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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  • Serr - Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - link

    "Although IE11 does a relatively good job on the touch front, I find that heavy multitasking with IE11 on Surface 2 can result in a lot of hangs and crashes within tabs or the application itself."
    There goes the truth! You don't have that even on iPad 2.
    Reply
  • Wall-Swe - Saturday, October 26, 2013 - link

    @Serr Well that's a lie! My iPhone 4 is crashing almost everyday when using Safari.
    @Anandtech How come you only got 8hour of battery out of the Surface 2? Engadget got 14hours 22minuties, it its the best score they have had of any tablet!
    Reply
  • MarcSP - Sunday, October 27, 2013 - link

    Yes, that discrepancy makes no sense. Or Anandtech’s device had some problem, or Engadget made a big mistake in the method they used. I know that of these options seems much more likely than the other ;-), but without more testing there is no way to know for sure. Reply
  • whatsa - Friday, November 01, 2013 - link

    Theres video and video

    I can tell you I dont get the numbers stated with a BD rip....

    if its close then thats good enough for me as I have yet to see a standard for this
    testing used across the board. (I may be wrong so if you need to shoot aim for the leg)
    Reply
  • MarcSP - Sunday, October 27, 2013 - link

    It is specially weird that Surface 2 got less battery life for video than Surface 1, when MS said battry life shoudl be 25% better and that now, unlike before, they are using the companion core for that task. Reply
  • TechFan1 - Sunday, October 27, 2013 - link

    If this had bay trail inside I would already own one. Really disappointed they went with Tegra 4 :( Reply
  • melomania - Sunday, November 03, 2013 - link

    Why in the ipad air review, does this machine only score a 750 in contrast ratio and here it is over 1000? Reply
  • JBVertexx - Monday, November 11, 2013 - link

    I'm thinking of picking up one of these for my 7th grade son. He's had a Nexus 7 since that first came out. He uses that mostly for gaming. But this year, he needs a "device" for school. The Nexus 7 hasn't really been up for class note-taking, etc. Thinking this would be the perfect solution. Reply
  • Hoekie - Sunday, November 24, 2013 - link

    Great review, but fails on the search for apps.
    Like telling us that there no Twitter app, make me worry you did not get a good look at the Store and have setting set to 'easy to find local apps'
    The official Twitter app for instance in the Windows Store for quit a time now. Nice thing also is that it can be snapped to the left. A link in a tweet makes the browser open that link. All on the same screen. Killer!
    Reply

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