Saturday, May 14, 2016

Skinning the Surface Pro 4

The most precise fit on earth. That is the tagline of Canadian skin maker dbrand. If you have watched tech YouTube videos in the last couple of years, chances are you have probably heard about dbrand skins or other skin brands like Slick Wraps. I know I have, for years I have been watching those product placements with those skins outfitted on the devices and I won't say that I never wanted those cool looking skins, I just never felt that it was a compelling buy. But I have never felt the urge to do so until March 2016. Just so happens, the week before, dbrand announced skins for the Surface Pro 4 and I was deciding whether to get it or not.

Turns out, that extra waiting time got me a 30% discount as the company was holding a storewide discount on all skins to celebrate the comeback of their bamboo skins. At that point, it was pretty much an impulse decision to place an order for the Surface Pro 4 skin. So, after using the skin on my Surface Pro 4 for about a month now, does it live up to the claims on their website? Well, let's find out shall we.

Designing the Skin

Before entering the not so easy part of explaining how the skin feels like in day to day use, We'll first look back at the process of designing the skin. It all begins at, the process of navigating their website and designing the skin was pretty straight forward. Not everybody gets the online shopping experience right, but dbrand manages to get it right. Their live designer updates instantaneously and the UI is simple. In fact, the implementation of the skin designer and their website in general feels somewhat like the Apple website. Everything is front and center.

How the customization works is, depending on the device you are skin-ing, there will be different parts that you can drop in different materials. In the case of the Surface Pro 4, there are 4 customizable sections that is the two potions of the back, the front and the rear Microsoft logo. I avoided putting a skin on the front of the display because I personally think it would look fugly and besides, the front of the Surface Pro 4 is pretty minimalist already with no branding whatsoever.
Since they were celebrating the comeback of the new bamboo skin, I knew I had to incorporate that into my design. The final design ended up being a black carbon fiber bottom with bamboo accents. It looked pretty good in my opinion but I do have to give credit to the sample designs available that gave me the inspiration for the design. The final price was a little over $15 after taking into account the flat $3.95 shipping. dbrand has this deal with DHL to provide a flat shipping rate (with tracking) to anywhere in this world

Getting the skin

Paying for the skin was pretty straight forward and the confirmation message pinged my email almost instantaneously. After that, it was the waiting game. Long story short, another email notifying the dispatch of my skin arrived three days later and DHL took about 5 days to ship my order from Toronto to Arizona. I wouldn't say it was too long but I was expecting it to be way quicker since Canada is pretty near to the US. Overall, the shipping time was around 12 days and this slight delay could be due to the volume of orders they had during that period since they were having a 30% storewide sale.

Unwrapping and applying

The packaging that the skin came in was fairly simple. Inside the shipping envelope is the skin itself enclosed in a plastic folder that is supported by a cardboard piece with the dbrand logo on it. I got my hands on the skin and the carbon fiber one felt very nice in the hand but the bamboo ones didn't feel much like bamboo at all, more like vinyl. But it does look like bamboo. Other than the skins I ordered, dbrand also threw in an extra set of skin for the logo.

After thoroughly cleaning the back of the Surface Pro 4 with a damp cloth, it was the moment to test out dbrand's claim that the skin is the most precise fit on earth. I have never applied nor bought any other skins in the past but dbrand was pretty smart in creating an installation video (check out the video above, it's quite hilarious) on how you should properly install the skin. Easily enough, I managed to install the skin under 15 minutes and in their video, they stressed it pretty much that there is only one right way to install the skin and skin installations vary depending on the device.

For me, the top half of the skin with the camera cut-outs was the hardest one to align and the installation of the logo skin was by far the easiest.

If I were to score the installation on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the easiest. I would give it a 8/10 because the video instruction is pretty useful. It is also nice to know that the 3M paper dbrand is using can be easily removed without leaving any sticky spots behind. Basically this means that the adhesive is designed to be re-applied multiple times.

Check out the results below, I think I did a pretty good job with it.


So, it comes down to this. Is it worth the $10? I would say yes but only with the basis that the skin makes the Surface Pro 4 a little cooler and fits well with my black Kensington case. But beyond that, the skin doesn't really offer much in terms of functionality for me. The skin won't help me reduce scratches because I never put the device down on it's back. I always lay the back facing up and the type cover is the thing that always rests on a surface.

Is it super precise? It is very close to be being perfect. It looks precise from a distance but If I am being nitpicky, there are parts like the camera and logo cutouts that is a little bit off but that is only visible if I look very closely. Maybe it is not as precise due to the installation, but I did try to apply the top half several times.

So, is it worth the money? I would say yes because they are using high quality materials and compared to other skins available, drband has the most affordable prices. I will most likely try dbrand once again when I get my hands on a new smartphone. If you are looking for a skin for your mobile device or any kind of tech (they also have skins for consoles, laptops and headphones too), I would definitely recommend you to pick one up from dbrand.

Insider talk

It looks like the stream of posts are coming back in to phase. Was having exams in the last month thus I was feeling unispired to put too much effort on writing articles. Looking forward to Google I/O later next week and expect to see the Surface Pro 4 review coming pretty soon. It's 80% done. Just got to clean up my grammar a bit. Also here's a fun fact, on the shipping envelope, there was even a statement saying this was a time sensitive shipment.