UPDATE: Pressing deadlines are impeding my ability to test gear and software and file regular posts. But Paul Thurrott just wrote about his experiences with the Power Cover and the original Surface Pro here: http://winsupersite.com/mobile-devices/surface-pro-surface-power-cover

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The long-awaited $199 Power Cover from Microsoft arrived at Casa SurfaceProArtist this afternoon and it's charging up as I write this.

It doesn't photograph particularly well, but I offer these pics to illustrate a couple of points worth highlighting.

In the meantime, I've been asking Twitter followers for recommendations on how to test its battery life claims.

I can leave it powered on at High Performance from 100% to 0% on both the Surface Pro 1 and 2 and compare that to running times with standard machines. And I could also run comparisons with full motion video running from 100% charge to zero. But it seems to me that those are somewhat artificial measures. Surely you tax a system differently as you're working on a real world project, accessing the network and saving and loading from your drives. But I've never worked on a project non-stop for 10- or even five-hours, have you? A typical work day is filled with stops and starts, especially while traveling, where eight-hours of work can easily be stretched out over 10-, 12- or even 16-hours. (You international jet-setters know what I'm talking about).

It's a puzzlement. So until I figure this out, enjoy these lousy pics!

Like other type covers, the Surface Power Cover is housed in a box with a highly reflective clear plastic sleeve. The back of the sleeve contains an ominous warning: "Battery has limited recharge cycles and cannot be replaced." I obviously didn't expect to replace the battery but I'm hoping the number of recharge cycles isn't too limited. There's no other mention of this in the documentation, which is a warranty pamphlet.

The Power Cover is nearly identical to the Type Cover. At the top is a label warning not to let the power adapter come in contact with the cover's connector. To charge the Power Cover, you need to charge your Surface Pro as well. Here's where I worry: my SPs are connected to power more often than not; will this adversely impact the Power Cover's lifespan?

The Power Cover (left) is about twice the thickness of the Type Cover. It is noticeably heavier too, but in no way would I describe it as "thick" or "heavy."

AuthorRick Rodriguez
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UPDATE October 3:  ArtRage 4 was one of the very first graphics apps we purchased specifically for the Surface Pro. And it still holds up as one of the best and least expensive tablet graphics tools available for Windows.

Nearly a year ago, ArtRage user Stephen Berry decided to make the program even friendlier for tablet users by releasing the Pen-Only Toolbar.  

Now Berry is back with the official 1.0 release, along with a helpful YouTube video describing the improvements since the last release in March. 

This video provides a guide and demo for the newest version of the Artrage Pen-Only Toolbar. This toolbar is offered for free and can run in conjunction with Artrage to give you a host of really quick, dedicated buttons on screen.

Installation is still a little tricky: it involves running a tool called Auto Hotkey and using it to install the toolbar.  

The ArtRage Pen-Only Toolbar download, located here, includes Auto Hotkey and a PDF with installation instructions.

Give it a try and let us know if you think it enhances ArtRage's usefulness on the Surface Pro. 

Below is our original post from March 11. 

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While you're waiting for your bluetooth keyboard to arrive (see the previous Must-have Accessories post), an intrepid ArtRage user has developed a tool that eliminates the need for a keyboard while using that application. 

We haven't installed it yet but it looks like an elegant solution to a major issue facing anyone trying to use a desktop paint application on the Surface Pro with its keyboard detached.

For more information, follow the ArtRage community link here.

AuthorRick Rodriguez

UPDATE: This was one of our earliest posts, but the content still applies so we thought we'd move it up for the benefit of our newer readers. We would just add a low-cost external DVD drive and replacement stylus to the list of must-have accessories.

Besides 20-20 eyesight to be able to read the teeny text and icons in Photoshop or 3DS Max, there are a couple of must-haves that you'll definitely want in order to make the creative experience on your tablet as productive as possible.

Whether you bought the 64- or 128-GB Surface Pro, you'll soon be bumping up against a sad fact: graphics programs are huge. Minus any sample files or content, Windows 8 and the programs I've installed thus far (see What Runs and What Doesn't post for the list) are eating up 60 GB of storage space.

With its handy USB port, you can attach an external drive or flash drive to the Surface Pro, but having devices hung off of the tablet is rather awkward and potentially hazardous to your data. 

Therefore, your first must-have peripheral is a capacious microSDXC card on which to store your creations. MicroSDXC is the latest generation of the SD family of memory cards. They feature extended storage capacity of over 32GB up to 2 TB. The SanDisk Ultra 64 GB card is available at Amazon for just under $60. For more information on the care and use of a MicroSDXC, check out the SD Association's write-up.

The second must-have may not be so obvious when your first start using your Surface Pro or if you stick to Windows 8 Modern style apps. But if you want to do any serious work in desktop mode, you'll be howling for this peripheral right away.

In its infinite wisdom, Microsoft decided to ship both RT and Pro tablets without a keyboard cover, even though it could be argued that this is its single-most distinguishing feature. 

Now, I'm going to assume that you thought you had rectified the situation by buying either a touch- or type cover (Pretty much everyone recommends the latter; unfortunately I bought the former with my RT tablet. The touch cover requires a learning curve to use and I find I make a significant number of typing errors as I use it. But it gets the job done--eventually.) 

If you use your Surface Pro as a laptop with the keyboard cover attached, you may never notice the problem, although you will face a challenge using the pen for more than doodling.

Using the tablet as a sketchbook requires detaching the keyboard, but in desktop mode, Windows 8 doesn't automatically pop up a screen equivalent when you need it. You need to go down to your notifications to have the keyboard pop up and when it does it obscures half of your work area. 

Of the graphics tools available to date, only Sketchbook Pro and ArtRage 4 offer pen-friendly interfaces that require minimal use of pull-down menus and keyboard input. For everything else I've tried, not having a keyboard available has been an absolute productivity killer. 

Fortunately, the solution is simple and you may already own one. By pairing a wireless Bluetooth keyboard to your Surface Pro, you can cradle your tablet to your heart's content and keep your keyboard shortcuts easily within reach.

I have the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad and it works perfectly with the Surface Pro. It took a bit of effort to get the tablet's bluetooth chip into pairing mode, but once I did, there have been no further hiccups. For $30 less, Logitech sells the Tablet Keyboard for Win8/RT and Android. Neither device replaces the Surface's cover, but for as low as half the price, you'll be able to throw in a padded sleeve to protect your screen.