Through a combination of circumstances, I was able to migrate from a Surface Pro 3 to a shiny new Surface Pro 4. Other than the ongoing issues with sleep and display drivers, I couldn't be happier. At the very least, the SP4's screen is a marked improvement over its predecessor, with superior whites, awesome contrast, and colors that pop while remaining true to life.
Using the SP3 Type Cover with the SP4
At first, I was hoping to stick with my SP3 Type Cover to save a little bit of cash. It works with the SP4, of course. It connects the same way, and the keyboard and touchpad are perfectly functional. The Surface Pro 4 Type Cover is superior (more on that in a bit), but its predecessor worked well enough for me for about 18 months, and so I thought I'd be able to keep using it for a little while longer at least.
However, there's one major limitation with using the SP3 Type Cover on the SP4: it doesn't fit well. The SP4's bezel is thinner and the display is larger, within the same sized chassis, and so the SP3 Type Cover rests higher on the screen when snapped in place. It overlaps the lower edge of the screen on the SP4 and blocks roughly a third of the taskbar, just enough to make pressing on-screen buttons difficult. Also, the magnets don't line up perfectly, and so the Type Cover isn't as securely attached.
Here's a comparison, with the SP4 Type Cover on the left:
Ultimately, while the SP3 Type Cover works with the SP4, it's just not the best experience. But is the newer model worth the $100-130 investment?
So how much better is the SP4 Type Cover?
And so, I decided to bite the bullet and grab an SP4 Type Cover. I stopped by a Microsoft Store last week, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that there's apparently a $30 discount on the newest Type Cover that's not advertised anywhere (including at the Microsoft Store online). I picked up a black version and headed home.
Since using the newer Type Cover over the last few days, I have to say that I'm impressed. I can type between 80wpm and 100wpm, depending on the keyboard and how long I've been working, and I'm very sensitive to keyboard performance. I like keys with a light feel to them but a decent keystroke, and spacing is important to me.
The SP3 Type Cover was merely adequate--I could maintain decent speed, but I was never particularly impressed. It was definitely just good enough. It was also quite loud, with a clackiness that would disturb my wife on occasion during late-night writing sessions. Finally, the Type Cover had significant give when attached to the screen--not a deal breaker, but always bothersome.
The SP4 Type Cover, however, has a much better typing feel. It's very close to the better keyboards I've used, in some ways better even than my previous gold standard, my 2012 MacBook Air. It's a bit lighter than the Mac's keyboard, and while not quite as deep is quite deep enough. I achieved my maximum typing speed almost immediately, and my accuracy is high. The SP4 Type Cover is also quieter that its predecessor, enough so that I don't feel guilty typing at a fast clip while my wife is sleeping.
Conclusion: a worthy upgrade
The newer Type Cover still has significant give when inclined, and so that's not dramatically improved. But it fits correctly on the SP4, leaving the taskbar buttons easily accessible and securing strongly to the screen. And, the touchpad is larger and more accurate, with perfectly smooth multitouch gestures.
Ultimately, I'm convinced that the SP4 Type Cover is well worth the investment, particularly if you can score the $30 discount. Even if you're using an SP3, the newer version offers a significantly improved typing experience and an improved touchpad.