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Microsoft Surface – Connectivity, Kickstand and Keyboard Cover

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers



Our Score:


Microsoft Surface Connectivity

Essentially, Microsoft includes pretty much every connection you need, though there are no extras. Along the left is a 3.5mm headphone jack; responsive and comfy volume rocker; and insert to pull out the kickstand, which we’ll get to in a minute. At the tablet’s top you’ll find the power button along with dual array microphones.

Microsoft Surface 9

On the right we have the magnetic power connector, a full-size USB 2.0 port for hooking up everything from memory sticks to printers or peripherals, and a microHDMI port for outputting video to a monitor or telly. Microsoft also sells a VGA adapter for £35 (Apple charges £39 for its Lightning to VGA one), for those still using the analogue standard.

Microsoft Surface 10

Under the kickstand you’ll also find a microSDXC card slot for expanding internal memory, so you can easily give the Surface an extra 64GB of storage for music and movies (it doesn’t work for apps) for under £50.

On the wireless front, we have Bluetooth 4.0 and some impressive Wi-Fi N thanks to dual antennas. Unfortunately, there’s no 3G/4G version of Microsoft’s Surface (yet), a definite disadvantage compared to the iPad and some Windows RT rivals. NFC, as found on most premium Android tablets, doesn’t make the cut either, which is a real shame as it offers some neat current functionality and a lot of future potential.

Microsoft Surface 20

Another niggle is that the aforementioned proprietary magnetic power connector is rather awkward. Where the Surface’s bottom keyboard connector pulls itself into place effortlessly (as does the similar MagSafe charging system used on Apple laptops), the power plug requires careful insertion which can be very fiddly. We hope this is something Microsoft will fix for the Surface Pro.

Microsoft Surface Kickstand

Here is something its rivals can’t offer: Microsoft’s Windows RT tablet has a kickstand. Now this might not sound like much, but keep in mind that most other (non-convertible) tabs need a case to stand upright on a table or desk, while with the Surface it’s part of the ‘bare’ package.

The kickstand extends the entire length of the device but is beautifully integrated. It will never open by accident, and it won’t snap closed unexpectedly either. Microsoft has put a lot of time and research into its mechanism, and it shows. Just make sure your fingertips are out of the way when you close it.

Microsoft Surface 19

You can’t adjust the stand to various angles, but Microsoft has chosen a good 22-degree default (again, lots of research including reflection, ergonomics, desk height etc). With its ‘leg’ extended, the Surface is very stable on a flat… erm… surface and pretty secure on your lap. Its kickstand is an essential ingredient in how Microsoft’s tablet gels with its keyboard cover, which is yet another trump-card it holds over the Apple iPad/Google Nexus competition.

Microsoft Surface Touch Cover and Surface Type Cover: Keyboard and Touchpad

To go with Office on the software side, Microsoft also provides the hardware tools to make its Surface one of the most appealing tablets for productivity: optional keyboard covers. These are very similar to your average magnetic tablet cover, except they’re far more robust and secure, and you can also type on them –the Surface Type Cover even manages to squeeze physical keys into its svelte 5mm thinness.

Microsoft Surface 4

We’ll get onto the typing experience these covers offer in a moment, but first let’s talk about the details. The bundled keyboard cover comes in black to match the tablet, though you can get the Touch Cover in Blue or White too. They latch onto the base of the Surface using a magnetic clasp that pulls the cover in smoothly and holds it so securely that you can dangle the tablet by its cover without worries. This is very impressive indeed.

Naturally, like any smart cover these Microsoft efforts turn the Surface tablet on or off when you open and close them. The good news continues: if you flip the cover back when it’s not in use, an accelerometer sensor ensures the keys will deactivate so that they don’t accidentally get ‘pressed’.

Microsoft Surface 23

You can also fit the cover both ways around; so you can have the keyboard towards the front or, if you want to use it to protect the Surface’s back without the keys being visible, simply turn it and attach the other way - genius.

On their bottom, both black keyboard covers sport a felt-like material finish that was developed by Nike for its sports wear. It’s durable and anti-slip, keeping the tablet firmly in place on a smooth surface or sloping legs. From a design point of view it was quite divisive in the TR office, with some likening the material to carpet while others enjoyed its unique look and feel. Oddly, the blue and white Touch Covers don’t offer this finish on their bottom.

Microsoft Surface 17

There’s no cover included with the £400 base Surface, and buying the Touch one bundled will set you back £480. That’s a decent saving considering the Touch Cover alone costs £100.

The Surface Type Cover is only available separately for £110. It offers nearly full-size keys with better action and layout than you would find on many laptop keyboards. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel as sturdy as a Touch and our model suffered from repeated unregistered keystrokes, especially if used on a lap rather than a desk.

Microsoft Surface 14

For this and its 3mm thinness, we prefer the Touch Cover, whose typing experience pleasantly surprised us. Indeed, before we got some extensive time in with the Touch and the Type, we were convinced the Type Cover would be our favourite, but despite its lack of physical feedback and smaller ‘keys’, the Touch works flawlessly.

Laid out nicely, the Touch Cover’s ‘keys’ are raised with indents between them. They might not move, but confirmation is provided by the mere fact that you hit them, along with an unobtrusive sound from the Surface tablet. After some initial disorientation, we were typing blind at close to our regular speed within minutes.

Microsoft Surface 16

Whether you hit a ‘key’ hard or gently it usually registers without fail, and we typed the first page of this review with only twelve typos caused by the cover rather than human error. Either way it’s quite simply the best typing experience we’ve yet come across on a tablet, and Windows RT’s virtual keyboard easily matches the best that Android and iOS have to offer too. It’s just a shame the Type Cover doesn’t work well on irregular surfaces.

Microsoft Surface 7

The touchpads on both keyboard covers work superbly, being very responsive with support for multi-touch. Basically, aside from their small size they offer an identical experience to those on a laptop. Even the Touch Cover trackpad gives you distinct right and left click ‘buttons’.

Mathieu D

June 19, 2012, 8:51 am

I'd love one of these but at either price it'll be a bit too rich for my blood. I was hoping Microsoft would have at least one smaller model that would compete with the Kindle Fire in terms of pricing, but with full Windows functionality; clearly the two markets they're aiming at instead are iPad/Transformer-level Androids and Ultrabook/MacBook Air laptops. Fingers crossed the forthcoming Google Nexus tablet is more in line with my limited budget...


June 19, 2012, 12:55 pm

FYI, on the spec sheet it says it does have a microSD on the RT model and a microSDXC on the Pro.



June 19, 2012, 3:44 pm

@Mathieu D:
Who knows, maybe my pricing estimates will prove too high, or perhaps Microsoft will introduce a cheaper tablet down the line. With quality sub-£300 tablets coming to market, either/both seem likely enough.

(awesome user name btw :)
Thanks for the comment - amended.


June 19, 2012, 5:29 pm

Wow, the pro version is almost perfect. It's what I have been waiting for; one device to replace everything.

By including a micro-DisplayPort they have done what nearly all ultrabooks have so far failed to do; support 1080p+ resolutions for external displays!

My only concern is the weight. Maybe too heavy for a tablet, for my usage anyway. I already find the iPad 3 too heavy for prolonged use. If it's too heavy then may as well get a laptop and separate lighter tablet.

A couple of unanswered questions: memory does it have and screen quality?


June 19, 2012, 9:00 pm

MSFT has probably decided these form factors are the future of personal computing - hence Windows 8, and it's probably right. But I still want a bigger screen on my desktop and a smaller screen for a mobile/tablet. I don't think I'm alone in this and Win 8 as it stands doesn't effectively bridge that divide. I think the next couple of years are going to be interesting, but tricky ..


June 19, 2012, 9:47 pm

If Microsoft get the pricing right, they could potentially take on Apple and Android. The design looks good and I just hope they don't cut corners. This could finally bring Microsoft into the tablet arena and hopefully design their own phone as well (assuming they have their eye on Nokia as a potential purchase).


June 20, 2012, 1:45 am

I really hate the look and feel of Windows 8. I really like the look of these tablets.

Having just returned my 3rd TF300 tablet (dodgy screens) and been issued a refund, I'm now looking around again for another tablet in future months. A jailbroken iPad 2 or 3 has appeal, but these 2 MS tablets would be preferable for my intended use.

Sadly, with no proper hands on time being given to hacks, virtually no concrete specs (or intended specs), no intended release dates and nothing due for sale for a long time, this has the makings of vapour-ware written all over it.

I hope they get made. And in time to still be relevant in a market that evolves day to day, waiting 4-5 months for availability is just not going to work.


June 20, 2012, 2:12 pm

Indeed, I'm thinking the same - IF that stylus is pressure-sensitive :)

Regarding DisplayPort, actually HDMI 1.4 (which is what the Ultrabooks you mention have) supports resolutions higher than 1080p too - and the Asus Zenbook [http://www.trustedreviews.c...], for one, had both HDMI and DisplayPort...

As to the unanswered questions, I've updated the article with some speculation regarding those - have a read if you like :)

Let me ease your concerns: these tablets are very far from vapour-ware, they're the flagship product from one of the biggest companies in the world with a proven track record in hardware (Xbox, Zune, Mice, Keyboards, etc).

They've undergone extensive testing and engineering. All specs aside from RAM have been confirmed, as have the estimated release dates - they're in the article. ("a few months" is definitely less than 4-5 btw).


June 22, 2012, 3:08 pm

Good summary of what essentially is an unreleased piece of kit. No one at the briefing actually held/touched one of these- lest touch the keyboards (which may be great). The demo was pretty light on actual software. Reminds me of when RIM released the PlayBook to speculative fanfare. Let's judge these when they ship or when you get a chance to use it without MS's PR flacks hovering.


June 22, 2012, 8:21 pm

@Ardjuna I see this very differently to you.

These two products are nothing but vapourware until they are actually available to purchase. Neither of these products are available for journalists to test today, nothing is for sale, no sales dates have been announced, everything is up in the air. The tablet even froze up and had to be swapped out in the live presentation! I'd view this move more as a market manipulation exercise in the short-term.

In the long-term, these products may come to market...if they can create enough space in the market and generate & maintain a level of hype that as yet, Microsoft has never achieved before, whilst juggling the moods of the OEM manufacturers without annoying them too much to the point where they just ditch W8.

If these products were to both come to market in say, 12 weeks time, then maybe, just maybe they would have enough relevance to gain traction in the market - IF they are priced very competitively.

Then there's the issue of the hardware / apps:

'Surface' will run only Metro W8 ARM compiled apps = None (yet)
'Surface Pro' uses at Full HD display on only 11.6" and supports all older windows programs. I don't know about you, but I think that using a keyboard and mouse and stylus will be necessary to be productive on such a small screen! Preferably using the HDMI out to a bigger screen too.

All they seem to have done is move all the gubbins of an ultrabook from under the keyboard to behind the screen, thus making it impossible to use on your lap. Which is silly because it ain't exactly light!

Interesting times ahead. That's for sure :)


October 26, 2012, 12:16 am

ElectricSheep:"@Ardjuna I see this very differently to you.
These two products are nothing but vapourware until they are actually available to purchase."

Not vaporware... :D

Hans Gruber

October 26, 2012, 6:12 am

Did you mention battery life, Ardjuna? I can't see it anywhere.


October 26, 2012, 3:12 pm

Interesting that the TR reviewer considers this device light in weight - whereas TR has in the past made much of the lighter iPad range feeling heavy!

But moving on from TR's editorial spin ;-)

It still seems to me that Microsoft have completed confused the general population - the number of people who assume Windows RT is just Windows 8 and will run all their normal desktop software may become a significant hiccup or mis-fire for MS.

I'll be watching closely - but certainly your average Joe doesn't understand that and ARM-based device wont be suitable for managing their photo library in Photoshop Elements and their music collection in iTunes!

Perhaps MS should have followed the "Windows Phone 8" precedent and gone with "Windows Tablet 8" to make the distinction somewhat clearer than "Windows RT" does.


October 26, 2012, 3:45 pm

Thanks for the comment, Hans.
I didn't, as I'm hoping to update with the full review soon rather than giving an estimate based on components and capacity.


October 26, 2012, 3:48 pm

Actually I use light in relation to the metal rather than the tablet :)
It all depends on what you compare to too, don't forget the Surface is closer to an 11-inch tablet, while the iPad has a smaller-than 10-inch screen.

As to the confusion thing, you're spot-on there, and the RT suffix isn't particularly enlightening. But yeah, apparently Microsoft wanted to use our initials backwards ;)


October 26, 2012, 7:54 pm

@Arduna - 5 months after my original comment & 2 years late to market with a confusing line up of (not cheap) products & software...no, it's no longer vapourware but this will be a rocky road to success.

I still don't see any appeal in W8. I just can't get passed the Fisher-Price tiles. Horrid. The RT based tablets, whilst a good design, are overpriced considering the limitations of the OS. The Pro Surface tablets are not going to be far off the price and weight of a decent Ultrabook.

I think i'll do a Vista on the entire next generation of Windows products, and sit this one out ;)


November 8, 2012, 11:49 pm

The above comments are all based on the preview, just to avoid any possible confusion :)


November 9, 2012, 4:22 pm

I have seen alot of comments about how windows rt eats into a significant part of you storage space meaning that the 32gb version actually has much closer to 16gb of space. That reduces the value equation significantly vs its ipad and android rivals. How much did you find that to be the case?


November 10, 2012, 1:19 am

As I mention in the review on page 3, Windows RT AND Office 2013 plus the other pre-installed apps use under 12GB, so you'll still have more available free storage than a 16GB iPad or Android tablet. It's also worth remembering that you can expand the storage using microSDXC.

Hope that helps :)

John Parkinson

January 31, 2013, 11:30 am

The big downside for me seems to be the inability to use the keyboard in portrait orientation. I do a lot of text work, so abandonned laptops will their fixation on widescreen for an iPad, which I can use any orientation I like. I'd seriously consider moving back to MS but only if this too has the flexibility to type with it in portrait.


February 12, 2013, 6:20 pm

I don't know of many devices that let you use a (good) physical keyboard in portrait mode...

If you're talking about a virtual keyboard, then the Surface - or rather, Windows RT - will let you use it in any orientation you please, including portrait :)


September 1, 2013, 7:56 am

We have a Microsoft surface tablet, we are in Peru & no wi if connection. We have bought a dongle which apparently isn't compatible with the tablet .. How can we get Internet connection?


January 4, 2014, 11:31 am

I need help with my cover keyboard and I have no idea what I'm doing wrong but it's not working! I've connected it properly, I can assure you that and it's new. It worked for about two days and now for the past week or two, it just stopped responding. Please reply! So frustrated.

Jim J

February 4, 2014, 10:11 am

I had a similar problem and finally 'refreshed' the tablet after which everthing functioned well


August 7, 2014, 11:45 am

And with jump drive (flash drive)

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