Last week, Consumer Reports withdrew its recommendation of the entire Surface line of tablets and laptops, citing a high rate of problems with these devices. Many TabletPCReview readers confirm that they had issues with their own Surface device, but virtually all were satisfied with the resolution.
Consumer Reports polled its subscribers who have owned a Microsoft Surface computer, and found that 25% of them had the device break in some manner within the first two years.
A survey of Surface owners in our forums backs up this claim, though the number of respondents is currently small.
Problems with 2014’s Surface Pro 3 were frequently bought up by the TCPR survey. Either yellow areas permanently appeared on the display, or a section of the touchscreen became unresponsive.
Others reported numerous software problems with a Surface Book 2-in-1, or software issues with the Surface Pro 4.
Virtually every report of a hardware problem with any Surface product ended with the note that Microsoft had replaced the defective product, or the computer had been returned. None felt they had been treated badly by Microsoft.
A public statement from Microsoft refutes Consumer Report‘s findings, saying in part “Surface return and support rates are in line if not lower than industry average for devices in the same class.”
However, an internal document that leaked from the company seems to admit that there was some justification. This memo from Microsoft corporate VP Panos Panay discussed the rocky launch of the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book, and admitted that this likely contributed to Consumer Reports’ findings. Panay also said “Feedback like this stings, but pushes us to obsess more about our customers.”
Still, Panay pushed back. “We also regularly review other metrics to understand the experience we are providing to our customers and our findings show our products are in a much healthier place than noted by Consumer Reports.”
The internal document also pointed out that “Surface NPS is consistently higher than the OEMs.” The Net Promoter Score is the percentage of users of a given device who would recommend their friends, family, or co-workers also get one. NPS therefore indicates customer satisfaction, rather than product reliability, but it seems to be an indication that Microsoft is resolving consumers’ problems with Surface devices.