What’s so special about this cover, then?
If you have a Surface Pro device, then you most likely have a Type Cover to go with it? Very few third-party options exist for Microsoft’s 2-in-1 beauty so if you want a protective cover or keyboard for your device then you’re going to have to pick up a Microsoft one. That’s no bad thing mind you. Microsoft’s Type Cover is now in it’s fourth generation – having followed the evolution of the Surface Pro line of devices – and it keeps getting better with every iteration, so you can be assured you are purchasing a quality accessory when you buy one of these. You are not getting a cheap third-party device that may not function very well.
Microsoft typically releases a new / updated Type Cover when it announces a new Surface Pro device, so it may come as a surprise to you that Microsoft have recently released a new, luxury, Type Cover for the Surface Pro 4 and Pro 3 devices.
Ladies and gentlemen I present to you…………..the ‘Signature Type Cover’ [cue dramatic music].
The Signature Type Cover is essentially the same as a regular Surface Pro Type Cover – it doesn’t have any additional functionality or technical improvements. Instead what Microsoft have done is to replace the suede-like material that the regular covers are made from (they are very similar in feel to the inside of an Apple Smart Cover) with a new Italian sourced material called Alcantara.
Apart from the soft texture of this material it also has a visually striking appearance so it’s pretty to look at and it’s luxuriously soft to the touch.
If you haven’t seen the official Microsoft video for this, you really should check it out if only to laugh at the Apple-esq style of the video.
It also smells great !
When you unbox the Signature Type Cover, you will immediately appreciate the softer, more premium feeling of the Alcantara material as you pick it up and start to manhandle it.
It really does feel significantly nicer to the touch than a regular cover, I found myself repeatedly smoothing my hand back and forth across the material as I viewed it from different angles and admired the way the material changes appearance as it is brushed in different directions.
The other thing I also noticed was the smell……I know this is a slightly weird thing to comment on and is not the sort of detail you would typically find in a keyboard review…….but I think it’s worth mentioning.
This cover has a luxury smell ! The smell of new carpet…..it reminds me of ‘New House’ smell, at worst it just smells like a new rug, but I think it’s lovely ! Utterly Pointless and I’m sure it wasn’t part of the design but it’s lovely ! J
The next time you are strolling around Home Depot, why not wander over to the carpet section, run your hands over one of those expensive rugs hanging up and then have a sneeky whiff………mmmmmmmmm J
A Match made in heaven
I am particularly fond of the coloring of this new Type Cover. To me the, mostly, light grey material with flecks of dark grey and black perfectly compliment the magnesium coloring of the Surface Pro device. I appreciate the way these two devices seem to blend together, giving the illusion of a single cohesive unit that succeeds at being both fashionable and professional at the same time. Unlike some of the more gordy colors available in the Type Cover range [cough] Bright Blue [cough], I’d be more than happy to use this in a boardroom meeting but better yet I’d be proud to pull this device out and plonk it on a table in an expensive coffee shop – it would easily fit-in with the fashion conscious Apple toting caffeine drinkers who seem to frequent those establishments, in fact it’ll probably attract more than a few fleeting glances and it ‘struts it stuff’ on the table.
I will mention that this keyboard has already attracted a fair bit of attention in the time I’ve been using it. More a few ‘Surface Spotters’ have asked about it and I’ve had a couple of casual enquirers asking what type of machine it is.
If haven’t got my point across yet, let me be clear – this thing is gorgeous !
OK so it looks nice and… uh… it smells nice, but is it any good?
As I mentioned previously this new Signature Type Cover is functionality no different from a regular one, so the typing experience is exactly the same. Coming from a Surface Pro 3, I really appreciate the chicklet keys on these 4th gen Type Covers – it significantly reduced my error rate when typing compared to the Surface Pro 3 Type Covers.
It has the much improved trackpad (over the previous versions), backlit keys (that have adjustable brightness) and a function key row with dual functions such as volume up / down, Home / End and Print Screen. Oh and the keyboard has an slight elevated position too for better posture when typing.
In my humble opinion, a Surface Pro device isn’t complete without a Type Cover and having tried similar products on competing devices from Apple and Samsung I believe the Microsoft Type Cover is the best of it’s kind currently available. In fact I wish there was a way to use these type covers on other devices like iPads.
….so it’s expensive, right?
A regular Type Cover currently retails for $169 CAD from Microsoft & Best Buy. The new Signature Type Cover retails for $199 CAD. While this isn’t exactly cheap, remember that Apple’s Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro costs $199 (for the 9.7″) and $229 (for the 12.9″) and that’s an inferior product! The Smart Keyboard has no Function keys (serious oversight), no backlit keys, only a single position for the keyboard and no trackpad. In my humble opinion, the keys are much nicer on the Type Cover too and as a single, solid piece it’s a better designed cover than the one on the Apple device. So it’s expensive yes………but it’s around the same price as competing products.
What’s wrong with the top?
The Signature Type Cover is probably the nicest one I’ve ever used…….BUT it’s not perfect. The Alcantara material is stylish and soft to the touch, but Microsoft have done something strange with it on the top of the cover. The material surrounding the trackpad and keys feel distinctly different from the material on the bottom of the device. The pile or thickness appears much shorter on the top of the keyboard, in fact I’m not convinced that it is the same material? To me, the top of the accessory feels too smooth, it makes it feel more like plastic. It’s almost……dare I say it?… budget feeling :-0
It’s not terrible, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just not as premium as the bottom of the device and that kind of spoils it. It’s like having leather seats in the front of your car and cloth in the back. It just seems weird and out of place.
To me, the regular Type Cover feels better on top – because it does retain a suede-like material on the top that’s similar to the bottom.
Another thing that concerns me is the distinctive look of Alcantara. Whilst it’s beautiful and stylish it makes me nervous. Since using the device I’ve started to become almost obsessive about keeping it away from anything that may resemble dirt. Everytime I use it I find myself checking it over in case it’s picked up a stain of some sort or in case it shows early signs of wear and tear.
I’m not how sure how it’ll hold up over a longer period, I suspect it would start to show signs of age – something Alcantara is ‘supposed to do’; it’s ‘supposed’ to age in a similar way that Brass starts to Patina with age, but I also suspect that this ageing would bother me. I like my devices to look brand new, almost unused and the Signature Type Cover may not do that.
So you shouldn’t buy it?
Before I answer that…there is another option I haven’t mentioned yet; for $199 CAD you can also pickup the Type Cover with Fingerprint Reader (Onyx) – this is the cover I was using previously. This Type Cover includes an integrated fingerprint reader for use with Windows 10 (not supported on older versions). The fingerprint reader allows biometric log-in and authentication with 3rd party apps such as LastPass and the Windows Store. This biometric functionality may be a welcomed addition for Surface Pro 3 users who do not have the ‘Windows Hello’ camera login options from Surface Pro 4.
For me the decision comes down to this; which Surface Pro device do you own? If you own a Surface Pro 3 then you really should upgrade to the latest generation of Type Covers, the improved keyboards and trackpads are worth the cost alone. you should also pay the additional $30, but not for the Signature Type Cover, instead buy the one with the fingerprint reader. I think you’ll appreciate the additional functionality of the fingerprint reader and you won’t have to worry about the cheap feeling material on the top of the Signature Type Cover nor will you have worry about it collecting dirt.
If you have a Surface Pro 4 (or a Surface Pro 3 that’s running Windows 8 or 8.1) then you don’t need (or can’t use) the fingerprint reader so there is no point buying that version. That leaves us deciding between the regular Type Cover and the more expensive Signature version. If you’ve already got a Surface Pro 4 Type cover then it’s hard to justify splashing out $200 for the Signature.
But if you’re buying your first one….well……then it’s a closer decision.
…..would I pay the extra $ for the Signature Type Cover?…………………Hell yeah !
If you have (or are buying) a Surface Pro, then you’re obviously not a cheapskate – you are buying the best ‘Tablet that can replace a laptop’ device available and it deserves the best cover and keyboard you can buy to go with it. The Signature Type Cover looks great, feels gorgeous (on the bottom anyway) and only costs a few bucks more…….plus it smells fabulous! So spend the extra and spoil yourself J