back to article Well slap my ass and call me Judy, Microsoft's Surface Pro 6 is just as hard to fix as the old one

Torx twirlers iFixit celebrated the release of Microsoft's Surface Pro 6 by ripping the thing apart only to find that its still pretty much unrepairable. The team noted that the new model was initially tricky to distinguish from its predecessor. Both include USB-3 and a Mini DisplayPort but, significantly, lack the USB-C port …

  1. JohnFen Silver badge


    If you can't fix it, that means it's disposable. A grand or two seems like an awful lot of money for a disposable piece of gear.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Overpriced

      A grand or two seems like an awful lot of money for a disposable piece of gear.

      Apple and Samsung appear convinced otherwise. But they and Microsoft can f*** right off if they think I'm paying that sort of money for a short life tool.

      Clearly, there are sufficient people who are willing to splash the cash. Fools and their money, eh?

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Overpriced

        "Apple and Samsung appear convinced otherwise."

        True -- just because they're overpriced doesn't mean there aren't suckers out there willing to pay that price. The Samsung thing is relatively recent, though. My 6 year old Samsung phone is repairable enough that I've fixed it three times now (once was replacing the battery, though, which may not count as "fixing" on that device as the battery is designed to be easily replaceable).

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Overpriced

      But if you take it to the recycling center it will probably see a nice trip to an African landfill, so there is that...

      The Lords Who Formerly Used to Say Ni: "We want you to take apart the priciest gear of Microsoft with ... a screwdriver!!" (Shock Sound!)

      1. Flywheel Silver badge

        Re: Overpriced

        African landfill

        Somehow I don't see the smelting fields of Ghana being used for glue extraction - still the same clouds of toxic smoke, but little else: they won't be touching Micro$oft hardware from now on.

    3. Ian Joyner

      Re: Overpriced

      Are they really overpriced? Stop and think about the amount of technology in these devices both hardware and software. Then there is the factor of miniaturisation – the smaller the form factor the more expensive.

      Microsoft's and Apple's prices reflect more directly the costs. Others cross subsidise from advertising, selling your details and from other parts of their business and then using off-the-shelf software not tailored to the end user.

      Everyone always wants to pay less for any item they buy. That does not make them overpriced.

      1. joed

        Re: Overpriced

        I guess one could argue about the difference between just overpriced and over-engineered (to justifying ridiculous price). It's amazing that some otherwise reasonable people support with their (though more often busniness' they worked for money) money gizmos that offered no functional advantage over quality kit that's while 2mm thicker (and sometimes not even this), is upgrade-able and repairable (if only to the advantage of the 2nd hand buyer). I guess only disposal fees will make this crap less desirable (where no demand for used model will have the original buyer actually pay for offloading the bricked device).

        And this soldered SSD is just the nail in the coffin. Surely you'd not like anything bad to happen to your data (so pay up for OneDrive).

        1. Anonymous Bullard

          Re: Overpriced


          The chance would be a fine thing!

        2. Lusty Silver badge

          Re: Overpriced

          "I guess only disposal fees will make this crap less desirable"

          The WEEE directive is part of the reason they do cost more these days, so probably not.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Overpriced

        Stop and think about the amount of technology in these devices

        That's mostly irrelevant. It's all about the value it provides. For something that can't be fixed/upgraded, and could break due to a future update from the manufacturer (assuming it will still get updates).

        I've bought cars for less than that.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Overpriced

          "I've bought cars for less than that"

          And you can fix those cars!

      3. Kane Silver badge

        Re: Overpriced @ Ian Joyner

        You're missing the point - if I'm paying upwards of £879 (for the base i5 model) then I have a basic, realistic expectation of being able to repair and/or upgrade my device whenever I want or need to. For what the device offers and provides, then yes, it is overpriced. Form factor or clever engineering be damned.

        But then, I'm not the target audience for a device like this. That's reserved for senior managers who have access to large IT budgets, with less sense than a damp digestive biscuit. No, not even a chocolate covered one.

        1. overunder

          Re: Overpriced @ Ian Joyner

          With so much glue, under-engineered is the reality. Glue to computers is even lower than duct tape to cars... at least tape doesn't obscure the repair.

          I'm not sure how much glue is used in uhh, well... anything finely engineered, but I know Microsoft hasn't given me an example of such. Why can't they just use shim rubber and micro Torx screws?

          1. Waseem Alkurdi

            Re: Overpriced @ Ian Joyner

            Because that'd make the thing repairable, and you won't pay an extra grand (or sell a kidney) when an asshole who's got your Surface drops it.

      4. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Overpriced

        "Are they really overpriced?"

        As I said, if you can't repair them than yes, they are rather seriously overpriced. The cost of production or R&D doesn't really enter into this calculation much from my "consumer" point of view.

        If I'm paying a grand or more for something -- anything -- a major part of what I expect to get is longevity, and the ability to fix the thing when it goes wrong is a very important aspect of that. Otherwise, it's a disposable device, and I'm hard-pressed to justify paying triple or quadruple digits for something that is disposable -- no matter what the production/R&D costs are.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Overpriced

          "If I'm paying a grand or more for something -- anything -- a major part of what I expect to get is longevity..."

          The problem with that with regards to electronics is that the fast pace of development very quickly renders older models obsolete. A 10-year old car that is well maintained has no problems taking you where you want to go. A 10-year old tablet, while it could well function as well as it always had without any updates, will slow to a crawl if updated with latest versions of OS and apps. That almost certainly means security vulnerabilities.

          So if a tablet has a mean time to failure of 4-5 years, that's about as much longevity as can be reasonably squeezed out of it. Now lets say that after 5 years the motherboard needs replacing. You're buying a single motherboard vs the factory that buys them in the hundreds of thousands, it's going to cost quite a bit. Shipping a single new motherboard will cost more than the equivalent shipping on a batch of new tablets. Even if it's fairly simple to take it apart and put it back together again, it will take more time to do that than it takes to assemble a new tablet in China. The cost of a skilled technician's work in the west is at least 10 times more than that of the assembly worker in China. (Even if you are skilled enough to do it yourself there is the time value of your money)

          Add all that together and you quite often will end up in a situation where you can pay £500++ to repair your existing tablet vs paying £1000 for this year's far superior flagship model or £500 for this year's entry-level model or for the flagship model from 2 years ago, either of which is more capable than the model you want to repair.

          I'm not saying I like this model - it actually sucks - but that's the economics of globalisation. Keep in mind that if these things weren't made in China they would cost 5X as much to begin with.

          Of course, I'm talking here about general repairability of broken components. Making a battery non-replaceable to save 1-2mm of thickness on the device is bonkers

          1. Waseem Alkurdi

            Re: Overpriced

            Point taken, but only when we're talking about "expired" devices.

            What about when the device breaks after the warranty's over, but before it becomes useless? Do we just throw it out?

            Let's talk about PC tablets (like the Surface, ones that are x86_64 and run Windows or whatever). They have a functional life of five to seven years, and a mean warranty of two years (one year for consumer models, two for EU models, three for most business models). Should we throw out a computer that's only two CPU generations old if the screen breaks?

          2. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Overpriced

            "The problem with that with regards to electronics is that the fast pace of development very quickly renders older models obsolete"

            People often say that, but I have yet to have that problem, personally. I use plenty of equipment that is ten or more years old and still performs perfectly well. I honestly can't think of a single time that I had a piece of equipment stop doing its job because of "obsolescence".

            "A 10-year old tablet, while it could well function as well as it always had without any updates, will slow to a crawl if updated with latest versions of OS and apps. That almost certainly means security vulnerabilities."

            That's a very weak argument, though. You can always replace the ROM with something more modern (and, personally, the first thing I do with any mobile device is replace the factory ROM with one that I actually have control over anyway).

            "So if a tablet has a mean time to failure of 4-5 years, that's about as much longevity as can be reasonably squeezed out of it."

            My experience is that the MTBF is much, much longer than 5 years. And even if it isn't, that's where being able to repair it comes into play.

            "you quite often will end up in a situation where you can pay £500++ to repair your existing tablet"

            I have never had this situation arise. If it did, then yes, I would replace the device. If, however, the device is actually impossible to repair, then I won't buy it in the first place (thus avoiding insane repair costs).

  2. DougS Silver badge


    I assume there are higher storage versions available? It would be funny if you could buy an iPhone or Galaxy Note with more storage.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: 128GB?

      You can...

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: 128GB?

        My SP4 Pro also has a Micro SD slot, so easy enough to move your documents to that. I assume the 5 & 6 have the same.

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: 128GB?

      You can. You can get the iPhone 8 with 256GB, or the iPhone XS with 512GB.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: 128GB?

        I knew you could get iPhones with 512GB, I just wasn't sure if you could get Surface Pro 6 with more than 128GB. Turns out it can be ordered with up to 1 TB as I saw in a different article. Soldered to the board, to encourage you to get more while you can I guess.

  3. Fatman Silver badge

    Non repaiable surface..

    Microsoft took a page from Apple's playbook.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Non repairable surface..

      Maybe, but can you bring your Surface back to Microsoft for recycling (and do they then recycle like Apple, or just turn the whole thing into landfill)?

      Not that you would exchange an Apple device for a new one unless it's at least 4 years old, their return value is just too low. You're better off making sure it's in a decent state and then sell it privately, and then decide if you want a new device from them or not (I never exclude the possibility that I may switch, so far so good, though).

  4. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    Battery lifetime?

    As it is non-repairable, as soon as the battery fails the device is landfill. (Maybe it will work connected to a power pack - however failing lithium ion batteries have been known to cause fires so it would not be trustworthy.)

    This means that the Surface Pro has a life less than my £200 Android phone (a 2013 model THL W8S with a user replaceable battery).

    The only good Microsoft hardware products have been peripherals (mouse, keyboard, joystick etc).

    1. Sampler

      Re: Battery lifetime?

      They're mostly Logitech with Microsoft logo's on them, typed on a Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 Keyboard that oddly uses the same "SetPoint" software as my Logitech mouse...

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Battery lifetime?

      To be fair the battery life for many of these devices == product life. You'll only change that with legislation, primarily over how companies can offset purchases against tax: if they have to keep stuff on the books longer they'll look for stuff that's easier and cheaper to maintain.

      But it's okay: to ease my guilt over the purchase of lifestyle accessories I'm drinking fair trade coffee with organic milk.

  5. FozzyBear Silver badge

    Well whats the old saying

    The day Microsoft makes a product that doesn't suck, is the day they start making vacuum cleaners

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Well whats the old saying

      Whatever we may think about MS, the Surface is a great product.

      1. Waseem Alkurdi

        Re: Well whats the old saying

        Great idea yes, great product no.

        Dead battery = dead laptop? Since when?

        And there are alternatives (business-class at least, not proleconsumer stuff) which do the same concept whilst maintaining reparability, although at a few inches thicker (I know, because I'm typing on one right now).

  6. JWLong

    We Need...............

    A Federal Right to Repair law now.

    Both Apple and Microsoft claim to be "Green". Bullshit, their products are manufactured by design to be disposable pieces of shit.

    I beat the shit out of laptops and can repair them easily, I will not invest in any of this overpriced junk.

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: We Need...............

      I came here to say exactly this. Look at the state of our oceans and the amount of plastic the ends up in them.

      Look at what happens to an awful lot of kit that has supposedly been recycled following the WEEE directive - where it ends up, how little of it actually gets recycled.

      And on top of this, I tire of the whole concept that this isn't MY device. It's MY money. I pay to own it - not license it from you for a while.

  7. Mayday Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Green Credentials

    All of these companies (I include Apple. Samsung and just about any other personal tech manufacturer) crap on about reducing greenhouse gasses, renewable energy, efficient data centres etc and how wonderful for the environment they are.

    There is no way all that will make up for these disposable products which would be difficult to recycle and going into landfill with all the glue and muck in them, Green my arse.

    1. jfm

      Re: Green Credentials

      Surely the justification for the glue is ease of recycling? Instead of lots of fiddly little screws, you just pop the thing in an oven so that the glue melts and it drops neatly into a pile of recyclable components. That's the story anyway.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Green Credentials

        The three Rs are Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

        If, when the battery on one of these things goes, you replace just the battery rather than the whole device, that is much better than buying a new device and sending the old one for recycling.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Green Credentials


          I am a big proponent of that.

          Got to my mid 50s on 4 TVs.

          10 years per TV not bad, nearly time for number 5.

          Home PC is 10 years old and still works OK, last mod was adding a drive for Windows 7.

          Reuse, as well, yes I do that, old work mobiles get given to sons rather than they have new ones, they are happy with mid market Androids, but none want my current phone.

          Recycle, do that as well.

          Only thing is that I do have to spend a lot very occasionally, my last CRT TV was £1200

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Green Credentials

        "Surely the justification for the glue is ease of recycling?"

        The problem with that argument is that it assumes that recycling is the best thing that we can do. It's not. Recycling doesn't really help that much if the device's lifetime is short. Being reparable extends the lifetime, and thus reduces the environmental impact even more than recycling does.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Green Credentials

        Screws need humans or finely tuned robots to undo for separation or recycling. This is the story from HQ.

  8. Ian Joyner

    The smaller the harder

    The smaller you make something the harder it is to fix. You need special tools to get into things and replace components. This makes repairs costly, so often is cheaper to give you a new one.

    People want things small and light and waterproof.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. SVV Silver badge

    Microsoft use a lot of glue

    This explains a lot about the level of quality of their products.

    1. wallaby

      Re: Microsoft use a lot of glue

      You cant comment on quality because they use glue,

      For many years now glue has been a major component on civil and military aircraft

      1. Waseem Alkurdi

        Re: Microsoft use a lot of glue

        And that's why civil aircraft end up in the scrapyard as soon as Boeing/Airbus/whatever update their range. Oh wait.

        (The idea is that glue is a major component, but not the major component.)

        1. wallaby

          Re: Microsoft use a lot of glue

          The argument that because glue is used the aircraft are suddenly more disposable is facile

          Simple fact is aircraft become more and more efficient every iteration, airlines will do whatever they can to gain a few extra nautical miles for the same poundage of fuel.

  10. Howard Hanek Bronze badge


    ....we can resurrect the idiom once used on dying horses're ready for the glue factory.......

  11. werdsmith Silver badge

    we can resurrect the idiom once used on dying horses

    Or dying asses.

    Considering the headline "Well slap my ass and call me Judy" I don't think we do that animal abuse thing anymore, we have more progressive ways of training animals.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Really? You think we sit down with the animal and have a reasonable discussion about their behaviour?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        No. That's daft.

      2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

        We do sit down

        We sit down over a period of time and train the animal. We don't beat it. That's now frowned upon.

  12. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

    You asked



  13. Tony Paulazzo

    I think the real issue is that companies aren't held liable for the quality of the products they sell. These things should come with a 5 year warranty as standard.

    Quality control would certainly shoot up.

    Tho, here in the UK we actually have a 6 year warranty anyway, you just have to be aware of it when shops refuse to honour it...

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