Skip to main content

Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover review: Added protection and a cool way to recharge Surface Slim Pen

The Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover is not cheap, but it's the best accessory even if you don't use the pen.

Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover
(Image: © Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

There aren't many accessories for Microsoft's Surface Duo 2, partially due to the complexity of creating cases and even screen protectors (the new inward curving displays are tricky). But Microsoft did show off the Pen Cover back when the Surface Duo 2 was announced in October, which looked intriguing.

While it took over a month to come out hitting the streets on Nov. 15, the $65 add-on is unique. Not only does it let the Surface Slim Pen more firmly stick to Surface Duo 2, but it can also recharge the pen via induction. Toss in more protection for the front cover and hide some fingerprints on the otherwise very glossy Obsidian model, and you get a worthy upgrade.

Here's what you need to know about it after spending a few weeks with it.

Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover: Price and availability

Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover is now available directly from Microsoft (online) and Best Buy (in-store pickup or online). Amazon does not yet have it listed as available.

The cost is $65, and it comes in two colors: Obsidian (black) and Glacier (white), matching both color options for Surface Duo 2.

Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover: What you'll like

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

In the box, the Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover has three parts: the front cover and two rear pieces that form the rear bumper. The rear bumper is comprised of the same two pieces from the standalone Surface Duo 2 Bumper Case, which adheres with two-sided tape.

The matte front cover clicks onto the Surface Duo 2 with a firm press. There is no tape needed. Removing it is a bit trickier, as you need to pry the ends near the hinge on both sides to pop it off, but it does come off without too much effort.

Unlike Surface Duo 2 Bumper, the front cover completely protects the phone's bottom side covering the SIM slot. Microsoft could achieve this preferred design because the cover is removable and does not use tape to stay in place.

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Inside the front cover, you can see a strip of Alcantara that helps protect the front glass of Surface Duo 2 from scratches from the cover's plastic. That cover also houses, presumably, the induction coil and magnets to recharge and hold the pen in place. Indeed, when the cover is on, it is evident that the area where the pen attaches is substantially thicker than the hinge-side, which dramatically tapers down.

Recharging is simple: Drop the pen onto the cover, and the magnets hold it into place. A tiny white LED briefly turns on to let you know it is charging. This system works with both the original Surface Slim Pen and Surface Slim Pen 2.

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Some people doubted my claim that the magnets with the Pen Cover are so powerful that the Slim Pen stays attached even in your pocket. But I was right. These magnets are much stronger than those built into Surface Duo 2, and the pen is firmly attached (you need to pull hard to remove it). If the magnets were any more potent, it'd be a pain to remove the pen. Case in point: You can hold Surface Duo 2 (284 grams) by the attached pen and even lightly shake it without dislodging.

Battery drainage from Surface Duo 2 is minimal due to the small size of the Slim Pen's internal battery and how long it lasts, although your mileage will vary on how often you use the pen.

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Interestingly, it seems the pen won't charge if Surface Duo 2's battery is below 50%, which is an excellent way to prioritize the phone's longevity.

The pen's battery life can be checked via the Bluetooth settings in Surface Duo 2 when the pen is not recharging.

There is no doubt the front of Surface Duo 2 is much more protected with the front cover both from scratches and potentially light drops. Additionally, while the plastic picks up fingerprints, they are much fewer than directly onto the Corning Gorilla Glass.

Flipping Surface Duo 2 into one-handed mode is no issue with the cover. The device snaps nicely into place even with the pen attached. Sure, it's thicker, but there are few ways to pull off a more elegant design with today's existing technology.

Surface Duo 2 already felt more robust due to the added thickness, and the Pen Cover adds to that, removing some of the fragility in having a nearly all-glass device in your hands.

Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover: What you won't like

Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Just the front of the Pen Cover weighs in at 30 grams. That's not a lot, but when you add the Slim Pen 2 (14 grams), the whole package with rear bumper brings Surface Duo 2's weight from 284 grams to 334 grams making it easily one of the heaviest "phones" on the market. It's not a night-and-day difference, but with the added thickness, Surface Duo 2 feels beefier with this cover and pen.

You can put a skin on top of the cover or even use one below, but you're better off using SopiGuard over dBrand as the former's are much thinner and not the thicker (and better) 3M variety. The skins interfere slightly with folding the phone into the one-handed mode, but it's not a dealbreaker.

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

There is no protection for the rear of Surface Duo 2. That may seem like a flagrant omission, but it's not clear you could have both sides covered and still be able to reverse-fold the phone into one-handed mode.

It's not advised to mix and match colorways, either. Sure, you could slap the white cover on the black Surface Duo 2, but the Oreo effect is not pleasing.

And no, you cannot wirelessly charge Surface Duo 2 with the Pen Cover, which would be weird since it is on the front.

Finally, the $65 price is not cheap. Of course, expensive niche accessories are never cheap as Samsung's own Samsung S Pen Folio Cover is $80, and its Leather Flip Stand Cover is an eye-watering $90. However, the Pen Cover looks like a bargain compared to the $40 Surface Duo 2 Bumper Case due to the added protection, fewer fingerprints, and the new functionality in being able to recharge the pen on the go.

Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover: Competition

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Unlike Samsung products with a larger market share, there are no real alternatives to the Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover.

For $40, you can get the Surface Duo 2 Bumper Case, which, while pricey, is an excellent addition for those who want some minor protection and added grip and don't need to recharge the pen.

OtterBox is coming out with an even more rugged case for Surface Duo 2; however, it is not yet available, and it does not offer pen charging.

If you want a cheap way to attach the pen without charging, the Ringke $10 pen holder is a great solution.

You can get more ideas in our best Surface Duo 2 accessories guide.

Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover: Should you buy it?

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

You should buy this if ...

  • You use Surface Slim Pen 1 or 2 a lot and want to charge it
  • You want added protection
  • You hate fingerprints but don't like skins either

You shouldn't buy this if ...

  • Using Surface Slim Pen is not a priority
  • You want the most protection for Surface Duo 2

In some ways, the Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover is a bit odd. When you buy the Slim Pen 2, there is no way to recharge it unless you buy the $35 charger. That's a change from the original Slim Pen (which is still available), but there is a hidden cost: Slim Pen with charger is $150, while Slim Pen 2 without the charger is $130. Slim Pen 2 adds haptics, has a new design, and improved accuracy making the slight increase in cost worth it for some. While haptics don't work on Surface Duo 2, anecdotal reporting in forums from users says Slim Pen 2 works better than Slim Pen 1 for inking on the device.

All this means if you have Surface Duo 2 and Surface Slim Pen 2, either the Pen Cover ($65) or charger ($35) are required. At least Microsoft gives you a choice.

As to why Microsoft couldn't build wireless charging for the Slim Pen 2 into Surface Duo 2, it's a question of space. Surface Duo 2 already went from 4.8mm to 5.5mm, making it thicker and heavier than the original Surface Duo. Adding in a wireless coil would have made that even worse, as the Pen Cover demonstrates. There's also cost, as it would have driven up the price even higher, even as Surface Duo 2 is already more expensive.

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

That all makes the Pen Cover a bit of a kludge until Microsoft can figure out to build in wireless charging for the Slim Pen and wireless charging for the Surface Duo (in the rear) into one device without accessories. That's something we'll likely see in the next version, but it's a DIY add-on for now.

Whether you get value from the Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover depends on how much you use that Slim Pen. Microsoft is slowly but surely building out the usefulness of owning a pen into Surface Duo 2, which is good news. Microsoft just added inking to Outlook and now lets you "mark up" photos directly using the pen.

We're also hearing that December's system update enables the rear button on the Slim Pen to automatically open OneNote.

Even if you don't use the pen often, the cover is just cool. It adds protection, hides fingerprints, and makes it grippier to hold. That alone may be worth it for some people.

Daniel Rubino
Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

16 Comments
  • This cover, while intriguing, seems to be another example in such a strange way to manage things. That the bumper price is a joke shouldn't dismiss that $65 for this is...just a different joke. Samsing's overpriced cases at least offer more material and protection and have market alternatives. This thing wasn't available for over a month after the Duo launched (RiP Slim Pen 2 buyers who needed to buy a $35 charger to use the pen for a month), and the Otterbox looks more like vaporware than anything. Of course, this overpriced case goes to a pen that has no means of reuse without an accessory purchase. For $130, the Slim Pen 2 is disposable, with charging it starting at $35. This is in no way clear when you buy it. All of these annoyances just make the Duo feel inaccessible as a consumer product. It was the only Surface device to not go on sale for Black Friday/Cyber Monday (when the Z Fold 3 ended up cheaper than the Duo 2). Accessory availability is poor and the few options are overpriced, unavailable, or both. I'm about to head over to Best Buy to look at the Duo 2 because I really want one, but Microsoft makes it really tough to take the plunge when reliable screen protectors are non-existent (they all have reviews about being ineffective, a pain to put on, or both), cases barely offer protection for their exorbitant fees, and options are so limited (like how dbrand offers fewer skin/case options for the Duo than other MS products).
  • "when reliable screen protectors are non-existent"
    I'm really curious why you think a device that closes when in your pocket to protect the displays and is made with the toughest glass on the market (Corning Victus) needs a screen protector? The only one I have is a preference for matte, but even I'm not missing that on Duo 2 (I had them on Duo 1).
    "Samsing's overpriced cases at least offer more material and protection "
    Right, which is, going by things, why they scale higher in price. "More material and protection" equals higher cost. I think your point would be stronger if Samsung's cases were the same price as the Pen Cover.
    "For $130, the Slim Pen 2 is disposable, with charging it starting at $35. This is in no way clear when you buy it."
    Sorry, calling lies on this. Literally second paragraph on the Slim Pen 2 page for Microsoft:
    "The Surface Slim Pen 2 does not come with a charger. Surface Slim Pen 2 is compatible to charge with a wide variety of Surface devices. All are sold separately."
    It's right in the description. No hidden text, not obfuscated.
    "This thing wasn't available for over a month after the Duo launched"
    Yes, supply chains are tight right now and it sucks. I feel for people who want an iPhone Pro, or an HP ENVY 34, which was supposed to be here for October, and had preorders for November, now is off the site and coming in January.
  • "I'm really curious why you think a device that closes when in your pocket to protect the displays and is made with the toughest glass on the market (Corning Victus) needs a screen protector? The only one I have is a preference for matte, but even I'm not missing that on Duo 2 (I had them on Duo 1)." It keeps sand (I got to a park with a lot of it), lint, and dirt from touching the screen while in your pocket. If it wraps around the glass properly, it keeps things off the curved glass that's exposed from the outside. I've not used a screen protector on my G8, and it's still fine after 2.5 years. It did recently get a scratch on it, but it's more indicative of the substandard accessory support that Microsoft doesn't do well to resolve. "Right, which is, going by things, why they scale higher in price. 'More material and protection' equals higher cost. I think your point would be stronger if Samsung's cases were the same price as the Pen Cover." Well, you can get the $80 cover for $62 on Amazon right now. Also, any third-party Z Fold case offers more material and protection than the bumpers on the Surface. Heck, my Lumia 950 and 920 had better solutions for sub-$10. I understand and accept that being a niche product comes with a premium. I get being OEM comes with a premium. $40 for the bumper and $65 for the pen case exceeds those justifiable costs, IMO. If they were $20 and $40, Microsoft would probably still make pretty darned good money and it wouldn't be crazy. "Sorry, calling lies on this. Literally second paragraph on the Slim Pen 2 page for Microsoft" If you walk into Best Buy and buy a Slim Pen, that warning's not staring you in the face. It's good that Microsoft has that on their site, but the situation is still stupid. The disclaimer on Microsoft's site is also NOT present on Best Buy's, only saying "Some software, accessories, and devices sold separately." "Yes, supply chains are tight right now and it sucks." It's different when you just don't provide the product at all. Sold out supply sucks, and I've had to endure it at work (we were delayed in getting new iPhones for employees by 2 months), but not having ANYTHING at launch is pretty ridiculous, especially if you're telling people "buy this overpriced charger or your pen won't work."
  • 1. I have a One Plus phone that was with me on deployment in the Horn of Africa, it was fine in a place where i was ALWAYS surrounded by sand and dirt. You exaggerate. 2. I don't even know why you're bringing up the Z fold because WITH a case, the screen alone makes it more fragile than the duo, that's a fact. There's literally warnings telling you not to press to hard with the pen. So sure.. Z fold covers the whole phone (which can't flip all the way around), but the device is still more likely to break. 3. So... if you Buy the Duo.. and a $130 Pen, specifically to use said duo, You don't think it would just make more sense to get the thing that charges the pen, allows it to attach more securely on the duo so you don't lose it, and and offers some protection on the duo all together? ... ok. 4. On the supply chain issue.. you know what else didn't make sense? Redundancy. Most people buying a surface slim pen, are using it with the Surface 8, with the type cover...who don't need a charger. Or people who bought the Surface laptop studio.. they don't have to buy the charger ether. The duo uses the pen, but it's not a major thing to have for it, and you know this... Which goes back to point #3
  • 1. Saying "my phone's fine" isn't proof that no one else experiences issues with their devices. The back of my G8 is glass and has a few nicks in the glass from where sand and dirt got into the case and rubbed against it. The front glass it fine, on that front, but it does have 2 or 3 scratches a screen protector would have prevented. 2. Because it was brought up in the article. 3. No, because it's $65 and changes the aesthetic and form factor a bit. The Duo is already on the heavy side, and the look of it is a good one. If they offered more/better colors on the case, maybe I'd want it. If they lowered the priced, I'd probably get one. However, I'd rather get a skin and the standalone charger I can use as-needed. I'm not going to carry the pen at all times, and it doesn't need charged THAT often, so committing to a $65 charger that would cover a skin and add weight isn't worth it. 4. So the Surface Pro has a way to charge the pen. The Surface Laptop Studio has a way to charge the pen. What if, call me crazy, Microsoft had included a way to charge the pen with the Duo? They included one of those $40 bumpers in the box last year. They raised the price of the Duo $100. They could have committed $25 of that added cost to including the pen case in the box. All Apple products that support the Apple Pencil have a means of charging the stylus in their design. Especially since Microsoft cheaped out and took away the charger from the Slim Pen 2, not charging people extra to charge the device is a pretty reasonable concept. You probably think Microsoft's removal of charging bricks is great to stop redundancy though, even as their C-to-C cable isn't compatible with the USB-A adapters most people have, meaning they end up needing to buy a new adapter online and actually end up causing MORE carbon emissions from the additional packaging and shipping of another device.
  • 1. Right...so you exaggerated. 2. Fair enough, still a more fragile device with a more expensive case 3. Good points, that's why MS gave you the choice. 4. The article pointed out why the Duo itself doesn't charge the pen. It would make it thicker, and the evidence of that is with the case. You mentioned earlier you don't like the case because it makes the duo thicker, But you're somehow ok with the idea of a thicker duo itself? at this point you're just complaining to complain.
  • I tend agree with Keith on the charger front. If you go to BB and buy a Slim Pen 2 for your DUO, it is not going to be clear you don't get some way to charge it. You have to read carefully at MS to understand that as well. There also isn't a lot of information about how much capability the Pen 2 has that isn't supported by the DUO. No haptics, no button 'gestures'. Even buying a Surface Pro 8 or X doesn't guarantee you charging, unless you also buy the right keyboard.
    As an aside, has anyone slapped an original slim pen on the charge cover? Does it charge it? Don't see why it wouldn't. Can you charge the Slim Pen 2 in the original charge cradle that came with the Slim Pen 1?
  • I had reservations regarding purchasing this case and the Slim Pen 2 but I'm absolutely glad I did. No, I don't use the pen all the time but when I do it's extremely useful. It does take getting used to on the glass screen. More importantly, the case makes it that more essential thanks to always having the pen attached to the case.
  • Same here. I think this a good design and no need to buy the separate charger for $30
  • Daniel, I would argue that the back is the front. As a Duo owner and right handed individual, I always hold my phone with the "back" facing up. And then I unfold it with the inner camera facing me. I would hold the phone in my left hand and navigate using my right. UPDATE: I do that also because the crevice opening is on that side. So typically its faced down and I use my right hand to fold it along that crater. Alternatively, I would fold the front behind and use the camera side because that's ALWAYS the screen it defaults too in one screen mode. Do you use the Duo in this manner?
  • I don't understand why they didn't cut a hole on the camera side for the ones that don't use the pen. At least like this when open the camera is more flat to the back.
  • Anyone get the feeling Microsoft is using the kludge to get everyone used to a thicker phone before introducing the Duo3? I mean, with less thickness they can increase the thickness of the back enough to make the camera flush *and* include wireless charging. Heck, I bet there'd even be enough room to mount the pen flush (or almost so) to the back with a shallow divot.
  • No, thinness is a big part of the device. They were adamant about not going past 4.8mm on the first one. They only increased the thickness on the second one out of necessity, not because they're wanting a thicker device.
  • Not saying they *want* a thicker device, only that it may be a necessity due to requests for future functionality and restraints of current technology. I, for one, wouldn't mind a thicker phone if they used that extra room to keep the camera, add wireless and allow it to fold flat.
  • Thanks for the review! One thing I would have liked to see is a comparison picture with two Duo 2s side by side to illustrate exactly how much thickness is added by the case. Although practically, there´s probably no person on earth who has two of those devices on hand to do a physical comparison like that. :)
  • I don't see the battery life of the surface pen one in settings am I doing something wrong? Ohh I need to hold down the top button and actually pair it to Bluetooth even tho it works without actually pairing.