Should you buy a Surface Dial for a Surface Laptop 2?

Should you buy a Surface Dial for a Surface Laptop 2?

Best answer: No. The Surface Dial has fairly limited functionality as a laptop companion. It's best used on-screen for creative apps on 2-in-1 Surface devices such as the Surface Pro, Surface Book, and Surface Studio.Microsoft: Surface Dial (opens in new tab) ($100)Microsoft: Surface Book 2 (opens in new tab) ($1,300+)Microsoft: Surface Studio 2 (opens in new tab) ($3,500+)

Dial "U" for Unintended

The Surface Dial is a nifty piece of kit that allows you to interact with your device in a new way, but only in certain scenarios. It's a puck-shaped Bluetooth device that can connect and work with any Windows 10 device, but its functionality is severely limited if you're not planning to use it with one of the 2-in-1 Surface devices, namely the Surface Pro, Surface Book, and Surface Studio.

The Surface Dial can detect presses, and rotational movement with touch-sensors beneath its exterior. It's a weighty device meant to sit on a desk, with a rubberized underside to prevent it from sliding off a glass screen when placed on a Surface 2-in-1 device.

When placed on the display, it can detect which app is in the foreground and dynamically change its functionality to match. When used with Photoshop, it gives you a range of additional controls that allow you to continue inking without reaching for a keyboard for shortcuts and other controls. Head here (opens in new tab) for more details from Adobe. You can get similar functionality out of other creative apps, including Sketchable and DJay Pro. We have a list of great Dial-capable apps right here.

Since you cannot lay the Surface Laptop 2's screen flat without literally tilting it and the keyboard onto its back, it becomes a little pointless. You can use the Dial for media controls in apps like Netflix and Spotify while it's placed on your desk, but it feels a little cost-prohibitive to be worthwhile.

Surface Dial with Photoshop. Source: Adobe.

Surface Dial with Photoshop. Source: Adobe.

Instead, if you're an arty-type and think the Surface Dial looks like a compelling tool for your arsenal of digital creativity, consider one of Microsoft's 2-in-1 Surface devices, which allow you to place the Surface Dial directly onto the display. Naturally, the bigger the screen, the better.

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!