Microsoft’s Surface devices are fine and there’s probably nothing to worry about

Image: Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

Microsoft is on the defense after Consumer Reports withdrew its recommendation for the Surface Pro and Surface Book computers last week, alleging the devices had poor reliability.

The non-profit publication reported its survey of 90,000 tablet and laptop owners found that about “25 percent of Microsoft laptops and tablets will present their owners with problems by the end of the second year of ownership.”

Responding to the claims, Microsoft’s head of Surface devices Panos Panay said the company “disagreed with their findings” and called the survey “disappointing.”

Who’s right and who’s wrong? An internal Microsoft memo leaked to Thurrott.com doesn’t provide any definitive answers, but does shed light on the issues that could have contributed to the poor responses given by those surveyed.

The memo penned by Panay includes a chart that plots out the return rates following each Surface device’s launch. Mashable has reached out to Microsoft for comment on the authenticity of the leaked memo and will update when we her back.

According to the leaked report, the original Surface Book released in 2015 saw an initial 17 percent return rate following its launch before dropping to below 10 percent six months later. The Surface Pro 4 that launched in tandem with the Surface Book also saw a 16 percent return rate after launch, but dipped to under 10 percent in only two months.

Looking over the chart, it’s clear Microsoft had some issues with its hardware and software (particularly with Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 which they were well aware of and then addressed), hence the above 10 percent return rate. But with the exception of the Surface Book, they’re all under 4 percent as of April 2017 and declining.

Panay has also publicly cast doubt on how Consumer Reports survey measured the quality of its devices beyond hardware failure and return rates. “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,” he said in a blog post.

90,000 lemons is suspect, but it’s impossible to make any conclusions until we know exactly how the survey was conducted.

Microsoft is basically doing everything it can to debunk the Consumer Reports survey. While a survey of 90,000 tablet and laptop owners is somewhat substantial, it isn’t necessarily representative of every customer. Sometimes you get a lemon, and that’s just unfortunate. 90,000 lemons is suspect, but it’s impossible to make any conclusions until we know exactly how the survey was conducted.

It could be that the survey data is heavily based off the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4’s failure rates and other factors such as “frozen or unresponsive touch” were misclassified as failures.

Last year, Consumer Reports drew controversy after it refused to recommend Apple’s newly redesigned MacBook Pros over poor, inconsistent battery life. Apple ended up working with the non-profit to better understand its testing methodologies and ultimately discovered it was a bug that was causing the poor battery results. Following a software update, Consumer Reports once again recommended the MacBook Pro.

The claims that Surface devices are incredibly crappy and a quarter of them break down by the end of the second year of ownership makes for good drama, but your own experience may vary.

While I personally haven’t used any Surface devices for years, I can say that I didn’t experience any significant hardware failures when I tried out the Surface Pro 3 Pro for sixth months and used the Surface Laptop for a month.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/08/14/microsoft-surface-unreliable-return-rate-memo-leak/