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Microsoft Surface: Touch Cover vs. Type Cover

While the Surface with Windows RT may be a bit rough around the edges, there is some deep and obvious innovation in the product as well. Case in the point: The surprisingly useful Touch and Type covers, both of which provide better than expected typing experiences. The only question is: Which one?

If you’re not familiar, the Surface has two option cover accessories, both of which provide keyboard capabilities. The first, the amazingly thin and light Touch Cover, comes in five pretty colors and essentially and offers an excellent typing experience on what is essentially the inside of a screen cover.

Touch Cover

The second, the Type Cover, is a more traditional hardware keyboard with actual mechanical keys that offer actual feedback as you type.

Type Cover

Both feature an identical keyboard layout, with media playback control and Windows 8 keys (Search, Share, Devices, and Settings), and a decent and small capacitive trackpad. Both are fairly expensive—the Type Cover costs $120, while the Touch Cover is $130—and both weigh next to nothing: .46 pounds for the Touch Cover and .55 pounds for the Type Cover.

You may assume that as a frequent typist, I’d automatically gravitate to the Type Cover. And certainly I did, at first. But as a veteran of the iPad and other touch-based devices, I’ve spent a lot of time typing on glass. And considered in that light, the Touch Cover starts to make more sense.

Too, as I wrote recently in Surface with Windows RT is No PC Replacement, Microsoft’s new Windows RT-based device is a PC companion, not a PC replacement. So like the iPad, this is something most will use on the side, for media consumption, email, web browsing, Facebook, and other tasks where heavy typing is atypical. So a keyboard cover is simply a nicety, an added bonus.

The thing is, you’re going to want to cover this screen in some fashion. And while the price is high, you’re already shelling out $500+ for a Surface, and who wouldn’t want to protect their investment with a cover that is doubly practical?

My choice, amazingly, is the Touch Cover, something I’d never have thought possible even a week ago. It’s lighter and seems to fit better against the device when closed. And the typing experience… well, it's not horrible. And I’ll never be writing a book on this device anyway.

But to choose the correct cover for yourself, be sure to honestly evaluate how you’ll use the device. If you really are going to try to get some work done on this thing, you may be better off with a real Bluetooth-based keyboard, plus perhaps a simple slipcover to protect the device itself.

And if possible, try to gets some hands-on time with each cover before buying. Currently, the only place to do that is at a Microsoft Store retail location, and while they are generally widespread, there are now numerous pop-up stores in place for the holidays. So find the closest one to you and given them both a little workout. You may be surprised by what you prefer.


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