Our Surface computers don't break after a couple of years, insists Microsoft
Image: Sarah Tew/CNET
Microsoft says its Surface hardware is "significantly" more reliable than Consumer Reports' finding that 25 percent of the devices would fail within two years.
Consumer Reports (CR) yesterday dropped its "recommended" rating for all of Microsoft's Surface laptops and tablets due to poor predicted reliability relative to rivals. The finding was based on a survey of over 90,000 CR subscribers.
"While we respect Consumer Reports, we disagree with their findings," said Panos Panay, corporate vice president of Microsoft Devices.
"We stand firmly behind the quality and reliability of the Surface family of devices, and I can confidently tell you there has never been a better time to buy a Surface."
It's not clear how many participants in CR's survey were Surface owners. The survey covered nine brands. Nonetheless the result does not look good for a brand that's meant to set the bar for Windows 10 hardware and spawned the popular Windows 10 2-in-1 category.
Even though CR's survey only covered Surface devices sold between 2014 and early 2017, it stopped recommending the new Surface Pro, Surface Book, and the Surface Laptop.
Panay's response focuses on failure and return rates for the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, which suffered from a nagging sleep bug. Microsoft eventually apologized for a litany of issues -- in particular power management -- that led to its sub-par reliability, so it's hard to deny there were noteworthy problems with these products.
CR's report cites customer complaints about startup difficulties, machines that froze or shut down unexpectedly, and unresponsive touch screens.
These anecdotal findings match up with the experience ZDNet's Ed Bott had with the two Surface Pro 4 models in the first few months after their release. However, by May last year, following multiple firmware updates, the device was stable.
CR hasn't said over what period it carried out the survey, so it's possible Microsoft's results are being weighed down by problems that have long since been resolved. At the same time, the problems did occur.
Panay offers a current picture of Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, highlighting that Microsoft's predicted one-to-two-year failure rate and actual return rates for the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book were "significantly lower than 25 percent".
Citing a Microsoft-commissioned IPSOS survey in January to June 2017, Panay said 98 percent of Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book owners were satisfied with their device.
Finally, Microsoft's data suggests far better reliability in the current Surface generation.
"We track other indicators of quality such as incidents per unit (IPU), which have improved from generation to generation and are now at record lows of well below one percent," he said.
Previous and related coverage
Since its debut in February 2013, Microsoft's Surface Pro has developed into an exemplary tablet/laptop-replacement device, and also inspired a thriving 'clone' market. Here are some of its key evolutionary stages.