Why I’m in Love with the Surface Dial

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The Surface Dial is one of the coolest gadgets I’ve seen in a long time–and I see a LOT of new gadgets. It looks deceptively simple, but has the potential to completely transform how we work with our computers.

When Microsoft invited the media to New York at the end of October, the focus was on unveiling the new Surface Studio all-in-one desktop and the updated Surface Book. As awesome as the Surface Studio is, though, the real star of the show—and probably the coolest device you can get for under $100—is the Surface Dial.

“What is the Surface Dial?” you ask. The Surface Dial is a peripheral device that has the potential to significantly streamline how you work with your PC and increase your productivity.

Physically, the Surface Dial is a short aluminum cylinder. It is less than 2.5-inches in diameter and sits less than an inch-and-a-half tall. You can press down on the Surface Dial, or rotate left and right. It communicates with Windows 10 devices via Bluetooth Low Energy.

The Surface Dial is essentially a physical incarnation of the radial menu Microsoft created for OneNote on the iPad. You can press and hold the Surface Dial button to activate the menu and rotate left and right through the various options. It can also provide tactile feedback.

Microsoft describes it, “Surface Dial is a completely new way to interact with technology. Store, customize, access, navigate, and reimagine physical tools in the digital world—from concept to creation. We draw, scribble, and sketch to organize our thoughts and communicate with others. With Surface Dial in one hand and Surface Pen in the other, you can unlock your creativity with easy access to shortcuts, controls, drawing tools, and more.”

The exact menus and functionality of the Surface Dial are customizable and will vary from one application to the next. Microsoft lists a variety of applications that already include Surface Dial support, such as Drawboard, OneNote, Word, Paint, Microsoft Photos, Spotify, Bluebeam, Windows Maps, and more.

There are three reasons I think the Surface Dial is a great device. First, I have always been a huge fan of the radial menus in OneNote for iPad and felt like Microsoft should replace the standard menu bar with the radial menus for all its products. The ability to access contextual menus anywhere on the screen, and drill down through the features and capabilities available is awesome.

Check out the full story on Forbes: Surface Dial Is The Coolest Thing You Can Buy For Under $100.

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About Author

Tony Bradley is Editor-in-Chief of TechSpective and Community Manager for Tenable. Tony has a passion for technology and gadgets--with a focus on Microsoft and security. He also loves spending time with his family and likes to think he enjoys reading and golf even though he never finds the time for either.