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Review: Microsoft Surface Power Cover

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March 22, 2014

Gizmag reviews the Power Cover, a keyboard accessory that extends the battery life in Micr...

Gizmag reviews the Power Cover, a keyboard accessory that extends the battery life in Microsoft Surface

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Thinking about buying a hybrid PC that runs full Windows? Well, then battery life had better be on your radar, or you might end up with a device that conks out after just a few hours. If you own a Microsoft Surface, then that's becoming less of an issue. We've been testing a new accessory that can make a big difference in extending its uptimes. Read on, as Gizmag reviews the Surface Power Cover.

Microsoft says that the Power Cover can extend Surfaces' battery life by "up to 70 percent." It plays nicely with all four Surfaces: the Windows RT-running Surface RT and Surface 2, and the full Windows-running Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2.

If you've seen Microsoft's Type Cover 2 for Surface, then you already have a pretty good idea of what you're getting from the Power Cover. This is basically a thicker and heavier version of the Type Cover 2, only with a built-in battery. It also doesn't have the Type Cover 2's backlit keys. That's probably because they use extra power, which would kinda defeat the whole purpose.

The Power Cover adds some considerable weight and thickness over the Type Cover 2, but we ...

I had been using the Type Cover 2 for a couple of weeks before switching to the Power Cover, and when I picked this sucker up, I really noticed a difference. This is a pretty damn heavy keyboard cover. At 535 g (1.18 lb), it's actually 110 percent heavier than the Type Cover 2. It's also 90 percent thicker.

That part doesn't bother me though. Lightness isn't exactly the Surface Pros' forte to begin with, so what's a little extra heft? When I feel that weight, I just remind myself how much extra juice I'm getting out of the deal. As far as I'm concerned, it's a small price to pay for all-day battery life.

On lap, I think that extra weight is actually an advantage. The Type Cover 2 is firmer than the somewhat-flimsy Type Cover 1, but the Power Cover takes it to another level. It's a firmer foundation, and much closer to the feeling of using a standard laptop.

The Power Cover has the same terrific keys found on the Type Cover 2

And yes, the Power Cover does make a big difference with battery life. Using the Pro 2 with the Type Cover 2, I can usually make it through a good portion of the day without charging. But if I'm doing a lot of Photoshopping, I still have to juice it up on breaks or things might get tight. With the Power Cover attached, I don't have to pay much attention to battery life at all. Even on days when I spent a few hours in Photoshop, the Pro 2 lasted throughout the workday. For a full-blown PC, that's a pretty big deal.

I did a more formal test too, streaming Netflix over Wi-Fi with brightness set at 75 percent. There the Pro 2 saw about a 33 percent increase with the Power Cover attached. On the original Surface Pro, which has much shorter battery life, the Power Cover gave it about a 67 percent boost. I'm not sure if video tests are the best way to test a full-blown PC's battery life, as there are a lot more background processes running than on mobile devices like the iPad. But you get the picture: the Power Cover can give the original Pro respectable uptimes, and it can turn the Pro 2 into an all-day machine – even under pretty heavy use.

Windows registers the Power Cover as a second battery, which drains first

How does it work? Well, when you look at Windows' battery life popup, you see Battery #1 (your Surface) and Battery #2 (the Power Cover). The Surface uses the Power Cover's juice first. Only when the Power Cover is drained (or detached) does it start using the Surface's internal battery.

When you're charging, the inverse is true. It powers up the Surface first, then after it reaches 80 percent full, it juices up the Power Cover. After the Power Cover reaches 80 percent, it finishes charging the Surface. Then it finishes charging the Cover.

The Power Cover can turn the Surface Pro 2 into an all-day machine

The Power Cover ain't cheap, at US$200. And when you're looking at the Surface Pro 2, which starts at $900 and moves all the way up to $1,800, things are starting to get pretty damn expensive. But if you spend any time doing things like Photoshopping, video-editing, or gaming, then you might find that it's worth it. It's "only" $70 more than the Type Cover 2, and I think it gives you more bang for your buck. Apart from the missing backlit keys, it's just as good of a keyboard, with a firmer base, and hours of extra battery life.

And if you own the original Surface Pro, the Power Cover can breathe new life into your PC. From my experience, I'd say its uptimes with the Power Cover should be pretty close to those of the Surface Pro 2 without the Power Cover. If you were trying to avoid upgrading to the second-gen model, then this $200 accessory might be just what the doctor ordered.

The Power Cover retails for US$200

Gizmag highly recommends the Power Cover for any Surface Pro or Pro 2 owner looking to eke out a few extra hours of battery life. If you own the Surface RT or Surface 2, your battery life is probably already good enough without it. The Power Cover is available now from the product page below.

For more on the latest Surfaces, you can check out Gizmag's reviews of the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2.

Product page: Microsoft

Edited on April 26 to more accurately describe the charging process

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
6 Comments

The Surface Pro with Power Cover is great, now if they could just come up with a 17 inch version ...

ecoLogics.ca
23rd March, 2014 @ 02:01 am PDT

I read the whole article and not in a single place could I find out how much the battery life is with the power cover on High performance plan. In fact, you mention "few hours" everywhere without giving any specifics.

Baldmer
23rd March, 2014 @ 07:52 am PDT

Can you show pic/video proof of the power cover working with Surface RT 1? Because all over internet websites and others have claimed it's not supported. They usually don't even say why. Thank you.

Tommy James
23rd March, 2014 @ 11:32 am PDT

the surface pro 2 is the best, except, it is so small, i don't mind a little weight, make it a little bigger.

Kalides Evony
24th March, 2014 @ 08:59 am PDT

Power Cover CANNOT be used on the Surface RT for anything other than a typical keyboard/trackpad (ie. it can still use it as a Type Cover). The battery simply will not be recognized on Surface RT due to the differences in hardware at the connector. It's fully compatible with Surface Pro, Surface 2, and Surface Pro 2.

LukeAtMeNow
24th March, 2014 @ 01:00 pm PDT

The fact that they didn't include backlit keys is the dumbest thing ever. Will pass on it juar because of that.

Tom Couture
8th April, 2014 @ 09:32 pm PDT
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