I've been using Maroo's Pango[hi] MacBook Air sleeve for my Surface Pro since it came out; made of high-quality leather, it's lined with a striking green microfibre that brushes off the dust nicely. The Surface 2 rattles around in there though. Now Microsoft has asked Maroo to be the first partner to create a leather case specifically for Surface and Surface Pro tablets, and the company has responded in style.
There are different cases for Surface and Surface Pro, but they're the same apart from the size, and both are available in black, power purple and azure blue, all at $49.95. We'd say the colour complements rather than matches Microsoft's Touch and Type Covers — especially as the materials are different (leather and fleece). Still, it's certainly stylish, with a nice accent colour and top-stitching (blue on the power purple case we tried out).
The leather is the same high quality, with cushioning to keep the keyboard side comfortable in your lap. Soft but strong bumpers cradle the corners of the Surface to keep it in place and elastic snaps around the corners of the keyboard. There's an elastic loop for carrying a stylus with you, and none of the ports or sockets are obscured — including the camera.
What the case does cover is the kickstand; instead, you get a fold-out leather kickstand. That's disappointing on the Surface 2 where the two kickstand positions are a big part of the appeal, but it certainly holds the original Surface more firmly in place on your lap, because the keyboard can't pull away from the screen. Maroo is also planning to add a catch that holds the kickstand open until you snap it away.
If you detach your keyboard, you can flip the case back on itself, folding along the coloured strip and tucking it under the small leather flap on the other side; that gives you a nice angle for watching video — something you can get on the Surface 2 in the second position, but that the original Surface doesn't manage well on its own. And if you then turn the whole thing over, your Surface sits at a shallow angle that's comfortable for on-screen typing on a table.
If you have a first-generation Surface, this is the best case we've seen for it so far: you get more flexibility and much more stability on your lap. It's less clear-cut for the Surface 2: it's a well-made case that feels wonderful in your hand, protects your Surface 2 and gives you extra angles, but it doesn't give you the benefits of the improved kickstand. Now if Maroo could get it to do both kickstand positions…
If you're looking for a cover for the Dell Venue Pro 8 or any of the other 8-inch Windows tablets that have come out recently, Maroo's $39.95 Universal case is a flexible option. It's like a smaller version of the Surface case without the kickstand, although only available in black and only in a faux leather (it's one of the nice faux leathers around, but doesn't have the luxury feel of most Maroo cases).
Again, four bumpers hold your tablet firmly in place and provide a little shock protection if you drop it and it lands on a corner; they're on elasticated arms so you can fit in a 7in. or 8in. tablet, from a Nexus 7 to a Kindle Fire to an Iconia W4. On a smaller tablet the bumpers look disproportionately large and make the case more bulky than a simple slipcover. Also, because it's a universal case the bumpers may end up covering ports, or even pressing buttons on the side of your device. But unless your tablet is popular enough to get a dedicated case with a custom fit (or you're happy with the case the manufacturer comes up with), this is a reasonable compromise.
It was relatively easy to place the bumpers so that they didn't cover the Windows button on our test Dell Venue Pro 8. The bumpers are made of a soft plastic that adapts well to different device and doesn't move when placed, even at a slight angle. That's also due to the elastic, which keeps them under tension — especially with 8in. devices. Two strips of elastic pull out from the corners to hold the case shut in your bag.
As well as protecting your tablet, the Universal case works as a handy stand. There's a crease in the cover that you can fold up and tuck under to put the screen at an angle for typing on a desk. Or you can fold the base out a little further to get a steeper angle that's good for watching a video without having to hold the tablet the whole time — or for typing on your knee. Having the screen propped up makes it easier to type on-screen than having the screen flat, or you can prop a small Bluetooth keyboard on the base. There's also an elastic loop for tucking a stylus into. Tuck the Venue Pro 8 into the case, say, and you can perch it on your lap like a tiny netbook, as well as using it as a tablet or plugging it into a monitor and keyboard to use as a desktop PC.
Maroo also does a similar Universal case for larger 9-10in. tablets, at the same $39.95 price.