Wacom’s desk-straddling Cintiq 27QHD is most artist and designers’ dream creative surface, but its price has kept it out of reach for many. Now Dell has launched a lower-cost competitor that matches the Cintiq feature-for-feature – except for one.
Read: Wacom Cintiq 27QHD review
The Dell Canvas was announced at the CES 2017 show, where the company also launched upgrades to its Precision pro-level laptops – including a new version of the Precision 5510, which is currently the best laptop on the market for designers and artists – an pro iMac-like all-in-one and its first 8K monitor.
Read: Dell launches first 8K monitor
The Dell Canvas will cost $1,799 in the US. UK pricing won’t be announced until it ships in late March, but converted the dollar price comes to £1,459. Currently the Cintiq 27QHD Touch will set you back £2,099 on Amazon, or $2,545 in the US. You can get a version of the Cintiq 27QHD without multi-touch support – so you can draw on it with the pen, but you can’t use gestures such as pinch-to-zoom – for £1,799/$2,099.
Dell Canvas vs Wacom Cintiq 27QHD
Multi-touch is one area where the Canvas out-does the Cintiq 27QHD – as it supports up to 20 fingers to the Cintiq’s 10. This lets two users work on it at once – so is probably more appropriate for home or office users than artists or designers.
With the rest of its specs, the Canvas matches the Cintiq 27QHD. The 27-inch screen has a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 and can output over a billion colours – being able to match the whole of the Adobe RGB colour gamut.
You can lie the Dell Canvas near-flat (1.5-degrees from horizontal), or prop it up at 10-degress using its legs. It won’t lie completely flat, which a Dell representative told me was probably for the best – so you’re not tempted to put your drink on it and the knock it over.
The Canvas Pen is quite different from Wacom’s Pen. It has the same level of pressure sensitivity (2,048 levels) and tilt recognition – but its design is different. It’s thinner and lighter than Wacom’s pen and more like the Apple Pencil (though much shorter than that). From the short-amount of time I had to try it, it felt well balanced – not as good to draw with as Wacom’s pen or the Pencil, but certainly more substantial and less like a biro than Microsoft’s Surface Pen.
There are two buttons on the pen. When you’re not using it, you can stick it to the edge of Canvas, where it stays magnetically.
The Canvas Pen doesn’t require batteries: unlike the Cintiq’s pen, Surface Pen or Pencil – but like the newer Pro Pen 2 for the MobileStudio Pro and Cintiq Pro.
As well as the Pen, you also create on the Canvas using a round dial called the Totem. This lets you control parameters in apps by putting the dial on the screen and twisting (and you can tap it to confirm if needed too). I used it to change colours using a colour wheel, and adjust opacity or size of a brush – though these were in a demo drawing app.
There’s currently almost no support for the Totem in professional creative apps such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Painter or Maya – but that’s unsurprising as the Totem uses tech built into the next version of Windows 10 – dubbed the 'Creator’s Update’ and due shortly before the Canvas launches in late March. Support for the Totem – at least in Photoshop and Illustrator – will likely be added in app updates following the launch of the Creator’s Update (which will also add compatibility with that OS update).
For this reason, the Dell Canvas is Windows 10-only. Sorry Mac users.
The tech behind the Totem is the same as that powering the Dial included with Microsoft’s Surface Studio – the full iMac-style computer that you can draw on with a Surface Pen.
Dell Canvas vs Microsoft Surface Studio
The Surface Studio is – in concept at least – a Canvas that’s also a computer. Microsoft’s all-in-one has a larger, higher-resolution screen than the Canvas (28-inch, 4,500 x 3,000) – but has less pressure sensitivity (1,024 levels to the Canvas’s 2,048) and Microsoft isn’t making any bold claims about its colour accuracy or gamut. The Surface Pen just isn’t as good for drawing as the Canvas Pen.
Read: Microsoft Surface Studio hands-on review
Expect a review of the Dell Canvas as soon as its available in March.