The new Dell Canvas 27″ tablet monitor, slated to hit the shelves at the end of April 2017, was on display at this year’s CES 2017. I was fortunate enough to go to the conference and to try out this new offering for professional artists. Scroll down a bit for a pen demo video. I’ve written up an initial Dell Canvas review based on this experience.
Dell Canvas (bottom) with additional, eye-level monitor
Dell Canvas uses Wacom EMR pen
The Canvas is a bit like a Surface Studio except that the Canvas is a table monitor, not a 2-in-1, so it’s more similar to the Cintiq 27″ and has the same resolution. Dell states the Canvas pen is Wacom EMR. (Dell’s recent products have used Wacom AES, and before that they used Synaptics digitizers). EMR is the most sensitive and what Wacom uses on its own Cintiqs. However, I found this pen to be less sensitive than a Cintiq pen. To be fair, it’s months until the Canvas actually comes out, and it may be tweaked by then, and who knows if it will even had the same pen.
This pen was thick but comfortable and had two buttons. Its girth and rather simple barrel shape reminded me of pens by Huion more than the skinnier, shapelier pens used by Wacom and Microsoft.
It only does Windows
The Canvas has to be connected to a computer, and that computer has to be running Windows. Dell partnered with Microsoft on the Canvas, and the Canvas will work with the Creators Update, and will run with AVID. Dell, naturally, suggests using the Canvas with the Dell Precision workstation, which is powerful enough to create VR content.
The Canvas is protected by Gorilla Glass. It has some cool functions like virtual desktops, and it comes with two kinds of “Totems” (ahem, Surface Dial clones) that you can twist and turn.
Display overlay shows open programs. Photo: tabletsforartists.com
Dell’s initial idea was the SmartDesk, where the two monitors would interact, but it’s not clear if that will come to fruition or if it will be the regular routine. In this case, there are actually three monitors–the laptop, the Canvas, and the eye-level monitor.
2.5k display resolution
The display has a 2560 x 1440 QHD resolution (111 PPI). The bezel has a lot of contrA close competitor would be Wacom’s 27″ Cintiq, with the same resolution (2.5K). The all-in-one, 28″ Surface Studio packs 4500 x 3000 (192 PPI). So the Canvas is pretty high resolution, but it could be higher. However, the 2.5K will have an easier time working with more Windows computers than a 4K or higher would.
The Canvas’ 20-point touch would accommodate more than one person. The color gamut covers 100% of Adobe RGB. Palm rejection worked well. The stand is adjustable, and I like that it can lie flat as a desk, something the Surface Studio’s hinge does not allow.
As you can see, the pen is very accurate with no jitter. It also had no detectable tilt sensitivity (which could change) or perhaps there were settings I wasn’t aware of. While I liked it fine, if I didn’t apply a little bit of pressure, I’d get skips. (Again, they may tweak this before it hits the market).
Two Totems for the Dell Canvas 27
To me, two Totems plus the pen and multiple monitors is a lot to think about and the idea of the 20-point multitouch, which can accommodate an extra person or two, starts to seem a bit left-brained, but we’ll see. Right now there are not a whole lot of apps for the Totem and Surface Dial, but these are in their early stages.
Totem with contextual menu. The Canvas comes with two kinds of Totems. hoto: tabletsforartists.com
The whole thing is very BUSY pus there are lots and lots of on-screen menus. It’s not exactly Zen, but it offers a lot of options.
Right now the levels of pressure sensitivity are not clear, nor are other specs, but I’ll be updating.
For now, my hands-on experience with the Dell Canvas 27 leaves me feeling like it’s not a huge leg up over other 27″ tablet monitors as far as hardware. The jury’s out on the software as that’s such a big part of this, and it is impressive. But what are the specific benefits? Do all the accessories and tools make the designer’s workload easier, or is this an exercise in deconstructing and fragmenting workflow?
Because at the time of this writing, the product has not yet come out, this Dell Canvas review is focused on testing the pen, examining the screen, speed of the computer, and more. But there are still details and perhaps yet to come, so I’m going to withhold my verdict. For now, I’m not sold on the Totem/Dial, though that could change. Habits like one hand, one pen are difficult to give up. The display is certainly pleasing and I like the idea of the eye-level monitor, though that’s an individual choice. I would probably just prop up the Canvas to 20 degrees and just use that.
Dell released a lot of innovative and award-getting products at CES, including a super-thin 8k monitor and the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. So it’s a company now on the cutting edge. It has long had pen tablets, but somehow you didn’t hear about them all that much. Now Dell is working with Microsoft, and this time incorporating Wacom, aiming to get in more seriously on the art action. Dell may make some valuable contributions.
New Dell Active Pen and Dell Active Stylus: New Venue 8 Pro and Venue 10 Pro get Wacom ES
Dell unveiled revamped Venue 8 and 10 tablets at CES 2016 in January. They included the New Venue 8 Pro 5000, now with a Wacom ES digitizer and the New Dell Venue 10 Pro (5055) and Venue 10 (5050).
“New” is part of the name of the New Venue 10 Pro, but not part of the name of the revamped Venue 10, though they refer to it as a ‘new’ Venue 10 with a lower-case “n” in the product info. Sigh. So, in with the New.
These new models are currently sold only through Dell.
The New Venue 8 Pro comes in 32 and 64GB storage and 2GB and 4GB RAM, runs Windows, and has an Atom processor and 8″ screen.
Dell Active Pen
The New Venue 8 Pro 5000 (5855) now uses a Wacom ES pen, the Dell Active Pen. See it on Dell.com. The pen is sold separately. You cannot use the Dell Active Stylus from the old Venue Pro line on the New Venue Pro line. The old ones used Synaptics tech and Dell has now switched over to Wacom and is using the term “pen” rather than “stylus.”
The Dell Active Pen is also compatible with some other Dell 2-in-1 laptops and tablets. It uses Bluetooth and takes an AAAA battery and 319-type coin-cell batteries. It has an LED light that indicates pairing. Its tip is 3 mm, which is still pretty fine-tipped.
Here is the list of compatible Dell devices:
Inspiron 7568, Latitude 11 5715, Latitude 11 5179, Latitude 7275, Venue 10 Pro 5056, Venue 8 Pro 5855, and XPS 12 9250.
The new system is an improvement over the old Venue Pro line. The new one has 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity and good palm rejection.
New Dell Active Stylus for New Venue 10 Pro
There’s also a new Dell Active Stylus, the 750-AAIZ, (click to see it on Amazon) for the also-revamped Venue 10 (5050) and Venue 10 Pro (5055). “New” is not part of the name of the stylus. Same name, different stylus than the old one. Double sigh.
Wish they could at least call it “Dell Active Stylus 2” or something–they already caused heaps of confusion with the three versions of Dell Active Stylus for the old Venue Pro. Maybe “Son of Dell Active Stylus”? If you’re confused now, try finding info on their site–it’s a haystack! So I’ve compiled the relevant info in this post.
The new “universal” Wacom Bamboo Smart Stylus, a Wacom ES pen, will work on the Venue 10 5000 Series (5050) and the Venue 10 Pro 5000 Series (5055). That one comes with two swappable tips, one firm and one soft. Since the tablets don’t come to a pen, you could get this one instead, then you would have the two tips.
Even though the new Dell pens are both Wacom ES, they are not interchangeable.
UPDATE: Dell has refreshed this line with a new Dell Venue 8 Pro and Dell Venue 10 Pro that both have Wacom ES. Please see this post about the New Venue Pros and pens.
Type of Tablet
The Venue 8 Pro is a Windows 8.1 tablet. It offers both touch and pen input.
Just to be clear, what we are reviewing is the 5830, part of the 5000 line. The “newer” Venue 8 Pro, the 3000, doesn’t offer a digitizer (so has no pressure sensitivity). Nor does the plain old non-Pro Venue 8, which is an Android tablet. Some sites are selling the 3000 line but not making it clear that that one lacks the digitizer. Some also sell the 5830 without making it clear that it HAS the digitizer. If it says the 5000 line, it’s OK even if it doesn’t specify it’s a 5830. If you’re unsure which Venue tablet you’re seeing, check with the seller.
There is a 32GB and 64GB model, the 64GB will do you more good; Windows alone takes up substantial RAM.
It’s fine for left-handers, though the Windows button is on the top right edge.
Intel Bay trail Atom Z3740D processor (quad core)
64 GB hard drive (there’s also a 32GB model)
8″ HD display 8.0 (WXGA 1280 x 800)
Used with Dell Active Stylus (optional; not included)
Multitouch touchscreen with 10-pt capacitive touch,
Two cameras (5 MP rear-facing, 1.2 MP front)
Can take MicroSD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards of up to 128GB
includes MS Office Home and Student edition
Micro USB port (just one)
8.50 x 5.12 x 0.35 inches
weight 13.9 oz. (395 g), thickness about 3/8″ (9mm)
Windows 8.1 (32 bit, as is normal for this size tablet)
Supports Miracast wireless tech, which lets you stream to TV even if you don’t have local wifi. does not have HDMI, you’d have to buy an HDMI adapter (or see the cool Plugable dock below, under Optional Accessories) if you want to beam images from tablet to TV.
Does not come with GPS. You would have to use a GPS app; there are free ones.
Since the stylus is optional and not included, there’s no silo for it in the tablet.
The Windows button is on the top right edge instead of on the front, so that’s something unusual that takes some getting used to; it’s not a bad thing, because the button isn’t in the way of anything you’re doing.. The back has a ridged texture, and feels rubberized and not that rigid, making the tablet easy to grip. The texture also keeps fingerprints away. The bezel doesn’t cover much of the screen. The tablet has a pleasing design and for the price, the materials and build are of high quality.
Intel Bay Trail Atom processors are much faster than the older Atoms, and for ordinary use, the 8 Pro runs without hiccups. You can use programs like Photoshop and Manga Studio 5, but some CPU-havey effects and filters may lag. We recommend the 64GB model over the 32GB; Windows alone takes up substantial RAM.
At 13.9 oz and slightly under 3/8″ thick, it’s compact, thin, and easy to tote.
The tablet, micro USB cord, wall charger, quickstart guide, registration/warranty info. Stylus not included.
The 1280×800 resolution with a pixel density of 200ppi is decent for a screen this size, though it’s not the highest. (Compare it to the iPad retina at 264ppi, though 240 could also qualify as Retina; the original iPad and iPad2 had a ppi of only 132). The Venue 8 Pro’s IPS screen offers good viewing angles. The colors are bright in the Dell, and at this screen size, the display is fine for reading, drawing, and video.
The previous issue of the light sensor defaulting to too dim a setting has been fixed via a firmware update. allows you to tap, slide, swipe, pinch
The palm rejection works well; the screen senses when you are holding the pen.
The on-screen keyboard has frustrated some users, as it will sometimes be oversensitive and do things like type extra characters.
At 0.4 in. thick x 5.7 in, this is thicker than the average wood pencil, so is really is more of a pen than a stylus, but Dell calls it a stylus. I’ll call it a stylus pen. It has a fine, 1mm tip and two buttons that you can use to erase, click, and highlight.
The digitizer uses Synaptics technology, which is closer to N-trig than to Wacom, and like N-trig, there are 256 levels of pressure sensitivity. Dell active stylii are metal and take a single AAAA battery, which should last about a year with regular usage.
The stylus pen is not included with the tablet, and there is no set place on or in the tablet to store it. You could try getting creative with Velcro.
The Dell Active Stylus has quite a saga. The first two versions had issues with ghosting and leaving trails and were met with many complaints. Though firmware updates fixed some problems in the second pen, problems remained. The latest pen is a huge improvement. This new pen, the AO3, is silver and gray; the previous two were all-black. Odd as it may sound, the new stylus uses Wacom technology, and works with the Venue Pro 8, the Venue Pro 10, and the Venue Pro 11.
The Dell part no. for the A03 is 750-AAGN.
You will not be able to use other Wacom pens, or the N-trig pen, with the Venue Pro line; only the Dell Active Stylus. You can, however, use a capacitive stylus (like an iPad stylus) or even finger paint on the Venues.
The Dell Active Stylus pen works with the Venue 8 Pro (5830, the one we’re reviewing here), the Venue 11 Pro (5130, 7130, 7139, 7140), and Latitude 2-in-1 7000 Series (7350). It will not work with other tablets regardless of model or brand.
With the benefit of the improved Active Stylus, this Dell Venue 8 Pro review has become more
positive than it would have been otherwise. It did take Dell a while, but it’s commendable that they listened to customer feedback about both the stylus and the auto-brightness and did something about it. The stylus pen is now responsive and accurate, and makes the Venue 8 into a good drawing tool. The tablet isn’t as powerful as a Surface Pro or using a Cintiq with a computer, but it’s peppy and portable.
Excellent; up to 10 hours.
Buttons and volume rocker are on the side. Accelerometer lets you switch from portrait to landscape.
You can put any Windows 8.1-compatible software on. It comes with 2013 MS Home and Student Office.
Customer Reviews and Ratings
The Venue 8 Pro has been generally favorably received. But, some have had negative experiences, such as having the tablet fail, or problems with the charger not fitting well into the micro USB. The old stylus was a major source of problems, too. One positive Dell Venue 8 Pro review praised it as a tool for both content creation and consumption. Many praised both its design and performance.
Excellent battery life
bright screen with good viewing angles
Good handwriting recognition; will convert handwriting to text
Nice materials and build for the price
On-screen keyboard buggy for some people
Iffy USB port and charger, with some people saying the shipped chargers did not fit into the USB socket the right way, resulting in broken pins. Some are saying it’s a Micro A charger with a Micro B cable and others are saying it’s a Micro AB charger that takes an A or B cable. I will provide an update if I can get a definite answer. Do not try to force the charger. If you have problems, contact Dell.
I did several chats to confirm information, and it was a combination of pleasant (they’re very polite) and frustrating (they’re not that well informed, but no worse than at other computer companies). Customers with complex issues have reported some pretty serious problems, including language barriers, and being transferred from rep to rep for hours. Others had positive interactions. So, service is inconsistent. There is both Dell Home and Dell Small Business, and you should remember which one you purchased from, as the two arms don’t always communicate with each other. There is a lack of detailed information on the site in general. The Dell Community forum can be helpful, and Dell does answer questions there.
Newer in town: The Dell Venue Pro 10 and
Dell Venue Pro 11
Dell Venue 8 Pro vs. Dell Venue Pro 11
The Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000 is a high-end Windows tablet with a larger, 10.8″ Windows tablet with a more powerful processor, one you would find in a laptop, up to Intel Core 5. It boasts a full HD screen at 1920 x 1080p. It has an HDMI port. Dell calls it “three devices in one,” meaning a tablet, an Ultrabook, and desktop (when used with the keyboard). It’s certainly not the only device you could call a 3-in-1.
(Note: An Ultrabook is a high-end Intel-powered subnotebook. A subnotebook is a notebook that’s thinner and lighter than a laptop.)
The Dell Venue 10 Pro is aimed at the academic market and has a detachable keyboard, a multitouch, high-res screen, and an Atom processor.
All these use the Dell Active Stylus and have pressure sensitivity.
It’s got a lot of great qualities at an affordable price, and artists can use it as a digital sketchbook; it doesn’t take the place of a Cintiq or full-fledged tablet PC. But it’s more versatile than an Android tablet, and it’s fast. It doesn’t have an extremely high-res screen, but for this size tablet it’s not a big issue–I would not use this size for my main drawing tablet. On the downside, there are some potential bugs, as noted, with the on-screen keyboard and the USB port; not everyone will have these problems. Like the Surface Pro 3, the Venue 8 Pro has 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, not as many as Wacom tablets, but it doesn’t make an enormous difference. The build quality, speed, price, and improved stylus make this a nice little portable art tool, as long as you don’t run into the aforementioned problems.