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

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.