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Don't buy Microsoft Surface gear: 25% will break after 2 years, says Consumer Reports

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Devil

I could go postal!

Another two-minute hate on MSFT. You are spoiling us Mr El Reg!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I could go postal!

The question is.... Do they deserve it?

I think they do but my opinion does not count.

I'd expect that some of the likes of Dell and HP will be welcoming this with open arms.

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Re: I could go postal!

The question is.... Do they deserve it?

Yes

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Re: I could go postal!

If I had my way, I would require all devices with a battery must allow the owner to change that battery in a short amount of time. And I would also make it illegal to use glue to seal anything except the screen so that the owner can fix the product or replace equipment. And I would require all laptops to use an industry standard universal charger and phones and tablets to use the USB-C connector to charge. And I would require every device that can play music to have a headphone jack.

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Re: I could go postal!

Then I'm glad you don't have your way. Because if you have those specs now, then in the past you would have required all PCs have a floppy drive, all laptops have an optical drive, all phones have a mini-USB, then a micro-USB. When you would have determined it was OK for PCs to drop the floppy drive? Would you have ever allowed laptops to drop the optical drive? What would have been your timeline for the mini-USB to micro-USB to USB-C changeover? Is the requirement for the 3.5mm connector going to go on until the end of time, or do you have a timeline when it would be acceptable to not have it?

If you have those demands personally that's fine, then you buy stuff that qualifies. However, I sure as hell don't want someone like you dictating what I can buy!

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Holmes

Re: I could go postal!

Well, if we're about to see a firesale with loads going for pennies on eBay, it might be worth checking if they can be made useable by flashing with Android then.

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Re: I could go postal!

Well you do have a 2 year legal period for redress if it goes wrong in most of the EU or up to 6 years in the UK regardless of the "warranty"

However with such a device I would say it would be nuts not to get the "Surface Complete" extended warranty for £179 that gives you a no quibble 2 year warranty and accidental damage cover. Mostly because it's so easy to bust the screen...

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Anonymous Coward

"If I had my way"...

Laptops would still weight 3kg, or more, and would be several cm thick. While for a portable workstation (also called self-propelled workstation) that may be acceptable, some users needs light and thin devices, because they are just a single part of the devices used.

I need to carry around already several kg of photo gear, if the laptop is thin and light, the better. I would change it wholly after a few years anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I could go postal!

If you're not hating Microsoft, especially SatNad's era of Microsoft, then you're being in denial, or have not been paying attention.

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Re: I could go postal!

I consider this one point as the exception, the battery. All electronics with a battery carry the risk of the chemical releasing its energy (aka exploding). Being able to remove easier reduces that risk, and being unable to remove it increases that risk.

It's a comparison of would you like to see a balloon blowing up in size before it explodes? or do you want it hidden and explodes when you least expected? Most Samsung Note 7 exploded with little warnings, as the users can barely see the warnings from the well hidden none removable battery, resulting in costing Samsung billions as well as putting owner's properties into risk.

If the battery was removable, the users could have gotten the chance to see the warnings from the battery like smokes, sparks and expansion. They could have gotten the chance to remove the battery or throw the phone far away from their properties before getting burnt.

So I do recommend removable battery or device designed with safety in mind (ex: simple mounted back cover. If the battery is about to explode, it can pop off the back cover to distress).

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Re: I could go postal!

The newer power supplies are more efficient. The newer thinner connectors have been proven more reliable, and have better power transfer efficiency due to better contact design. The newer batteries which are physically smaller are more efficient, charge faster, and last longer between charging. Internal non changeable battery allows for direct soldered connections, and thus less problems with the contacts overheating, or becoming oxidized and thus causing loss of battery efficiency or non stable conditions. It is also safer for the user to have the battery non changeable. The newer computers are thinner, faster, lighter, more power consumption efficient.

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Re: "If I had my way"...

I need to carry around already several kg of photo gear, if the laptop is thin and light, the better. I would change it wholly after a few years anyway.

Lucky you. I'd have unfixable bin food and change it every couple of years too if the price was reasonable. I'd pay Surface money if I could expect reasonable life, my current laptop was fairly expensive and is still excellent (with a few upgrades) after 9 years*. I will not pay eye watering money for something that cannot be upgraded or repaired.

*I didn't believe that either but it's there in the company accounts, 25 March 2008 - 2 x Acer 6592G. To be fair they'd have been replaced twice over by now if I could get a replacement with a non 16:9 screen. I hate 16:9. With an intense passion.

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Coat

Re: I could go postal!

"... it might be worth checking if they can be made useable by flashing with Android then"

Yeah, great idea! After all, who wants to use a proprietary system that's only half finished and probably got some lamentably huge security holes, made by a company that abuses its monopoly and has been called out aver questionable legal practices...

... wait a minute...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I could go postal!

Ledswinger, Upvote for the perfect post!

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Re: I could go postal!

"extended warranty for £179 that gives you a no quibble 2 year warranty and accidental damage cover. "

So your paying £179 for something that is covered under UK law and home insurance?

I've a gold (paint) plated, oxygen free HDMI cable for sale that you need. £49.99.

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Re: I could go postal!

You have 6 years from purchase for an INHERENT fault.

Think NVidia chips fiasco.

As the product has left the factory faulty, it is not fit for purpose. That's the only time you have 6 years and the fact is the product is defective from the moment you unpack it.

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Re: I could go postal!

I get a little miffed when someone uses phrases like "Surface devices have 'evolved' since the originals" when they really mean that the thing in question has had further development bestowed upon it.

However, in this case it might be appropriate; a high failure rate is one of the key characteristics of evolution.

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Re: I could go postal!

Well said marketing droid!

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Re: I could go postal!

"So your paying £179 for something that is covered under UK law and home insurance?"

After 6 months it's up to you to prove the device was not merchantable quality when sold though. It's a lot easier with a warranty unless you like wasting your time on engineers reports and the small claims court.

And no - most home insurance doesn't cover accidental damage - and even if it does you are usually not covered outside the home, and then even if you are covered a £100 excess would be typical. And higher premiums next year once you claim...

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Re: I could go postal!

"You have 6 years from purchase for an INHERENT fault."

I would say anything that failed before two years (unless damahed) was an inherent fault. When you pay £1000+ for a laptop you would expect a lifetime of at least 5 years imo.

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Anonymous Coward

"...we don't believe these findings..."

Microsoft: "believe"... believe damn it!

They had an open house sort of things years ago, my son didn't care to go, he said he'd prefer the amusement park. So I responded "Microsoft it is!"... he cried.

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Re: "...we don't believe these findings..."

>So I responded "Microsoft it is!"... he cried.

But Dad we don't have to be there early on release day. There is never a line at that store.

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Mushroom

Re: "...we don't believe these findings..."

""Microsoft Surface Pro is designed and built with performance and reliability in mind,""

Just what they keep saying about their OS too...

Where's the burning pants icon?

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Re: "...we don't believe these findings..."

I don't believe the findings either tbh, because they're clearly rubbish. 25% failure rate? Not a chance in hell.

We have about 20 Surface 4s in the fleet, which were brought in about a year and a half ago. 1 has broken (dropped from a height onto concrete). Another 1 has mysterious defects that cause it to go haywire and need factory resets every 6 months. All the rest are fine. This is still a 10% fail rate, , which is much worse than I'd like (though I don't blame MS for a director's inability to remove himself from a car without breaking a £1500 computer in the process, it does suggest a flimsier build quality than, say, a Spectre 360 or the tanky Thinkpads). But 1 in 4 is just a stupid thing to say because it's really obviously not true (as anyone running an estate with multiple Surfaces will be able to testify).

It's worth noting that of the 3 Macbooks that were bought at the same time, only 1 survived the rigors of office life for more than 6 months - the other two were both plagued with performance problems from the day we got them. I don't think this indicates a 66% failure rate for Apple products, but it puts the 2/20 Surface rate into some perspective.

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Facepalm

Not really a "survey"

In fairness to Microsoft, CR's "survey" consists only of asking CR subscribers to fill out long forms of details on all the sorts of things CR reviews. Thus, aside from sample bias and response bias, they've got a very low response *rate* just because of how bloody long it takes to fill out their form.

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Re: Not really a "survey"

"In fairness to Microsoft, CR's "survey" consists only of asking CR subscribers to fill out long forms of details on all the sorts of things CR reviews. Thus, aside from sample bias and response bias, they've got a very low response *rate* just because of how bloody long it takes to fill out their form."

That CR setup affects the reliability reports for every model, not just those by Microsoft, and there are others that perform better even with those biases. Unless you can suggest a reason that indicates that Microsoft device buyers are more likely to succumb to selection bias than the makers of other laptops or convertible devices, it's still a valid comparison. They may be over-reading the data when they suggest that 25% of users will have problems with their Surface devices, but to say that Surface devices are less reliable than the competition does not seem to be a stretch at all.

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Facepalm

Re: Updraft102 Re: Not really a "survey"

"....That CR setup affects the reliability reports for every model, not just those by Microsoft...." LOL, right! Just try getting an Apple user to say anything bad about their shiny lifestyle gadget. My bro-in-law has a house full of the latest Apple gadgets and insists they are way more reliable than MS-powered devices. He suffered the iPhone4 "grip of signal death" issue, had to replace his iPhone5 because of a bad battery after six months, and his iPhone6 twice because the case bent, and his iPhone7 after only a month because it hissed and got very hot under load, yet he still calmly insists Apple are the nadir of design and reliability. His faith in iPads is even more blinkered, including buying a new office wireless router simply because his iPad Air was the only device in the office that couldn't get a reliable connection. I suspect MS users are simply more willing to complain.

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Re: Not really a "survey"

CR methodology may be a bit dodgy but they refuse to take any advertising and manufacturer samples. They run tests on products they bought at retail and survey their readers regularly. But a 25% failure rate among 300-400 users is 75-100 users affected. The failures is an unusually large number for that small a sample.

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Re: Not really a "survey"

In a survey of my household I got a 100% breakage after two years.

Yes, we only had one but it did break two years - almost to the day - after I bought it.

Full disclosure: it might have not helped that *someone* put the damn thing on the couch and then sat on it...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not really a "survey"

>> Yes, we only had one but it did break two years - almost to the day - after I bought it.

>>

>> Full disclosure: it might have not helped that *someone* put the damn thing on the couch and then sat on it...

So .... you were following the PCWorld extended warranty sales pitch the? I did once hear a PCW salesperson say this to a customer - "buy our extended warranty for only £200 and when its about to run out in 2 years time you can 'accidentally' drop a cup of coffee over the machine so it breaks and the warranty will replace it - and since they wojn't make this model any more you'll get a better replacement so your effectively payign £200 for a new upgraded PC in 2 years time"

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Re: Not really a "survey"

Or a higher percentage of people who had an issue decided to respond than people who haven't had a problem. I have a Surface Pro 1, which admittedly I do not use as much as I use my desktop but I bought it when the Pro 2 came out and I haven't had a problem with it yet.

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Re: Updraft102 Not really a "survey"

Apple are the nadir of design and reliability.

If those are his exact words, you could agree wholeheartedly with him, and then point out that a nadir is the lowest point.

On the topic, I had a Surface RT 2 (ARM) whose touchscreen failed after 15 months. Microsoft replaced it, free of charge and without quibble, with a Surface 3 (Intel) on the grounds that the RT2 wasn't made anymore. And they also included a keyboard with the replacement, on the grounds that the keyboard for the RT (which I never told them I owned) wouldn't quite cover the taller screen of the 3.

That said, Apple's customer returns policy is pretty good too - friends of mine have had no-question replacements for dud iPhones, although you do have to go to one of the company's Stores, which is pretty inconvenient if you're not in one of those cities. But that's why people think so highly of them: It's not the absolute reliability, it's how well the company deals with the problems that occur.

Consumer Reports is famous for extrapolating "findings" from wholly inadequate sample sizes. 300 is simply not a big enough sample size for a population of millions, but then to use data on one product to extrapolate to another, later model of a different form factor, is as nonsensical as saying that because some BMW motorbike owners had problems five years ago, you shouldn't buy a new 3-series Hybrid. (How does the reliability of a tablet accurately model the reliability of a laptop?)

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Re: Not really a "survey"

@ Updraft102 and a_yank_lurker

Like most people, you're both implicitly assuming that CR's self-selected "sample" of users both (1) represents faithfully the population of all laptop buyers and (2) represents faithfully the frequency and *types* of use of said laptops. Both assumptions are not valid, and thus it's scientifically invalid to make inferences such as "to say that Surface devices are less reliable than the competition does not seem to be a stretch at all" or "The failures is an unusually large number for that small a sample."

As ayl notes, CR also CR "refuse to take any advertising and manufacturer samples. They run tests on products they bought at retail", which is valid and enormously helpful. However, they've been suffering greatly as magazine subscriptions decline, their subscriber base ages, and people are no longer willing to wait for months for products to be tested.

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Re: Not really a "survey"

The other thing is, what do Microsoft do, if there is a fault? Products always fail at some point, some sooner than others and poor components from third party suppliers can also cause problems and that can affect multiple manufacturers.

Back in the 90s, we fitted out a sales team with Compaq LTE notebooks, these were high end at the time, we had over 25% DOA and a failure rate of over 60% in the first 3 months. It was tracked down to a bad batch and a problem in the moulding of the casing (it was over stressed and cracked after a couple weeks). Compaq did replace all 100+ notebooks, even those that hadn't shown faults.

Moving forward, I had a Surface Pro 3 and it had one of the dodgy batteries. After around 18 months it failed. Emailed Microsoft support and they arranged to swap out the dead SP3 within 2 days., no questions asked.

For me, that is the more important part of the equation. Yes, 25% is high, although we know that the SP3 was affected by faulty batteries, so that sways the overall reliability and similar recalls/problems have affected all manufacturers over the years (remember the Sony battery recall that affected pretty much all major notebook manufacturers a couple of years back?).

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Re: Updraft102 Not really a "survey"

"... yet he still calmly insists Apple are the nadir of design and reliability" LOL

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How is it unfair?

"Ranjit Atwal at Gartner, who was not involved in the study, told The Reg that Surface devices have "evolved" since the originals and that they were only first or second gen devices, so comparing them to more established PCs is a little bit unfair."

No, it isn't a "little bit unfair." What an idiotic thing to say!

If Microsoft wants to compete with "more established PCs," they're going to be compared to them. "It's a good first effort" doesn't mean a thing when you pay good money for a device and find that it breaks prematurely. CR is not grading Microsoft on the quality of their effort to enter the market-- they're looking at the quality of the item itself compared to its competitors.

Microsoft isn't charging bargain-basement prices that might lead some to forgive hardware glitches and premature failure. They're charging premium prices for disposable hardware that apparently doesn't work as well as what its competitors offer for less money. And as for "established PCs," most laptops by any maker are only manufactured for a very short time and then discontinued, replaced by yet another model that is every bit as new as anything Microsoft is offering.

The article linked didn't contain any detailed information regarding the methods used to predict the reliability of new models, but I do remember that in past years, CR very often listed "insufficient data" in lieu of any reliability prediction for new model years of cars that had not undergone any significant design changes since the previous model for which data were available, where it would be reasonable to assume that problems that existed in previous models still exist in the new ones. In other words, they don't tend to just assume that this year's model is going to be as reliable as last year's without some other data to corroborate that idea.

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Re: How is it unfair?

Agree, I suspect Ranjit Atwal at Gartner needs to reminded of how Lexus established itself as a quality brand from the off...

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Re: CR's procedures

"CR very often listed "insufficient data" in lieu of any reliability prediction for new model years of cars that had not undergone any significant design changes since the previous model for which data were available"

Actually, I remember it as being the opposite -- the "insufficient data" was for those models that HAD undergone significant design changes.

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Surface is shit, quelle surprise

My daughter wanted a Surface for her sixth form work and after lengthy downtime, faults, problems, mysterious glitches and two returns—it sits on a shelf where one day it'll just go in the trash.

I'm no fan of Apple's overpriced stuff, but now she has one of their small rather beautifully-made laptops, which—well: It. Just. Works.

I expected pretty good things from Surface but it has been by a wide, even astonishing margin the least reliable and most time-wasted device I have ever handled. The contrast between nice build quality and putrid, unpredictable unreliability is unbelievable.

Since Win10 I have known I personally would never install a new WinOS again, but I am actually surprised that even their flagship portables have turned out to be so unspeakably awful. Yes, Apple charge too much for their portables, but at the moment their best marketing tool is Microsoft's dismal reliability, the loathsome spyware and truly stinking OS.

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Re: Surface is shit, quelle surprise

My experience is the reverse of Milton's. Have 2 Apple devices in the household, Macbook Air died and costs as much as a new one to fix (see ya later) and the Macbook Pro has had all kinds of firmware issues, battery life issues, and stuff. Now 2 SP4's reign supreme, and they are the good if not better, weigh less, have longer battery life, and run proper Office, not the macro-shy Mac versions. Wife could not be happier, and that, basically, is what matters.

I personally think most computing devices these days dies after 2 years..and if not, the company actively obsoletes it. MacOS has had this issue as have the iPhones. Google Nexus tablets..you name it, if it is more than 2 years old, it probably runs like a wheezing dog.

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Re: Surface is shit, quelle surprise

Whereas we have three Surfaces in the family and all still work just fine; despite mine being dropped onto stone flags on its rounded corner leaving it a squared off corner.

Dunno much 'bout Apple kit. They could be good, could be overpriced, will never know (almost) certainly.

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Anonymous Coward

... if it is more than 2 years old, it probably runs like a wheezing dog.

Well, this 8 year old Macbook Pro is running as well is it did when I bought it and the 2008 iMac that's been donated to the kids is too.

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JLV
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Re: Surface is shit, quelle surprise

Not speaking to your problems with Apple kit, but that's not my experience when it comes to running newer macOS on older kit.

MBP 2011 here, still running fine besides its known fried GPU manufacturing defect. Latest macOS runs fine on it, but keep in mind the thing is maxed @ 16GB Ram and a shiny Samsung 850 SSD.

Lest I be accused of just being an Apple shill, I bought a refurb 2016 MBP when my GPU broke down. It was unreliable and tended to reboot on things like plugging in an external monitor via USB C. Maybe it was a lemon - so I returned it within the 2 week no-questions-asked window. In any case, lemon or not, its keyboard was crap and it wasn't much faster at compilation than the old one. And, $$$$$$ is too much as well.

I don't rejoice in MS's Surface hardware woes. There are so many crap laptops with ugly cases and 1366x768 "HD" screens that Surface's hardware can only be lauded for motivating the big manufacturers to up their game. However, it's sad if it's really unreliable at that price.

As to Windows 10, there is always the hope* that MS will see reason, de-telemetrize it and settle henceforth on a stable configuration UI, but right now I can't be arsed to spend too much time on my ASUS gaming laptop which is otherwise a pretty nice beast.

* I can also hope for peace on Earth and rainbow unicorns, doesn't mean I believe it'll happen.

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Stop

Re: Surface is shit, quelle surprise

So

"Not that many of the 90,000 surveyed were Surface owners, it would seem. CR told us they numbered "at least 300", but would not disclose the exact number. The survey took place from January to March of this year, it said."

Looks like this puff piece is a complete hatchet job on MS, 300 peoples opinions rather than actual factual numbers.

Ok here's my enterprises experience with Surface pro 3, 4 and 2017:

The failure rate varies on what the user is doing with it, such as sticking it under their pillow while charging or spilling random fluids over it when they're drinking in the morning but for stuff that seems manufacturor oriented we might have a return rate of perhaps 5, if that, on the 500+ ish that we have deployed. Come to think of it 1 or 2 of those could have been user drops as well rather than system failures.

The users love the devices and they're really really reliable and the business is planning to roll them out as the standard device for users it works so well. The biggest issue we're having at the moment is getting the SOEs prepped and all the Apps tested in time to deliver it to the customer.

Sorry about your daughter's experience with her surface but she's the vast exception not the rule.

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Re: Surface is shit, quelle surprise

The users love the devices and they're really really reliable and the business is planning to roll them out as the standard device

Great. I presume you work for a cash rich business able to afford to replace these expensive devices when the li-ion battery capacity fades out? The businesses I've worked for have gone to four year and even five year replacement cycles because the hardware capability is fine, and with conventional laptops replacing a faded battery is a task that the user can do themselves.

Some users will work in a way that puts minimal strain on the battery, and those devices may be OK for five years. Others cook their batteries in a matter of months. And tfor those who can't afford throwaway computing hat's a problem, because the Surface Pro is a disposable computer, but at the price of a "keeper". Even if Microsoft didn't want the weight and complexity of a robust user-changeable battery, they could have made it lightweight and quickly replaceable by a competent service engineer (or capable tech savvy user) with a screwdriver. Like the compact but very effective Chromebook I'm using now. Officially its a sealed unit, but I could replace the battery using only a screwdriver in about ten minutes.

Give it two or three years and you'll be wanting to start offloading these corporate Surface Pros - lets see how much demand their is from the people currently paying good money for ex-corporate laptops. I can't see anybody wanting to buy a three year old Surface Pro.

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Re: Surface is shit, quelle surprise

"if it is more than 2 years old, it probably runs like a wheezing dog."

MacPro circa 2006

MacBook circa 2008

MacBook pro 2011

No ventolin required at all.

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Re: @Slay

"run proper Office, not the macro-shy Mac versions"

You mean the version that offers all those extra security holes for free?

Great isn’t it that MS can't make their flagship cash-cow run consistently on a non-86-Windows platform?

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Trollface

2 years ?

More reliable than their software, then.

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Not just Microsoft

As laptops grew cheaper a few years back they clearly lost quality. The ones turning up broken in my local dumpster are relatively new.

Most keyboards are fragile and near-impossible to repair. Complete or partial mainboard failure (on-board power components, I suspect) seems common across brands. Broken lid hinges on a Dell, an HP, Lenovo Thinkpad and a Toshiba. Loose and missing screws on a Samsung left the lid hanging on by one hinge.

Worst example was the top of the range i7 processor Toshiba where the aluminium lid had only been secured to a plastic hinge bracket by glue. Mainboard seemed to have failed too. Date of manufacture stamp on the optical drive suggested the Tosh was about 18 months old.

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