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

Consumer Reports has a message for its readers: one in four of your shiny Microsoft's Surface laptops and tablets might not outlast their new computer smell. The US nonprofit consumer product review mag today U-turned on its recommendation of Redmond's kit. The last time Consumer Reports removed a recommendation for laptops …

  1. J J Carter Silver badge
    Devil

    I could go postal!

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

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. Ledswinger Silver badge

        Re: I could go postal!

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

        Yes

        1. Wade Burchette

          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.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            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!

            1. Tim Seventh

              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).

          2. Anonymous Coward
            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.

            1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

              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.

          3. Jerry G.

            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.

            1. Fatman Silver badge

              Re: I could go postal!

              Well said marketing droid!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I could go postal!

          Ledswinger, Upvote for the perfect post!

    2. Bob Vistakin
      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.

      1. RyokuMas Silver badge
        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...

    3. TheVogon Silver badge

      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...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        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.

        1. TheVogon Silver badge

          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...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        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.

        1. TheVogon Silver badge

          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.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      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.

    5. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      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.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. asdf Silver badge

      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.

    2. hplasm Silver badge
      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?

      1. Naselus

        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.

  3. MondoMan
    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.

    1. Updraft102 Silver badge

      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.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        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.

        1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

          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?)

        2. Japhy Ryder

          Re: Updraft102 Not really a "survey"

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

      2. MondoMan

        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.

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      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.

      1. keith_w

        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.

    3. MiguelC Silver badge

      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...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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"

    4. big_D Silver badge

      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?).

  4. Updraft102 Silver badge

    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.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      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...

    2. MondoMan

      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.

  5. Milton Silver badge

    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.

    1. Slay

      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

      2. JLV Silver badge

        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.

      3. N2 Silver badge

        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.

      4. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        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?

    2. cambsukguy

      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.

    3. Laquey
      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.

      1. Ledswinger Silver badge

        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.

  6. Adrian 4 Silver badge
    Trollface

    2 years ?

    More reliable than their software, then.

  7. Fihart

    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.

    1. Slay

      Re: Not just Microsoft

      For my work, we have Lenovo (old IBM) laptops. 6 months in, and my T450 keyboard is already missing keys. The IT support guys can't be bothered to fix it..too fiddly, they advised me to order a new one!

      To contrast, I still have my IBM T60 from 6? years back, running Linux and no build issues at all, despite the best efforts of my 3 years old.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Not just Microsoft

        "For my work, we have Lenovo (old IBM) laptops. 6 months in, and my T450 keyboard is already missing keys. The IT support guys can't be bothered to fix it..too fiddly, they advised me to order a new one!"

        Somebody needs to take a clue bat to them in a vicious manner! It's a 5 minute job, maybe 10-15 mins if the person doing it is a first timer, An official Lenovo FRU even comes with the tool to do the job, so hunting for something to open the case or the jewellers screwdriver for the captive screws in the keyboard! I've done a couple and it's one of the simpler laptops to do a kb replacement on and certainly doesn't mandate a whole replacement laptop unless the only person available to do the repair is on £1000/h + overheads.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not just Microsoft

          Use of the clue bat might be justified, but it's hardly an uncommon scenario.

          I had my own "experience" with a lenovo. In my case it was a brand new T61 issued by the IT department. If I ran it from the power supply everything was fine, but if I ran it from battery it would crash within about 2 minutes. First it would show weird graphical glitches and soon after the OS would just freeze completely. Work IT department (and this was IBM at the time, so they should have known a thing or two about them) said they couldn't even replicate the fault, let alone fix it. My suspicion is they didn't read the fault report and just ran it off the PSU when they tested it.

          I suspected some sort of power regulation fault, probably something integrated on the motherboard. However, I never got to the bottom of it - in the end I just ripped out the HDD and swapped it into an identical T61 chassis that was left spare when a colleague left; the dodgy laptop went in a drawer until it was eventually binned due to old age. Other than causing someone a headache on asset tracking the replacement T61 never gave any trouble whatsoever over the next 5 years. Just goes to show - even with modern(ish) high precision electronic devices you still get the occasional lemon.

        2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Not just Microsoft @John Brown

          Is it a T450 that you've replaced key caps on?

          I know that when Lenovo switched from the old key shape to the newer 'chiclet' or island key shape, they also changed supplier. I've never had to fix a keyboard on anything newer than a T60 (my keyboards rarely get broken!)

          I've owned Thinkpads all the way from 365s to T420s, and the one thing you can say without any hesitation is that the keys change between model. Oh yes, they all use the scissor hinge and collapsing rubber bubble, pressing on a membrane, but the direction of the hinge, and the position of the clips holding the keycaps on has meant that keycaps are rarely interchangeable between models, and you often have to change the technique used to get the keycaps off. Re-attaching a keycap is possible so long as none of the plastic components are broken or deformed, but can be more than fiddly.

          As far as I am aware, the official fix is to replace the whole keyboard, and this is an exceptionally easy job as you say, normally requiring a small cross head screwdriver and some finger nails (or a non-scratching plastic tool), although I note on a T420 I have to hand, a flat-blade screwdriver would suffice.I find Ebay a good source of spares if you can't stomach the cost of an official FRU.

    2. tirk
      Facepalm

      Re: Not just Microsoft

      As laptops grew cheaper a few years back they clearly lost quality.

      Given the cost of surface products then they should be giving decades of trouble free service!

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Not just Microsoft

        Given the cost of surface products then they should be giving decades of trouble free service!

        That would be a first from the House of Muggersoft.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Given all the unwanted services, the incessant and wide-ranging 'telemetry' uploads, the unaudited, so probably deeply inefficient and hacky file system and paging code, and general bloat, it's highly likely Windows 10 puts a lot more stress on the hardware than any previous version of Windows did, and certainly far more stress than any running instance of Linux or OS X. So now that a critical mass of Windows 10 installations are out there, we'll be seeing a general increase in hardware failures. This is but one facet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Windows 10 puts a lot more stress on the hardware than any previous version of Windows did"

      From several of my systems that I migrated from Windows 7 to Windows 10, disk and CPU load on idle have both definitely dropped. And it's faster in general to use.

      1. TheElder

        I bought a new Intel I7 gamer style laptop last year with Win 10 Pro and SSDs. I am very disappointed. My Win 7 machine runs far faster with AMD and with the BIG super-cooler I use I can run it up to 4.4 GHZ. That includes one 27" 4K screen as well as a couple of smaller ones, one of which is 3D. It also has nearly silent fans. When not doing anything that uses a lot of graphics the power drops to maybe 8 watts. If I turn off a few cores then it goes even lower. I use three internal SSDs as well as one internal spinner. External is a couple of 3TB spinners from WD as well as my remote server for backup.

        I always use a gamer keyboard with LED lighting.

        1. ArrZarr Silver badge

          @ TheElder

          So what you're saying is that an overclocked desktop with a whacking great CPU cooler is faster than a laptop?

          Sorry man, not exactly an apples to apples comparison here.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Admins that don't know how to setup a Win10 device...

      ... is music to my ears.

      I call it "job security".

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I have no great love for Win 10, but I somewhat doubt that the OS on it's own would put sufficient stress on the hardware to create a noticeable increase in the failure rate. The main OS you're comparing to (Win 7) was hardly the paragon of computing efficiency either, regardless of how much you and I prefer it.

      Covering a computer in (heat insulating) alcantara fabric? That's got much more potential to lead to issues, particularly as it's an ultra compact device where heat dissipation is always one of the critical limiting factors for performance.

  9. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I never thought that Microsoft made particularly good hardware, look at all the problems with the red ring of death on the Xbox so i doesn't come as a suprise that 25% of Surface will break after 2 years.

    I am using a Dell Latitude laptop from almost 10 years ago and it is still going strong but obviously not running the original OS anymore as it came with Vista.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I never thought that Microsoft made particularly good hardware"

      To be fair I've always found their keyboards and mice to be excellent. I also had good reliability from my original xbox (which is still going strong more than a decade later). However, they do have a rather poor reputation otherwise - so much so that I'm not inclined to put them on any of my purchase shortlists. Especially not when I'd have to pay a premium for the privilege of owning one of their products.

      Cheap, fast, reliable. Choose two*.

      *Choose one if you buy from Microsoft.

  10. ma1010 Silver badge
    Go

    Old can be good

    I have two old Dell Latitudes, almost same model, except the newer one has a 64 bit processor. I upgraded that one with a 500 GB SSD, more RAM (total 4 GB), and a Bluetooth card. It runs both Win 7 and Linux Mint 18.2 just fine. I use it for presentations and for emergency communications in the field, and it just keeps going and going. It's also pretty easy to work on; I did all the upgrades myself quite easily.

  11. John Jennings

    Dosent stack up with my findings

    We bought around 50 of the first surface pros - we have almost 700 in all now.

    With batch 1, to date, I have had 2 returns to Microsoft - TOTAL. I have also had 3 broken screens in traunche 1. (though I think 1 of those might ave been an effort to get a surface pro 4!). They were i3/64/4 datapads and not worth sending to the screen-menders.

    I have had 1 PSU failure also in that batch.

    No keyboard issues.

    Many of the pens didnt last - this was almost always lost.

    1. cambsukguy

      Re: Dosent stack up with my findings

      Hmm, 700 is statistically quite a decent sample.

      Those users didn't pay for the units so they are probably not as careful as I would be having paid serious money.

      Of course, they are looked after as far as SW management is concerned.

      Also tallies with the anecdotal evidence I have gleaned.

    2. Zane

      Re: Dosent stack up with my findings

      Either you are just lucky, or you users don't use the devices regularly.

      My personal statistics:

      100% of friends with Surface complain about hardware problems. Some are just annoying, others are bigger problems. Repair seems to cost a lot.

  12. ashdav

    The Old Days Were The Best

    Most of these hardware failures are caused by brittle solder joints since lead was taken out.

    Heat cycling (ie. normal use) breaks them.

    Hence why older kit keeps going.

    1. TheElder

      Heat cycling (ie. normal use) breaks them.

      Do not turn it off. Do not go into sleep mode. Just set the power use to minimum.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Heat cycling (ie. normal use) breaks them.

        Do not turn it off. Do not go into sleep mode. Just set the power use to minimum.

        Greens tossing in their bed because of unintended consequences.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Old Days Were The Best

      Yep, agreed.

      Replacing a tiny amount of lead to stop it polluting the planet with something so useless it renders the entire device complete with lithium, cadmium, tatntalum defunct etc etc was a superb idea.

      Another example of somebody not having a clue dictating to everyone else.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surface problems are two-fold

    1. Questionable build quality. But I don't think hardware failure is as big a contributor as...

    2. Unstable software.

    Just speaking from personal experience, I think CR is too hasty to blame the hardware, as we've seen a lot of W10 updates that break hardware compatibility. If we're relying on user reports then I don't expect the majority of them could distinguish between a hardware failure versus a faulty driver, at the end of the day all they see is a non-working fondleslab.

    That's probably where CR comes up with the insane 25% failure rate. Magical blue smoke events are rare, but that won't save you from device-bricking software updates.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Surface problems are two-fold

      Since the hardware is known to Slurp, they should know how to avoid borking their own kit when Bloat is updated.

      1. Scunner

        Re: Surface problems are two-fold

        I wouldn't rely on that. Hardware and software are different divisions. Left hand, meet right hand.

  14. ZiggyZiggy

    Yes Yes Yes Yes!!!!

    I have a Surface Pro 4.... I'm on the seventh warranty replacement device.

    First one was new (obvs), the next five - refurbs - and then after a (written) letter of complaint to MS, I got a new one which was brand new.

    The latest is okay... although build quality is poor at best compared to some I've had before - so I dread to think what it's like internally.

    But it's not crashing, vibrating, or with any screen defects - so it's a good start.

    All seven have made strange noises which I've not heard in any other device - squealing and clicking noises which appear to come from where the power is managed, and also the CPU (not from any moving parts!).

    It's a potentially nice bit of kit... but I wouldn't buy another one.

  15. Adrian Tompkins
    WTF?

    Not been my experience

    I usually go through laptops about every 18 months. The SP4 is a little past that now with no sign of quitting. Firmware updates come in pretty regularly and stability improved radically in the first few months. Barely a glitch worth mentioning these days.

    In an interesting irony GF bought me a Targus MacBook Air case to keep it in!

    1. Jason Hindle

      Re: Not been my experience

      Nothing beats a Targus case when you want that feeling of oozing quality :-/.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Not been my experience

        Stop being so Trump about a shitty laptop.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The jury is still out

    Whether this phenomenon of brittle hardware is due to deliberate planned obsolescence, or Microsoft's incompetence.

    Because Microsoft has already enforced planned obsolescence on its software, I'm more inclined to believe the former.

    Anyhow, buying a Microsoft Surface is just silly. You're paying premium money for a tainted brand which is deluded into thinking that it too can charge Apple's brand premium tax.

    If you really want to buy a Windows 10 laptop or convertible tablet, it's far more sensible to buy something from HP, Lenovo etc.

  17. Tommyinoz

    Why is anybody surprised?

    Why is anybody surprised? Microsoft demonstrated just how reliable the Surface is during their "iPad killer" presentation a few years ago. Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1zxDa3t0fg

  18. Diogenes

    not a huge sample

    We have 10SP3s, I am typing this on one of them. So far only one non user caused failure , a problem between the charger input and battery.

    Having said that this week 3 of them started to show signs of the screen shimmy , mostly stopped for now by displaying seconds on the taskbar clock... mostly, it still happens sometimes on googles search results page when using chrome

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surface to floor

    Missile...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft is only interested in a couple of things....

    ....both related to one another:

    - Money

    - Destroying the competition

    *

    We can go back to the Bill Gates ploy with MS-DOS to harm Digital Research for early evidence.

    Later on we can see more of the same with (the same) Bill Gates success in destroying Netscape.

    Remember the DoJ win in court proving Microsoft were guilty of illegal "monopolistic practices"?

    *

    On the money side of the equation, you will recall that every new version of a key Microsoft product was deliberately NOT backward compatible with Microsoft's previous version (e.g. Microsoft Word). More licence money anyone? Then there's the enterprise software scam where companies have to pay a fee for every workstation which connects with Microsoft server products....no software involved, no support involved, just five dollars for Microsoft when another workstation connects to SQL Server.

    *

    And while all this was going on, Microsoft were shipping pretty poor products (Windows 98, Windows Millenium Edition, Microsoft Bob). Products which were open to multiple attacks -- often costly to the consumer and the enterprise (ILOVEYOU, Code Red, Anna Kournikova, etc, etc).

    *

    So why am I not surprised that in their foray into hardware, there are reports of high prices and poor quality?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Microsoft is only interested in a couple of things....

      You forget more recent lousy products -- Windows 8, Windows 8.1, "the ribbon" in Microsoft Word.....so many to choose from, so little space to write!

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft is only interested in a couple of things....

        Don't forget per-socket/per-CPU pricing. Pulling in the money for stuff developed and bought by someone else.

        Up there with aggravated robbery and "VAT".

  21. Alex Read

    I've had the surface 1 since it's arrival. It's needed 2x Win-restores & 4 hard resets. Damn annoying but I had backups & didn't need to hand it into MS support.

    The surface 4 dock displayport support was released/sold in stores broken & after 1 year I now need to hand the whole machine back as the display's nuked. From my experince as a home user at least, the build quality and testing have sharply gone down.

    I'm as happy with MS kit as the stuff from Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo. Fujitsu & HP at the bottom too - they're all average/ not particularly great or long lasting IMO. I'm likely to try Apple next.

    I would nominate the arc mouse from MS as the worst built computer tech. 4 of 4 failed within 6-12 months at the most here!

  22. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Well its consumer stuff...

    ... since returns of consumer products are not in any way related to the product actually breaking, and consumers having no idea if 1% or 10% of their product broke withing 2 years, there is no drive towards quality in consumer computers.

    Considering that business computers often even cost less than consumer ones, at a much higher build quality, one wonders why those products are still bought.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Well its consumer stuff...

      Considering that business computers often even cost less than consumer ones

      That's definitely not true.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yawn

    Most of the devices I've owned (white goods included) have had at least one of: "startup problems, frozen machines, unexpected shutdowns or unresponsive touchscreens" at some point; not a problem, a cache clear, logout/login, reboot etc usually solves that.

    Does "break" in this case mean the same as "encryption xyz is broken", in that it's not 100% foolproof but in some situations it can fail or are we talking dead?

    It's always good to examine the parameters of surveys.

    Typing this on my Surface 1 Pro, Win 10 fresh with Creators Update.

  24. Toro22

    I am the owner of both a MBP and a MS SurfLap, reliabillity eval

    I have had the MBP since newyear

    The MS SurfLap for a month

    Typical usage, office use for the MS, Photo editing and general use for the MBP

    The MBP is not crash proof.. it dies appox every one-three weeks

    The MS SurfLap, reliably performs Harakiri every night... leaving me with a fresh empty desktop the next day...

    I will return with HW reliabillity as time passes...

  25. N2 Silver badge

    Everything they make

    Breaks.

    Even a fekking optical mouse diddnt last 18 months.

  26. John Hughes

    Only 25%

    My experience is that 100% of them are broken within a year.

    The screen is amazingly fragile.

  27. Kay Burley ate my hamster

    In my 20 years of IT support

    I've never seen anything so unreliable.

    Dead spots on the touchscreen.

    Batteries swelling up.

    Two button restarts taught to users.

    Fan noise.

    Keyboard faults.

    At least my users don't lose the pen.

  28. adam payne Silver badge

    "Microsoft's real-world return and support rates for past models differ significantly from Consumer Reports' breakage predictability.

    While we respect Consumer Reports, we don't believe these findings accurately reflect Surface owners' true experiences or captures the performance and reliability improvements made with every Surface generation."

    Well you would say that Mr Microsoft mouthpiece.

    We have had dodgy screens, dodgy batteries and all sorts of other problems with our Surfaces. These problems occurred well before two years.

    I say forget the entire range and go elsewhere but of course directors have to have their shiny things.

  29. This post has been deleted by its author

  30. Howard Hanek Bronze badge

    Imagine

    If the creator or evolution made homo sapiens 'unrepairable'? With a life expectancy for 25% of two years?

    Remember the Dell capacitor scandal? Deliberately using ones with an only 18 month life?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Imagine

      Remember the Dell capacitor scandal? Deliberately using ones with an only 18 month life?

      IIRC that was counterfeit chintokke product getting into the production stream?

  31. OffBeatMammal

    The "3" in Surface Pro 3 for me was the number of warranty replacements I had to go through before I finally gave up on the machine.

    First failure was the battery ... apparently holding a charge for more than 30 minutes is desirable, but when the device is a sealed unit it's really hard to replace the battery.

    Second failure was the screen stopped responding to touch except for about a 1" strip ... but that's glued to the unit as well and not replaceable

    Third failure it just refused to power up at all and the tech couldn't work out what it was so got the final replacement.

    The biggest problem for me though was the painful process of re-imaging the replacement machines (and this is a general Windows gripe) ... because of the convoluted registry it's not as simple as just doing a 'backup your apps and documents regularly and you can restore to a new machine" ... you have to reinstall programs (which is a pain if there are serial numbers or specific configurations that have to be re-created).

    I've quickly learned that the only place to keep documents is in the cloud (because I've Office365 I use, and like OneDrive, but GDrive or Dropbox are equally useful) because when Windows borks it tends to bork hard.

    I almost got a Dell XPS13 as the replacement, but I do a lot of video conferencing on the road and the camera position was just too weird, so now I'm using a Macbook Air (with Windows in a Fusion VM for the odd occasions I need it) and I'm very happy

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another Stumble for CR

    If any other "independent survey and consumer review" group used such a small sample of results against such a wildly popular product, the INDUSTRY would hang them out to dry. Apparently Microsoft is the exception, quite unfairly.

    I have two Surface Pro 3 with Surface Pro 4 FPR Keyboards and looking for more. My family, a bit more tough on gear than most (Dad will fix it), has been through Lenovo (too heavy) and ASUS (not durable enough) and we've settled on Surface Pro gear.

    CR got it seriously wrong this time. I've got friends and neighbors around DC with new Surface equipment and not one has failed or disappointed.

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