Surface Pro Signature Type Cover

It’s kind of funny that the current cover is still called the Type Cover, since the Touch Cover hasn’t been offered for several years now. Regardless, the latest Type Cover to be offered alongside the Surface Pro is a new version of the Signature model. The first Signature Type Cover was added to the Surface lineup shortly after the Surface Pro 4 was released, and it added a touch of luxury with an Alcantara fabric covering the keyboard.

The new Signature Type Cover will be offered in three colors, with Platinum, Burgundy, and Cobalt Blue options. It keeps the same design as the previous models, with 1.3 mm of key travel, and edge-to-edge island keys, so there’s not a lot of discuss there, but luckily the previous generation was already excellent.

The new Alcantara fabric is also covered with a polyurethane coating to improve durability. There’s certainly going to be some concern about how the fabric cover will hold up after several years of use and abuse, so the new coating should help alleviate some of that concern. The coating should also should help with liquid spills, and cleanup can be done with warm water and a mild detergent if needed. It feels like there’s almost no doubt that over time, the fabric will get a bit beat up, but it really does offer a nice feel when carrying the Surface Pro, or typing.

The New Surface Pen

Microsoft has been actively pushing the pen and inking experience in Windows for several years, so it makes a lot of sense that they would offer it in their own hardware products. They’ve continually improved the pen and ink on Surface for the last several years, and with the new Surface Pro, there is once again a new, improved pen.

Everyone loves to discuss the levels of sensitivity on digital pens, since unlike their analog cousins, there is always a graduated step, with the hope that there will be a small enough graduation that it’s difficult for a person to notice it. Surface Pro 3 was the first Pro model to drop the Wacom digitizer and move to an N-Trig pen technology, that Microsoft would end up acquiring shortly after. The Surface Pro 3 dropped from 1024 levels of sensitivity of the Wacom powered Surface Pro 2, to just 256 levels, but the Surface Pro 4 brought that back up to 1024 levels of sensitivity. For most people, that’s likely enough, but with Microsoft now courting the creativity crowd, the pen needed to improve further, and the new Surface Pen now offers 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity.

That’s always been the easy specification to quote for a pen, but there is a lot more to a pen experience than the levels of sensitivity. For pen fans, they’ll be happy to know that Microsoft has not overlooked those other factors with the latest generation.

One of the best features of the pen launched with the Surface Pro 4 was the tip feel. Unlike older pens, it offered a bit of traction on the display, and really made it feel more like it was actually drawing on the display. Like the previous pen, the new one also features replaceable tips, giving a choice of wider or thinner pen tips. The new pen keeps that same display friction too, which really makes it feel connected to the display.

Pen latency is arguably one of the most important aspects of a good digital inking experience, and it’s often one that gets less emphasis than other stats like pressure levels, but here the new pen improves again over the previous model, with just 21 ms of latency. Microsoft has a custom display controller to sense the pen, and with the lower latency, the latest generation is easily the best performing pen on Surface yet. One easy test to try is to draw circles on the screen quickly. The Surface Pro 4 would always have the ink lagging slightly behind where the pen was if the speed was moving quickly enough, but the new Surface Pro doesn’t have this issue at all. The ink appears to stay right under the pen.

Another unheralded feature is the amount of pressure required to start drawing, and the new Pen improves this dramatically. The outgoing version required 20 grams of force to be detected, but the new pen is just 9 grams, allowing much lighter drawing and shading options.

Finally, the one piece of the pen puzzle that Microsoft had really been lagging on was tilt support, and with the new pen, that is now available as well.

The pen is still powered by a AAAA battery, rather than being rechargeable, and battery life is expected to be around a year. The new pen also drops the pocket clip, but keeps the ability to stick to the Pro with magnets for transport. It would be nice to see a more solid mechanical device to hold the pen to the Surface, since the magnets are strong but still allow the pen to be dislodged in a bag. But for now, keep a close eye on the pen.

The new Surface Pen will work on any Surface device all the way back to and including the Surface Pro 3, and since many of the new features are part of the pen hardware, they will automatically work with other Surface devices with most of the features available. Meanwhile Microsoft is looking to upgrade the firmware of their pen controller of other Surface devices, such as the Surface Studio, to bring all of the improvements to the older hardware. The Surface Studio will really benefit from this Pen.

The final change from the Surface Pro 4 is that the pen is no longer included with the Pro. That’s because not all customers were using the pen, and it seems pretty plain that this was done in part to allow Microsoft to cut the cost of the device a bit, as we saw with the price-reduced Surface Pro 4 from earlier this year. Meanwhile for those users who do buy the new Surface Pen, it's available in colors to match the Signature Type Cover.

Design System Performance: Kaby Lake with Iris Plus Graphics
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  • serendip - Thursday, June 15, 2017 - link

    Microsoft sells a tiny foldable Bluetooth keyboard with an Alcantara covering. I've been using it for months and it still looks good. It's a lot easier to unfold the keyboard when I need it and I can use the tablet without an attached keyboard in tablet mode. These cover-type keyboards add extra weight and make the tablet hard to use as a tablet.
  • SaolDan - Friday, June 16, 2017 - link

    I own a SP4 for personal use and a Huawei matebook for work. Let me tell you that you get used to the keyboard cover and stand theres no going back. i wish my company would give me a sp4 or the new one instead of the matebook. matebook can keep the type c. Type c is very nice but not that necessary for work.
  • simard57 - Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - link

    how would you compare the Matebook to the SP4?
  • simard57 - Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - link

    my past buying habits were mid level laptops - not top of the line ultrabooks - and the hinge is the Achilles heel of them. plastic and metal hinges are not made for a long marriage. the old adage, you pay for what you get, surely does apply
  • tipoo - Thursday, June 15, 2017 - link

    Not everyone uses the same coatings on it. Microsoft has shipped alcantara Surface keyboards for years and they hold up well on average. The iPad Pros Apple fabric keyboard, whatever that fabric is, wears more in weeks, Microsofts is still the best fabric tabletey keyboard solution.
  • BillBear - Thursday, June 15, 2017 - link

    If a spray on coating could make the Alcantara covered steering wheels on a Porsche hold up to wear, they would most assuredly already be using it.

    However, if you check out the video above you'll see that this is simply not the case.
  • mkozakewich - Saturday, June 17, 2017 - link

    If you're talking about that video they posted on Reddit, someone else said the 'wear' is actually just grime that can be washed off.

    Everyone clings so hard to the marketing material. If the original Type Cover wasn't Alcantara, it was at least something very similar. It had a wonderful feel and withstood the years well. It washed well, too, and looks great even today. I could never stand the weird felt-like stuff they've been using the last few years.
  • Manch - Saturday, June 17, 2017 - link

    My original Surface Pro KB is just fine. The track pad has bit of visible wear but other than that, its still nice. BillBear has been going on and on about the damn Alcantara but you can get a keyboard without it so I don't understand the grief. Anncedotal evidence of Porsche steering wheels, doesnt prove anything. The material is used on all kinds of things with no issues.
  • Brett Howse - Thursday, June 15, 2017 - link

    Only time will tell if the polyurethane coating on the Surface Signature Type Cover holds up well, but I've been using the Surface Ergonomic Keyboard on my desk for over six months now, and the Alcantara still looks almost new. YMMV, of course, but the normal Surface Type Cover can get beat up too. I don't see this as the major downside of others. At worst, it's going to be about the same as what we've already got.
  • Manch - Saturday, June 17, 2017 - link

    Or you could buy the regular type cover with or without the fingerprint sensor instead of the Alcantara

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