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Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablets are pretty slick pieces of hardware. Accessorizing the Surface Pro with a new Alcantara Signature Type Cover adds a new premium look and feel to the Surface Pro, making the transformation to laptop even better looking and more luxurious.

Surface Pro Leads the 2-in-1 Pack

Before getting to the Alcantara Signature Type Cover, it’s important to take a quick look at the device it’s designed for: Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 (and Surface Pro 3). There are plenty of convertible, 2-in-1 options out there today including offerings from Apple, Dell and HP. But it was Microsoft that led the way and the Surface Pro 4 is the fourth generation of the company’s tablet for professionals. While the Surface hardware has always made an impression, arguably the real breakthrough feature—at least the most visible one—was the Type Cover accessory.

Using a series of magnets and a docking port, it was the Type Cover that transformed a Surface tablet into a laptop, without the fuss and extra space needed to pack a portable Bluetooth keyboard. Microsoft engineered the Type Covers to deliver an excellent portable typing experience, while doing critical double duty as a protector for the glass display. The Type Cover was unique, compact, light and as the Surface Pro improved, so did it. The most recent version has improved stiffness, it’s lighter and thinner than the previous generation, keys are quieter with a little more space between them for improved accuracy, travel is even better and the precision glass trackpad grew in size by 40 percent. This one accessory makes the Surface Pro a formidable, ultra-portable productivity machine.

But the general appearance of the Type Cover has remained the same over the years. It’s made of a flocked, soft plastic material in a variety of bright colours. It’s durable and functional, but if a Surface Pro owner is looking for a more refined appearance, a black Type Cover is about the only real choice they’ve had.

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Alcantara Signature Type Cover is the New Premium Option

Microsoft set out to design a new Type Cover option for Surface Pro owners, something that would complement the tablet’s magnesium case, add a degree of elegance and give Surface Pro owners the ability to customize their tablets with an upscale look and feel.

The new Alcantara Signature Type Cover was unveiled in April. According to Microsoft, this is the reasoning behind creating and releasing the new accessory:

Our Surface journey has always been about delivering the best experience to our customers – to create a device that not only allows them to get things done, but that they love to use and are proud to carry. We are inspired by those that dream and do amazing things, and we work tirelessly to bring that same belief to how we create our own products.

I recently spent a week using a Surface Pro 4 equipped with the Alcantara Signature Type Cover and can I can attest to the fact that it definitely adds a premium look and feel to the tablet, while providing all the functionality expected from the Type Cover. What I found interesting is that the cost to move up to the Signature Type Cover is so reasonable. The Alcantara Type Cover costs less than 20 percent more than the standard Type Cover, and still comes under the price of Apple’s Smart Keyboard for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

So, What is Alcantara?

When I first heard the Alcantara product name, I assumed it was some sort of marketing mumbo jumbo. A code name, probably. Turns out that’s not true. Alcantara is a luxury material, made only in Italy and exclusively by a company called Alcantara SpA. Although it’s an artificial material (spun from a combination of polyester and polyurethane), it feels and looks natural. It’s in high demand by manufacturers of premium products, including luxury cars, where it’s used for steering wheels and dashboards. Apparently, you’ll even find Alcantara fabric on the ear pads of Sennheiser’s Momentum headphones.

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The result of the Alcantara material produced for Microsoft is a dense, textured fabric that’s soft yet very durable, in a two-tone grey mottled effect thanks to the two different materials used in the weave. In look and feel, it reminded me very much of wool. It’s extremely pleasant to touch, and the texture makes it easier to grip the Surface Pro—a very nice bonus with a tablet of this size.

Microsoft says it will get softer and darker with age. Obviously I couldn’t test that in just a week, but the result should be a Surface Pro cover that just gets better and more unique over time—kind of like a favourite leather watch band.

Adding to the exclusivity of the Alcantara Signature Type Cover, Microsoft says each one takes a whopping five weeks to produce. The material is extruded, crimped, needle punched, dyed and then it has to be meticulously crafted around the Surface Type Cover frame.

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Once again, that modest premium Microsoft is charging for this cover makes it sound like an even bigger bargain …

All the Type Cover Features Are There

If you choose the Alcantara Signature Type Cover, you won’t be giving anything up compared to the standard Type Cover. It’s the exact same form factor, it does the same job of alternating between display protector and keyboard. The keys are are the same high quality versions as in the most recently revised Type Cover, including the improved layout travel, and they also have the very useful backlighting feature. It includes Windows shortcut keys, media control keys, a row of function keys and the oversized, glass trackpad. The same magnetic fastening scheme is used and closing the cover puts the Surface Pro to sleep, conserving battery power. The weight is 310 grams, which is a barely noticeable increase from the standard Type Pad’s 292 grams.

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Microsoft set out to design a Signature Type Cover that is both durable and beautiful, and from my time with the Alcantara cover, I’d say they succeeded. If I had a Surface Pro tablet, this is the accessory I’d be looking at.

The Alcantara Signature Type Cover is compatible with the Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4 and available now at Best Buy.

Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. After 13 years as a product manager with a leading Canadian tech company, I transitioned into a full-time career of writing about technology. I’ve contributed to a range of publications and websites including Forbes, Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, About.com, MSN Money, the Winnipeg Free Press, InvestorPlace Media, Shaw Media and—combining technology and my three kids—I’ve been a Core Contributor to the award winning GeekDad blog since its launch in 2007.