Dell invited me to one of their product release events again. I usually don't go for such event unless there's some art-related product, and for this event I went down to check out the Dell Canvas.
The Dell Canvas is a touchscreen monitor you can draw on. It's basically a pen display digitizer, and it's also the competitor to the Wacom Cintiq. It's similar to the Microsoft Surface Studio in the sense that you can draw on the screen, however, the Dell Canvas does not come with any computing hardware, so you can connect it to your current computer. Unfortunately for Mac users, Dell says that there's no Mac OS support yet. I thought that's quite strange because there are so many screen digitizers and Cintiq alternatives that support Mac, e.g. Yiynova, Artisul, XP Pen, Ugee (list goes on).
The Dell Canvas is developed in collaboration with Microsoft. When I tested the device, I would have thought it's a collaboration with Wacom instead because of the way it feels when drawing with it.
Dell Canvas Specifications
- Size: 27-inch
- Resolution: 2,560 x 1,440
- Surface: Matte
- Colour support: Unknown
- Ports behind: Mini HDMI, USB 3 Type C, Mini Display Port
- Ports on the side: 2x USB 3 Type A, 1x USB 3 Type C, 3.5mm headphone jack
The Dell Canvas I used is still a prototype so the performance of the final retail version may vary. Don't make your purchase decision based on this first impression that I have. I only had a few hours at the event to try the product so my finding is in no way conclusive. This article is not a review. I just want to share my experience with other artists who are interested to know more about this product. A product this expensive deserves a proper and detailed review in the future.
This is a 27-inch display with huge bezels on the bottom and sides. It allows you to rest your hands comfortable especially when you're drawing near to the edge. Hidden beneath the bezel at the top corners are magnets that you can use to hold onto the stylus.
The screen is matte and nice to draw on with the hard tip stylus.
The display is surprisingly thin. The stand behind only has one position though, so if you need the angle to be higher you will need some way to prop up the display.
The QHD 2560 by 1440 resolution nice to work with. Sure the screen is pixelated when compared to 4K resolution, but it's a perfectly fine resolution from a productivity standpoint. User interface elements are large and comfortable to see. Using older software that haven't been upgraded to Retina resolution is not a problem.
The stylus does not require battery. So it works like the Samsung S Pen or Wacom stylus. There are two buttons on the side but no eraser on the back.
The stylus is supposed to come with some pen holder but I did not see that on display. The default tip is the hard tip but I was told that the tips are interchangeable. So you can choose those felt tips for more friction when drawing. The hard tip feels a bit smooth on the screen but not slippery.
Dell's dial is called the Totem. There are some differences when compared to the Microsoft Surface Dial. The Totem does not require battery to work. You can only use the Totem on the screen while Surface Dial can work off-screen (connect via Bluetooth).
The Totem dial only works if the app has support for it, and right now there are limited number of apps that do so, the one most commonly used for demo purposes is Sketchable.
With the dial, you can change things like colours, brightness, rotation and even volume. I had a difficult time using the Totem. There were a lot of glitches, or maybe I was not using it right. When placed on the screen, sometimes, I get a random secondary dial or another menu that pops up. When turning the dial, the visual feedback is not as obvious as I hoped it would be. E.g. Maybe the colour wheel can be bigger.
Sometimes there are stray marks created by the dial. When I flipped the dial upside down, I see 5 spots. If I had to make a guess, I would say that those are capacitive spots. E.g. Imagine your 5 fingers as the capacitive spots. So when turned, the screen would recognise that it's being rotated. However, being capacitive, it can create marks accidentally. And it does so whenever I press onto the dial.
With my limited time using the Totem, I have to say that it behaves rather randomly. So it's not really productive to use it currently with all the glitches.
When using screen digitizers like this, I always test for three things: accuracy, responsiveness and parallax.
Accuracy is good. Pressure sensitivity works well. Strokes transition from thin to thick smoothly, and taper off smoothly too. When drawing diagonal lines slowly, there's no wobble or jitter. The screen is supposed to support tilt sensitivity but I didn't manage to try that.
It's fairly responsive on the apps that I've tried, namely Medibang Paint Pro, Photoshop CC and Sketchable. Photoshop CC may have a tiny bit of lag but not a deal breaker.
By default, there's parallax. Parallax happens when the stylus travels near the edges, causing a visible gap between the stylus tip and the cursor. All pen display digitizers I've used can be calibrated so I suppose the Dell Canvas can be calibrated to remove the parallax too. Thankfully, the glass screen isn't too thick so parallax is not too significant.
Palm rejection isn't 100% flawless. I experience some stray strokes occasionally. It's difficult to reproduce the stray strokes, but this mostly happens when your hand or finger touches the screen before the cursor appears in hover mode. It should take a while to get use to the proper way to using it in such a way as to avoid palm rejection problems.
Finger gestures work but on occasions can be erratic. It happens quite rarely though.
Dell has built in other software features to go with the Canvas. For example, there's an on screen mouse pad that you can use to navigate your extended monitor. Icons on the desktop can be grouped into folders called Fences. These are just the few features that I can remember.
Glitches and bugs
With Medibang Paint Pro, when drawing a stroke, there's a high tendency to produce a dot followed by the stroke. I've seen this problem before so it's not a problem isolated to the Dell Canvas. It's probably an issue with Wintab or Medibang Paint Pro.
Sketchable would sometimes just stop working.
While the screen supports finger gestures and touch, I find that sometimes it can be quite difficult to press on the correct place accurately.
The prototype that I tried had annoying glitches and bugs. The Totem didn't work too well. I hope Dell can fix those issues before releasing the Dell Canvas for sale. Most importantly, palm rejection needs to work flawlessly, otherwise it might be better to just turn off touch support on the screen.
Overall, the drawing process is a satisfactory experience. The lines come out just the way they should. Strokes transition smoothly. The sensitivity is fantastic. This is a device that can absolutely be used to create production art works, full digital paintings.
The price, from what I've read elsewhere, is going to be USD $1,800. The closest competitor is the Wacom 27QHD which is USD $2299 on Amazon at the time of this writing. If Dell manages to fix all those glitches, then I would consider this a worthy competitor.
Having said all, that this product definitely has the potential. The hardware is certainly very capable, what needs more refinement would be the software and driver support.