The upcoming Surface Laptop is a big deal for Microsoft; it’s the company’s first-ever traditional notebook, and at first glance it looks great.
But for such a relatively normal device — with a fixed hinge that opens and closes, regular old USB ports, and an outward design reminiscent of Apple’s MacBooks — the interior of Microsoft’s Laptop is unique: It’s lined with Alcantara (basically Italian ultrasuede), the fabric used inside high-end cars and yachts.
It’s a strange move, but the Alcantara fabric successfully makes the Laptop appear luxurious from a distance. Then, once you get up close, it feels weird. If you’re used to metal machines, the Surface Laptop interior is comparatively delicate and vulnerable — even a tad cheap.
But if Microsoft’s experimental cloth notebook wooed you, should you stress about stains? Will the gadget magnetically attract spills like a white t-shirt?
To answer this question, we need a workaround; Surface Laptops won’t ship until June 15. But Microsoft has experimented with Alcantara fabric before, on its detachable keyboards for the Surface Pro tablet.
Microsoft says its Alcantara keyboards are remarkably stain-resistant: Someone at the company recently recounted to me a time she spilled an entire cup of coffee on one, and then just wiped the thing off like nothing happened. Others on Reddit and elsewhere have reported mixed results. Sometimes the things are stain-magnets, other times you can just wipe them clean.
So we bought a Surface Pro Signature Keyboard in “Two-Tone Mélange Grey” for VentureBeat’s very first stain test. And yes, we have an answer for you.
If you wipe it away quick enough, coffee won’t stain your machine. After a few seconds, you should be able to wipe coffee and espresso away with a wet paper towel and a cleaning solution, like glass cleaner.
But if (in some sort of Surface Laptop dystopia) you drip a little coffee on your machine and then walk away for an hour, you’re out of luck. After an hour, we couldn’t get our coffee stain out. Nope.
Red wine only barely managed to stain the Alcantara fabric used on the Surface Laptop, even after leaving it there for an hour (pictured in the after photo above).
If you notice a spill, time is your enemy. Wipe it up quickly or risk a stain. Or buy a burgundy Surface Laptop — that’s the best color anyway.
Unlike coffee and wine, pizza left no stains at all in our test. This Laptop is effectively pizza-proof. Also: This is starting to get gross, sorry!
Sweat may be the biggest threat of all, but it’s something we can’t prove in a day. If you buy a Surface Laptop, your palms will rest on either side of the trackpad for the better part of two or three years. The fabric will eventually start to wear down, depending on how well you look after it, and your sweat will contribute to discoloration over time.
We acquired our keyboard used, and tellingly, there were very slight, yet noticeable signs of wear on the right side of the trackpad.
Microsoft says the Surface Laptop “should be treated as you would your favorite jacket or couch.” If you take care of something, it will look nicer for longer.
But laptops have become the default productivity machine in the age of phones and tablets. These things should hold up to reasonable wear and tear, and the occasional drip or minor spill. Especially if they’re being marketed to students and schools. For $999, you should expect some durability.
So yes, you absolutely can stain a Surface Laptop. But if you’re careful, you can avoid permanent aesthetic damage. If you’re still worried about it, just go buy something else.