Microsoft's new Surface Pro laptops don't come with a keyboard, and it's a terrible move

Microsoft announced new Surface Pro laptops on Tuesday, but they don’t come bundled with Microsoft’s Type Cover keyboard.

That means you’ll have to spend $US130 if you want a physical keyboard, and that seems absurd.

Previously, Microsoft marketed its Surface Pro devices as tablets that could replace your laptop, so it could be somewhat forgiven for not including a keyboard, as the Surface Pros were categorized as tablets designed to be used with your fingers. I personally still think that particular marketing was misguided, as Windows 10 isn’t really a touch-friendly operating system.

On Tuesday, however, Microsoft began marketing the new Surface Pros as “The most versatile laptop.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a laptop that doesn’t come with a physical keyboard.

Microsoft type cover surface pro 5Matt Weinberger/Business InsiderThe new colours of Surface Pro Signature Type Cover. These high-end models are covered in alcantara fabric and go for $US159 a pop — but they turn the Surface Pro into a proper laptop.

If I bought the new Surface Pro as it’s sold, I would be using the on-screen keyboard, which means half of the relatively small 12.3-inch screen screen (most laptops in this range have larger 13-inch screens) would be taken up by the keyboard. That doesn’t leave me much room on the Surface Pro’s relatively small screen to see what I’m working on, which doesn’t seem very “versatile.”

Sure, I could buy a cheap Bluetooth keyboard that costs less than the Type Cover, but part of the allure of the Type Cover is its magnetic and removable connection to the Surface Pro. It becomes part of the Surface Pro and acts as a screen cover when you pack it up and store it away in a bag.

Surface pro 5 (1200 wide)Matt Weinberger/Business InsiderOne of the Surface Pro 5’s new features is a kickstand that can bend back at a more acute angle than previous models.

There is some good news, but only for those who bought the Type Cover for the Surface Pro 3 and 4, as it’s compatible with the Surface Pro 5.

The Type Cover and the new Surface Pro’s price

A new Surface Pro with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB of storage will cost you $US1,300. It sounds mighty tempting when you compare it to Apple’s equivalent MacBook Pro, which costs $US1,500. But once you add the $US130 keyboard for the Surface Pro, the total cost racks up to $US1,430, which is only $US70 cheaper than the equivalent MacBook Pro.

And it might seem like Microsoft’s most powerful Surface Pro offering, which includes a Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB of storage and cost $US2,200, is a much better deal than Apple’s equivalent MacBook Pro with similar specs, which costs $US2,500. But that $US300 you thought you were saving by going with the Surface Pro manifests itself in the lack of a dedicated graphics chip, which the i7 MacBook Pro includes.

Plus, remove the $US130 you’d spend on a Type Cover keyboard from the savings of a Surface Pro, and you’re only saving $US170 over buying an equivalent MacBook Pro with a dedicated graphics chip and a keyboard.

With that said, few people really need graphics chips for work. They’re only useful if you do graphically intensive work, like video and photo editing, engineering work that require computer-aided design (CAD) schematics, or play video games. I’d gladly take an i7 MacBook Pro without a graphics chip for a lower price.

Until we no longer need to use words for things like web searches, writing emails, updating social media statuses, and writing up documents — you know, laptop stuff — keyboards are still integral to the usefulness of a laptop. If Microsoft is serious about selling the new Surface Pro as a laptop, it will need to come bundled with the Type Cover keyboard.

Get the latest Microsoft stock price here.

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