The New Touch/Type Covers

When I was first introduced to the folks who built Surface I was told about the three non-negotiable parts of its design: the tablet, the kickstand and the cover. While most tablet covers end up being protective accessories, the first party covers for Surface are an integral part of the overall experience.

Microsoft offers two cover options: the touch cover and the type cover. Both integrate full qwerty keyboards into a display cover that attached magnetically, but they differ in keyboard type. As its name implies, the touch cover integrates a pressure sensitive keyboard with no moving parts. By comparison, the type cover uses keys that physically move. Neither accessory is included with any Surface device and will set you back $119 for the touch cover and $129 for the type cover. They are expensive, but absolutely worth it if you’re going to do any sort of typing on your Surface.


Old (left) and new (right) touch covers

With the second generation of Surfaces, Microsoft improved both covers. They both get marginally thinner and backlit keys. The backlight effect is great, although there are only three keyboard backlight brightness levels.

The touch cover sees the biggest improvement as Microsoft moved from having only 80 pressure sensors in the previous design to 1092 sensors. The result is an incredible increase in accuracy. I find that I can type a lot lighter on the new touch cover and still have my keystrokes recognized. I also make far fewer mistakes on the new touch cover. While I felt that the initial touch cover was usable, this one is almost good enough to be a physical keyboard replacement.

2nd Generation Touch/Type Cover Thickness
  Touch Cover Type Cover
1st gen 3.35 mm 5.7 mm
2nd gen 2.91 mm 5.22 mm
iPad 4 Smart Cover 2.2 mm  

Despite the tremendous improvement in accuracy on the new touch cover, I still prefer the type cover. I wrote long segments of this review on the new touch cover, but I had a much better time doing so on the type cover. Microsoft has reduced thickness on the new type cover, in part by reducing key travel. I’m happy to say that the reduction in key travel isn’t noticeable, and I’m able to type just as quickly and as comfortably as I could with the first gen type cover. The difference in thickness between the two is very small (~2.3mm) and you get a much more usable keyboard out of the type cover.


Old (left) and new (right) type covers

The new type cover ditches the clickpad in favor of a pressure sensitive trackpad. I’m a bit happier with the new trackpad but it’s still largely a pain to use for anything other than basic mousing. Two finger scrolling works ok, but any click and drag use is seriously frustrating thanks to the small size of the unit and no physical buttons. Thankfully there’s a 10.6-inch touchscreen a few inches away from you that works a lot better.

The new type cover ditches the felt backing of the previous model in favor of a soft touch plastic. Type covers are also now available in four colors (purple, pink, blue and black).

Remember that both of these covers make a physical connection to Surface, both to stay attached to the device as well as to transmit data. There’s no chance of running into spectrum crowding issues like you would with a 2.4GHz wireless keyboard, these keyboards are as good as any other wired device. The covers make a very strong magnetic connection to the device. The connection is strong enough to withstand picking up even a Surface Pro 2 by the attached cover and lightly swing it back and forth without the two separating. This is of course predicated on you properly attaching the cover to the tablet, but the strong magnets do a fairly good job of lining up and doing that as well.

The only issue I had with the new covers is that sometimes the trackpad would stop working after coming out of sleep. The keyboard worked fine, but the trackpad would just disappear. The only solution is to disconnect/reconnect the cover, which fixed it every time. I informed Microsoft about the issue, it’s something they’re aware of internally and plan to issue an update to fix.

 

Introduction & Hardware The New Display
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  • sri_tech - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    What Google services you think are better than Microsoft services? I don't understand the fascination towards these chromebooks.

    1. Google docs are wannabe MS Office which does not have the most of the functionality and not compatible with many peripherals.

    2. Outlook.com is very good email client and in addition Outlook for work related things.
    Can't you access the gmail from browser? If you need app for everything what is the point of all the browser tests that you guys do in every review.
    You can pin the gmail.com to the start screen and with just a tap, you will be in gmail. That is how everyone using them on laptops right?

    3. Skydrive is very good and has all the features and more cross platform than Google drive.

    4. Skype is integrated into the OS which is more widely used than any Google equivalent.

    5. Can you use chromebooks as tablets? Does chromebooks have touchscreens?

    6. All the bing apps like news, finance, travel, weather are not useful?

    I expect better from you guys.
    Reply
  • noeldillabough - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    I have a huge problem with skydrive; although this might not apply to these tablets, but if you want to use it you must log in with your Microsoft account. If you're on a domain and login with your domain credentials and click on skydrive in 8.1, it prompts you to switch to a connected account.

    Unfortunately this renders Skydrive completely useless. I'd be fine if I could add my Microsoft account in and still log in with the domain account but you can't anymore. Maybe an oversight.
    Reply
  • sri_tech - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    A Microsoft service needs Microsoft account. So does all other services from all companies.

    I don't understand your second point.
    Reply
  • noeldillabough - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    The issue is in windows 8 you could enter your Microsoft account information for SkyDrive without having to switch your login account to a connected account. Now its forced and if you have a corporate device logging in with your Microsoft account won't be allowed. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    Yep. Microsoft has ironically killed support for Skydrive on Windows 8.1. Reply
  • dustwalker13 - Friday, November 22, 2013 - link

    yes it is a bit annoying that you can not change the account, since it has been integrated so deeply with the system now. but actually i do not mind all that much. what it means in the end is that my own devices are synced with my account, and should i need data from another account i can:

    1. share them and access them this way
    2. login to the other account via the browser

    so actually that is a nonexistant problem once you think about it and a logical solution for microsoft as they save all the important settings on skydrive for your devices and thererfor of course want you to be connected to your account at least on that level.
    Reply
  • althaz - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    His issue (mine as well) is that when you are at work, your domain account should automatically count as a Microsoft account. I don't want to login with my home MS account to do work stuff, that would a) jumble my shit together and b) not make sense. Currently I get around it by having a second microsoft account, but that's a super-long way away from ideal. Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    If you're on a domain it means business and the business should ALSO provide you with the Outlook.com account. At no point should you realistically be using YOUR OWN personal account on the business machine. Reply
  • cjb110 - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    Yea, at most you should be able to share (given your security guys allows you) your business data with external untrusted accounts (which your personal one is). Reply
  • FredyHandanovic - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    My Uncle Andrew just got a nearly new red Mazda MAZDA6 Sedan by work part-time using a lap-top. look at here now http://goo.gl/dXg26D Reply

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