As promised, Microsoft delivered its eagerly-awaitedPower Cover to customers this week. The $200 accessory promises to add hours of battery life to your Surface 2, Surface Pro or Surface Pro 2. But while it resembles the very similar Type Cover 2, it also comes with a significant weight penalty.
I wrote about the various specifications and details about this accessory in Surface Power Cover Preview last week, so please refer to that article for more information. Here, I'll literally focus on my initial impressions of the Power Cover.
Packaging. The Surface Power Cover comes in a familiar package, assuming you've ever used any previous Type or Touch Cover. You basically slide it out of a thin plastic cover and then remove it from the surrounding protective material. To say the documentation is bare bones is understatement: It consists of a diagram showing you how to attach the cover and a sheet of paper telling you to visit a Microsoft web page that contains absolutely no information about this accessory.
Form factor. To understand what this accessory is all about physically, just look at a Type Cover 2. This is exactly the same type of cover, with the exact same keyboard (sans backlighting), in the same layout and sizing of keys. It has the same felt-like surrounding area, on both the front and back, which I like a lot. And it is about twice as thick and twice as heavy as the Type Cover 2, as promised.
Weight. At 1.2 pounds, the Power Cover weighs more than an iPad Air, and it's noticeably dense and heavy compared to Type Cover 2. It's not awful, and anyone who is struggling with battery life—i.e an original Surface Pro user—won't mind the weight. It's only when you hold up both this and a Type Cover 2 that it's so obvious. And yes, you can still dangle the Power Cover while holding just the Surface device; the magnets are strong and hold the cover wonderfully.
Power Cover (top)Type Cover 2(bottom)
Thickness. I was curious how the extra thickness of the Power Cover—9.75 mm vs. 5.4 mm for a Type Cover 2—would impact the accessory's ability to be used and be wrapped back around the Surface. I'll need to test this one over time, but so far it all works as you'd expect, and doesn't (seem to) stress the connector.
Power Cover (top)Type Cover 2 (bottom)
Type Cover 2 (top) and Power Cover (bottom)
Connection. You connect the Power Cover as you would any other Surface typing cover, but I was interested to see that the actual connector is a bit different than that of the Type Cover 2. Those two larger bumps have little connectors on them that must transmit the power to the device. And based on the "dangle" comment above, I assume there are extra (or stronger) magnets in there too.
Type Cover 2 (left) and Power Cover (right)
Installation. Setup is simple enough. When you connect the cover, Windows (RT or 8) checks Windows Update for the driver software and installs it. After installation, you can check the Power icon in the system tray on the desktop and see that you now have two batteries installed, each with its own battery life estimate.
Battery life. What everyone wants to know, of course, is how well the Power Cover works. That is, what's the additional battery life? This will vary across the supported devices—again, Surface 2, Pro and Pro 2—and since I have each, I'll try to find out. This may take a while, but that and the ergonomic effects of this accessory will be the focus of my coming review.
I think the weirdest thing about this accessory is what took so long. It's unclear why customers had to wait 6 months since the announcement to get the Power Cover. And this is especially damning to those original Surface Pro users who, frankly, really need this device.
But it's here now. More soon.