Surface Pro 4: Keyboard Firmware Problems

I’ve written before about the experience of using a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 to write a book, but today I’m going to discuss a problem I’ve had with the Surface computer since August.

Back in August of 2017, I suddenly needed to take a day trip. I expected I would have some empty hours during the trip, so I planned to take my Surface Pro 4 and do some work on one of the SILENT ORDER books. However, when I booted up the Surface to make sure all my files were current, the Type Cover keyboard wouldn’t work. I was under a time crunch, so instead I took an old netbook for the trip and used that instead.

On my return, I couldn’t get the Type Cover to work. I did the usual troubleshooting things (driver reinstalls, cleaning the Type Cover connector and so forth), but none of them worked. Some research online revealed that a recent firmware update for the Surface Pro 4 had caused Type Cover problems. I did the recommended troubleshooting procedures, up to wiping the Surface entirely and reinstalling Windows 10 from scratch, but none of it worked.

Finally, I discovered that the the bug in the firmware update disabled Surface Pro 4 Type Covers, but the Surface Pro 3 Type Cover still worked. I had a refurbished Pro 3 Type Cover lying around from a previous job, so I gave it a try. The Surface Pro 3 Type Cover worked with the Pro 4, but the trouble was that the magnets in the Pro 3 Type Cover didn’t align quite right with the magnets in the Pro 4. So it was difficult to keep the keyboard in a stable position while typing, which meant that it became uncomfortable to write with the Surface, which defeated the purpose.

Later in December, Microsoft released a firmware update that was supposed to fix the Type Cover problem, but that didn’t work. After that, I started poking around the Internet looking to see if anyone had solved the problem.

During my research, I came across the MoKo Microsoft Surface 4 Bluetooth cover, and I found a couple of articles with high praise for it. In fact, one article specifically mentioned the MoKo keyboard as a viable replacement for people with Type Cover problems.  I was already familiar with MoKo, since I had used their cases for a couple of Samsung tablets. In my opinion, the MoKo covers are a lot better and much cheaper than the official cases from Apple and Samsung.

I decided to give it a try. The MoKo Surface keyboard turned out to be excellent! Bluetooth keyboards and mice usually have a bit of lag, but it is barely noticeable with the MoKo keyboard. I wrote a chapter of CLOAK GAMES: BLOOD CAST using the keyboard, and it was a pleasant experience. It was also a lot more comfortable than using the Pro 3 Type Cover with the Pro 4.

That said, while I plan to continue writing with the Surface Pro 4, would I recommend the Surface to people?

No. The last two generations of Surfaces have suffered considerable reliability issues. In fact, it became such a problem that Consumer Reports actually removed its recommendation from the Surface line. If you want a high-end Windows tablet, it would probably be a good idea to go with one from Dell or HP or Asus or another PC company that has more experience with hardware manufacturing and support than Microsoft.

The Surface is a good computer and an excellent concept, but the execution needs considerably more refinement.