Dell's Canvas can make any Windows 10 PC a hands-on creativity tool

The 27-inch display even comes with a digital pen and a Surface-Dial-like device for calling up onscreen menus.

Dell’s Canvas is a specialized display that can turn your Windows 10 PC into a creative powerhouse. Announced Thursday at CES in Las Vegas, the Canvas joins Microsoft Surface Studio and HP Sprout Pro in a small but intriguing trend of PCs that deemphasize the keyboard and mouse (though you may still use them), and encourage more natural, hands-on interactions.

The good news for users is that the Canvas, priced at $1,799 and due to ship March 30, gives you these new features without requiring you to forsake your existing PC—that is, as long as it’s running Windows 10.

The Canvas resembles Microsoft’s Surface Studio in that it offers a touch display that can function as a flat work surface. The Canvas even has a Surface Dial lookalike called Totem that brings menus to your fingertips (you could also use the Surface Dial with the Canvas). Two different sizes of Totem will ship with the Canvas, along with a digital Smart Pen for writing and drawing on the display.

dell canvas 27 totem smart pen Melissa Riofrio

Dell’s Canvas encourages hands-on computing with its pucklike Totem device for using menus onscreen, as well as a digital Smart Pen.

By the specs, the Canvas is a 27-inch QHD (2560 x 1440) IPS panel supporting Adobe RGB color. Dell calls the display a “horizontal ‘do’ surface.” In addition to pen input it supports 20-point touch, so two or three people could use their hands on the display at the same time. Because Dell expects people to write and draw on the surface on a daily basis, it has a Gorilla Glass panel that’s extra-hard as well as anti-glare.

The built-in stand holds the Canvas at low angles from 1.5 degrees to 10 degrees. You can buy an optional stand to raise the display from 10 degrees to 85 degrees, or it also supports VESA mount. But this display was designed for hand interaction, so the expected setup is to have one display for vertical viewing and the Canvas for horizontal working.

One thing the Canvas wants is to be easy to connect to your PC. Your included cable choices include USB-C to USB-C, USB-C to USB-A, mini-DP to mini-DP or DP, and mini-HDMI to HDMI. The Canvas also has its own AC adapter.

The Canvas will be aimed at creative types—artists, animators, designers. Even a regular user could enjoy the unit’s writing and drawing skills on mainstream Windows 10 programs, however—especially the enhanced classic coming with the Creators Update, like 3D Paint and 3D Powerpoint. Dell also plans to nurture third-party development of new applications for the Canvas. 

Think of how natural it feels to use touch on your smartphone. To see greater touch support coming to PCs feels like a good evolutionary for computers, one that offers all their power in a way that’s more intuitive. 

Editor's note: The Canvas was called "Canvas 27" in some early press materials, but the name has since been finalized as Canvas.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon