Concerned about taking your expensive Microsoft Surface Book into the field? If you use an Urban Armor Gear (UAG) case for Surface Book, you have nothing to worry about.

Protecting your Surface Book is of vital importance. It's your go-everywhere PC, and that steep price tag means dropping it is not an option.

Thankfully, UAG is here to help Surface owners. UAG's new rugged ICE case for the Surface Book and Surface Book Performance Base is not cheap, but it's worth the investment.

Here's my review of it and why someone like me, who technically doesn't really need such a rugged case, still prefers to leave it on all the time.

Features and design

The UAG case for Surface Book comes in two pieces, and both are very light. One piece is for the top of the Surface (the display half) and the other is for the keyboard and battery combo. Made from high impact resistant rubber, the edge of the UAG is well protected.

The same stiff rubber also completely covers the Surface Book's "Dynamic Fulcrum" hinge, which is vital. It flexes slightly allowing you to "peel" the cover around the edges of the Surface.

The back of the display and bottom of the Surface Book have a clear, hard acrylic plastic that counts as the "armor shell." Various faux cutouts look like gaps, but that's just the design. The clear acrylic covers 100 percent of the Surface top and bottom.

There are two flaps, what UAG calls "lock securely," that effortlessly keep your Surface Book from accidentally opening. They are rubber latches, but they require no work from the user to secure. Likewise, the bottom half has an elastic that goes around the Surface fulcrum hinge as an added safety measure.

There are vent cutouts on the sides to allow the thermal cooling of the Surface Book and for access to the headphone jack. The rear camera also has a cutout.

The UAG has no water protection, so all ports are still exposed, with no rubber flaps to latch.

You can still detach the Surface Clipboard from the dock (keyboard base) and use it as a tablet with the UAG intact. The only caveat is that placing it back into the base requires a little finesse with the rubber hinge guard, because it acts as protection for the dock's connectors. That means you need to push back the hinge guard and then place the Surface Clipboard in place. It's not a big deal but is a small tradeoff for not having the sensitive connectors of the dock exposed.

You can also reattach the Surface Clipboard to the Dock in so-called "drawing mode" (reversed) with the UAG case on. However, there will be a gap and some flex due to the case. While it works, it's not quite as flush as without the UAG case.

In my testing, I found no limitations in using the case with the Surface Book except in draw mode, as noted. Nothing was blocked, and no features are unavailable when using it. The only sacrifice – which is evident – is that you are making the Surface Book slightly thicker.

Overall, the design of the UAG case for Surface Book is impressive. Everything is aligned perfectly with the ports, camera and venting, with no apparent miscalculations during design.

No tools necessary for installation

Setup for the UAG Surface Book cover is very easy. There is a printed instruction sheet included, but it is relatively self-explanatory.

First, you detach the Surface Clipboard (top half) from the Surface Dock (lower half). The Clipboard then slips top-first into the cover. Make sure the top of the Surface Clipboard touches the top of the inside case to ensure port and vent alignment. Press down on the sides from top to bottom to lock into place.

Then you repeat the same for the Surface Dock.

It's a tight fit, so you'll want to install the case with the Surface components preferably on a table to give it some resistance.

Removing the UAG case is relatively easy. You just peel back the corners and wiggle it out. While you can occasionally take the case off, it's easier just to leave it in place. Frequently removing it can cause accidental scratches to the Surface due to the rigid plastic. And the more you take it off, the greater the chance you will begin to warp some of the tight-fitting molding, resulting in a looser fit over time.

My only advice is being aware that dust, hair and other bits can get between the Surface Book and the acrylic part of the UAG case. If you're not careful, the top of your Surface Book could have unsightly detritus visible and locked into place until you clean it. The more you take it on and off, the more likely such a situation will happen, which can bother some fastidious owners.

Nifty Surface Pen holder

Perhaps the most surprising addition to the UAG case for Surface Book is the clever Surface Pen holder.

The receptacle sits on top of the display, right in the middle. You just click the pen down into the pre-cut slot, and you are ready to go. Two rubber grips tightly hold it in place.

This was a very smart move by UAG. It tells me the company gets the Surface Book as a product, and I was pleasantly surprised by having it there.

MIL-SPEC tested

A recent trend in modern and premium technology, whether it's phones or laptops, is testing against MIL-STD 810G. That standard is a series of tests designed by the military for equipment, and it sets a baseline for development by companies who want to create rugged products.

The UAG case for Surface Book meets MIL-STD 810G 516.6, which is a "shock test" – the dropping kind, not the electric. I won't go into the 38 pages of 810G 516.6, but you can get a primer on it here if you're interested.

I purposefully did not drop my $3,200 Surface Book for this review, so I will have to take UAG's word that it will withstand such shock. The company has been around for years, and it makes nothing but these types of cases for premium hardware.

If you need a rugged Surface Book case, this is a must buy

Most of us probably envision a Surface Book being used in a fancy coffee shop or boardroom, but there is no reason why those "out in the field" cannot make use of its many features. The idea of taking such an expensive computer outside into a rock quarry, construction work area, or while camping likely gives most people pause. With the UAG case for Surface Book, however, most of that concern goes away.

While the cover is not a substitute for a Panasonic ToughBook, it is significantly cheaper at just $79 for the regular Surface Book cover and $89 for the Performance Base edition. (Both can also found for $10 less on Amazon). Spending less than $100 to protect a $3,000 laptop seems more than fair.

I really like the UAG case a lot. Working from home or during the occasional travel, I don't need this case, but I just like having it. The Surface Book feels more resilient with it, and it's fun to grab because it now has more grip. I also think it looks great, giving the Surface Book a more "industrial" appearance.

With the UAG case on your Surface Book, you can now take your prized "ultimate laptop" to the rougher parts of the world, worry-free. That's well worth the price.

Pros:

  • Meets military drop-test standards.
  • Makes it easier to grip Surface Book.
  • Simple to install.
  • Quality Surface Pen holder.
  • Looks nice.

Cons:

  • Can trap dust and dirt.
  • Its not meant to be taken off and on frequently.

Outstanding

4.5/5