back to article $14bn tax hit, Surface Pro screens keep dying – but it's not all good news at Microsoft

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 owners are up in arms over what they claim is an ongoing epidemic of screen failures blighting their expensive fondleslabs. Disgruntled punters on the Redmond support forums and the dedicated independent website FlickerGate.com say their tablets are prone to a hardware glitch that causes the display to …

  1. OffBeatMammal

    does the replacement trigger a new warranty period?

    one thing I discovered after 3 replacements of my Surface Pro 3 was that the warranty period didn't get reset each time... because I was getting refurb machines they would only honor the original period as 'new', and the last replacement (just inside the original period) only got 90 days of coverage. It, of course, died on about day 120 and now I use a Macbook

    1. Joe Werner

      Re: does the replacement trigger a new warranty period?

      Hope you returned the item as faulty and unfit for purpose (or whatever the term is in English). You have given them several chances to fix it, they didn't. So you can withdraw from that contract (buy of the equipment) and have to get back the money. At least that's how it is supposed to work where I have been living)...

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: does the replacement trigger a new warranty period?

      "one thing I discovered after 3 replacements of my Surface Pro 3 was that the warranty period didn't get reset each time"

      I'm not sure but I believe that is standard practice.

      1. LunaBelle

        Re: does the replacement trigger a new warranty period?

        It is certainly not standard practice in North America.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And in NZ consumer guarantees give you rights against a manufacturer

      ...or importer as well as the supplier or retailer if your products don’t meet any of the CGA consumer guarantees. These rights include the right to expect that your purchase will last for a reasonable amount of time, as long as you don’t misuse the products. This period may last longer than the manufacturer’s warranty for larger electrical appliances like ovens, washing machines and dryers.

      Laptops should last 3 years.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And in NZ consumer guarantees give you rights against a manufacturer

        These rights include the right to expect that your purchase will last for a reasonable amount of time, as long as you don’t misuse the products.

        Same in the UK, you should be able to reasonably argue for 3-6 years for a tablet.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And in NZ consumer guarantees give you rights against a manufacturer

          Sounds like an inherent fault. 6 years in the UK to claim against MS as the goods clearly aren't fit for purchase.

    4. mikedave

      Re: does the replacement trigger a new warranty period?

      There is 3 months warranty but what they do is send you a refurbished device which they have received most probably for the same reason. So replaced devices triggers the issue more early than a new device. May be there is some other reason but that's what I can think of

    5. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: does the replacement trigger a new warranty period?

      Warranties are largely dependent upon the legal system in your country. Statutory guarantees should indeed be extended but company warranties are pretty much whatever the company decides them to be.

    6. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: does the replacement trigger a new warranty period?

      "one thing I discovered after 3 replacements of my Surface Pro 3 was that the warranty period didn't get reset each time... "

      The warranty is only in addition to your consumer rights. You get up to 6 years in reality:

      https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: does the replacement trigger a new warranty period?

      It's an unwritten rule, but replacement units are almost always refurb units.

      Not unique to Microsoft.

      I'm not a fan of this practice, fyi.

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    But...

    Where are all the class action lawsuits from all those disgruntled customers who's screens have gone 'phut'?

    We all know that if this was Apple, this would be headline news all over the world.

    Perhaps it is a sign that MS is slowly fading into insignificance (in the public eye) now that they have given up on mobile?

    1. mikedave

      Re: But...

      Microsoft's agreement of purchase prevents class action law suit. That's what I have heard on reddit and MS forums.

      The website is new so may be they have just started preparing up for the battle.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But...

        Despite what MS believe or what they try to bully you into believing, buying something does not diminish your legal, statutory rights if the goods are duff.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: But...

          >>> Despite what MS believe or what they try to bully you into believing, buying something does not diminish your legal, statutory rights if the goods are duff.

          +1, had a conversation with a lawyer about this ages ago... companies can say what they like (especially shit heads like microsoft) but they can't override your basic legal rights.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: But...

          Despite what MS believe or what they try to bully you into believing, buying something does not diminish your legal, statutory rights if the goods are duff.

          Not just that. In some jurisdictions, having an illegal part in a contract will render the rest of the contract null and void falling back to standard consumer law across the board. A good lawyer should be able to argue that any limitation they put in that contract (even the allowed ones) being null and void because the contract as a whole is illegal due to having illegal clauses.

      2. James Ashton

        Re: But...

        "Microsoft's agreement of purchase prevents class action law suit."

        That might fly in the US: there are precedents there for software at least. I don't that kind of clause is going to be effective to many other jurisdictions though, especially for hardware.

    2. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: But...

      I'm sure that MS Mobile is just lying in its coffin waiting for the next full blue blood supermoon.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My bet - this is overheating of a component

    So swapping the display won't fix it and neither will a software update. My guess is that a component warms over time and creates a loose connection or a timing issue inside a component leading to data corruption or a sync issue on the video data feed.

    I bet thermal analysis to spot this is hard since they'd have to strip it down to do it, thereby improving airflow and mitigating the issue.

    Quickest way to check. Run the tablet in a very cool temp environment and see if it stops.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My bet - this is overheating of a component

      > Run the tablet in a very cool temp environment and see if it stops.

      A few seconds in the freezer does indeed cure the issue:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8O5ntJN3vWM

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My bet - this is overheating of a component

        Boom! Told ya :)

    2. TPS Report

      Re: My bet - this is overheating of a component

      A few minutes in the freezer is the only solution that actually works, albeit temporarily. The flickering usually kicks in when the CPU temperature goes above 40C.

    3. Patricia

      Re: My bet - this is overheating of a component

      We recently had a Surface 4 that had a bulge form behind the screen. It was so severe that is was pushing the screen out like a large bubble. This was causing the screen issue described. Microsoft knows they have a problem, they simply are not owning up to it.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The other MS disease

      "I'm surprised that people think it's a hardware glitch when it looks like a software problem to me."

      That only happens after you have owned the tablet for a long time?!

      1. kurios

        Re: The other MS disease

        The latency required for this problem to rear its ugly head might indicate thermal cycling that's slowly degrading a critical thermal interface. Too many thermal cycles might separate an interface, increasing thermal resistance and the temperature of whatever component depends on that thermal interface as part of its heat transfer chain.

        It might be interesting to run an ice cube slowly over the back of one of these that's showing the problem to see if the "freeze fix" can be localized. That might give a clue to what's failing.

        Meanwhile, as an earlier contributor said, I'm on a MacBook.

    2. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: The other MS disease

      That's hardware, I've seen it's like before. Give me an open unit, a serious hot day or room and freezemist will nail it.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: The other MS disease

        "Give me an open unit..."

        Aye, there's the problem right there...

        Glue, glue, Barney McGlue...

  5. TPS Report

    I purchased my Surface Pro 4 in October 2016 and flickergate kicked in in December 2017. Adding seconds to the taskbar clock with a registry entry buys the machine around another month of use because, to begin with, any movement on the screen corrects the blurring and flickering. However, the will to flicker is strong in the Surface Pro 4 and it eventually overrides this workaround in a quest to flicker itself to death. I might just have to step in at some point and smash it pieces myself out of frustration.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Humour me. Stick it in an airtight bag and put it in the bottom of the fridge when it starts happening, for an hour or two , and see if it stops. If it's over-heating components causing it, this should cure it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Cure it?

        Are you having a giraffe?

        It will temporarily alleviate the issue.

        Curing permanently will require a new main board or replacement of the offending component and given how difficult it is to "repair" one of these things, that seems unlikely.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cure it?

          "Are you having a giraffe?

          It will temporarily alleviate the issue."

          Of course I wasn't suggesting this was a 'cure'. Of course once you take it out of the cool environment, it will warm up again and start to crash again. I was suggesting that trying this would prove my hypothesis that this was an overheating issue, and no amount of 'swapping out the screen' or 'waiting for a software update' was going to fix this.

          See the video link elsewhere in these posts to prove I'm right.

  6. Herby Silver badge

    Just waiting...

    For one of the fondleslabs to go "total inability to perform usual service" right in the middle of next Sunday's Super Bowl. You will see a vivid demonstration of frustration with said device. If this happens, the words "extreme prejudice" will be the least of the problems.

    If it happens to more than one on the sideline something close to a volcanic eruption will take place.

    To mitigate this I strongly suspect that the fondleslabs will be very well tested. Then again, you never know.

    1. Jimmy2Cows
      Unhappy

      Re: Just waiting...

      TITPUS?

      Eeeewwwwwww... see a doctor for that, mate.

      (Suspect you meant TITSUP: Total Inability To Support Usual Performance)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        TITPUS? Re: Just waiting...

        Total Inability To Perform Under Stress? Can happen to the best of us...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Using Microsoft software is toil enough but having to use their hardware as well !

  8. Sil

    Misleading

    Your article is very misleading.

    Microsoft had excellent results.

    The capital charge of 13,8 bn is not negative, it's an excellent news for investors. Like most American multinationals, it has become in the interest of Microsoft to repatriate its foreign profits in the US, due to a super low one time rapatriation cost. While it has been booked in 1 time, Microsoft has 8 years to pay the tax.

    Also due to the dec 2017 tax law, Microsoft will benefit from much lower corporate tax from now on. Mehanically, like all other American companies, all things being equal, it will report much higher eps from now on.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Misleading

      "While it has been booked in 1 time, Microsoft has 8 years to pay the tax."

      Do they get charged interest on the outstanding amount over that period like your ordinary Joe would?

      1. hellwig Silver badge

        Re: Misleading

        Do they get charged interest on the outstanding amount over that period like your ordinary Joe would?

        LOL, no.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And Windows 10.

    That's pretty grim.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I've got a sound business plan for Microsoft...

    1. Sack all the workforce.

    2. Stop producing or supporting anything (this step is already largely completed).

    3. Live off the interest and the licensing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've got a sound business plan for Microsoft...

      Well, No3. worked for Dolby Labs!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nobody ever got fired

    For Not buying Microsoft

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nobody ever got fired

      >>> For Not buying Microsoft

      True... but that's all they've got left. No one really wants their shit, and deep down no one thinks it's anything other than shit, but people buy it because the Microsoft FUD works. Every time you hear of them getting a big customer you know there's an incompetent CTO who has taken the easy option. The only dev fanbois they have left are the ones too scared or useless to learn a decent toolset... all the others have jumped ship.

      It doesn't last forever though, IBM used FUD for a while and they're now... dunno, nowhere?

      1. fedoraman

        Re: Nobody ever got fired

        Err, no. Maybe no-one in consumer land likes their stuff, though that is highly arguable. But in enterprise land - its Microsoft. Or rather, it is Active Directory, a MS technology. Nobody else has anything remotely as good as Active Directory, when it comes to enterprise IT (AFAIK, anyway). Think of organisations that span the globe, have tens or hundreds of thousands of users, that have subsidiaries and acquisitions. The only way that you can manage ICT on that scale is with AD, and all of the associated server technologies that it uses.

        1. Zippy's Sausage Factory
          Flame

          Re: Nobody ever got fired

          "Nobody else has anything remotely as good as Active Directory"

          Although, speaking as a developer who has written some stuff against Active Directory, it's nasty.

          AD feels like a fudge, built on top of a compromise, painted to look like a marketing document but held together round the back with duct tape.

          The parts of it that work do, sort of, work. But that's because the admin interfaces hide a multitude of sins. When you actually start writing code against AD, you start to notice the can of nasty, parasitic, diseased worms underneath, all of whom seem to want to kill you.

          (Six years AD free... six years AD free...)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Nobody ever got fired

            "Although, speaking as a developer who has written some stuff against Active Directory, it's nasty."

            Like every other bit of MS code then?

      2. Champ

        Re: Nobody ever got fired

        > No one really wants their shit, and deep down no one thinks it's anything other than shit, but people buy it because the Microsoft FUD works. Every time you hear of them getting a big customer you know there's an incompetent CTO who has taken the easy option. The only dev fanbois they have left are the ones too scared or useless to learn a decent toolset... all the others have jumped ship.

        This is so wrong, in so many ways, that I really don't know where to start.

        But heh, I hope your prejudices keep you warm at night

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nobody ever got fired

      > For Not buying Microsoft

      Munich?

  12. Flakk Silver badge

    Good on Xbox...

    ...for bringing home some bacon. I suspect that sales of Xbox One X may continue to be brisk in 2018 if GPU manufacturers cannot ramp up supply to overcome the demand from cryptominers.

    Microsoft just better hope that their neat-o vapor chamber cooling solution works as well as they say it does. Xbox might not survive another RRoD-style hardware debacle.

  13. imanidiot Silver badge

    Another RoHS victim?

    Sounds like another BGA chip going wonky due to bad thermal management compounded by RoHS lead free solder.

    1. vir

      Re: Another RoHS victim?

      Or maybe physics-textbook heat rejection design:

      Assume no fouling of thermal transfer surfaces

      Assume ambient air temperature of 260K

      Assume zero junction-to-case thermal resistance

      Assume average thermal generation at 60% of maximum

      Assume no change in efficiency across entire range of operating temperature

      Assume air intake ports are not obstructed or fouled

      Assume back of tablet experiences laminar flow at 2 m/s

      &c.

    2. Captain Badmouth
      Pint

      Re: Another RoHS victim?

      And possibly they've been manufactured by the same clowns who produced those wonderful HP laptops of fame a few years back.

      Anyway, it's beer o clock...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had the same problem on my cheap spyware infested Chinese tablet. Still I only paid £30 for it new although the charger exploded after 30 seconds....

  15. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Comedically convex MS Surface 2

    My Surface 2 (the Win RT gadget) became convex. I went to use it, and found that the screen image was weirdly curved. Upon further investigation, it became clear that it was the LCD screen itself that was bulging out in a subtly-menacing manner. Complete disassembly revealed that the lithium-ion cells in their "prismatic" baggies had inflated due to some strange chemical fault (thank you Samsung, battery pack OEM). Replacement battery pack on hand, but not yet installed.

    Life is entertaining at times.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Comedically convex MS Surface 2

      Worth investigating, thanks.

      Also a data point here, I once saw the blurry screen effect on a Motorola Xoom 2, later turned out that yes indeed the LCD had gone phut. I took it apart but couldn't see a significant difference between it and the new panel.

      It appears to be a signalling issue from what I can find out, this is to be expected if there is a short between adjacent lines on the HDMI-like low voltage interface.

  16. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    And expect problems and issues like this to start spreading like rot to other tablets, phablets, phones and other fondleslab thingies, because they all want to make it "smaller, thinner and flatter whatever", cramming more components per square mm which will generate more heat and cause more issues.

    Myself, it does not bother me if the fondleslab device is a bit on the big and chunky side, to allow for proper cooling of the components.

    Having the thinnest, flattest thing is totally overrated.

    1. Uk_Gadget

      Not married then?

  17. Alex Read

    Caught out plenty of times here - xbox 360, plenty of arc mice & surface 4. MS can't make hardware full stop &I won't be buying their kit in future. Sad really -so many oppurtunities they've blown

  18. arctic_haze Silver badge

    Now wait for the mythical Surface Phone

    It will stop working after a 10 minute phone call because the engineers testing it never have anything to say which is longer than 30 seconds.

  19. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

    Bravo for FlickerGate.com

    I hope they didn't have to buy an already-existing domain. Like the one where Henry Louis Gates tells a celebrity that his ancestor was a horse. No, no, that was his cousin. And it's not Flicker, it's Flicka, pronounced Fleet-ska. Gates of Murder, already taken, my preshisssssss. There couldn't possibly be any other Gate or Gates referenced, could there be?

  20. J__M__M

    the disgruntled surface owners website

    somebody let the admin know they have been hacked. No, I don't want or need to install an updated version of flash, thanks.

    I'll assume the grammar problems (unlike those found in the comment you're reading right now) are due to trying to type on a flickering touchscreen while in the freezer.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019