Surface Pro 3 – Nightmare!

Written by rsolberg on. Posted in All, Reviews


A few years back I had purchased a MacBook Air that eventually was replaced with a more powerful MacBook Pro. The Air ultimately collected dust in a desk drawer and was in amazing shape. Another device of mine that collects lots of dust is the original Surface RT. When I saw Microsoft’s promo a week or so ago for them to essentially allow you to trade in your used MacBook Air for up to $650 towards the purchase of a new Surface Pro 3, I jumped at it.

I really loved the idea of the original surface, but it really wasn’t able to deliver more to me than what I could already accomplish with my other tablets and overall computing needs. I knew that the day would come when the product would improve and I could truly look at it as that laptop replacement and not just a tablet. Enter the Surface Pro 3… A

With an i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB hard drive the Surface Pro 3 appeared to be well primed and positioned to be that laptop replacement. After taking Microsoft up on their offer, I was able to quickly install some of the core programs I use on a daily basis both as an IT Manager, but also as a software developer. I essentially had the Surface rocking and was ready to begin using it as my laptop replacement. My initial reactions were, wow and boom. The device really is amazing.

But all this happened prior to me needing to truly “use” the device for the first time. I had planned on working from home this morning while some home maintenance was being performed. When I went to turn on the Surface, it immediately crashed. Not a blue screen of death (BSOD) error but the device simply appeared to turn off. I then tried to boot it back up and a message appeared indicating updates were being installed. After a few minutes, the Surface arrived on the login screen. I was able so successfully log in, but when I tried to launch an application, the Surface crashed again.

I spent the next 10 – 15 minutes doing the general tech troubleshooting and googling, but wasn’t able to determine any “gotchas”. I called the Microsoft Store in Portland, OR where I had purchased the Surface about a week ago and asked what I should do. I explained the situation and was told that I could bring it in and swap it out for a replacement. I wasn’t excited about not having a quick fix for the problem, but at least appreciated the willingness to get it replaced even though it’d mean all the hours I spent installing stuff was gone.

After the home maintenance was done, I packed my bags and made the 45 minute trek to downtown Portland. After navigating the downtown area and parking in the garage, I ventured into the store where I was greeated by one of the employees at the desk. She asked what she could do to help and I showed her the device and it’s issue. She then told me that she was going to schedule an appointment with a support person who was essentially standing 15 feet away. They were super fast in this process, unlike the normal walk in support issues you might have with Apple. Was really a breath of fresh air.

The gal at the front desk brought the support engineer up to speed and she tried a couple of things and stated that she hadn’t seen the problem before. The good news is that they would absolutely replace it. That bad news is that they had NO INVENTORY to replace it with. I’m sure my facial expressions were worth at least 1,000,000 words. If they didn’t have the inventory, why encourage me to come down to get it looked at and replaced 2 hours prior? The support engineer apologized and said that there would be more arriving today at some point prior to 4PM today. They told me that I could come back later, which I replied it is a bit of a drive to get in here… I then suggested I leave my number and they call me when the inventory arrives. It is now just about 2 hours until 4PM and I haven’t been called.

As we were wrapping up, another employee asked what was going on. I think she had seen my facial expressions and figured I wasn’t too happy. She was quickly briefed on the situation and stated that there had been a call last week and that Microsoft is aware that at least one software patch is essentially killing the surfaces. They don’t know which patch it is or why it is not happening to every unit. She seemed to think that Microsoft collecting the failed devices or “lemons” might allow them to identify what is going on (which as a IT guy, I concur).

I really don’t want to be a guy who simply complains and gripes about everything. I want my son to see how positivity can breed positivity. There were some elements to this issue that I think were handled well, but others that clearly weren’t. Microsoft is too big a company and has had too many issues with the Surface to date to take the passive approach they demonstrated today. First, let’s start with the update itself… If there were known issues with the update, they should have pulled it immediately. I’m confident that Apple would pull back any release that broke things as quickly as they could and it doesn’t appear that Microsoft stopped this from spreading. Second, if a customer spends over $1,000 on your equipment and has a problem to ZERO fault of his/her own, they ought to be made as whole as possible. I lost over 4 hours of productivity today alone, not to mention the 4 hours getting it setup last week. To add insult to injury, they wouldn’t even pay my $5 parking. So to add insult to injury, I get to go back later today losing another 1.5 hours and $5 more for parking. Third, if the inventory on this unit was ZERO this morning, I should have been told that up front.

At this point I’m contemplating simply returning the Surface Pro 3 for a full refund. This is primarily out of principle and doing things the way they should be.


I wasn’t totally surprised when 4PM came and went yesterday without a phone call letting me know the shipment arrived at the downtown Portland store. I wasn’t terribly excited about heading back into downtown anyways, but I still had an issue where I needed the Surface replaced so I could work today. I decided to call to another store in OR where I briefly explained what happened, the representative was able to determine the shipment never arrived at the downtown PDX store, but there were some devices available at the Washington Square location. She already had one of the devices placed on hold for me should I decide to head over there.

From where my office is, a early evening trip through Portland is really quite enjoyable (please note, this is SARCASM). I didn’t officially log my mileage or time spent in the car yesterday, but my rough guesstimate is that I drove over 100 miles yesterday consuming about 4.5 gallons of gas all while sitting in my car for about 2.5 hours. This means I spent $5 for parking, $22 for gas, and lost 2.5 hours of productivity just because I was in my car. $100 per hour is a good estimate for what an IT person would charge as a consultant. In total yesterday, I lost $227 or I have $227 less today than I could have had.

The new unit appears to have taken all of the software and firmware updates which was a relief. I spent about 3 hours last night downloading and installing the variety of tools I use for work like Visual Studio and SQL Server. I still have a few things to get installed, but I have now invested about 12 hours into the Surface Pro 3 and I’m hoping this is not going to be all for not. I am absolutely not an Apple “fan boy”, but there stuff generally works well and when it doesn’t you can get the issues resolved fairly easily.

So I am now crossing my fingers… $1,227 into this so far, not including the Surface Pro 3 itself…

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