Microsoft introduced an expensive new laptop and an expensive all-in-one desktop today. But the company also introduced something a little more affordable: a device that gives you a new way to interact with the company’s touchscreen computers.
It’s called the Surface Dial, and it’s an accessory for Surface Pro tablets, the Surface Studio desktop, or Surface Book 2-in-1. And it’s available for pre-order for $100.
The Surface Dial is expected to ship November 10th. While the dial comes free with a Surface Studio, it’s also designed to work with the Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, and Surface Book, although some features are exclusively available with the Studio.
So what does it do? That depends on the software you’re using it with.
The Surface Dial basically presents a new type of interaction for Surface devices. In addition to mouse, keyboard, touchpad, touchscreen, and pen, you can now use the dial as a way to access shortcuts and other controls when using art tools, media, or even websites.
You can place the Dial next to your system much like a mouse. But when you place it directly on a Surface Studio screen, it can bring up app-specific features in a range of applications. For example, it can be used as a color picker or a ruler.
Interaction with a capacitive touchscreen seems to be a Surface Studio-only feature.
In addition rotation, the Surface Dial supports click and press-and-hold motions.
There’s also haptic feedback which causes the Dial’s aluminum case to vibrate in a way that helps you feel the motion without necessarily looking down at the Dial or the screen.
Here are a few things Microsoft says the Surface Dial will be able to do at launch:
- Adjust the volume when listening to music
- Scroll through websites
- Zoom in and out of Windows Maps
- Offer app-specific features for Paint, Microsoft Photos, Sketchpad, and other graphics programs
Overall, it looks like about 16 apps are currently supported, and it’s likely that the list will grow. And that list treats Microsoft Office as a single app, but if you count Word, PowerPoint, and Excel as distinct programs, that makes the list a bit larger. There are also features for OneNote.
The Surface Dial measures about 2.3″ x 1.2″ and weighs about 5 ounces. It communicates with a Surface device via Bluetooth Low Energy and Microsoft says 2 AAA batteries should provide up to a year of battery life (assuming 4 hours of use per day).
While the Surface Dial is optimized for Microsoft’s own Surface products, some features should work with just about any Bluetooth-enabled PC running Windows 10 Anniversary Update or later.