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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  • purerice - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    Now that you put it that way, you're right. Workers need to separate their private lives and their work lives. That would not only improve their performance at work but also their performance at home.
  • Mopar63 - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    I am not sure what issue you are having. I log into Skydrive software just fine and do not have to keep logging in, the same applies to my other services through Explorer. The issue you seem to be facing is one of setup. If the domain account is not set for internet access then you can use your MS web based account just fine unless your domain is designed to block it. This is not a limitation of Windows but of domain setup.
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    Windows 8 allowed you to log in to Skydrive, and it was even integrated in Explorer. Windows 8.1 doesn't. Skydrive is unusable. The only way to use it would be to use a Microsoft account on your local machine, instead of your own account, which of course isn't something anyone should do.
  • RannXeroxx - Sunday, November 24, 2013 - link

    A domain has not connection with Microsoft unless you connect the two via federated services such as Office 365. Also SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro as separate things as the Pro version is for corporate usage. You system administrator can disable the ability for you to connect your company own device to the consumer version of SkyDrive while linking your computer to the corporate version. Also in the corporate world, AD identity management is handled with another backend system.

    It just sounds like your company simply has no policies or processes to manage Windows 8(.1) devices in their environment which is not surprising since most have not even fully integrated Windows 7 with all of its corporate connectivity into their environment and treat it like its XP.
  • Theard - Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - link

    Ethan. I can see what your saying... Joe`s c0mment is unimaginable... last monday I got a great new Saab 99 Turbo sincee geting a check for $7753 this-last/month and-just over, 10/k last munth. without a doubt its the most rewarding I have ever done. I started this three months/ago and pretty much immediately was bringing in at least $74, per hour. Learn More ... j­­o­bs­2­3.c­o­m
  • OoklaTheMok - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    You do not have to switch to logging into the computer using a Microsoft Account, that would be ridiculous. You can do one of the following, you can connect a Microsoft Account to your local login or if you don't want to connect a Microsoft Account, you can use a Microsoft Account only with SkyDrive.
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    No, you can't do either of those things. The wording SOUNDS like it's going to let you associate a Microsoft account with your Windows account, but at the last minute wants to switch you over.

    And you USED to be able to log in independently in Windows 8, but that's now gone in 8.1. They broke Skydrive support with 8.1
  • Braumin - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    You don't have to switch you can connect your domain account to your MS account in the settings page.
  • noeldillabough - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    I haven't figured out how to do that yet; in Windows 8 you simply clicked on skydrive and entered your account info and it worked. In 8.1 it only has the "switch" option. Which settings page? I must have missed it.
  • noeldillabough - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    Just checked on the "Account" part of the Win8.1 settings, and it only has "Connect to a Microsoft Account" available. I tried it to see if it would keep the local account settings but no I actually have to log in to the computer using the Microsoft account. This of course won't fly in the corporate world so I put it back (that was painful too since the Microsoft account and the domain account had the same name)

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