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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  • trip1ex - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    Eh I don't see people clamoring for small tablet screen with a mediocre keyboard just so they can use Office. I don't see people wanting Windows on their tablet either. They want to ditch Windows as much they want to ditch the cable company.

    I think tablets are misunderstood my most still.
  • kyuu - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    You're right: tablets are misunderstood by most. Apple and Google have fooled people into thinking tablets should be oversized smartphones. Microsoft instead presents WinRT, which offers much more functionality than iOS or Android, and all people can focus on is the app store selection, which is the one and only point iOS and Android have over WinRT. Reply
  • DocForker - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    I love my gen 1 surface RT with 8.1 and can't wait for the Surface 2! I run apps side by side - the new Facebook is great, or I can have twitter in one panel and browse the web in the other half. OneNote that syncs between my phone, my wifes phone and my surface and my home and work desktops is amazing. Being able to edit a Word doc on my desk and then have it show up immediately in my recent list of Office Docs on the surface is awesome. Sending YouTube video (or streaming audio) from an IE browser window (using the devices charm) to my XBOX and having it play full screen high definition on my 60" plasma - all while browsing Facebook or reading the news and tracking Twitter is just something I don't think you can do anyplace else. What about playing Halo Spartan Assault on the surface and then sending it to the TV - and hooking up an XBOX controller and a Bluetooth headset. Or hooking up an external monitor with Word & Excel running on it - giving that to a person with wireless keyboard & mouse to work homework on and then having a second person playing a touch game wordament on the surface itself? Try that on an iPad or Chromebook or android tablet.

    I think the problems with most of these reviewers is that they just don't know what these devices are capable of. They are so locked in to a restrictive IOS ecosystem that they fail to see the possibilities with these Surface tablets.
  • InspectHerGadget - Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - link

    You hit the nail on the head but then the restrictive iOS system does all they want so obviously they're not going out to buy an XBOX, a Windows 8 Desktop, a Windows 8 Phone then a Surface and then learn to tie it all together when they probably have AppleTV, iPad, iPhone and possibly a Mac in the house. Once you get into an ecosystem then I would say it really doesn't matter which one it is. iOS has a huge head start in this area so Microsoft have to pull out the stops to catch up and it isn't easy to get people to switch if they're happy with what they've got. Reply
  • ElBurro - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    "but there’s still no good Twitter client, no amazing IM client, and of course you don’t get good integration of Google services anywhere (outside of leveraging Mail for Gmail access)."

    I hope you realize that in Microsoft is trying to eliminate the desktop especially for ARM. There is not much chance of the Win32 API opening up. In fact for it maybe shut down completely for Windows 10 or Windows 11 even for the pro versions of the OS.
  • ElBurro - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    oops sorry I meant to put this quote
    "but I can’t see a future where Windows RT is successful and Microsoft doesn’t allow developers to access both sides of the platform
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - link

    "It wasn’t too long ago that Microsoft was charging hundreds of dollars for new OS revisions, but with Apple and Google redefining what users come to expect from both cost and frequency of OS updates, Microsoft had to change."
    Isn't 8.1 more of a service pack than a new OS revision? And MS has never charged for those.
  • lilmoe - Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - link

    Funny how much lower fps we're getting in the offscreen tests knowing that both are rendered at 1080p... Says a lot about the reliability of that benchmark. What's that overhead from? Reply
  • Tarrant64 - Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - link

    There were statements about a new 2nd-gen charge for the Surface 2 but I have yet to see any pictures of what those changes are. It seems everything else was covered but it was hyped briefly that it would be worth buying. I'm curious if it is, because I hate my current charger. Any chance the article(s) can be updated to show the specific changes there? Reply
  • bull2760 - Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - link

    Just purchased my Surface 2 and LOVE IT! I did previously own the 1st gen Surface RT but I sold it on Graigs list when I saw this one being released. 2nd generation is much faster at loading everying thing. Almost as fast as you click them the office suite apps open, big difference right off the bat between the 1st gen. Now that it includes Outlook you really can't beat this device for easy travel allowing you to take your work along with you. The new back lit TYPE keyboard is awesome. Way more responsive than the touch keyboard I sold with my old RT. I added a sandisk 64GB microSD and now I have 128GB of storage built in. I carry this around with me in the office as I work on employee computers so that I can answer email on the fly. Could not be happier with the purchase absolutely love the new Surface 2. Reply

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