Dell Canvas 27 Review: Is it a Cheap Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD Touch?

Author: Aaron Rutten - Published January 14, 2017 [UPDATED February 19, 2018]

 

UPDATE 2/19/2018: Since I first published this article, more information has become available about the Dell Canvas 27. I will make notes in dark blue throughout this article explaining the new details.

 

Updated Review Video

Is the Dell Canvas 27 a Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD Touch with a Dell logo? It sure looks that way. I'll share my thoughts on the Dell Canvas and I'll discuss whether or not it is a re-branded Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD Touch. We'll look at the similarities and differences in the two devices and I'll share some ideas on what the future might hold for screen tablets like the Dell Canvas and Wacom Cintiq.

 

What is the Dell Canvas 27?

Dell Canvas 27 is a 27 inch QHD display that allows artists and designers to work on a large screen using a pen and touch. It debuted at CES 2017 and several videos show it's appearance, but not much is known about the technical specs at this point. I'm one of many digital artists who couldn't help but notice that the Dell Canvas 27 looks nearly identical to the Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD Touch which has been on the market for a couple of years. It also comes with a remote control puck that is strikingly similar to the Microsoft Surface Dial.

So the question is... Is Dell copying designs created by Wacom and Microsoft? Or is the Dell Canvas simply a re-branded Cintiq 27 with a Dell logo slapped on it? We won't know for sure until it's released, but we can guess for the fun of it. First let's take a look at the similarities and differences between the Dell Canvas 27 and the Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD Touch.

 

Similarities between Dell Canvas 27 and the Cintiq 27

  •  QHD 2560x1440 resolution
  •  27 inch screen
  •  Nearly identical shape and appearance
  •  Has a magnetic remote
  •  Has a pen that supports pen pressure
  •  Has tiny legs that allow the tablet to lie flat or be raised at a slight incline
  •  Is a display-only and requires a computer and software to be functional

 

Differences between Dell Canvas 27 and Cintiq 27

  • Dell Canvas is thinner and likely lighter than the Cintiq 27 - +1 Dell

  • Dell Canvas only works with Windows 10 and is not compatible with Mac. Cintiq 27 works with Windows 10, 8 and 7 and IS compatible with Mac OS and Linux. - +1 Wacom

  • No eraser on Dell Canvas pen - +1 Wacom

 

The Dell Canvas 27 comes with a Dell Totem puck instead of a remote like the Cintiq 27 QHD uses. Unlike the Microsoft Surface Studio, the dial only works while on the screen. Who the heck wants to cover the screen with their hand and a giant puck? And who, besides Wayne Gretzky, wants to juggle a puck all day? Honestly, I think the whole dial thing is a gimmick to be innovative without actually being that practical. Maybe it's fun to play with a minute, but I doubt I would use it in the long-term. I don't use the Wacom EK Remote that often for my Cintiq 27 because I prefer to use my keyboard. Plus, a remote feels a lot more comfortable to hold for a long period of time and does not need to be on the screen to function. In my opinion, +1 Wacom

 

 

Does Dell Canvas have the same specs and build quality as the Cintiq 27?

 

SCREEN

 

  • Does it have glare reduction?
  • Does it have a grainy tooth texture that grips the pen while letting your hand glide without too much resistance?
  • Is it as bright or brighter than the Cintiq 27?
  • Does it support 97% of the Adobe RGB color gamut and does it support 10 bit color?
  • Is the resolution the same as the Cintiq 27: 5080 lpi?
  • Does it have a native color management accessory?

    *UPDATE 2/19/2018: The Dell Canvas 27 screen has been confirmed to be Wacom technology. The screen technology being used in the Dell Canvas is technically superior to the Cintiq 27 which has slightly more parallax. However, most folks probably wouldn't notice a difference between the two screens if they were side by side. Another key difference between the two screens is that the Dell Canvas 27 supports 20 touch points rather than only 10 for the Cintiq 27 QHD. Unless you can grow an extra pair of arms, this feature probably isn't adding much value.

 

 

PEN

 

  • How many pen pressure levels does the pen have? Is it 2,048 like the Cintiq 27, or will it be 8,192 like the most recent Wacom tablets are?
  • Will the pen support pen tilt?
  • Does the pen require a battery or charging? Wacom pens do not.
  • Does the pen have 2 customizable barrel buttons?
  • Does the pen feel comfortable and is it weighted to suit artists who draw often and for long periods of time?
  • Are the nibs replaceable and how much do they cost?
  • Can you use other styles of pens and nibs like you can with Cintiqs?

    *UPDATE 2/19/2018: The Dell Canvas 27 pen is confirmed to be Wacom EMR pen technology. The pen is very similar to the Cintiq 27 QHD, but with a few differences. For example, the eraser is missing from the Dell Canvas pen and it is a bit thiner and lighter than a Wacom pen. I don't believe you can use other Wacom pens on the Dell Canvas 27, but there are an assortment of 3 different nibs you can switch between. You get two of each for a total of 6 replacement nibs.

    I've also read stories of the Dell Canvas 27 pen pressure sensitivity being a little off compared to how it feels to draw on a Cintiq. This is most noticeable when drawing slowly because the lines appear wobbly. Many art apps can compensate for wobbly lines by enabling brush smoothing, but that also creates stroke lag. There's also an issue with the pen that creates unwanted variations in opacity. This is most noticeable when trying to draw a smooth gradient while controlling the brush opacity with pen pressure.

    Unfortunately, the Dell Canvas 27 control panel does not offer much in the way of customizing your pen pressure compared to Wacom's control panel.

 

INPUT/OUTPUT

 

  • Are the ports USB 3.0 and how many are there? The Cintiq 27 QHD has 5 USB ports (or 4 if you use a port for the EK Remote dongle).
  • Does it have touch buttons on the top right to turn touch on an off quickly and invoke the on-screen keyboard?
  • What display connections does it support? - The Cintiq 27 offers DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI-D & Mini-Display Port
  • Does it come with the same cables Display Port and HDMI and adapters as the Cintiq 27? (DVI-D TO HDMI, Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort)

    *UPDATE 2/19/2018: The Dell Canvas 27 has a minor advantage over the Cintiq 27 QHD because it features USB-C ports. The Dell Canvas also features a combination audio jack for headphones and microphones. Otherwise, the same connection types are supported for both devices and the necessary cables are included.

    Dell Canvas 27 Inputs:
  • 1 x USB Type-C Connector (Upstream)
  • 1 x Mini DisplayPort Connector
  • 1 x Mini HDMI Connector
  • 1 x Combo-Audio Connector
  • 1 x USB Type-C Connector (Downstream)
  • 2 x USB 3.0 Connectors

 

 

BUILD

 

  • Legs look thinner and perhaps flimsier. Even though it's supporting less weight, if corners were cut to lower the price point, it may not be worth the savings to have a leg snap off during an intense drawing session.

  • Honestly, anyone who is serious about either of these tablets will get a stand or an Ergotron LX. That's something to keep in mind because it's an added cost of a hundred or so dollars. Plus you may need to purchase a VESA adapter.

  • Does the Dell Canvas 27 have the same rubber grips on the bottom-back of the tablet to help it grip the edge of a desk while in vertical orientation? This is essential to keep the tablet from sliding side-to-side while using the display attached to an Ergotron arm.

    *UPDATE 2/19/2018: The Dell Canvas 27 is thinner and lighter than the Cintiq 27QHD, but cannot utilize an Ergotron arm without some modification. A proprietary VESA mount can be purchased separately from Dell for around $100 which will enable you to mount the Dell Canvas to an Ergotron arm. And on top of that, you'll have to purchase the Ergotron Arm.

 

 

DRIVERS

 

  • Will the drivers be Wacom Drivers or Dell drivers?
  • Will the drivers be updated regularly and will they be as reliable as Wacom drivers?
  • Does it have the same compatibility with art software as far as pen and touch support?

    *UPDATE 2/19/2018: The Dell Canvas 27 requires drivers from the Dell website. Drivers seem to be updated often.

 

 

Is Dell a Competitor or a Partner?

Wacom is known to license their digitizer technology to many companies who could be viewed as potential competitors including Microsoft, so why not Dell? In fact, Dell sells Wacom products on their website, including Cintiqs. I say Dell is a Wacom partner, not a competitor.

 

*UPDATE 2/19/2018: Dell has been confirmed to be licensing Wacom screen and pen technology for the Dell Canvas 27.

 

 

Update Summary

 

*UPDATE 2/19/2018:

It has been confirmed that the Dell Canvas 27 is essentially a re-branded Cintiq 27 QHD, however it has a few key differences that make it stand out from the Cintiq 27 QHD. For example, the Dell Canvas 27 utilizes a newer Wacom screen technology and provides USB-C ports.

USB-C is quickly becoming the new standard, so having a USB-C port at first seems like a nice bonus. However, there are a few issues that you should be aware of. First, the Dell Canvas 27 and the Cintiq 27 QHD are just USB hubs, they do not add USB functionality to your computer. If your computer does not have an integrated USB-C port or PCI card, the speed of any USB-C device you connect to it will be limited to the transfer rate of the USB port you connect it to. So basically if you do not connect the Dell Canvas 27 to a USB-C port on your computer, you won't be able to take advantage of the increased transfer rate of USB-C.

Next, is the issue of using the USB-C connection to connect the Dell Canvas display. If your computer does not have a USB-C port that supports a combined video and USB signal, then you won't be able to connect the Dell Canvas 27 to your computer as a display via USB-C. Instead, you'll have to connect to DisplayPort or HDMI to enable the Dell Canvas 27 to display video at the full QHD resolution.

 

If your computer does not have a USB-C port, you will at least be able to take advantage of the USB-C device connector type. This may come in handy since USB-C connectors are quickly becoming the standard. I use a USB-A to USB-C adapter to enable my Cintiq 27QHD Touch to connect to devices that use a USB-C connector.

Many modern computers already have a USB-C port and if they do not, it's not terribly difficult to install a USB-C PCI-E card. Having a USB-C port easily accessible on the tablet surface is definitely more convenient than having it on your computer which may be out of reach.

 

It's worth noting that Wacom will be releasing the Cintiq Pro 24 & 32 in early 2018. These models feature 8,192 pressure levels and 4K resolution screens that far exceed the quality of both the Cintiq 27 QHD and the Dell Canvas 27. In response, the Wacom Cintiq 27 price will likely come down as 4K resolution screens become the new standard.

 

Should you buy the Dell Canvas or the Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD Touch?

 

*UPDATE 2/19/2018:

As of February 2018, the Cintiq 27 QHD non-touch version is $1,899.95 and the Dell Canvas is $1,799. That's a difference of $100. First, I'd have to ask myself if having Touch is essential to my creative process. I use it sometimes, but I could also live without it. Also, would having an eraser on my pen be more important to me than having USB-C ports? I get by just fine without either, so I don't think it really matters to me.

 

Next, there is the difference of the Dell Totem versus the Wacom Express Key Remote. The EK Remote connects via Bluetooth, so it can be used on more devices than just the Cintiq 27 QHD, including non-Wacom devices. Just as well, third-party Bluetooth dials that are similar to the Dell Totem can be purchased to be used with a Cintiq. So the shortcut accessory is not a very important factor either.


Another consideration is that I can mount my Cintiq 27 QHD directly to an Ergotron without needing to buy an additional $100 Dell VESA bracket. I feel an Ergotron is essential for either device, so let's add that to the cost. In the case of the Dell Canvas 27, add an additional $100 for the Dell bracket. Now, the Dell Canvas 27 and the Cintiq 27 QHD non-touch devices are about the same price.

The question is, after the new Cintiq 24 and 32 Pros are released, will the price of the Cintiq 27 QHD Touch drop? If so, will it be more expensive, less expensive or the same price as the Dell Canvas 27? I say it's still a wait-and-see situation unless there's something about either device that makes you want to purchase one over the other. You might also consider buying a used Cintiq 27 QHD Touch which may be a lot closer to what you'd pay for a Dell Canvas 27.

 

So if you were to buy a Cintiq 27 QHD Touch right now instead of a Dell Canvas, you'd be paying an additional $500 for an eraser, Mac compatibility, a device that may work more reliably with your software, and the reputation that Wacom has of making quality products. But there is still one unanswered, yet crucial question that remains: What is inside of the Dell Canvas? This matters because if corners were cut to lower the price, parts like capacitors and other electronic guts may not last as long as those in a Cintiq do.

Unfortunately, we don't really know exactly what we are getting (or not getting) until well after the warranty has expired. This is where reputation has some sway in the decision making process. I've personally used several Cintiqs over the years and have had an excellent experience with the product line. Cintiqs have a reputation for lasting a long time and being very reliable.

To be fair, I've still not used a Dell Canvas 27 hands-on, though I have seen a lot of reviews by various artists who have. I can't say if there are any major flaws in the device, but I also don't see any features that would make me want to choose the Dell Canvas 27. I highly recommend Wacom products and technically the Dell Canvas is a Wacom product, so you can't go wrong with either device. You'll have to weigh the differences and decide what will work best for you.

 

© 2018 Aaron Rutten. All Rights Reserved.

Aaron Rutten, Digital Artist

Seattle, WA