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Application-specific controls

Programmable

Keyboard shortcuts

A good design for lefties

Two-handed operation

How usable?

Doesn't slide

Bottom

Minimalist

Bringing up a color picker and changing colors are frequent tasks for artists and designers, and it looks like the $100 Dial makes it very easy.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

It was launched alongside Microsoft's impressive new Surface Studio all-in-one PC.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

Here, you can see how the Dial is integrated with an application; for instance, it's providing a readout of zoom scale and rotation angle, plus application-specific button controls.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

The Dial can control a few operating-system specific tasks, such as undo and volume, in addition to working with applications that support it directly.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

You can also map keyboard shortcuts to the Dial, and it can provide haptic feedback -- buzzing gently -- for those operations.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

One clever aspect of the design is that it can be used equally comfortably by left- and right-handed people.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

Using a dedicated accessory to supplement your main tool is nothing new for designers and artists, but none of them have really taken off in a big way. That's because people tend to have strong preferences about the secondary accessory. For instance, if you use a lot of keyboard shortcuts, the Dial might not have the capacity to program all of them.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

Since you can rotate and zoom with your fingers on the touchscreen surface, the utility of the Dial will probably depend on how much you need to program specific functions.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

When the display is tilted at a relatively low angle, the Dial can sit on it without sliding.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

That no-slide bottom.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

The Dial's minimalist design complements the Surface Studio, but it will work with any Surface 3 or later.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
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