Why I haven't bought a Surface PC (and probably never will)

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go rear view
I'm not saying Surface hardware doesn't intrigue me, because it most certainly does. (Image credit: Future)

I'm a tinkerer at heart. I love to know how things work, repair parts if possible, and upgrade to my heart's content. That's why a desktop PC with standard components, from the chassis to the processor, is a perfect match for my requirements in a computer. Microsoft's Surface family of devices has never really appealed to me.

That's not to say they aren't amazing devices. We've reviewed all of them, and I can only recall a select few that didn't score high. Take the Surface Pro 8 and its almost perfect rating from our executive editor, Daniel Rubino, for instance. This Windows tablet is stunning with a gorgeous 120Hz display, solid performance, and Thunderbolt 4.

If Microsoft gave away a Surface PC for free in a competition and I managed to win, I would absolutely try to find some use for it. This would likely result in some mobile blogging and Old School RuneScape, but it would absolutely see some considerable battery drain. It's simply the case that I cannot find a good enough reason to buy one.

Price to performance doesn't make sense

Surface Studio 2

(Image credit: Future)

As with any PC bought from a manufacturer like Microsoft, you're going to spend a small premium for the luxury of a pre-built configuration. Throw in a custom motherboard PCB and other proprietary designs and parts and the price can quickly inflate. This is especially the case with Surface PCs where cheaper laptops and desktops can be found elsewhere.

If I were to configure a Surface Studio 2, which starts at a reasonable £4,749 here in the U.K., I'm going to have to take out a small mortgage. It's a stunning piece of kit with some impressive specifications contained within the compact chassis, but it's just not for me. The Intel Core i7-7820HQ is simply not good enough compared to what's available standalone. And the choice of up to an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 is ludicrous.

I wouldn't be able to match this PC with one I could build since it's an all-in-one, but since I prefer using an ultrawide monitor anyway, it's a non-issue. But having the ability to use any processor (Intel Core i9-12900K is £550 at the time of writing) and graphics card I like more than makes up for the bulkier end result. Throw in some RGB lights and plenty of tempered glass, and I'm a happy bunny.

Surface doesn't play well with repairability

NZXT H7 Elite

Opening up a desktop PC takes a few seconds with easy access to everything. (Image credit: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

Things break, especially when the form is closely matched to function as is the case with Surface hardware. Microsoft has had to design every inch of the products to work inside compact aluminum chassis. They're gorgeous to gaze at and feel amazing to hold (yes, I've actually used a few!), but all that comes at a cost in repairability. They're simply not as repair-friendly as a custom desktop.

If the CPU decided to quit on me tomorrow, I'd be able to replace it within a few minutes of ordering one online. Simply pop off the side cover, remove the cooler, extract the CPU, throw in the new one, and re-attach the cooler. That's it, job done. For a Surface PC, you're looking at either a lengthier process with the risk of voiding the warranty or breaking something else, or sending it to Microsoft for repair.

There are stories online about people having excellent repair experiences with companies like Microsoft, but then there are also those horror stories for Apple Macs and Nintendo Switches. I don't want to have a more expensive device run the risk of taking me down such a route. The more control I have over what goes on inside my desktop PC, the more money I can potentially save.

I can't draw to save my life

Surface Duo 2 Slimpen

Even the Android-powered Surface Duo 2 cannot sway me from other devices. (Image credit: Future)

Finally, I cannot draw to save my very existence. Surface tablets (and the desktop and laptop PCs) are fantastic for creative use, especially when it comes to doodling and sketching. Sure, you can do most everything else you would on another Windows-powered PC, but I feel as though I'm not getting the most out of the device, which then again brings into question the price.

The primary use of my desktop PC is to work and play. I'm writing up content for Windows Central during the day and playing a game every now and then. I require one of the best graphics cards around for games, and the Intel Core i5-12600K is brilliant for doing pretty much everything.

For people like my esteemed colleague, senior editor Jez Corden, a Surface product used to be a dream-like device, but even he has limits where they quickly became something he'd rather avoid. I'm in the same boat until Microsoft can tempt me over with something radical that isn't just another tablet, laptop, or all-in-one PC.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.