Microsoft Surface Touch Cover keyboard: stylish but not perfect

We were there in Los Angeles when Microsoft revealed its new Surface tablet to the world, and although we got the briefest of hands-on time from which to form an initial, vague impression, there was no opportunity for the press to put the device’s Touch Covers to the test.

The Touch Covers incorporate a pressure-sensitive QWERTY keyboard and trackpad. While we were able to paw at the keyboards on display, none of them were connected to a tablet, so it was not possible to put them to the test in any meaningful way.


Touch Cover with touch-sensitive keys and trackpad

But Business Insider got word of a Citigroup analyst who had met with Windows executives, and had been given a chance to play with both the Surface tablet and its stylish and practical keyboard covers. What did they think?

It seems that they were impressed, although it sounds like the experience didn't quite match that of a ‘real’ keyboard. But there is an alternative ‘Type Cover’ available, as Microsoft puts it, “for those who prefer a more traditional keyboard”, although that cover is thicker than the 3mm profile of the Touch Cover.


Type Cover with 'traditional' keyboard

In an analyst’s note, Walter Pritchard said:

At the meeting with MSFT [Microsoft] execs, we were able to try the Surface touch keyboard (we weren’t at LA launch) and also use it conjunction [sic] with new Office (RT- version). All works well. The keyboard is responsive and natural (same size as laptop keyboard), with only downside being there is only slight raised delineation between keys, meaning you have to look at your fingers while you type. With short words, we were able to type accurately, although longer words were more error-prone.”

What do you think of the new Touch Covers? Are you looking forward to using one? Do you think you’d prefer a Type Cover instead? Or do you think that the best tablets should be able to get by without bolt-ons like a QWERTY keyboard? Tell us what you think below!

Source: Business Insider | Images via Microsoft

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46 Comments

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What's even more cool is that Windows RT/8 background takes the same color as the Touch Cover when you connect it. It's magical.

mutualcore said,
What's even more cool is that Windows RT/8 background takes the same color as the Touch Cover when you connect it. It's magical.

People are impressed by THAT? Wow talk about gimmicks lol

xpclient said,
Type cover > touch cover. It gives you more natural "feedback" because the keys get depressed.

What are you talking about?.. You will not get any version of W8. hehehe

Please send me a link to the perfect tablet keyboard. Any will do. I will wait.

In fact send me a perfect keyboard...I will wait again.

You lead the article with that title?

Business insider? Really?

The Touch Cover is an amazing innovation. And the fact they have a physical keyboard for those who prefer a more "realistic feel" makes it appeal to a much wider audience.

This device wouldn't replace my PC, it would complement it, so the keyboard doesn't have to be perfect but it helps to have one.

helios01 said,
This device wouldn't replace my PC, it would complement it, so the keyboard doesn't have to be perfect but it helps to have one.

Agreed, same here.

Eh, I think if typing is that big of an issue to people, they'll just get the Type Cover. I mean, that is kind of what it's for, right?

The nice thing about this is that there's a USB port... so you can actually plug in a real keyboard into it at a moment's notice when you get back to your desk; the touch cover is really there for convenience in a meeting or whatever. I don't think it's intended to be a full keyboard replacement.

with only downside being there is only slight raised delineation between keys, meaning you have to look at your fingers while you type

Really? Weird on various smooth keyboards, even without indications like a projection keyboard on a table, I don't have to look at my fingers and can type 200+wpm.

Of course it is not going to have the tactile assistance of a click keyboard, but to be reductive because the user's fingers drift is disingenuous.

derekaw said,
A good tablet should not require a keyboard. Why not just get a laptop?

Who says it? Ever heard of Convertible ones?

derekaw said,
A good tablet should not require a keyboard. Why not just get a laptop?

It is most certainly not required, it is an option available to those that want it. I see nothing wrong with this...

Don't get a Touch Cover if you're going to be typing a lot instead get the Type Cover which features "real" keys; however, if you plan on typing a lot, then get a laptop.

For me, I want a Touch Cover.

A340600 said,
Don't get a Touch Cover if you're going to be typing a lot instead get the Type Cover which features "real" keys; however, if you plan on typing a lot, then get a laptop.

For me, I want a Touch Cover.


People also forget that you can use any standard USB or Bluetooth keyboard. This is not an all or nothing, these are not iPads that depend on dedicated hardware support.

thenetavenger said,


People also forget that you can use any standard USB or Bluetooth keyboard. This is not an all or nothing, these are not iPads that depend on dedicated hardware support.

So true. I mean, traditional keyboards are incredibly cheap, especially second-hand. If you want a keyboard that has higher edges, then buy a keyboard with higher edges. -.-

thenetavenger said,


People also forget that you can use any standard USB or Bluetooth keyboard. This is not an all or nothing, these are not iPads that depend on dedicated hardware support.


It's funny how you say that, considering that the iPad can use any standard Bluetooth keyboard. If you have the camera connection kit most USB keyboards will most likely work trough that.

Leonick said,

It's funny how you say that, considering that the iPad can use any standard Bluetooth keyboard. If you have the camera connection kit most USB keyboards will most likely work trough that.

But the iPad lacks the kickstand.

I am sorry but its almost impossible to judge or create an analysis (bad or good) based on a prototype product that is still in the stage of development for both its hardware and software level.

When the product is ready or near final in a couple of months from now, then we can analyse it and judge it.

I'm kind of not seeing this as news, as nothing seems surprising in any way. Although it is good that the surface tablet only showed fault in its 3mm keyboard not matching the quality of a standard keyboard but this issue was resolved with the cover.

Now more pressing matters, I just got a bag of sweets and in there was a fake 'sweet' fried egg (tasted good), now it wasn't the same as a standard fried egg, which is what I absolutely expected, so I shall call them on their 'bluff' and complain. Why can't they make it taste the same?

Does Touch Cover come with Surface and Type Cover sold separately? Or is Touch Cover an add-on, too? I'll probably want Type Cover, but would like to try Touch Cover... maybe it will be fine and preferred to keep the size down.

rev23dev said,
Does Touch Cover come with Surface and Type Cover sold separately? Or is Touch Cover an add-on, too? I'll probably want Type Cover, but would like to try Touch Cover... maybe it will be fine and preferred to keep the size down.

Who knows at this point? Microsoft hasn't announced full specs, pricing or whether the Touch cover is an accessory or comes with every Surface.

Looks like they tried hard to find something wrong with it. I dont care if the touch keyboard isnt a real keyboard, it is not meant to be.

Riva said,
Looks like they tried hard to find something wrong with it. I dont care if the touch keyboard isnt a real keyboard, it is not meant to be.

Yes, if that's all they can find wrong, that's some pretty good news. Especially when the Type Cover makes their complaint go away.

This was kind of expected anyway. I'll probably be getting the type cover, since I'll need it for university work.

Do yourselves a favor. Don't align yourselves in any way, shape, or form with anyone or anything that comes from Business Insider.

They are the worst group tech non-journal morons on the planet earth. At least Neowin's tagline reads: "Where unprofessional journalism looks better". AT BI, they actually think they are journalists, but they are hacks.

jimmyfal said,
Do yourselves a favor. Don't align yourselves in any way, shape, or form with anyone or anything that comes from Business Insider.

Well what they said is 100% reasonable and probably true.

I'd probably go with a type over a touch cover..

I like some tactile sensation as a type.. it's what makes touchscreens so hard, and I think the Touch cover just wouldn't provide it.

Ryoken said,
I'd probably go with a type over a touch cover..

I like some tactile sensation as a type.. it's what makes touchscreens so hard, and I think the Touch cover just wouldn't provide it.


I feel the same way. I'm glad they gave us the option honestly.

M_Lyons10 said,

I feel the same way. I'm glad they gave us the option honestly.
If not, I would just do what I do now.. Bluetooth Keyboard..
I have one for my TouchPad, and another MS one for my ExoPC Tablet..

I feel like if you're going to use the Surface with the more "traditional" keyboard attachment, you might as well just use an equivalent sized touchscreen notebook (like the upcoming Acer Aspire S7 11.6")

But if you don't want it, you can just take it off. It gives you the choice when to use or not.

CaveKnight said,
I feel like if you're going to use the Surface with the more "traditional" keyboard attachment, you might as well just use an equivalent sized touchscreen notebook (like the upcoming Acer Aspire S7 11.6")

Couldn't you say this to any tablet on the market? The keyboard attachment is purely optional, and it's only required if you need one for extended typing. People who by the Surface & Surface Pro are more likely to buy it for the fact that's a tablet first, and a laptop a distant second.

So it looks like the technology works well? If that's the case, then it's pretty good considering how thin the Touch Cover is. I think accuracy will improve once they have used it more.

Personally I will buy another Convertible Tablet not a Slate one but If I was to buy the latter I would get the Touch Cover keyboard.

McKay said,
It's not supposed to match a real keyboard, just supposed to be better than a touchscreen.

You can never review any keyboard with just a few minutes of use. You need to try it for a few days to get use to it. I make typing mistakes on any new keyboard I've never used before.

Gaffney said,

You can never review any keyboard with just a few minutes of use. You need to try it for a few days to get use to it. I make typing mistakes on any new keyboard I've never used before.

Agreed.

I'd really like to try the touch keyboard. It looks really nice.

Hopefully there will be some in-store here in the UK that we can get some hands on time with. I'd be disappointed if these were behind glass only but I guess it will be easy to pull that keyboard off and steal it.