back to article Side-splitting bulging batts, borked Wi-Fi... So, how's that Surface slab working out for you?

Microsoft seems unable to catch a break with its Surface slab-tops: a software update appears to have broken Wi-Fi for some users, while bulging batteries cause grief for others. How's your Surface? Swell, just swell The bulging of batteries is not an unheard of thing. As devices become ever less repairable and manufacturers …

  1. Splurg The Barbarian

    1 year warranty? I don't think so...

    Always amazes me when companies trot out the old favourite "1 year limited warranty", especially as under EU law every device sold in EU must carry a 2 year warranty. Plus if you are prepared to dig your heels in,some are a pain but some are very good with this, there is the sales of goods act That covers you for 5 years in Scotland and 6 years rest of UK.

    While it can be difficult to prove the fault is a manufacturing defect, the number of folk affected says it might be, goods must be of reasonable quality. If things don't last as long as reasonably expected, a repair or replacement at manufacturers/retailers expense is the fair option.

    I would argue.that any fondleslab costing roughly £1000 should reasonably last a good number of years.

    Management at work saw fit a couple of years ago to buy a number of Surface Pro 4s. The amount of them that are now dead is incredible. Thankfully they have listened to us "monkeys" and will.no longer be purchasing any more of them.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

      IANAL, but I believe warranties beyond one year are based on a reasonable expectation of the lifetime of the item under normal wear & tear.

      i.e. A £2 t-shirt will not be expected to have the same lifetime as say a £1,000 fondleslab.

      1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

        Agreed - the t-shirt will last longer :-))

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

          Absolutely. I have one that's at least 10 years old.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

            "Absolutely. I have one that's at least 10 years old."

            Pah! Kids today!

            1. Tikimon Silver badge

              Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

              It's not a T-shirt, but I have a business dress shirt I pulled out of a dumpster in 1984. I still wear it, and frequently get COMPLIMENTS on it which cracks me up. So what's that, 35 years? Is the tailor even still in business? (somebody got thrown out just after New Year I guess, half a household was in there. Me and the other stock guy loaded up that day.)

      2. Carl Williams

        Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

        Nope, EU is a flat 2 year warranty, no questions of device useful life. SOGA is dead now and has been replaced by the consumer rights act, this does rely on the assumed useful life of the device like SOGA before it, without reading the text I can't remember if it covers up to 7 years like SOGA did.

        My SP4 was replaced at just under 3 years old, the actual warranty is 2 years with 3 years on SP4 for the 'screen scramble' issue. Even MS can get their warranty terms correct, the rep on the phone had no issues arranging my warranty replacement though.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

          That may why they're trying it on at Microsoft: there IS no way to replace it as it's end of life and thus no longer made.

          It means they'll have to hand over a shiny new equivalent or $ back, and asking either from Microsoft is asking a drug user to give it up just when he/she/it has prepped a new dose.

          They didn't get a beeeellion dollar monopoly by easily handing money back.

          In any case, I would definitely make a point of following it up (also because I'm quite bloodyminded about these things). First educate them on the relevant law but don't push too hard - it's more fun to complain to the relevant consumer protection mechanism and see what happens.

          After all, you're journalists - this is worth writing about and you can't mention that you are journalists because then you would falsify the outcome. I'd be interested how far you get.

    2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

      That was my first thought: the Consumer Rights Act requires that goods be 'fit for purpose' and it's hard to argue that a thousand quids worth of computer that dies after a year meets that standard - particularly when there are plenty of examples of other similar tech lasting five or more years. It strikes me that it is not for the vendor to define how long it should last unless explicitly stated at the point of purchase; the expectation is that of the customer based on previous experience. A one year guarantee is *not* a warranty that the device is only expected to last that long - if it was, would you buy one?

      Sales of Goods act only applied until 2015 and has been superseded by the CRA which is supposed to be better for the consumer (but IANAL).

      1. Benson's Cycle

        Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

        "The purpose it's fit for is to keep you buying a new one every year."

    3. Roger Greenwood

      Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

      Items purchased by a business (including using a business credit card) can be particularly hard to return about after 1 year - their small print usually excludes you. (Yes I am bitter).

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

        I thought Sales of Goods (etc) only applied to purchases by consumers, not business?

        1. MiguelC Silver badge

          Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

          Some brands apply the 2-year warranty to business purchases although, under EU law, they only have to give a 6-month warranty period for those.

          Although the shop I bought the kit from (fnac) immediately told me they'd keep themselves out of the support loop regarding business purchases and that I'd have to deal directly with the makers, I've had pleasant experiences with both Samsung and Huawei in those cases I've needed kit replaced or repaired.

    4. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

      If you're going to buy kit for work use, then there are two routes you can go. Firstly, you buy really good stuff that can be expected to last for ages, like Apple kit used to do (but doesn't any more), or you buy the cheapest stuff you can find that will still do the job intended, in the expectation of a horrendously high failure rate.

      Chrome books fall into the latter category, with the added benefit that they have very little user-side storage on board, thus the users have little scope for filling them full of valuable data which they can then lose (forcing the secure encryption of mobile devices is an on-going but necessary headache for us techies).

      What you don't want is expensive kit that falls into semi-disposable chrome book territory. The Sale of Goods Act and similar consumer protection laws were designed to cover this sort of thing, so the retailers can expect to be on the receiving end of legal action from customers if this sort of thing carries on (under UK and EU law, the company the customer bought the goods from is liable for sorting out the problems; doesn't matter if they consistently whinge that this is the manufacturer's fault, they have the legal responsibility for sorting out faulty goods sold to customers).

    5. Moosh

      Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

      Honestly one of the reasons I recommend people shop around John Lewis for electronics in the UK, because they throw in their own warranties and guarantees that are pretty generous. If you can get it for a good price in John Lewis, do it. Just looking at the Surface 6 on JL now and they have a baseline of 2 years guaranteed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

        And I've always found John Lewis customer services to be excellent. They don't try and weasle out of their commitments. Do they still do the Never Knowingly Undersold pricematch? I've had a couple of tellies in the past reduced by £50 to match a nearby high street seller. You still get the 5 year warranty.

        I've had one television replaced under the 5 year warranty when it developed a red line in the picture after 4 and a half years. They offer either replacement (equivalent/close specifications) television or complete refund, no reductions. Take the refund and buy a new telly from them with it and your 5 years warranty starts afresh!

        1. MJB7 Bronze badge

          Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

          I believe John Lewis do still do Never Knowingly Undersold, but it only applies to high street retailers (and associated websites), not internet only sites (or "internet + showrooms"). has to be for the *same* thing.

          Critically though, the price match is for product + warranty (so you can almost never find an equivalent electrical product).

          1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

            Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

            I've also noticed that John Lewis don't tend to stock the exact same models that other retailers do, so making the price match even harder to achieve.

            1. Just Another SteveO

              Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

              Also - at least in Peter Jones in London, they don’t actually stock many TVs over (they told me) around £800 so needing to be ordered. So yes, great warranty but in many cases you’ll get it quicker from Amazon...

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

      You would think that given the current political climate those pesky EU chappies had forced the British Government to accept this two year warranty on to the statute. No, the EU directive for a two year warranty does not apply in the UK, no matter what an Apple Genius bar report may tell you. It's a case of British sovereignty at its finest, we have the Consumer Rights Act 2015 in all it's flawed glory. IANAL but I do spend my entire working week explaining to people the difference between SOGA, CRA and why their device is fit for purposes but won't be repaired because they have damaged it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

        No, the EU directive for a two year warranty does not apply in the UK,

        Since the UK's CRA gives you 6 years, why worry?

    7. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

      It's the Consumer Rights Act 2015, not the sale of goods act now.

    8. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

      I would argue that any fondleslab costing roughly £1000 should reasonably last a good number of years.

      Yes ...

      You would.

      And so would I.

      But M$ has proven (time and time again) that if it has to do with their hardware, we are wrong.

      At this stage in IT time®, this has become something akin to 'common knowledge', which is why I cannot understand the reasons behind people/businesses insisting (and insisting) on spending good money on M$ hardware crap.

      Given it's track record, just what else did they expect from M$?

      O.

    9. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: 1 year warranty? I don't think so...

      You might also check with your credit card issuer. Here in the States VISA adds another year to any default warranty, & if you call up VISA to complain that the original company won't make good on repairs, VISA takes it back, refunds your money, & issues a charge back to the original company. No fuss, no muss, & the original company gets to jump through all of VISA's hoops to explain why they refused to repair their broken kit.

      IANAL, YMMV, etc, but check with your CC company. You may get that refund no matter what the seller tries to claim.

  2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Of course you haven't heard back...

    Their drivers have borked their machines & now they can't get online to handle email.

    *Head explodes from excessive sarcasm*

  3. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Joke

    Stop feeding the batteries electricity, and they won't fatten up.

    1. Aussie Doc
      Paris Hilton

      We're holding it wrong, maybe? Nobody told her either --->

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They suffer from keyboard problems too

    My work-provided Surface Pro 4 had to have its keyboard replaced twice where they stopped working.

    Wifi was also inconsistent to the extent that I was told to connect wherever possible using an Ethernet cable...

    IT support guys did not look surprised. Awful pieces of kit.

    1. 0laf Silver badge

      Re: They suffer from keyboard problems too

      We have a lot of Surface 4s in the office. Generally they are popular and so far have been reliable. We're also buying the Surface Go now.

      Personally I wouldn't touch a device that costs more than £500 and has a glued in battery but that's my own money.

    2. OssianScotland Bronze badge

      Re: They suffer from keyboard problems too

      I've had the opposite experience - used Surfaces since the Pro 3 and passed them on to my kids as I've upgraded. All are still working (with the exception of a keyboard that received most of a spilled can of Coke). All have been updated regularly - to Win10 1809 as 1903 doesn't seem to like my Surfaces, and the firmware updates don't seem to have broken anything.

      I'm currently on a 8Gb SB2 - looking to upgrade if a 3 comes out - and a 16Gb SP4. As an itinerant trainer, I can bring my training lab in a small rucksack rather than a suitcase, and the excellent screen resolutions make me curse laptops with a "mere" 1080p display.

      Yes, the Surface has a number of issues - some silly like the full size but half height SD Card on the Book, and others more significant (all connectivity on the SB via the keyboard unit, and not enough ports on the SP), but I am happy to continue to use Surfaces into the foreseeable future.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: They suffer from keyboard problems too

        I'm still pleased with my SP4. I just wish MS would do some more testing on their software updates. I seem to alternate between Wifi and Hello having problems after each update.

        But I did only pay £500 for a £1500 device (MS demo machine, no checks at distributor for eligibility)

    3. Cederic Bronze badge

      Re: They suffer from keyboard problems too

      My keyboard died at 11pm one night while I was the other side of the planet. However.. vodka was involved.

      Had a new keyboard from the MS store in Sydney - for free - in time to catch a flight to New Zealand the next day. Can't really complain.

  5. johnnyblaze

    Bad bad bad

    Our company bought a few SP3's a while back in some fit of madness. Out of 5 new, one was DoA, one had a badly fitted display and needed swapping out, another died within two weeks. All are now back with IT, and won't be given out again. Terrible design and quality. Totally user unrepairable. We won't be buying them again.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We'd advise standing well back in case something...

    KABOOM!!!

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Coat

      Mole Hunting

      Then I noticed this blue flashing light. There were a couple of coppers standing there:

      'What are you doing Carrott?'

      'Mole-catching.'

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ROFL

    A Microsoft spokesperson told us: "We no longer manufacture the Microsoft Surface 3 and Microsoft Surface Pro 3 device; both devices have reached their 'End of Life' and as such are no longer supported.

    What is the time between end of production and EOL for support then?

    Imagine if this was Apple we were talking about..? There would be class action lawsuits popping out of the woodwork as fast as you could say 'bulging battery'.

    Yet once again MS seems to get away with it... Wasn't MS the most valuable company in the world a few weeks ago?

    And Apple get slagged off for obsoleting 7 or 8 year old devices.

    A plague on both of them. I have a Raspberry Pi 4 (with a heatsink) doing all I want from a Desktop. My 2015 Macbook will carry on for a while yet but a decent laptop powered by a Pi-4 would be a great solution for me. Not going anywhere near a chromebook so don't even suggest it.

    1. nematoad Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: ROFL

      "We no longer manufacture the Microsoft Surface 3 and Microsoft Surface Pro 3..."

      Probably just as well.

      1. Aussie Doc
        Holmes

        Re: ROFL

        Not sure if they mean it as a threat or a promise. He'd know --->

    2. Peter X

      Re: ROFL

      but a decent laptop powered by a Pi-4 would be a great solution for me

      ^ this! It'd be nice if someone would create such an enclosure, that looks decent, and with a replaceable battery... imagine the reduction in e-waste.

    3. Robert Moore

      Re: ROFL

      Sign me up for one of those R-pi 4 powered laptops. Kickstarter?

  8. Benson's Cycle

    Running Windows

    I guess for now I will have to stick to our eight year old Travelmate which is on its second £30 battery.

    I guess thin and light sells - just as thin and light supermodels make all the catwalk money - but would you really want to live with one?

    1. oiseau Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Running Windows

      ... stick to our eight year old Travelmate which is on its second £30 battery.

      Good to know I'm not the only one around here with ancient hardware. =^D

      My 10 year old Asus 1000HE is still running perfectly well (Devuan) and it's very easy to fix.

      Some time ago I purchased another disk-less/memory-less one with a faulty mobo but perfect screen/plastics and USB ports for small cash to change my unit's bottom casing which was in need of refurbishing and now have a screen, keyboard and assorted bits as eventual replacements should the need arise.

      Does (most) anything one of these expensive Surface thinguies can do.

      And the price/quality ratio I've had from it is unbeatable.

      Eventually I'll change the HDD for a SSD and keep going.

      O.

  9. AMBxx Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Not a bad swap

    If someone offered to take my old Surface 3 and Surface 3 Pro in exchange for a SP 6, I'd take their hand off.

    1. Siberian Hamster

      Re: Not a bad swap

      If someone offered to take my old grumbling Supermodel in exchange for a new younger Supermodel, I'd take their hand off.

  10. James 51 Silver badge
    FAIL

    This is why I opted for a secondhand x270. Replaceable batteries.

  11. Christopher Lane

    Nearly Unrepairable...

    ...but not quite. I changed a battery on our FD's Surface Pro a few weeks ago. It wasn't all smooth sailing and did involve "creating" a Wi-Fi aerial from copper tape. What's more curious is that the Wi-Fi has better range, speed, throughput etc with my scapel-crafted bodge than the original I inadvertantly/couldn't help slashing through...go figure!

    1. Benson's Cycle

      Re: Nearly Unrepairable...

      It isn't hard to understand. Your home-made wifi aerial may well work better than the official one as an aerial, but might fail FCC compliance for EMC. It's part of the reason you don't get official Pringles can range extenders.

  12. Obsolete_but_running

    In my job we regularly receive Surface 4 Pro fondleslabs with blown batteries. These allow Joe Public to browse bank services & access their accounts in branch. As such they are permanently on & connected to a charger. From the occaisional one or two we are now seeing many more with failed batteries, some with screens so blown out that James Herriott would have no trouble getting a be-gloved arm right inside!

    1. Benson's Cycle

      I'm not sure I like the idea of a defective lithium battery permanently connected to a charger.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      you might want to read this, not sure whether it applies to the SP4 but the option is on SL2...

      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/10/10/microsoft_surface_pro_battery_half/

  13. SVV Silver badge

    A Microsoft spokesperson told us: "both devices have reached their 'End of Life' "

    They certainly had, but in a rather more dramatic way than in the sense of being no longer supported, which is what MS usually means with this phrase.

    It's high time the "sealed in battery" manufacturers are forced to inform would be purchasers, in very clear and visible terms, on all packaging and advertising that the devices will only last a few years, and then they'll be worthless. Also, how can they possibly agree to replace one, but not the other? This is all terrible publicity for their new flagship store.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A Microsoft spokesperson told us: "both devices have reached their 'End of Life' "

      As it is today, the high failure rate and short lifetimes are just hidden costs foisted onto the customer. So why not go one better and forbid the sale of non-repairable devices entirely? Manufacturers would be allowed to lease them, but they would still own them, and would be responsible for all failures not caused by abuse. If the device fails or they decide they're no longer willing to support it because it's too old, they provide a replacement and can do with the previous unit whatever makes business sense.

      This gets the failure rate and true lifespan out in the open far more effectively than any mandatory disclosure, by incorporating it into the price. Since the manufacturer has to take all the risk of premature failure and end-of-life replacement, those costs will have to be embedded in the lease rate. It will then be very obvious that non-repairable devices are a terrible value; you'd probably be able to buy a repairable equivalent for less than a single year's lease on a glueball. We see something similar with mobile phone insurance (which is not exactly the same since it covers different kinds of losses): it's extremely expensive because these devices have an obscene failure rate and don't last very long by design. If you can't afford to insure against a risk, you probably don't want to take it, either.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: A Microsoft spokesperson told us: "both devices have reached their 'End of Life' "

        And if it burns down a building, the buildings insurance have rather good lawyers who will go after the manufacturer...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: A Microsoft spokesperson told us: "both devices have reached their 'End of Life' "

          ...considering the number of lithium batteries in most houses these days, I almost feel we should be travelling back in time 50+ years and having Fire Buckets full of sand in every home, school and office again.

  14. Chloe Cresswell

    "We've contacted Microsoft to learn more, but have yet to receive a response"

    Maybe they haven't rolled back the driver yet and have no connectivity?

  15. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Repairable Kit

    My limited experience with notebooks is they are poor idea at best. Too much is sacrificed on the altar of battery life and light weight to make them reasonably repairable. I have a few aged laptops (2 bought new, 1 bought used). I have replaced battery packs on all them, real easy to do as the pack comes out easily. None of these devices are light weight and they all have mediocre battery life. A little more heft to make parts accessible and replaceable goes a long way.

  16. gmalone
    Thumb Down

    Surface Pro 4 screen detached - Microsoft has no sympathy since out of 'warranty'

    I'd have to say, though I've *thoroughly* enjoyed the Surface Pro 4, I'd have to think real hard about buying another from Microsoft. Is the proposition that you spend, in my case w/ the SP4, $2200 and expect the screen to come off in 4 yrs?

    Because there's been so little coverage of this issue, it's easy to see that Microsoft is keeping this dirty little secret under wraps for as long as it can.

    Color me, disappointed in Microsoft for not standing behind their hardware. It's one thing to not give a lifetime warranty for general wear and tear, but the screen coming off? That should be a lifetime guarantee to make it right if it does. Shame, Microsoft.

  17. LazPL

    M$oft took 3 months to deliver replacement battery

    My surface pro 4 got the bulge. Took it to a repair shop who ordered a new battery. It took M$ 3 months (!!) to deliver it. I don't think they want you to repair, making it so difficult. They prefer that you chuck your i7, 16gb lappy in the trash and get a new one.

    The laptop works again, no thanks to M$oft.

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