Consumer Reports: Don't Buy Microsoft Surface

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Consumer Reports has pulled its recommendation of Microsoft's Surface line of laptops and 2-in-1s, following a survey of its users suggesting that the machines aren't reliable enough. Specifically, the "predicted reliability" is worse than other brands, the magazine says.

surface book lid

Following the subscriber survey of over 90,000 readers, Consumer Reports estimated that 25 percent of devices would have issues by the second year of ownership. The issues included freezing, unexpected shut downs and unresponsive touch screens, but the non-profit didn't list how many of each complaint it got.

Microsoft disputes the survey.  “While we respect Consumer Reports, we disagree with their findings. Microsoft’s real-world return and support rates and customer satisfaction data show we are on par if not better than other devices in the category," a Microsoft spokesperson told Laptop Mag. "We stand firmly behind the quality and reliability of the Surface family of devices and continue to make quality our primary focus.”

Some of Microsoft's Surface devices have earned Laptop Mag's Editors' Choice award, including the Surface Pro and Surface Book. We still recommend them.

Consumer Reports last made a stir in the laptop world in December when it didn't recommend Apple's MacBook Pros after spotty battery life testing. The magazine reversed course in January after Apple issued a patch.

Photo: Sam Rutherford / Laptop Mag

Author Bio
Andrew E. Freedman
Andrew E. Freedman,
Andrew joined in 2015, reviewing computers and keeping up with the latest news. He holds a M.S. in Journalism (Digital Media) from Columbia University. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Twitter @FreedmanAE.
Andrew E. Freedman, on
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  • John See Says:

    I fried the Surface Pro 3 in March 2017 and dumped it into a sewer. It was getting more extremely hot during the last few months of its usage - I could've cooked an egg on it!

    It would run around 4-6 tracks but freeze up after that. I couldn't run anything more than that. When I would try, it would turn off. Windows' audio drivers are terrible and have been since Vista. Even manufacturer drivers barely help.

    That's a shame for a device that costs $2500.

    Devices that emit a lot of heat do diminish the lifespan of the device. This doesn't just happen with the Surface line of devices but also Macbook's; however, they're built for more intensive computing. I had a 2009 Macbook Pro that died in 2013. It used to overheat constantly as well but not as much as the Surface Pro 3.

    The Surface devices are supposed to be built for more intensive computing but they're not. I met a few people with the Surface Pro 4 or the Surface Book 1 - they had the same experience.

    A few months ago, I bought a Surface 3 (just the regular one) to browse the web and watch YouTube and that works great but it can't do nothing else, which is fair.

    The Surface devices are great but it depends on what you use it for.

    I am saying this as a total Microsoft fanboy.

  • John See Says:

    I had a Surface Pro 3 and it was always overheating even when browsing or working on word documents. It was great for classes and taking notes on (I like writing when taking notes) and would scan in handouts and markup/highlight those scanned notes. OneNote is an amazing program with the Surface Pro 3. You can sync your notes when class is done and then download it on your smartphone and review your notes after class or just review them on the Surface Pro (but it's harder to do that in rush hour on the subway). It does get hot but it's manageable when writing on it. Sometimes when I'd take it out of my bag, the fan would be running. It did bother me sometimes but I ignored it. Eventually, I was using it for music production (just very lite) but it ended up overheating and I fried it after using a few plugins and effects for about a year. I did not buy it with the intention of ever doing music again and should've been smarter. I paid $2500 for it (i7, 256GB SSD). If it's for school and and it's just taking notes and doing research - I HIGHLY recommend. If you need it for for anything else more slightly intensive and/or think you will (watching HD movies, gaming, photos, etc.) - please buy a full laptop. I don't want to see anyone waste their money.

  • YT9966 Says:

    Wish this article was published earlier. Imagine when the OEM publishes a firmware update that breaks the keyboard and you are basically left with a tablet.
    And when you approach Microsoft support they expect you to fork our $600 for a refurbished unit because they have no idea how to fix it.

  • Bryan Says:

    Michael Perez, I have almost the exact same story! I bought my Surface Pro from Fortress at Kowloon Tong MTR, after two days I had horizontal lines running across my screen. I didn't drop it, or anything. I took it in for a replacement, so It WAS within their 10 day warranty. But, they found a minor scratch on the back plastic flap. Barely visible, I didn't even notice it. So, no replacement. I was told to call Microsoft Hong Kong, who hasn't been that helpful. They told me I could get a refurbished unit. But I should be getting a new unit!

  • Kumar Says:

    Never buy surface sp4 shuts down every 10 to 40 minutes am now using it oversized paper weight...your review is spot on accurate

  • Michael Perez Says:


    I bought a surface laptop last July 28 in an authorized microsoft retailer (FORTRESS Hong Kong). After 2 weeks, the unit began to show vertical lines at random. Every time I attach the power cord it would disappear, when the power cord is detached, it does the same thing with the vertical lines.

    I called microsoft support and they told me that it's a hardware problem and needs to be replaced, but they can only do a refurbished replacement, and, that I have to return it to the place where I bought it from. I then called Fortress HK, and they told me that I need to talk to mircosoft since it's under their 1-year warranty, and, they will not replace it. (they can only replace a unit if it's returned before 10 days....) Mind you, I even paid for the additional 2 years extended warranty.

    I eventually returned the product last August 28, at the time if this writing, Sep 25, 2017, they still have not replaced it because they said that are no replacements available. I do not expect to have it replaced any time soon, even though the last time i called, they said that they were given a date, Sep 29, for the unit. When I asked them about this date, they did not know if this is the date that the unit will ship out or there will be a unit available.

    THIS IS REALLY A VERY FRUSTRATING EXPERIENCE. I never had this experience with APPLE. Their after service is excellent. They replace the unit on the spot if it's broken, and under their warranty.

    If you live outside the US, BUY APPLE PRODUCTS....I never had a problem with their after sales service.

  • Chris Schact Says:

    Do you still recommend them because of advertising? That's one reason influence that Consumer Reports is immune to.

    If you want to build some trust with your readers, you should really go after the manufacturers when they have a systematic defect and get them to own up to them. I'm watching several threads on the HP forums where 2016 Spectre x360s have had components explode and smoke on users after 1 1/2 years. HP to its credit has taken care of most of those showing up on the forums with the problem.
    Microsoft, on the other hand, was terrible when they had battery fuel gauge problems on their Surface 3. They just totally stonewalled everyone on the problem, not giving any hint as to the problem and their progress on a fix. Many users were charged hundreds of dollars for a refurb unit while MS did not admit to a problem. I wouldn't be surprised if bad customer service has contributed to MS's bad reliability ratings.

  • Decki Kwok Says:

    The executives at Ms are blinded by the issues the users are facing. We buy a device for it's hw and sw. Sw alone I see issues with apps like non-detection of stylus on google keep and terrible syncing on one note - 2 of the reasons to get a 2 in 1 with surface pen. Hw is worse. Stylus disconnects.. keyboard connects but does not respond to key presses - only works after restart. As a note taking device I'm much better off now with my note 2014 10.1! Now I'm seriously considering Chromebook pro to use alongside my 3 work-issued mbprs. I hate the touchbar but it's not painful like the issues with surface pro. I will never recommend a surface pro to anyone; there are really better alternatives.

  • omegatalon Says:

    Microsoft hardware is strangely not fully compatible with WIN which means firmware patches and blue screen of death besides the fact that Microsoft Surface products are not designed to be taken apart.

  • Jonus Alderan Says:

    Don'tell people what and what not to buy if you can't give any viable alternatives. Surface devices (apart from the laptop) don't have any alternatives. These one of a kind devices lead the market and set standards for other OEMs to follow. Regardless of their usability issues, they're the best atm.

  • Ronald L Abate Says:

    I used Apple and PCs in the past. Now, I use only Chromebooks - the least expensive, most trouble free and feature rich of the lot.

  • Larry Says:

    This is spot on. We have deployed dozens of these for our users and almost exactly 25% of them had a failure critical enough where we had to send them back. We had them on our standard configuration list since the Surface Pro 3 release but removed it a few months ago when our desktop support got tired of shipping them back to Microsoft.

  • Justin Purdy Says:

    Yeah, I've had tons of issues with my surface book pro since day one.

    Its a great product, if it works. It just frequently doesn't.

  • daniel Says:

    My surface had problems from day one with unresponxive touch screen. MS was no help at all.

  • Steve J. Sagan Says:

    "We still recommend them."

    Really?! With a 25% issues rate?!

    Pray tell why... not about its good qualities, but why an obvious red flag about its reliability should be ignored?!

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