Microsoft Surface devices come last in reliability survey

Update: Microsoft’s Panos Panay (Corporate VP, Microsoft Devices, and the guy in charge of Surface) has made a fuller defense of Surface devices in a blog post. Panay called the findings of Consumer Reports disappointing, and said that “predicted 1-2-year failure and actual return rates for Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book are significantly lower than 25%”.

He further noted that ‘incidents per unit’ as tracked by Microsoft were at record lows, and indeed under 1%. Panay concluded: “We stand firmly behind the quality and reliability of the Surface family of devices.”

Original story follows...

Consumer Reports, the consumer watchdog and product reviews outlet, has rescinded its recommendations on all Microsoft Surface products, citing long-term reliability issues.

More specifically – and, arguably more importantly – the move was made in response to annual subscriber surveys between 2014 and early this year citing “two-year breakage rates of 25%.”

“New studies conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center estimate that 25% of Microsoft laptops and tablets will present their owners with problems by the end of the second year of ownership,” the report reads.

This motion includes both the brand new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop devices launched mere months ago. 

A breakage rate after two years of 25% is remarkable, which probably spurred on Consumer Reports to revoke its recommendations. At the top of the chart provided by Consumer Reports, sits Apple with 10%, then Samsung at 16%. At the bottom of the chart there's Microsoft, with Toshiba not too far behind with a 24% estimated breakage rate.

Source: 2017 Winter Product Reliability Survey, Consumer Reports National Research Center

Source: 2017 Winter Product Reliability Survey, Consumer Reports National Research Center

Of course, a Microsoft representative provided Consumer Reports with a public statement via email.

“Microsoft’s real-world return and support rates for past models differ significantly from Consumer Reports’ breakage predictability. We don’t believe these findings accurately reflect Surface owners’ true experiences or capture the performance and reliability improvements made with every Surface generation.”

Survey says…

What’s hugely important to point out here is that Consumer Reports’ retraction of its recommendation appears entirely dependent upon subscriber survey answers. Said subscribers – from a total of 90,741 surveyed between 2014 and early this year – have reported issues during device startup as well as freezing and random shutdown problems.

This retraction does not appear to be based on actual testing from within the Consumer Report labs.

Now, the outlet says as much in its report of this stripping of recommendations, and expresses deep trust in its subscribers. Furthermore, how could something like this have come from lab testing? It would be practically impossible.

Also, we all know that the Surface line has earned its licks for all of the above listed issues – not that we personally have experienced many during our time reviewing Surface products and since. Albeit with varying speed and success, Microsoft has addressed most if not all of them through the years.

But, no matter how you slice it, Consumer Reports made this ruling based on the findings of its own readers, not those of its analysts and editors.

Joe Osborne

Joe Osborne is the Senior Technology Editor at Insider Inc. His role is to leads the technology coverage team for the Business Insider Shopping team, facilitating expert reviews, comprehensive buying guides, snap deals news and more. Previously, Joe was TechRadar's US computing editor, leading reviews of everything from gaming PCs to internal components and accessories. In his spare time, Joe is a renowned Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master – and arguably the nicest man in tech.