Surface 2 accessories step up: Backlit Type and Touch Covers, Power Cover, Docking Station (hands-on)

Microsoft's Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 get a boost from some useful new extras. The good news is, older Surface Pro users can take advantage, too.

How do you improve upon the Surface, Microsoft's tablet-as-PC that debuted last year? Internal upgrades are always welcome: more battery life, a better display, amped-up graphics. But the real killer apps of the next Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets might once again be the accessories.

The Type Cover was the one part I loved the most about the last Surface Pro, for good reason: it worked great, felt small, and acted as a screen cozy. The Type Cover 2 and Touch Cover 2 make small but very important improvements: they both add backlit keyboards, and the Touch Cover 2 has far more sensors under its microfiber surface.

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The $130 Type Cover 2 has four colors now (2013 is the "Year of Colorful Electronics") -- cyan, magenta, purple, and black -- and a quieter click mechanism, plus the pressure-sensitive touch pad works with Windows 8 gestures. The $120 Touch Cover 2 has faster type responsiveness in addition to the backlighting and added sensors, but I imagine most people would spend the extra $10 for the Type Cover. All of these will work with older Surface Pros and new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets. Surface RT owners, you might be out of luck.

There's one other new cover, and it's the one I'd buy: the Power Cover (price not available yet), a thicker Type Cover accessory that adds a battery pack, adding 50 percent more battery life, and charges the Surface (Surface 2, Surface Pro, and Surface Pro 2 -- again, sorry Surface RT users) in your bag when not in use.

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Besides new keyboard covers, Microsoft also debuted a $200 Docking Station, a long-awaited (and needed) way to connect your Surface easily to extra ports while on a desk. Tall, angular, and black, it's a tiny bit bulky but slides around the Surface Pro or Surface Pro 2, locking into the side ports and offering up one USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0, audio in/out, Ethernet, and a Mini DisplayPort. It's not much different from other charging docks seen on laptops and tablets, but the Docking Station also allows users to use the Type/Touch Cover at the same time -- and, you can daisy-chain extra monitors via Mini DisplayPort.

Microsoft will also be offering a Car Charger ($50) for Surface road-recharging, and a Wireless Bluetooth Adapter ($60) to enable typing covers to work when disconnected from Surface, which might be helpful for long-range operation -- but, then again, you could always purchase a separate wireless keyboard for the same price.

Do these make a difference in a crowded tablet market? The dock keeps the Surface competitive with equivalent Windows 8 tablets for business markets. The keyboards continue to be excellent. But the Surface 2 and Pro 2 accessories, while refined, are hardly surprising. They are, however, undeniably useful.

Read the full CNET Review

Microsoft Surface Pro 2

The Bottom Line: Microsoft's subtly updated Windows 8.1 tablet feels more like Surface Pro 1.5 -- improved battery life and better accessories make it a worthwhile (albeit pricey) laptop replacement, but it's still not an iPad-level category killer. / Read full review

About the author

Scott Stein is a senior editor covering iOS and laptop reviews, mobile computing, video games, and tech culture. He has previously written for both mainstream and technology enthusiast publications including Wired, Esquire.com, Men's Journal, and Maxim, and regularly appears on TV and radio talking tech trends.

 

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