Microsoft's Dial — but it works the same, tapping into the very same code so that any app that integrates with the Dial will integrate with the Totem as well. The downside is that few apps so far do integrate with these devices, with the very notable absence of Adobe's Creative Suite.
The Canvas has a 27-inch display, but it appears much, much bigger because of bezels that extend out well beyond all four edges of the screen. This may be somewhat handy for keeping your arms and hands out of the way — there's even a magnetic strip for hanging onto a loose stylus — but the appearance is clunky and nowhere near as minimal and sharp as the Studio.
The display also has a pretty low resolution device for its size, coming at only 2560 x 1440. That's not bad, but it's not super sharp, either (the Studio is an inch bigger and has a 4500 x 3000 resolution). Dell says that it chose a lower resolution so that the monitor would work better with more computers; since graphics chips won't have as much work to do just powering the monitor, they'll be able to put more power toward what you're actually trying to make. It's a reasonable explanation for the tradeoff, but it's still very much a tradeoff.
Dell has also provided custom software for the Canvas that allows apps to be pinned to different edges of the display. It's a small feature, but it could be useful in helping people manage their apps on such a large touchscreen.
Pricing isn't being announced just yet, but Dell says the Canvas should begin shipping sometime in April.