7 essential accessories for Microsoft Surface tablets

by Doug Drinkwater

February 13 2013

The Surface RT and Surface Pro are now finally both available, but road warriors will want to add some accessories to get the most out of Microsoft's new tablets. With that in mind, here are seven excellent accessories to add to your shopping list.

Touch Cover

Doubling up both a keyboard and a sturdy cover for the tablet, the innovative Touch Cover magnetically clicks into the Surface. Once connected, the keyboard uses its pressure-sensing technology to sense which keys are being pressed, rather than physical keys.

The keyboard comes with a built-in trackpad, the Function keys (F1-F12) and Windows shortcuts and is available in five different colors (black, white, cyan, magenta and red). The Touch Cover costs $119.

Type Cover

Microsoft is marketing the Surface as a tablet which does PC computing just as well, but for that to be true you'll want a solid and reliable QWERTY keyboard.

That’s where the optional Type Cover ($129) comes in.

Offering the standard but well-spaced QWERTY layout and other keyboard features like Function keys, Windows shortcuts and a capacitive sensing trackpad, the Type Cover simply clicks in to the tablet and can protect the screen when it is not being used.

The Type Cover is ultra slim (6mm) and light (less than 0.55lbs) and is available for $129.

Zagg Invisible Shield for Microsoft Surface

It’s all very well having a case or a sleeve to protect the exterior of the Surface, but what about guarding the display should you accidentally drop the tablet?

Zagg is hoping that you’ll opt for its Invisible Shield screen protector. Designed specifically for the Surface, the screen protector offers military-grade protection in saving the display from scratches, dust, dirt and other debris.

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The Invisible Shield screen protector features Nano-Memory technology with Zagg claiming that this gives ‘unbelievable’ resistance to damage, better coverage in the corners and curves of your Surface and makes it easier to grip the tablet.

The screen protector is also said to be easy to install and remove, while the “Orange peel” finish is said to break up glare and reduce those annoying finger print smudges.

Perhaps best of all however is Zagg’s promise to deliver the product with a lifetime guarantee. This means that if the cover does ever wear or scratch, the firm will replace it for free.

If the Zagg’s $30 price tag (from Best Buy) is more than you want to spend, you could always try Incipio’s $20 Self-Healing Screen Protector for the Surface. The protector is coated with a thin silicon film the company says will neatly refill scratches just a few seconds after they’re made.

SanDisk Ultra 64GB SDXC Class 10 microSD memory Card

Largely owing to Windows 8 and the Office suite taking up a lot of storage space, new Surface RT and Surface Pro owners will be disappointed to learn that their 32GB, 64GB and 128GB tablets come with far less than the advertised storage available to the user.

Therefore, you may well want get additional storage and, thankfully, at least the Surface has connections for both a microSD memory card and for a USB flash drive.

There are a lot of options out there for both, but I’d probably spring for SanDisk’s Ultra 64GB SDXC Class 10 ($60 from Amazon) if I was looking to use my Surface for business.

This is more than enough storage for files, films and more, while the card is one of the fastest in its class, reaching transfer speeds of up to 30MB/s.

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Brenthaven ProStyle Midnight Sleeve

Despite the Surface RT debuting in October, quality cases for the Microsoft tablet are few and far between, with most certainly looking fairly similar.

Fortunately, Brenthaven’s ProStyle Midnight Sleeve did not fit that description. The case is stylish with a midnight blue color, genuine leather exterior and a quilted fake-fur lined tablet compartment, but is also practical. The useful patent-pending EZ Grip enables users to carry it around in one hand, while a phone pocket is also supplied.

Adding to this, the ProStyle Midnight Sleeve sells for a very reasonable $39.99 and comes with a lifetime guarantee. A cheaper and perhaps less refined version of this case would be Moko’s Type Cover Companion Sleeve ($19.99, Amazon).

Wedge Mouse

Microsoft’s Wedge Touch Mouse is a sleek-looking thing and is highly recommended to anyone dipping their toe in the water when it comes to tablets and touchscreens.

It is not cheap at $70 but is specifically designed for Windows 8, offering four-way touch scrolling, Bluetooth connectivity and BlueTrack technology, which essentially enables it to perform well on any surface (no pun intended) except clear glass and mirrors.

Surface Pen

If you’re looking to annotate PDF files or write up Word documents with your own handwriting, you will need a stylus pen to come to the rescue.

The Surface Pen is no ordinary stylus. Sure enough, the pressure-sensitive tip for applying thicker lines is standard, as is the palm blocking technology (which means your palm doesn’t ruin your work when you rest it on the screen).

But the ability for the Surface Pen to be used as a pen is a neat feature, and the on-device button for returning to the menu is truly unique.  Furthermore, the Surface Pen can be used to erase work or even perform your own personalized shortcuts using certain ‘Flick’ gestures.

Available for $29.99, the Surface Pen is sadly not without its flaws.  For starters, early adopters of the Pen have already discovered that it doesn’t support all apps, leading some creative types to go without some features in Photoshop, for one example. Both Microsoft and Adobe are working on a fix.

And secondly, the Surface Pen only supports the Surface Pro because Windows RT doesn’t support digital pen features. If you have the Surface RT, you’ll have to instead make do with a capacitive pen (sold separately) which works like a finger does on a touchscreen.

And one for the future…more battery power?

What with the Surface Pro’s battery life quoted in some reviews as at a lowly four hours after heavy use, it wasn't too much of a surprise to hear Microsoft hint it might launch an external battery for the Windows 8 tablet in the future.

Asked during a Reddit 'Ask Me Anything' session if Microsoft would launch a thicker keyboard with its own battery, members of Surface’s engineer team left little to the imagination.

“That would require extending the design of the accessory spine to include some way to transfer higher current between the peripheral and the main battery. Which we did.”

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