A $144 Stylus? Microsoft’s Growing Accessory Pricing Problem

Credit: MicrosoftCredit: Microsoft

For better or for worse, we’ve all come on board with the fact that Microsoft sells its Surface Pro tablets without a stylus or keyboard, two accessories often deemed essential for using it to its full potential.

On the Surface Pro X, the company’s new Arm-based tablet that releases in November, it gets more expensive and complicated than before. And frankly, it’s getting a little out of hand.

You can get a Surface Pro X keyboard on its own for $139.99, which is $10 more than the Surface Pro Type cover ($129.99) but cheaper than the Alcantara Surface Pro Signature Type Cover ($159.99).

There’s also the Surface Slim Pen ($144.99), Microsoft’s new stylus with wireless charging (or USB Type-C if you have an older Surface Pro, see below). Sure, the older Surface Pen is $99.99 and works with the Surface Pro X, a significant difference, but it requires AAAA batteries, which feels ancient these days, and is designed with the aesthetic of the older Surface Pro in mind.

The Surface Slim Pen is also notably more expensive than the most pricey Apple Pencil for iPad Pro, which is $129.00.

What power users will likely consider (and probably what Microsoft is going for), is a bundle. There’s a $269.99 Surface Pro X Signature Keyboard bundled with the Slim Pen. That has a spot to wirelessly charge the Surface Slim Pen, and removing the Pen opens a whiteboard. It’s how Microsoft debuted the Surface Pro X, and clearly viewed as integral to the experience.

$269.99 for that bundle is a savings over the keyboard alone and the Surface Slim Pen (getting them separately would cost $14.99 more, a total of $284.98, and you wouldn’t be able to charge the stylus in the keyboard).

So let’s examine the Surface Pro X’s starting price here with other accessories. Is starts at $999.00 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. But that’s just the tablet.

Surface Pro X  Surface Pro X with Signature Keyboard and Slim Pen Bundle Surface Pro X with keyboard Surface Pro X with Surface Slim Pen Surface Pro X with Surface Pen
$999.00 $1268.99 $1138.99 $1,143.99 $1098.99

There are more permutations. It’s possible someone would want to just get the keyboard, and then add a Surface Slim Pen or Surface Pen later.

It’s similar on the Surface Pro 7. Sure, it starts at $749.00, a Type Cover is $129.99, a Signature Type Cover (with Alcantara) is $159.99, and then pen options are the same as listed above

Credit: MicrosoftCredit: Microsoft

And to add some insult to injury, there’s no headphone jack, but Microsoft will sell you an $11.99 USB Type-C to 3.5mm audio adapter. Of course, you may have a cheap one lying around from a smartphone, or you can get one elsewhere pretty cheap. And if you have Bluetooth headphones, this won’t apply to you.

But all of the options — bundle, no bundle, cheap keyboard, different pen options — bring forward one big point about Surface. In 2019, none of these pieces come in the box (Apple is on the hook for this, too, with its Smart Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil for iPad Pro).

You’ve likely read some form of this before. This has been the case since the original Surface launched in 2012. And it’s not that the Surface Pro X or Pro 7 won’t be capable on their own.

But there’s a reason they’re marketed together. To do real work, to truly create, you’ll likely need to get at least one of these accessories. And at this point, with so many options, the starting price should really reflect that.

Note: As with all of our op-eds, the opinions expressed here belong to the writer alone and not Tom’s Hardware as a team.