Microsoft Surface Loses Recommendation from Consumer Reports

Nonprofit publication Consumer Reports knocked Microsoft's Surface line down a peg last week, retracting its "recommended" designation for the PC and tablet family.

Consumer Reports rescinded its stamp of approval after a survey of its readership indicated that 25 percent of Microsoft's Surface systems will "present owners with problems" within two years of owning them.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed subscribers who bought new tablets and laptops between 2014 and the beginning of 2017. Users complained about a range of issues with the systems, including freezing, unexpected shutdowns and unresponsive touchscreens.

Consumer Reports, which purchases and tests products in its labs on various metrics such as display quality, battery life and ergonomics, had previously found several of the Surface systems either "Very Good" or "Excellent." However, the publication made the change because many customers care equally about the products' reliability, which its recent survey brought into question.

"While we respect Consumer Reports, we disagree with their findings," wrote Panos Panay, Microsoft's corporate vice president for devices, in a blog post challenging the 25 percent failure rate. "In the Surface team we track quality constantly, using metrics that include failure and return rates -- both our predicted 1-2-year failure and actual return rates for Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book are significantly lower than 25 percent. Additionally, 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 1 percent."

Panay also noted that a survey conducted by researcher Ipsos, commissioned by Microsoft, found a 98 percent satisfaction rate among Surface Pro 4 customers.

Notably, the Consumer Reports survey period ended earlier this year, months before Microsoft released its latest systems.

Panay said in his post that Microsoft has learned a lot since rolling out its first Surface devices five years ago. Patrick Moorhead, analyst and CEO of Moor Computing and Insights, has owned every Surface model Microsoft has released and agreed. In an e-mail, Moorhead noted the various software issues Microsoft experienced with its Skylake-based SKUs almost two years ago.

"These issues have been resolved and led to Microsoft's conservativeness with their latest crop of products," Moorhead noted. "Notice on Surface Laptop and Surface 5 that Microsoft did not embrace Kaby Lake, USB-C or Thunderbolt 3, as this conservatism should lead to a very high-quality experiences."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.