The best new tech for designers to drop in 2017

Tech enthusiasts and creatives often go hand-in-hand, which means there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful as the tech industry revs up for another year of innovation.

Whether its high-powered all-in-one PCs or simply more refined input devices that are on the horizon, more technology companies than ever are eager to please designers, illustrators and digital artists of all types with inspirational wares. 

Much like an artist on the hunt for the best pencils, digital artists are always on the lookout for the latest and greatest gadgets to help bring their creations to life. If that's you, don't miss what Microsoft, Apple, Dell, Wacom, and a host of other big brands have in store for the discerning creative in 2017.

01. Sprout Pro by HP

An Intel Core i7, 1TB of SSHD storage, and 16GB RAM will power the Sprout by HP

Due in March 2017, HP's second-generation, all-in-one PC wants to take desktop creativity to the next level this year by blending the physical and digital worlds in even more futuristic ways.

The Sprout sports a HD resolution projector, a touch mat that doubles as a secondary horizontal display, and 2D/3D cameras, all of which combine to achieve high-precision scanning capabilities. 

02. Microsoft Surface Book 2

Microsoft may have an improved Pen loop in the works for its Surface Book 2

Microsoft called the original Surface Book the "ultimate laptop", but there's always room for improvement. The next model could feature a 4K screen, and with Intel's Kaby Lake architecture on hand, that bodes well for high resolution 3D graphics performance, not to mention Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C support.

The Surface Book 2 could drop as soon as this Spring. Could it be fully VR capable, too? Here's hoping.

03. New Bamboo Stylus

Wacom's next Bamboo stylus will let you tap into ink applications including Windows Ink

Wacom is putting the finishing touches to a new Bamboo stylus that's capable of using both Wacom's own Active ES Pen protocol and Microsoft's Pen protocol. 

Combining the two will make for a Bamboo stylus with unrivalled compatibility, allowing users to switch seamlessly between platforms and devices like never before.

04. Apple iPad Pro

Apple's new iPad range could have True Tone displays across the board

When it comes to iPads, Apple seems to be settling into an every-other-year upgrade cycle. That could mean we see a refresh for its entire tablet range, with rumors suggesting a new 10.5-inch Pro model could be in the offing. 

Apple may also have a nearly bezel-free design up its sleeve for the new line-up – possibly as soon as this Spring. So hold off on that iPad Pro purchase, at least for now.

05. Polaroid 3D Pen

Polaroid is also bringing a range of affordable, not to mention colourful, 3D printers to market as well

Polaroid has two 3D pen models in the works, one wired, one wireless. Its wireless variant will come with an internal battery and charging stand, while both are compatible with ABS and PLA filaments and will come with 10m of filament to get users started.

Polaroid's 3D pens could come as soon as March 2017, with its new range of 3D printers following soon after in July.

06. EinScan-Pro+ Handheld 3D Scanner

Multiple scanning modes and more are promised in the EinScan-Pro+

Shining 3D won the 2016 Electronics Industry Product of the Year Award for the EinScan-Pro, and its followup handheld 3D scanner promises to build upon the company's already high standards.

The EinScan-Pro+ features a higher scan speed, an enlarged scan range, and a brand new Rapid Registration module for obtaining finer geometrical surface characteristics and more colour information from scanned objects. 

07. Mac Pro

The Mac Pro is in dire need of a refresh

Three long years have passed since Apple unveiled its redesigned Mac Pro. Not a single update has been issued in that time – the glossy black workstation didn't even get a mention during the recent MacBook Pro event. Thankfully it's not all bad news: CEO Tim Cook has promised "great desktops" are in the works, so Apple may pull its finger out yet.

AMD and Nvidia have had new GPUs ready to go since 2016, and in a wholesale switch to USB-C, we can expect any refreshed Mac Pro to feature Thunderbolt 3 ports, too. Release date? Your guess is as good as ours.

08. Intuos Pro

The Intuos Pro 2 is available later this month starting at $350 for the small model, and up to $500 for the large

Wacom is prepping its new Intuos Pro pen and touch tablets for an early 2017 release. The stylus will boast over 8,000 levels of pressure sensitivity for better accuracy and a more natural feel when used on the company's latest tablets.

The next-gen Intuos Pro is less than half an inch thick and more compact than ever, while a Pro Paper Edition will also let users digitise a sketch as they draw.

09. Dell S2718D Ultrathin Monitor

Dell's 27-inch QHD 2560x1440 monitor is so thin, it's almost not there

High dynamic range (HDR) is set to become the new buzz term among monitor aficionados in 2017, and Dell's S2718D is one of the first displays that will support the eye-popping standard.

Sporting InfinityEdge thin-bezel technology, USB-C connectivity, 400 nits of brightness, and covering 99 percent of the sRGB colour gamut, the quality of this 27-inch monitor will take some beating.

10. 256GB SanDisk Extreme Pro USB 3.1 Solid State Flash Drive

Western Digital's über-fast USB flash drive will be available late January for $179.99

USB flash drives aren't exactly known for transferring data at lightning speed, but that's about to change this year, starting with Western Digital's Sandisk Extreme Pro.

This little belter can reach read speeds of up to 420MB/s and writes at up to 380MB/s – about as fast as your average internal SSD, then. Western Digital claims a full-length 4K movie can be transferred to the USB drive in less than 15 seconds. 

11. LG 32UD99 32-inch IPS Display

There's no word as yet on pricing or availability for LG's monstrously capable HDR 4K monitor

If you're after a high dynamic range (HDR) monitor this year but it quite simply has to be 4K, then be sure to keep an eye on LG – the company is promising big things from its upcoming 32-inch 3DUD99 IPS panel display. 

In addition to HDR, its 3,840x2,160 (127 PPI) resolution covers over 95% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut, while LG claims its True Color Pro setting offers "colour reproduction accuracy unmatched in the industry". We'll just have to wait and see.

12. Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Dock

Elgato's Thunderbolt 3 dock can also charge a MacBook Pro

Apple's 2016 MacBook Pro came under fire from creatives and enthusiasts for its lack of built-in connectivity options. Fortunately, folks like Elgato are launching a solution later this month in the form of a Thunderbolt 3 dock with dual 4K monitor support.

The $300 dock features three USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, two Thunderbolt USB-C ports, 1 DisplayPort (with DisplayPort 1.2 support), a 3.5mm audio jack, and a 3.5mm microphone input jack. 

13. OWC DEC for MacBook Pro 2016

When attached, the OWC DEC will make a 2016 MacBook Pro as thick as a 2012 model. Not bad

Thunderbolt docks are great if your MacBook Pro is frequently parked on a desk, but for creatives who spend half their time on the road, they simply aren't practical. 

This spring, OWC is launching another option for the latter crowd: a slick attachment that snaps onto the bottom of your MacBook Pro for added functionality. Connecting via Thunderbolt 3, the relatively slim slab features up to 4TB of storage, an SD card slot, standard USB-A ports, and a Gigabit Ethernet port. 

14. Kingston 2TB USB Flash drive

Portability and high capacity storage combine in Kingston's DataTraveler Ultimate GT

Kingston Digital is readying the world's largest capacity USB flash drive, weighing in at 2TB (twice the size of its current king size offering, the DataTraveler HyperX Predator 1TB).

Cased in a shockproof metal alloy, the DataTraveler Ultimate GT is a bit fatter than most USB 3.1 sticks, but still far smaller than your average external drive. Kingston's aiming for a February release, but there's no word on pricing yet.

15. Apple iMac

Graphics performance is expected to double if Apple uses AMD in its iMac refresh this year

Apple last updated its new iMacs in 2015, so we're putting our money on a refresh this year. A major redesign is unlikely, but Kaby Lake processors, USB-C and new AMD graphics chips are expected to feature in any updates. A wireless keyboard with Touch Bar and Touch ID has also been rumored.

Given the current state of the Mac Pro, it's hard to predict exactly when Apple will debut the new iMacs, but we're tentatively earmarking a Spring release.

Related articles: