As soon as I brought my new Microsoft Surface Pro home, I knew I’d need a protective case for it. The Surface is a heavy, glossy, slippery device, and I don’t have to tell you that it’s rather pricey. And a typical iPad-like tablet bag wasn’t going to work. The Surface Pro has a distinct, widescreen form factor; it would just slide back and forth inside the more square iPad case, or any generic tablet case. I needed something that would snugly enclose the Surface with custom design dimensions. So as I began playing with my new toy, I kept an eye on the Twitterverse for the first mention of a Surface-specific carrying case.
Related: "Review: Microsoft Surface Pro"
It was WaterField Designs that was first on the scene, and early photos of the case looked extremely promising. WaterField offers three Ultimate SleeveCases designed for the Microsoft Surface. The first, for the Surface RT, has a shallower depth to accommodate the thinner device. One size fits the Surface RT all by itself (“naked”) or the Surface RT with the thin Touch Cover attached. The second holds the Surface Pro, either naked or with the Touch Cover, and the third also holds the Surface Pro, with the thicker Type Cover. I really appreciate the fact that WaterField designed its Surface cases with several scenarios in mind, although selfishly I wish there were enough room in my case for both keyboards, as I own both. (Different keyboards for different situations, you know! Perhaps it’s rather insane to own both keyboard types, but I find myself using both extensively, and I do wonder how many consumers will be doing the same thing.)
I tested the Surface Pro/Type Cover variety, and I found it to be perfectly snug—such an ideal fit that when I tried to sneak my Touch Cover in there too, the case practically spoke to me: “Nope, that ain’t happenin’, dude.” I should mention that this case comfortably holds the Surface with either of the covers, just not both at the same time. No matter: The smooth way the device slides securely into this case is extremely satisfying.
This is a sturdy, beautiful case. Its innards are fashioned with cushions of high-grade, impact-resistant neoprene (which functions as a screen cleaner), and the exterior is a ballistic nylon shell. But any tablet case needs a little style, right? For that, the Ultimate Tablet SleeveCase boasts a Lead Indium or Brown Leather add-on Trim Style (for $6). The opening flap has a standard nylon handle embroidered with the company logo, looking for all the world like a stylish “WTF!” shouted across the room. (I mean this in the best way possible.) There’s a large, tight pocket across the back of the case—ideal for both the Surface Pen and your microfiber cleaning cloth. (Unfortunately, it’s just too small to hold my Touch Cover.) You can also store your power cord in this pocket, but it is a tight fit and makes the case bulky and unwieldy. One feature that confused me momentarily was the small nylon strap at the very bottom of the case, until I realized that it’s designed to hold on to as you extricate your snugly encased device. I imagine the Surface would be tough to pull out of the Ultimate SleeveCase without that tiny grab-strap! It’s a smart addition, particularly for this case. You can also add a shoulder strap ($5 to $22).
WaterField touts the Ultimate SleeveCase’s TSA checkpoint friendliness, and I can vouch for it. I recently took a trip through Denver International Airport and Orange County’s John Wayne Airport, and at neither airport did I need to remove my tablet from the case.
I should end with the admission that, like the Surface Pro itself, the case is priced on the higher end of the spectrum at about $60 (plus add-ons). But the Ultimate SleeveCase is worth its price tag for several reasons, all enumerated above. Custom-fitted and sturdy, it will give you peace of mind about an already hefty investment. And if the glances this case got at the airport are any indication, you can’t do any better in the style department. Plus, there’s just something very cool about that tag on the back that reads Made in San Francisco.