back to article DISPLAY DESTRUCTION D'OH! Teardown cracks Surface Pro 3 screen

Microsoft has pitched its Surface Pro 3 as a "tablet that can replace your laptop." That is unless, it seems, you want to repair or upgrade your laptop. Teardown specialists iFixit have posted their initial dissection of the latest Redmond tablet, and they've concluded that the surface on the Surface is poor for service. The …

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  1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Sad

    Not just MS of course, but the whole business model where you basically throw it all away in a few years once you find that repairing it is way too expensive even for parts like batteries that have finite known life.

    Makes me wish that the EU or someone would introduce a legal requirement for a 5 year warranty so that suppliers had to up the game in terms of MTBF and/or make repairs a cost-effective options once more.

    I'm personally willing to give up a few mm of thickness to gain that cost saving and landfill reduction.

    1. Vimes

      Re: Sad

      From the article:

      All Surface products come with a one-year limited hardware warranty and customers have the option of additional warranty protection with Microsoft Complete, which gives customers two years of limited hardware warranty coverage that includes accidental damage protection.

      Doesn't EU law require a 2 year guarantee for this type of thing? If memory serves Apple got in trouble for selling this as Apple Care so why should Microsoft be allowed to get away with it?

      1. stizzleswick

        Re: Sad

        Correct; a 2-year warranty has to be given free of charge. Not all customers, however, are aware of that...

        1. Fibbles

          Re: Sad

          In the UK the legal length of the warranty can be up 6 years. As best as I can remember it scales with price, the more you pay for an item the longer you can expect the warranty to be. So you could expect a full 6 years on a car for example but a considerably shorter warranty on the twenty quid dumbphone you bought from Tesco. It also gets a bit complicated because after 6 months the burden of proof switches to the consumer to prove that they didn't cause damage to the product and that it is a manufacturing fault / component failure.

          1. Eradicate all BB entrants

            Re: Sad

            The UK opted out of the enforced 2 year manufacturer warranty as we have the Sale of Goods act which as stated above can protect an item for up to six years. This is honoured through the retailer though so pick who you purchase from wisely.

            For devices such as premium phones and tablets I think that you should be good for at least 3 years.

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

          3. Fihart

            Re: Sad @Fibbles

            Right in principle but, more accurately, it's not a warranty and the six years is a different issue.

            Warranty's really an arrangement between the maker and the retailer under which the former undertakes for one year following sale the retailer's duty to repair/replace. Trading Standards in UK have a rough benchmark that consumer durables should be serviceable for about 6 years -- and that, in cases of product failure (roughly speaking) not caused by the consumer, the retailer should repair at no cost or replace -- or refund (a proportion relating to age).

            Big UK retailers seem to deliberately fail to train their shop staff (including managers) in the realities of the law and most will brush off anything outside the manufacturer's warranty. Solution is to call head office threatening Small Claims action -- in my experience they will always blink first.

            When I've been to court, the judge took a commonsense approach similar to the above and awarded damages and costs.

    2. Tony Paulazzo

      Re: Sad

      legal requirement for a 5 year warranty

      Oh man, that would piss off the Corporate Whore Masters screwing us over simply for the profit margin.

      Seriously, corporations are now utterly out of control, they need to be **** slapped untill they remember, 'The Customer Is Always Right!' and given prison for tax avoidance (the CEO), and forced to give a quarter of their profits untill there are no more starving kids anywhere on the planet!

      They are ruining this civilisation - and it started off so well...

      /rant

      The UK opted out of the enforced 2 year manufacturer warranty as we have the Sale of Goods act

      John Lewis (UK) offer a two year warranty, on all things PC at least, without charging extra for the device. They also have the best customer service support (they'll actually phone you back when they say they will), I've come across.

      1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

        Re: Sad Apple

        "John Lewis (UK) offer a two year warranty, on all things PC at least, without charging extra for the device. They also have the best customer service support (they'll actually phone you back when they say they will), I've come across."

        Quite agree. And they have given us 3 years on our Apple stuff. I would buy from them (even special order) rather than either Apple (OK direct) or some sh*t place such as PC Warehouse.

    3. plrndl
      Linux

      Re: Sad

      The Surface 3 is not sold in the EU.

  2. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Holmes

    Planned obsolescence

    Cars, subject to (arguably) much more demanding conditions, are tending to 5- or even 7-year warranties. So, why not electronic gear?

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Planned obsolescence

      If you want to buy tablets and smartphones for tens of thousands of dollars I'm sure they'd be happy to give you a 5-7 year warranty.

      The cost of the warranty is built into the price of the car, and the cost of a longer warranty would be likewise built into the price of tablets and smartphones. Most people will buy the cheaper product and take the risk. Those who want a longer warranty/insurance can get it from places like SquareTrade.

    2. Charles Manning

      It's going to the landfill anyway

      Look, these devices are not even going to be used long enough to go obsolete. They're just going directly to the landfill.

      Nobody needs to service them there.

    3. Annihilator

      Re: Planned obsolescence

      The car warranty thing is a bit of a sham though. A 7-year warranty doesn't cover a fair bit (clutch is one significant one that I've seen) and depends on you sticking to a fairly hefty maintenance schedule (at your cost) at authorised dealers only.

      Would you be willing to do that for your electronic device? When you consider the things most likely to fail would be battery or screen which car manufacturers exclude as "consumables".

      1. Lamont Cranston

        Re: Planned obsolescence

        At least you can take a car to an independant garage and have it serviced for a reasonable fee, rather than being restricted to taking it back to the dealer, once the warranty expires. I doubt they'll be very many unauthorised service agents capable of repairing your Surface outside of the warranty period.

        1. foxyshadis

          Re: Planned obsolescence

          I'm sure if people were obsessed with buying the thinnest, lightest cars that could also exceed 200MPH while barely sipping gas/leccy, cars would also be basically unserviceable. (Some are anyway, just ask any mechanic what they think about working on an Audi.)

      2. AceRimmer

        Re: Planned obsolescence @ Annihilator

        "The car warranty thing is a bit of a sham though. A 7-year warranty doesn't cover a fair bit (clutch is one significant one that I've seen) and depends on you sticking to a fairly hefty maintenance schedule (at your cost) at authorised dealers only."

        As the owner of a car with a 7 year warranty (which is due to expire soon)

        Wear and tear is NOT included in the warranty, however servicing can be done at any reputable garage not just authorised dealers.

        Having said that the only warranty work I've had to get done is to get the stereo replaced.

        The clutch on mine still works fine but then I don't ride the clutch. Clutch plates (like brake pads) by their nature are going to wear out faster if misused and it won't be difficult for the garage to check for excessive wear.

  3. brimful

    Here's an idea

    Instead of using glue to hold the components in place, how about you have it so that parts of the case hold the components in place? You wouldn't need screws!!! Not only would everything line up but it'll also make it a damn sight easier to repair. Microsoft, Apple, and whoever is listening, if you're going to keep on adding components and services to your applications that suck up vital computing resources such as CPU, RAM, Battery and HDD, why not then let the users of your services/software and by extension hardware upgrade the components if and when necessary?

    1. John Tserkezis

      Re: Here's an idea

      "if you're going to keep on adding components and services to your applications that suck up vital computing resources such as CPU, RAM, Battery and HDD, why not then let the users of your services/software and by extension hardware upgrade the components if and when necessary?"

      Outside of the odd Hard drive or RAM upgrade, few bother to upgrade in that manner. To most everyone else, "upgrade" means "new computer".

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: Here's an idea

        > To most everyone else, "upgrade" means "new computer".

        But that is no longer the case, which is why the industry is in such a mess - no-one needs to buy stuff. People don't need the CPU upgrades they used to, but memory is one thing which can usually help due to bloat.

        I still have a core2 imac which is fine for almost everything. I've got a core(1) laptop which is fine for web and video. These days, the upgrade is mostly in pixel density and battery life, unless you're gaming. In case anyone hadn't noticed, portability is more important than power for many people these days.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: Here's an idea

          I imagine SP3 is right on the limit of what you can get into a casing that small - it's surely more of a technical feat than the iPad in pure "get a whole PC in a tablet"?

          Maybe it reduces manufacturing cost, maybe the glue increases overall ruggedness (such as it is) - and does it also have beneficial thermal properties?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Here's an idea

          I too have a Core2Duo iMac fomr 2008, but sadly, it is now showing its age. I was thinking of replacing the HDD with an SSD, but the whole procedure seems a bit... error-prone. Maybe I'll just wait for Apple to come out with a Retina 12" Macbook Air this September.

    2. Charles Manning

      Re: Here's an idea

      Glue is required for many purposes....

      Glue stops components falling off during soldering.

      As pad size goes down, pads provide less adhesion for components. Vibration etc can rip up pads causing product failure. Glue fixes that.

      1. easyk

        Re: Here's an idea

        Solder paste does a fine enough job of keeping the parts in place durring reflow.

        BGA packages are actually better than many larger (DFN) packages for vibration (from what I've read)

  4. Dave, Portsmouth

    Still News?

    Why do iFixIt even bother reporting this? We *know* that these aren't repairable. They're not intended to be, and the manufacturers (whether Microsoft, Google, Samsung or Apple) don't claim that they are.

    The point about ruggedness in the article totally misses the point - the fact that the screen cracked whilst prising it out of its strong aluminium (?) case doesn't show that the Surface isn't rugged, it shows that it's designed for strength when fully constructed, not when pulled apart.

    All that said, I don't think iFixIt is pointless - I actually used their guide once myself to change the dock connector on an old iPhone that got wet - but I wouldn't wish that phone to be made any easier to take apart because chances are that if it were it would have broken much sooner, or much more seriously.

    1. John Tserkezis
      Joke

      Re: Still News?

      "I actually used their guide once myself to change the dock connector on an old iPhone that got wet"

      You mean you repaired an iPhone instead of upgrading to the latest model? Yourself? Shocking. That goes against the belief system of every fanboi ever.

      Allright, allright, I'm going. Sheeze, no sense of humour these guys....

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Still News?

        Many people break their iPhone when it IS the latest model...

    2. foxyshadis

      Re: Still News?

      I think you're deeply confused about how repairable most technology is, Dave. In particular, iPhone 4 and up are actually pretty easy to repair, it's only the older ones that are a pain in the ass. They have high repairability scores. Thousands of people a day use iFixit guides to repair their stuff, whether the manufacturer supports it or not.

      So no, no one actually KNEW that it wasn't repairable until the attempt was made; quite often they are.

  5. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

    Slide-in batteries and SSD?

    Would it be possible to design a tablet like this to have the battery slide in and out? You could reduce the additional space by having the battery latch to the other end of the tablet and using a reversible 5-pin connector (+ and - on each end and a 1-wire interface) to remove the need for guides or something of the like.

    The SSD could just slide in with a small panel at the far end to seal the device with two screw posts.

    Allowing these two things would greatly extend the life of the Surface lap-tabs and give them a huge advantage to tablets and a couple laptops.

    1. Chemist

      Re: Slide-in batteries and SSD?

      "Would it be possible to design a tablet like this to have the battery slide in and out?"

      Well, I've got a consumer bit of kit, LCD screens, removable battery, GPS, WiFi, fast processor, camera - oh, and you can change the lenses too - Canon 6D

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Slide-in batteries and SSD?

        does it make Tea as well?

        does it run Linux?

        Can it play Crysis?

        Nah, thought not.

        Only joking. My D800 can't do that either. Takes great piccies though.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: Can it play Crysis?

          Surface Pro 2 will play Crysis... google it

          1. foxyshadis

            Re: Can it play Crysis?

            @JDX

            That was a reply to the Canon 6D comment.

    2. John Tserkezis

      Re: Slide-in batteries and SSD?

      "Allowing these two things would greatly extend the life of the Surface lap-tabs and give them a huge advantage to tablets and a couple laptops."

      And it would also single-handedly kill the upgrade cycle of the manufacturer. The only reason some DO offer that, is because their marketing people deemed it better for sales in THEIR market, rather than if they didn't. Apple, Microsoft et al chose their model because it works best for their market.

      Ever wonder why most if not all manufacturers offer user firmware-upgradable equipment, while only few actually offer a firmware upgrade after the sale? It's not because the first firmware release is perfect - it's because the attraction of being able to upgrade, is worth to sales than the (in)ability to fix any of their screwups once it's out the door.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: And it would also single-handedly kill the upgrade cycle of the manufacturer

        Balls it would. Even desktops are rarely upgraded - only by the technical minority let alone laptops which are still fairly easy.

        Even if your iPad were easy to maintain, few people would pay £100 for a new part on a 5 year old iPad...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    So… they're saying

    that the Surface's screen isn't all it's cracked up to be?

  7. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    "a one-year limited hardware warranty"

    So that'll be two years across the entire EU, yes?

  8. Herby Silver badge
    Joke

    So, they release Surface 3

    When will "service pack 1" happen? Isn't that what everyone waits for these days??

    Maybe this isn't a joke (*SIGH*).

  9. imanidiot Silver badge

    "As with all of our Surface products, Surface Pro 3 is engineered with high-quality components to be as thin, light and powerful as possible and is designed to be serviced by professionals."

    Read: Chucked in the bin behind the counter and handing the customer a new box from the shelf if it's physically damaged. (Cheaper for the company than actually training hundreds of staff to perform tedious and time consuming repairs. In worker hours alone a replacement would be cheaper)

  10. Mark Wilson

    Why bother making things so thin?

    Really what is the point making the tablets and phones so thin that they are so fragile? The user just ends up adding a case which adds bulk anyway.

    1. stucs201

      Re: Why bother making things so thin?

      I'd normally agree. However on this occasion the bit which really suffered for being so thin was the screen. This has a good technical reason for being thin; to reduce parallax problems between where your eye and the electronics think the tip of the pen is.

      I think the bigger problem is the glue. Surely there must be some way of holding these things together without glue?

    2. PerlyKing

      Re: Why bother making things so thin?

      It's a numbers game. The manufacturers know that the easiest way to compare things is with simple numbers, and that most consumers like to have the "-est" device: thinnest, lightest, largest, fastest, loudest, whateverest. The fact that you'll have to smother it in a case means that they can try to sell you a case. And from their point of view making them unrepairable is a bonus as you'll have to buy a new one sooner rather than later.

      It's the size thing that really bugs me. To take the extreme example, this year's HTC One Mini 2 is taller and thicker than last year's HTC One! Apparently I'm not one of the target demographic because it's putting me right off replacing my phone.

    3. Al Jones

      Re: Why bother making things so thin?

      Fragile? A screen that cracks when it's being pried apart isn't necessarily fragile - it's being taken way outside it's design specifications.

      If you wanted to replace the screen because it had cracked, then it wouldn't really matter that you'd probably break the screen by removing it from the case - it's already broken! (Though if you want to replace the battery, and you have to remove the screen to do that, you might have a point!)

      In real life, you probably won't be able to replace the screen, because there won't be spare screens available to replace it with! That's already the case for many such devices, unless they have iDevice or Galaxy style market penetration.

      1. foxyshadis

        Re: Why bother making things so thin?

        Removing the screen is the first step to every Surface repair, so yeah. Surface and Surface 2 do have replacement screens available, so Surface 3 is almost certain to get them too.

        I'd argue that the screen is "fragile" since it's thin enough that Microsoft probably won't be able to repair it, and will have to replace the screen each time. Sturdier glass would lower repair costs for them as well as everyone else.

  11. G R Goslin

    Why the 'Donnot bin' symbol

    If the things cannot be broken down into component parts for re-cycling, why the large 'Do not bin' sybol on the back?

    1. Ivor

      Re: Why the 'Donnot bin' symbol

      ..because it contains a lithium battery so needs to be ripped into pieces before disposal. The fact that all components are destroyed when dismantled isn't an issue at that point.

  12. stucs201

    Even more confused by the choice of Micro SD slot now

    There looks to be room for a full size one? So why micro? With the same aspect ratio as a DSLR, the ability to run Lightroom and Photoshop and a pressure sensitive pen this device has a lot to appeal to a photographer - so why doesn't it take the same size SD card as many cameras use?

    (Yes I know you could use a micro-sd card in an adaptor in the camera - but who really wants to replace all their memory cards?)

    1. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Re: Even more confused by the choice of Micro SD slot now

      I think you are taking the wrong approach to this. Microsoft has learned one thing in the early 2000s and that is that as soon they bring out a product that's usable, nobody will buy the following product. That's why so many people still use XP.

      The success of Microsoft lies within their 1990s strategy of bringing out semi-usable products and making you hope that the next version will be any better. You sell your current product, but talk about the future.

    2. Metrognome
      Headmaster

      Re: Even more confused by the choice of Micro SD slot now

      On a small point of pedantry. Most pro photographers I've come across swear by CF on account of the massive storage potential and the superior write speed which helps when snapping continuously at 40+ megapixels.

      1. foxyshadis

        Re: Even more confused by the choice of Micro SD slot now

        CF is dead, and its successor XQD was stillborn. SD is up to 280MB/s compared to CF/XQD's 168MB/s maximum, and hardly any new cards have been released for years. Lexar's 3333x would be amazing but it's been vaporware for 6 months, without even pricing released, while SD continues to advance.

        Regarding the SD size problem, SD to MicroSD adapters exist just like MicroSD to SD. Just buy one. Outside of the DSLR world, MicroSD is where the entire memory card industry is going, so it's no surprise. (I'm just insanely appreciative that a slot was included; even Google dropped them.)

  13. etabeta
    Thumb Down

    This is a scam!

    From my personal experience, if a device like this is intensively used, the battery capacity will be significantly be decreased after 2 years- unless it fails catastrophically before then. Another weak point can be the charging/usb connectors. This M$ built-in "programmed obsolescence" is an outright scam.

    The solution? Maybe the UE should make it mandatory for manufacturers to extend warranties to six years by paying an extra 10% of original purchase price before the standard 2 year warranty period expires. Since no Li-ion battery is going to last 6 years, this bad habit of gluing everything together will suddenly cease.

    Another thing I would like to see is a mandatory "repairabilty index" sticker on all consumer electronics; which must pass a minimum limit or otherwise be banned from sale in the UE.

    1. d3vy

      Re: This is a scam!

      "Another thing I would like to see is a mandatory "repairabilty index" sticker on all consumer electronics; which must pass a minimum limit or otherwise be banned from sale in the UE."

      Repair-ability is a bit subjective though isn't it? for most consumers the rating for ANY device will be 0.. maybe 1 for devices with removable batteries (Though I hardly class that as a repair)

      I doubt that 99.9% of the consumers of any device nowadays would even consider taking their device apart.

      People commenting on here tend to forget that not everyone has the desire or knowledge to fix their devices themselves.. and are quite happy to replace tech when it fails (or in most cases when they perceive that it is knocking on a bit and want something new).

      1. Al Jones

        Re: This is a scam!

        It's not so much that people are quite happy to replace stuff, as that the cost of labour means that an hour of a technicians time will cost a substantial fraction of what it would cost to just buy a replacement - and if one component has worn-out/been damaged, maybe another component will need to be replaced shorty after you pay for the first repair.

        Given the pace of change in a lot of consumer electronics, buying new instead of repairing also means new features, better specs as well as the all important "shiny, shiny!!" factor (and a new warranty, to boot!)

        I imagine there are probably some football fans reading who wish their TVs had developed a fault in the weeks before the World Cup so that they would have had an excuse to replace it, rather than repair it!

  14. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Actually it's even worse than that

    I mean I can understand some of the decisions. Nobody cares if the battery or the electronics works, thanks to "Secure Boot" it's bricked by default anyhow.

    What's worrisome is they apparently made it lighter, making it less suitable at its primary use as a paperweight.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Actually it's even worse than that

      Oh look, another "Linux Genius" who doesn't know how Secure Boot works!

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: Actually it's even worse than that

        Oh look, another "Windows Fanboi" who believes everything Microsoft promises them.

  15. David Glasgow

    While my tablet gently weeps

    When they did the iPad Air, they had lots more guitar picks closely placed around the seam. So maybe an insufficiency of guitar picks on this one, boys?

    1. d3vy

      Re: While my tablet gently weeps

      I know that they know what they are doing, but your point is valid - the rule with these seems to be if you are meeting resistance, use more heat and distribute the pressure evenly (Especially on larger screens)

      Given that the surface 3 is basically a laptop in a tablet form factor and will be kicking out a decent amount of heat I'd put money on the glue that MS use needing to be hotter before it gives up its grip...

  16. Lamont Cranston
    Happy

    I dropped my Nexus 7, once, without a case on it, and the back cover popped off.

    I was worried, at the time, but feel pretty smug about it, now!

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