Bought a Surface Dial today - initial impressions


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May 22, 2014
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I purchased a Surface Dial this afternoon. I am using it with my Surface Book, which is connected to a Surface Dock. The dock is connected to dual Dell 27” monitors. I am using the Surface ergonomic keyboard and Surface mouse.
The Dial is a really slick piece of hardware. It fits the hand very well, and it has the perfect amount of weight and resistance to make it feel like a luxury device. The haptic feedback is very nice when you click it.
So far, I have mostly been using it to scroll and to adjust volume. It is really nice for both. Once I spent a minute or two using the Dial to scroll up and down on web pages, going back to the mouse-and-scroll-bar felt completely barbaric. Even the mouse scroll wheel and the two-finger scroll on the touchpad felt like I was stuck in the dark ages. Using the Dial to scroll immediately makes you scream, “THIS is how scrolling ought to work!” Nothing else seems right after you get used to the Dial.
Volume control is even better. You don’t have to move the cursor over the volume icon on the lower-right portion of the screen, and you don’t have to hunt to remember which F-key is volume up or volume down. You simply turn the knob. Again, it’s so effortless and natural that you suddenly feel all other ways are barbaric.
I also tried using the Dial in my DAW (I use Samplitude). I was able to zoom and scroll through audio objects with ease; it’s much more natural than the mouse.
I do have a couple of nits. First, working with Edge was inconsistent. On my left monitor, the Dial would scroll through a web page perfectly. But when I move the browser window to my right monitor, the Dial would only scroll if I first moved the cursor off of the browser window. I couldn’t get it working well. It’s OK, because this turned out to be the last straw for me on Edge. (I haven’t been able to access my Google account through Edge over the last couple of days either.) I downloaded Firefox, and everything seems to be working great.
Second, while the Dial itself is ergonomically perfect, it invites you to position your wrist at an angle such that your wrist rests on the corner of my desk. The hard edge of the desk bites into your wrist just enough that it’s a bit uncomfortable. I don’t think it’s a flaw in the Dial so much as a reflection of the fact that desks weren’t designed to be used with a Dial. I’m sure I’ll come up with a solution after a few days. Maybe I’ll put a mouse pad there to give a little cushion at the edge of the desk for my wrist to rest upon. I tried moving the Dial forwards and backwards on the desk, but it just didn’t feel quite right anywhere else.
I am not an artist, so the uses right now are pretty limited. But I do spend a fair amount of time scrolling through documents, web pages, and so on, and it is a huge improvement in the way I’m experiencing those things.
Overall, I'm happy with the purchase, and looking forward to getting more used to it.

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