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Toast Leather Cover for Surface Book review: A great idea with some imperfections

Adding leather to your Surface Book has never been easier, but Toast needs some improvements first.

Windows Central Recommended Award

Toast is one of those exciting niche companies based in the United States that has found its calling: making wood-based covers for smartphones, tablets, and laptops. But a few months ago, the company expanded its natural wood offerings to genuine leather to the Surface Book line.

The idea of leather on a PC intrigued me partially due to HP's usage of it with the Spectre Folio. Between plastic, Alcantara, and metal surely leather had a place.

However, while I love the overall idea and feel of the Toast Leather Cover, some early generation-one issues keep me from enjoying it.

Updated February 20, 2019: This review has been updated with new photos and color variation from Toast, who sent us a second sample to consider. Our updated score reflects this re-evaluation.

Toast Leather for Surface Book - What you get

The Toast Leather Cover is like the rest of Toast's wood covers. You pick your device, which includes all the Surface Book models, and then choose which parts you want, colors, designs, and more.

With ten colors to choose from for at least two components (giving one hundred different combinations), the options are a tad overwhelming.

With Microsoft's new fondness for black, I figured "stout" would be a relevant choice accented by "syrah" – a reddish brown. In hindsight, I may have opted for something bolder like "bluetini" with "Moscow Mule" – be brash, right?

Plenty of color choices and options from Toast.

Plenty of color choices and options from Toast.

Additional options besides the top, bottom, and hinge covers include trackpad surround, which adds leather to the keyboard palm rest, custom design in the leather, custom text, and an option for a cutout for the Surface logo.

All those features can add up letting you jump from a base $99 for top and hinge to $249 for every option. It's not a cheap investment, but if your Surface Book 2 costs over $2,000 then an extra $200 to protect it in style is within reason.

Toast Leather Cover quality and that smell

Toast Leather Cover for Surface Book 2

From my experience, Toast always makes excellent stuff. Even when something is wrong, their customer service is accommodating. I once worked with them to get the Surface Pro with LTE wood cover right by doing some measurements and sending them photos. Within a few days, they had sent replacement parts that fit the off-center headphone jack.

The Leather Cover fits in that mold. Everything was precisely cut to fit my 13-inch Surface Book 2.

Installation is also easy. Each piece has 3M tape on the back, which is then peeled off. It was easy to line up and even fix if it was slightly off during placement.

However, I did notice the leather smell right away - this isn't your typical or even subtle smell (like the HP Spectre Folio) where you need to put your nose up to it – this was full on aromatic, just in a bad way.

Being brand new, I was willing to forgive that for a day or two while it aired out, but weeks on there is still a chemical/burning/glue smell that is not at all pleasant (especially if in your bag for a few hours). It was even worse when in direct sunlight that black leather absorbed all the heat and made the smell even more intense.

That scent has lessened, but for people who are sensitive to such odors, you will be immediately turned off from this cover.

In theory, that's a solvable problem for Toast by changing either the glue or how the leather is processed, but for now, it's a negative.

The other issue I had with the leather was susceptibility to wear. Leather breaking in with some worn look is expected with such a cover, but at least in my color choice, the black just looked imperfect as the weeks progressed. There's a wrinkle here, a crease there, some dimples in the center – it doesn't look like worn jeans or a saddle, but a bit cheap and, well, damaged.

Toast Leather Cover for Surface Book – A mixed bag

Here's what I can say about the Toast Cover. The theory behind it is spot on. The leather "feel" for my Surface Book 2 is excellent. Gone is the cold metal chassis and instead, I have a warm, book-like experience.

My Surface Book 2 is more comfortable to grip, and I even like the leather pads near the trackpad, which was convenient for typing. There's also this neat trick with how the leather binder props up the Surface Book 2 by about two degrees due to how it rolls. I liked this a lot.

The choices are also excellent although I can see how you want to spend hours pondering which color combination looks the best. From my experience, I would steer away from black "stout" if I could do it over again and instead go for "scotch" or something crazy like "mojito" – I think the lighter colors would hide some of the superficial changes in the leather that I noticed with black.

There's also the protection aspect. While this leather cover won't protect against big drops, I feel very confident in sliding it around a table, bag, or anywhere where scratching may occur. As a cover, it works.

My main complaints come down to the smell – which is just way too strong for me, and would be terrible for those with sensitivities to odors – and how the leather has worn in time, which doesn't look so great.

Updated February, 20, 2019: Since this review Toast has sent a new version of the leather cover for Surface Book 2 this time in "bluetini" for the color (images below). The wear on this version is much better than the Stout from the original review, and the smell, while still evident, is not nearly as intense. As a result, our review score is being bumped from 3.5 to 4.0 with a "recommended" buy.

Those issues aren't deal breakers though, and I'd love to see Toast make some modifications to its Leather Cover offering – it's a great idea that needs some refinement.

If you're interested in the Toast wood covers for various Microsoft Surface products, you can check out my previous reviews:

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.

  • Hi there. I just have the cover for the clipboard portion and find that when the screen is reversed and folded down (large tablet) the magnet doesn't hold. Any problems with the screen not staying shut with the trackpad surround? Thanks.
  • Ohhh, that is a good point. Yes, I have noticed that. It's not a huge deal for me, but I agree that the display is more susceptible to coming open due to the magnets being blocked.
  • Any idea where exactly the magnets are? I used to have a Toast cover on my SB2 15", but I switched to dbrand when I had an accidental damage replacement, since Toast doesn't replace covers for that... The only reason, besides price, that I didn't get another Toast cover when that happened was because of this magnet limitation, but now that think about it I'm tempted to just cut out the areas covering the magnet(s) before I install the Toast (my wife has a Cricut Maker, so we could pretty easily cut out nicely shaped holes if we knew fairly well where they were).
  • I'd like to see close up pictures of the wear and tear that was discussed. Good review.
  • I'll be doing an update to this review soon as Toast wants to send me a different color to test. I'll get some photos for that.
  • Any idea if this hampers or inhibits heat dissipation? I lost my wooden toast cover on my first surface book after Microsoft exchanged it for me when the battery swelled due to over heating. I still can't use the sleep function vs hibernate since if you even glance at my surface book it comes out of sleep even when the lid is closed in my bag. I am about 90% ready to get the leather one but I'm worried about heat since the surface book internals are behind the screen instead of only in the body.
  • Dont get it. Your overheating issue is probably due to the first one you got
  • I too was wondering about the heat issue, leather retains heat
  • I had the wood Toast cover on mine (back, bottom, inside, and sides/edges) and there were no heating issues. I'd also strongly suggest using ThrottleStop to limit the TDP and slightly undervolt. With the TDP set to around 15-20W, I get way better performance across the board, especially while gaming, and it keeps the fans from going to max speed/volume, even in "Best Performance" mode. Totally serious... My CPU temps never get above 73 degrees C.
  • Only a fool will stick something with 3M tape on a device
  • Eh? It comes off with a hairdryer and some pulling. There are no issues (did it for this review). Use some rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover if any glue remains behind. This is basic guy stuff, c'mon.
  • ESPECIALLY with Toast covers, since they do those dots instead of adhesive across the entire surface. > hairdryer... nail polish remover... This is basic guy stuff. I mean... I don't use any of those on a regular basis, and I don't know many other guys who do.
  • The "cold metal chassis" look was part of the sleek nature of the entire Surface line. I like the idea of leather, but in practice it looks a bit tacky (particularly with unnatural colors of the leather).