With the introduction of the Microsoft Surface RT tablet ($699.00 direct), Microsoft also unveiled the latest in PC peripherals, the Surface cover and keyboard. While there will likely be third-party accessories coming soon, right now, Microsoft’s own accessories are the only game in town. Like its sibling, the Microsoft Touch Cover, the Microsoft Type Cover is both tablet cover and keyboard, but it places far more emphasis upon the keyboard, with tactile keys, firm construction, and a look and feel that is far more like a traditional laptop than Microsoft’s Surface ads have shown.
Microsoft’s Type Cover is both tablet cover and keyboard. In many respects, it’s similar to the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover (for New iPad, iPad 2) , which both protects the tablet screen and offers a full keyboard for more productive use than the tablet alone could offer.
The Type Cover attaches to the Surface with a magnetic docking connection. The dock connects along the bottom edge of the Surface, attaching like the spine of a book, securely held in place by the magnetic connection. It’s secure enough to pick up the tablet and let the cover hang loose without fear of the cover coming loose. When you don’t need a keyboard, the cover folds back behind the tablet, which is sensed by an accelerometer in the cover, disabling the keyboard so that it can be gripped like a paper notebook with the cover folded back.
Unlike the Microsoft Touch Cover , which has no tactile feedback, the Type Cover offers a much more familiar feel, with scissor-switch keys, and a firm backing that makes typing on uneven surfaces a bit more feasible. The key-travel, though minimal, provides a much more comfortable typing experience. However, the introduction of key movement and mild key resistance means that typing is just a tad slower that on the Touch Cover, where you need only touch the key instead of depressing the key. The result is a keyboard that is more comfortable, but not quite as responsive. Whether or not that is an issue is entirely subjective, so head to a Microsoft Store if you want to try before you buy.
The Touch Cover is also slightly thicker, to provide the extra millimeter or so of key movement offered by the scissor-switch keys. As a result, the Type Cover is 6 millimeters thick, while the Touch Cover is only 3. The weight is also similar, coming in at 0.47 pound, just a whisper heavier than the 0.45 pound Touch Cover. Compared to Microsoft’s other mobile Windows 8 keyboard, the Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard , the Type Cover is much closer to full-size, making the experience much less cramped.
Compared to the touchpad on the Touch Cover, the Type Cover’s touchpad is also a bit better, with a smoother surface. Like the Touch Cover, however, it still the miniscule proportions, measuring a tiny 2.6 by 1.4 inches. The mouse buttons are integrated into the touchpad and, like the Type Cover’s keys, the right- and left-buttons actually click when pressed, providing a much more traditional mousing experience.
Features and Performance
Given that the Type Cover is made exclusively for Microsoft’s Surface tablets, it should be no surprise that Windows 8 (and Windows RT) functionality is built in, with functions from the Charms Bar found in the F1-F12 buttons. These include volume controls, and Charms for Search, Connect, Devices, and Settings. You’ve also got function keys for Home, End, PgUp, PgDn, and the usual Esc and Del keys.
In actual use, the Type Cover certainly feels better than the Touch Cover, thanks to the moving keys and clickable mouse buttons, but compared to the Touch Cover, it’s just not as sensitive, or as fast. On the other hand, it is more comfortable, and the typing fatigue experienced with the Touch Cover is alleviated by the cushioning springiness of the keys. For a Windows 8 keyboard with more sensible ergonomics, the Microsoft Sculpt Mobile Keyboard offers a curved surface with better typing feel. It’s also going to be an easier transition for touch typists, as the keys are separate and distinct, with the usual nubs on the F and J keys to keep you anchored to the home row.
If you expect to do a lot of typing on the Surface RT, this is the keyboard to get. It’s more comfortable and familiar than the Touch Cover, and is far more friendly to touch typists and users who may be away from a desk or table. It’s not as cramped as the Microsoft Wedge, and it’s more compatible with touch-typing than the Touch Cover. However, it’s a little thicker, a little heavier, and it’s not as responsive as the Touch Cover. The differences are minimal, but shoppers will want to get some actual hands on time with each before deciding which to buy.
Compare the Microsoft Type Cover (for Surface) with several other keyboards side by side.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc