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One of the big decisions people have to make when considering a Microsoft Surface tablet involves the keyboards: Which one should you get?

The options are the TouchCover pressure-sensitive keyboard ($119 on its own or included with a $599 32GB or $699 64GB Surface) or a TypeCover keyboard with moving keys ($129).

Microsoft Surface TypeCover keyboard up close.

Here’s my first piece of advice: Consider saving yourself some money and getting neither.

Yes, the TypeCover and the TouchCover are cool, and the foolproof way they snap magnetically into the bottom of the device is a very neat trick. But I’ve been surprised at how little we’ve been using the TouchCover around the house.

This speaks to the fact that my family is using our Surface primarily as a content consumption and light communications device. For that, the touch screen interface and on-screen keyboard are more than adequate for the job.

But what if you’re determined to use the Surface for heavier content input? After testing out both keyboards myself and talking with a bunch of people who have been using them, my best piece of advice is that you really need to spend some time with them in the store, or better yet with a friend’s Surface, before making your decision.

Microsoft’s Surface TouchCover keyboard.

In lieu of that, here are some tips: If you’re an ace typist, the type of person who has mastered touch typing with a high degree of accuracy, the TouchCover may well be your ideal solution.

The pressure-sensitive keyboard is tuned to ignore incidental touches, and requires moderately strong and accurate keystrokes. It seems to work best for people who type precisely and can land their fingers consistently in the center of the keys.

Exhibit A: Television reporter Glenn Farley from KING 5 News in Seattle. I spent time with Glenn helping out with his Windows 8 reports a couple weeks ago. At one point he started testing out the TouchCover, and my jaw dropped. I hope he doesn’t mind me revealing this, but he’s an incredibly fast and accurate typist, and the TouchCover is perfect for him.

This does not describe me. I’m a moderately fast typist, but I’ve mixed the lessons from my high-school typing class with my own, um, unique style. My typing habits are a little lazy, and I frequently hit keys just a bit off-center or at an angle.

Often when I’m typing on the TouchCover, it will miss letters that a normal keyboard would register. The more I use the TouchCover, the better I get, but it’s still a far cry from my accuracy on a standard notebook or desktop keyboard.

I have also spent a little time testing out a TypeCover. For me, this keyboard has the opposite issue — sometimes registering the key that I press plus one of the adjacent keys, because they are packed so tightly together, with barely a gap in between them. But again, you get better at using this keyboard the more you use it.

Bottom line: Consider going without, but if you must, do your best to try them both out first.

Previously on GeekWire


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