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Why I stopped buying Surface

Surface Book 2
Surface Book 2 (Image credit: Windows Central)

We cover Surface a lot on Windows Central, and I have previously written several articles about how much I loved my various Surface devices over the years. Before I worked at Windows Central, I went from a Surface RT, to a Surface Pro 2, to a Pro 3, and eventually, a Surface Book and Surface Book 2 15-inch, spending a ton of money on them in the process. Now, I don't.

I went through various docks, several pens, Surface Type covers, and also repair processes. I feel pretty confident in my retail experience with the brand and the services surrounding it. But in the past few years, I've fallen out of love with Surface for various reasons, and I thought I'd share why.

These reasons are only true for me; there's certainly nothing wrong with enjoying Surface since they're stunning devices and are certainly in the top percentile of best Windows laptops out there. But I feel like I outgrew what I could do with them and that some of the promises in the Surface line's marketing and messaging simply don't pan out in reality. Here are the three main reasons I stopped using Surface and switched to Razer (and no, gaming isn't one of them).

1. Price to performance doesn't make sense

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The Surface lineup is a strange, aspirational range of products that kickstarted a wave of innovation in the PC space, innovating in modalities for inking and other workflows. To get that physical adaptability, compromises had to be made elsewhere.

While using Surface products, I always felt like I was being held back by the hardware to some degree, especially after that initial honeymoon period wore off and it was time to get down to doing some real work. Surface Pro owners who live in warm climates or in houses without good air conditioning likely know what I'm talking about ⁠— it's not uncommon to see people using an external fan to keep some of these devices cool.

The PC-meets-tablet form factor of the Surface Book and Pro devices means you get a display crammed with components that frankly shouldn't be there. Intel CPUs get hot, and there isn't a single Surface I've used that had even close to adequate airflow to accommodate the top-level performance offered in some of these processors.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

For me, it all came to a head a couple of summers ago that was particularly warm when I had to use a fan both on the keyboard and on the back of the display to use Adobe software ⁠— something often lauded by Surface marketing ⁠— due to thermal CPU throttling.

I feel like Surface offers the worst of both worlds if you're actually looking to do creative work. If you're an artist, it makes more sense to get a cheaper, more powerful laptop with an external drawing tablet. Photoshop won't throttle, Premiere or Adobe Animate won't chug, and you won't burn need to burn extra power with external fans, which is, frankly, ridiculous when you're paying anywhere up to $3000 for a laptop. Why put such expensive internals in these devices if the form factor can't accommodate them properly?

2. Years of driver problems and small issues

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

One thing that also typified my experience of Surface was the dreaded Blue Screen of Death (BSOD), among other strange driver anomalies. Surface Book users no doubt can attest to the debate over whether to use NVIDIA's drivers, which have given me problems, or Windows Update's oft-outdated NVIDIA drivers. I feel like a device this expensive shouldn't come with these kinds of caveats.

There were tons of weird bugs I had with my Surface devices. A specific BSOD could trigger almost without fail by using an EdgeHTML UWP app by opening Twitter UWP's GIF picker. I had issues with the hinge detachment mechanism getting stuck on the Surface Book 2, to the point of having to go nuclear and wipe all of Windows to fix it. I had issues with the Surface Dock, which is also incredibly expensive, randomly crashing out, or not having enough throughput for the number of ports it has. I also don't need to talk about how frustrating it is that the Surface Book 2 battery can go flat even when it's plugged in if you push it too hard.

3. Stung by repairability woes

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Surface devices are notorious for their lack of repairability. Things have gotten slightly better over the years, but Microsoft is still scoring low marks from iFixit when it comes to repairability, and I've been stung by this a couple of times over minor problems.

On my Surface Pro 3, Microsoft wouldn't even offer an attempt to replace a slightly cracked display, telling me instead they could only offer a trade-in to a Surface Pro 4 for a whopping 650 Euros. Surface devices are already astronomically priced, and when you factor in these kinds of "repair" costs, they just get even more expensive if worst comes to worst.

Will I ever go back to Surface?

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

There are things I miss about my Surface devices, which have now all been sold. I like the convenience of having high-quality drawing canvas capabilities baked directly into a laptop. I love the way they look and feel, and as a Microsoft fan, being "all-in" on the ecosystem, hardware and all, is just kind of fun. But when it comes to doing real work, something Surface claims to be for; the hardware just doesn't meet the promise for me. I don't want to downplay the engineering effort on some aspects of these devices. Still, when it comes to real-world use, I look at a device like the Surface Studio and just feel like my intelligence is being insulted by the price-to-power ratio. How can devices this expensive be so underpowered?

The Surface Book hinge causes more problems than it solves, with 360 solutions making far more sense in almost every scenario. The marketing materials that show people using Surface devices detached to take notes in board room meetings just doesn't happen in reality. I'd wager money that almost nobody ever undocks the Surface Book display, save to reverse it for inking. The touch experience also sucks in most apps and within Windows itself.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Perhaps the Sun Valley refresh will go some way to bringing the Surface hardware experience closer to the OS experience, in an Apple-like way, but we'll probably be waiting years for that.

I bounced between Razer and Surface for a couple of years before finally accepting that I've just had better experiences on Razer devices. I can push these laptops hard without worrying about battery drain. I get all the latest NVIDIA drivers without issues. I can use Adobe software without worrying about thermal throttling, and they still look and feel great to use.

There's still something exciting about Surface. The folding innovations on the Surface Duo and Surface Neo look so incredibly futuristic. Still, the Duo, with its low-end camera and unimpressive performance, once again looks like it makes far too many real-world compromises to be something I'd actually want to buy.

Ultimately, I've come to accept that Surface devices are aspirational and favor style over substance, and maybe that's okay. The problem is that it's no longer enough for me, as my workflow diversified. One thing is for sure: Surface inspired other PC manufacturers to step up their game, and just like them, I will continue to admire Surface from afar.

Jez Corden
Jez Corden

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • The price-to-performance is the only hold up for me. I switched from a Surface Pro 4 to an HP Spectre x360 because I wanted more power and Thunderbolt 3. I've lamented the switch every day because of HP's terrible drivers and poor quality hardware (I've had to replace one of the system fans 5 times in 3 years!), but at the end of the day I needed Thunderbolt 3. If the Surface Pro 8 has Thunderbolt and the same style TypeCover as the Surface Pro X, I'll switch back in a heartbeat, but otherwise I'll have to settle for the disappointing 2-in-1s from other OEMS.
  • But the point there is at least that you could have that fan replaced. Try getting that done on a Surface. Might as well throw it in the river. I had a cracked SP3 like Jez, mine was due to something inside swelling. I sent it in to Microsoft in Germany (which was bad enough from the UK) three times before they agreed to replace it. Then the replacement was faulty as well and I gave up. Microsoft customer service is the biggest issue for me. Albeit I now have a Surface Go 2, I'm nervous as all hell that it goes wrong, because I don't want to deal with the fiasco of getting it sorted.
  • Actually HP refused to fix it after the first time. I had to do it myself with parts I bought online every time after that. I'll never buy from HP again after this experience. I understand that Surfaces have issues too, but at least here in the US I've never had a problem with Microsoft's customer service on the Xbox, Office, or Windows side; I explained the problem and they fixed it with no issues. Then again I never had an issue with the Surface RT, Surface Pro 2, or Pro 4 that I owned so I never had to test their support with those. Still, if Microsoft made a Surface with the specs I needed, I'd pay a premium to never have get a Surface again over any other OEM.
  • @Hanley Gibbons I think most of the customer services woes really stem down to one thing - availability of physical stores iin the US whereas there was hardly any stores outside the stores. Well, that was true pre-pandemic. Now, there are hardly any physical stores operating anymore since Microsoft's bean counters shuttered them all and in the process screwed out their employees - despite initially promising they wouldn't.
  • The Go models do seem more safe though, not as much can go wrong; its passively cooled, lower power cpu (not so much heat compared to other Surfaces) and of course its generally cheaper so if it does break after ~3-5 years it does not matter that much.
  • I went with HP x360 14 in November and have had great success - two TB4; 3:2 OLED; 1tb ssd; 16gb RAM; USB-A; great performance; solid hardware (it replaced a 13" 16:9 x360) - and bought it at Best Buy for $1299 (regular price $1699 and frequently on sale for $1399). There is no way the Surface Book 3 or Surface Pro 7 Plus touch this value proposition.
  • I went from Surface Pro 4 to Razer Blade Stealth and am glad I did... I use the Razer Core as my docking station and I have the perfect set up for my needs... If I was buying now I would also consider the Asus Flow together with its docking station/graphics accelerator...
  • I honestly can't disagree. The products are great, are aspirational and all. But they are built with compromises, and they're not perfect. For example, I don't expect to have my 5 years old Surface Pro 4 to run perfectly. But today I use it and it has problems with the battery discharging by itself when turned off (I always took good care of the battery and charging), and the screen does a micro-shake when it gets hot. For the money I paid at the time, I expect better. I have older laptops, crappy laptops that still work perfectly. I don't think I'd buy a Surface Pro again, if I buy a high performance or high design laptop, it won't be from Microsoft. Maybe from HP or Dell or another established manufacturer which at least might have some semblance of support in my country.
  • I have exactly the same issue with my battery discharging when the Surface was off. That's why I had to buy the Razer Blade Stealth as I use my PC for business and this issue was a big problem for me... My brother had the jittery screen problem with his Surface Pro 4 and he bought a Dell...
  • Tbf, Surface Pro 4 should be ignored in these comparisons since it has engineering faults compared to the other models (every brand has its rotten apple).
    The battery issue is sort off a problem all Li-ion batteries have, it does help if no heat comes near the battery (hence models like Pro 4 and SB had so many bulging batteries because they run laptop cpu's and the cooling system was improved just later on).
    That being said if MS offers bad service in your country and Dell or HP offer great service than I would buy from the latter. Personally I prefer to buy from a shop that gives good warranty though, since from my experience manufacturers tend to give crappy customer service.
  • MS offers *no* service in Argentina for their hardware (well maybe Xbox but not Surface). I bought mine as an import. Dell and HP and other brands might. But even then I don't think they sell the latest and coolest laptops locally. The hardware sold here is old and expensive. And most companies offer just RMA as what passes for customer service.
  • I think Surface has done its job which was to push OEMs to elevate their hardware game to levels beyond even Apple which was unheard of as at 2012. Now it is commonplace to see MacBooks look outdated next to the latest XPS with its super slick design and infinity display.
    I'll still stick to the Surface Pro for 2-in-1. For traditional laptops, Surface has never been a serious contender to me, I'd rather get an XPS or a Thinkpad. But for the classic 2-in-1, Surface Pro is still the gold standard imho, nothing beats it yet.
  • I had the first surface pro and can relate to the deception you describe with stunning hardware that are just not what they pretend to be. This still keeps me away from the book 3 even if it ticks all the box for me.
    Now with the duo I still have a bit of frustration but it is far from being as deceptive as surface pro 1. There has been a lot of progress made in the surface family in recent years and my son's surface pro 7 seems great whenever I use it. I think their persistent tries to make these devices better is about to pay off with arm processors and improved touch in windows. At least this is my hope for what an amazing surface book 4 could be : Slim screen super fast processor without thermal issue and still great graphic performance in the base...
  • "The PC-meets-tablet form factor of the Surface Book and Pro devices means you get a display crammed with components that frankly shouldn't be there." Sounds like you don't like Windows tablets. "Intel CPUs get hot, and there isn't a single Surface I've used that had even close to adequate airflow to accommodate the top-level performance offered in some of these processors." Sounds like you don't like ultrabooks. The Surface line is definitely not for you, then.
  • Yeah, Duo, 'unimpressive performance' is just blatantly false. I think your viewpoint is skewed.
  • Compared to other devices in the same price range, just for the sake of a folding novelty? I don't think so.
  • He does raise a point though, compared to other 13 inch ultrabooks the Surface Pro's offer decent performance (at least for burst performance which what mostly matters for these devices since they are not workstations).
  • Surface Pros weren't really the target of that comment, more the Surface Book. For the same price or much less you can get a far better Razer Blade, if you sacrifice the hinge mechanism which you'll never use, and you can add art with a superior external drawing tablet, and still come in at a lower price. Is it worth it just for note taking?
  • That is a fair argument, I think the Book is kind of to complex with the hinge and dgpu for what it does and just ignore it. It is an unique device so for some artists or note takers it might be worth it.
  • I had a surface book at my last company. I undocked it all the time to sketch and hand render. We ran VR on it for remote meetings with clients. I bought a elite x2 when I left that company. It's better in my opinion.
  • maybe in specs, but using it - it works flawlessly for me. using all apps. camera is subpar but the experience using it is amazing. i actually own one - most people who complain about it haven't even used one.
  • This is how I've felt for about 3 years. I used to recommend the Surface Pro to basically any and all potential laptop buyers. They were, by far, the best option for mid- and high-end laptops (other than for gaming). Nowadays, my suggestion has switch to basically "unless you want to do the art stuff with the pen, the Surface is one of the worst options." Here's how I feel about the individual products: Surface Laptop: After being sold on the Surface Pro as a new way to think about mobile computing, these feel like a complete reversal of the soul of Surface. They take away from Surface as unique and a market leader. They feel like Macbook copycats--more expensive than the competition with no real reason as to why. Who even wants to use a Surface Pen on the Surface Laptop? Surface Book: If it had a 360-degree hinge, I'd love it. The detach-flip-attach paradigm kills my interest. It's clunky and impractical, as Jez mentioned. Give me something that's more like a Yoga or other high-end 2-in-1, but allowing the screen to detach, and I'm sold. I don't even care about the Performance Base; I just want something with a nicer, more sturdy keyboard than the Surface Pro offers. Surface Studio: The price is insane. The internals are really poor. $3,000 for internals that aren't any better than, say, a $1,000 laptop from a couple of years ago? I get the display is the selling point, but the internals undo all intrigue to me. Surface Neo: I don't think we're anywhere close to seeing this release. I wouldn't be surprised if it gets canceled. At best, maybe a 2023 release? Surface Duo: They skimped way too hard on it. Despite supposedly using prior-gen hardware in the name of stability, it's a very buggy experience. It's underpowered, missing a bunch of features, and the price is through the roof. I was interested when it was expected in the $1,000-1,200 range, but $1,400+ is wild. Throw in the software bugs and hardware malfunctions (broken charging ports, separating displays, etc.), and it became easy to pass on. They need a second-gen device in the near-future and it's gotta make HUGE strides to be a viable product. Surface Pro: I used to love this thing. It led the market in new ideas, was priced competitively, and offered good hardware features. When the 5th-gen Surface Pro dropped the included Pen and raised its price from $50 to $100, that was lame. The prices continued to climb and the improvements slowed greatly. Now, we get top-tier pricing for highly iterative devices. The hardware has, to me, fallen way behind the rest of the market. Pricing isn't competitive, nor are features. Getting a Surface Pro used to be what I always wanted, but now I can't figure out why I ever would when the competition offers a comparable experience for less money or better experiences in the same price bracket.
  • The Lenovo Helix had the form factor of the Surface Book long before the Surface Book arrived.
  • There were plenty, Fujitsu had one that came with a separate base for desktop environments. I had it for over a year and actually kind of enjoyed it, until our network mandated updates across all workstations to Win 10 and they weren't willing to build a standard desktop configuration for Windows 10.
  • No its not comparable, what made the Surface Book unique is the gpu power they offered. Especially when the performance base was released years back, they managed to cram a nvidia 965m in an 13.5 inch ultrabook. That was pretty insane. Nowadays of course the SB design while still cool is somewhat outdated.
  • I guess Microsoft is right then. These Surface devices are actually model devices for the OEM manufacturers to actually base their new devices and improve upon. Congrats to Microsoft Surface team for succeeding in this respect.
  • I honestly can't think of a better device than the Surface Pro for my needs. I like the fact that it can be used as a second screen when you detach the keyboard. You can't do that on a laptop (even 2-in-1) as they have no kickstand. Also, performance is impressive for the form factor. Yes, sometimes it throttles. But it's easily fixed by plugging a cheap USB fan.
    It just seems those devices are not for you. But they are for others. PS: I'm a software developer working from home on a Surface Pro 7 i5/16/256.
  • I jumped at the Surface RT and really enjoyed it...while it lasted. About 2 1/2 years ago I bought the first GO. Really like the size; the screen, the form factor. The problem is the memory and CPU. This poor little guy can't keep up anymore. Every time I'm doing zoom calls with family or work colleagues, I get a big warning message displayed across my screen saying I'm running low on resources and need to close down something to continue. Very annoying! I won't buy another Surface product; I get twice the bang for the buck with Lenovo or HP products...
  • That is because you probably have a 4gb ram model which is on the low side for work etc. Better to get 8b ram model. The cpu I agree with and this is kind of a bummer that there is no newer m/y cpu released by Intel (at least that seems to be the case). For your workflow a Surface Pro makes more sense, especially since you can find the Pro 7 now (with 8 gb ram) for decent prices and those cpu's just run circles of the pentium from the Go.
  • I can't speak to what the data actually is in how many people detach the keyboard, but for I do it all the time for work and use OneNote UWP to write notes. I tried the surface book for a while but it was just too heavy and less practical on the go. I like the idea of 360 devices, but everytime I look at the weight it's usually twice as heavy as a surface pro. The light weight/portability of the surface pro suits my use case perfectly.
  • One of my main issues with Surface has been the proprietary Surface Connect port. Yes, it's excellent, but it means accessories (like the Surface Dock) only work with other Surfaces. Ditto the keyboard. That kind of lock-in leaves a sour taste with me. Microsoft is - finally! - adding USB-C, so for newer kit, this isn't the issue it once was. The Surface Pros I've had (writing this on a Pro 4 i5/8/256) have all been great.
    The Surface Studio I have at work is amazing, but yes, it's the 28 inch touch screen that wins me over. I don't understand why Microsoft refuse to make a 360 degree laptop hinge like Dell, Lenovo and HP make. That's what the very best 'flagship' laptops of today have, but there is still no Surface that can do that. The Surface Laptop makes no sense at all, with that hinge. I may as well visit 2015 and use a non-touchscreen laptop. That's not what anyone expects from a flagship. The Surface Duo is an Android device, at double or triple the cost of other Android devices with the same internals. Using Android was an obvious and significant mistake, and the Duo will probably be discontinued soon. What a complete waste of effort that was. The Surface Pro X looks like the best-of-the-current-bunch at the moment. The Studio is still fantastic, but way too expensive. For students, the i5 surface Go Laptop looks good too. Very portable.
  • "Microsoft is - finally! - adding USB-C, so for newer kit..." They added USB-C in 2017. That's not what's holding them back.
  • They need to add that x360 hinge to the Surface Laptop imo.
    The next Surface Laptop might make sense though considering you get very fast Amd Ryzen cpu's and a nice 3:2 screen with touch and low weight. Not many laptops that will have all 3 / 4 of those features (even that 3:2 14 inch HP Spectre does not have Amd Ryzen cpu's, although it does have a x360 hinge).
  • I don't get it. I live in Florida, good heat zone of the US and I've never had any heat problem. I've had every surface iteration since 3 and always the core i7 16gb. I've developed, heavily, on those machines without issue as that's my job and personal life. Tons of tabs, apps, instances... I actually try to bog it down I love pushing out all that power. I haven't seen a BSOD since... I couldn't really tell you. I've cracked a screen but got brand new replacement from the accidental coverage I would get, why wouldn't you on a premium device? And if I crack a screen I don't want it repaired, I want a new replacement, I could care less about repairability because I want the thinnest and lightest and I am aware of how I handle glass. But I've cracked one and that is unusual for me. Some people remind me of my sister who just trash devices, bends them, sits on them, crushes them, and acts like it's not her being careless. Idk man, I've never used a book I've always had the pro line and I've always gotten family the same or new surface laptop versions including the go and they are all the best devices I've ever a acquired. Anytime I investigate other situations it's usually user based so it's hard for me seeing windows central allow an article like this.
  • Do you have air conditioning? We don't get that in Europe, in Summer, ambient temperature is a big problem for home computing, and just comes back to Microsoft's "America-centric" design ideology.
  • You can get Air Conditioning in Europe. It is a choice. When i first moved to the US my relatives would laugh at me that I could have European A/C (open the car window) or US A/C. In Germany there are cafe's, buildings and some newer public transportation systems have A/C. When I worked for a German company and lived in Germany for a few years the apartment I rented had A/C. In the UK, not so much -- they "prefer to be sweaty" a London cab driver told me once. And, it is not that you cannot purchase it. It was not primarily done because it was not considered necessary. While I now live in the USA, I grew up in Italy. On the family farm we could escape the heat to the cellar that was deep under ground enough that it was about ~50F (12C) all year round. In my uncles home near Rome, he had a unit that provided heat and A/C. It was neither difficult or hard to install anymore than it is here in the USA. Yes while, while 84% of Americans have A/C, that to is choice to go to the local hardware store or appliance store purchase a window unit. As a European now living in US I feel like every time a European has an issue or does not like something it is an American issue when it is not. Could the Surface have a lower heat profile, maybe, those Intel unit and screens do not exactly work at low heat. Is it because they are American Centric -- doubt it and that is a very European view.
  • Good points. Bit off topic but I also think an A/C makes lots of sense if you have a solar panels which are becoming more mainstream anyway. Since when the sun shines brightly (/summer) you want to cool and this is the moment usually when solar panels are effective, so they complement each other well. Certain A/C also can act as a heater, so if you have lots of solar panels even in the winter you can use that energy to heat up your house. About the heating of Surface devices, the Pro 4 and Surface Books seem to have this issue the most. Besides that I think humidity is quite high in the summer in some European countries (/without A/C), which might also be damaging combined with high temperatures. What helps a lot for those is an usb fan directed towards the back of the surface tablet part.
  • Cmon mate that not really true. Although you CAN buy crappy little ac units or industrial ones for offices and shops they aren’t built in to houses as standard anywhere in Northern Europe at least. I’ve just moved back to Europe after living in Atlanta for 15 years. Everyone obviously had ac there. I’ve never met anyone with ac here.
  • "The touch experience also sucks in most apps and within Windows itself."
  • The repairability and driver issues have never really been an issue for me on my 15" SB2, but I can definitely say that I agree with this sentiment overall. For example, I have the 256GB version, and I'd LOVE to be able to install a faster, higher capacity SSD, but there's no sure way of doing this without the high risk that I break it (or even a repair shop would like give it back with some noticeable damage/effect from taking apart the "clipboard"). Where the Surface line really falls flat is in their innovation. They're very innovative, don't get me wrong, but there are obvious tracks the Surface line could take that would make it both awesome for independent buyers and versatile enough to cover large-scale organizational needs. The prime example that comes to mind is the potential inter-operability of the Surface Books' clipboards. The Surface Connector on the SB2 provides at least as much PCIe connectivity as Thunderbolt 3 (4 lanes of x16), and it's clear that it's capable of managing a lot of throughput, since it runs a 1060, 2 USB port, 1 USB-C port, a MicroSD reader, and additional data throughput is possible via the Surface Connector in the base, so why didn't they make a desktop dock for the clipboard? There was the potential (and in 2017 I argued that they were going to come up with this, but they still haven't over 3 years later) for multiple types of docks based on corporate/individual use-cases. First: A dock for simple desktop configurations that didn't need the SB's GPU capabilities but wanted to utilize its screen and connect another monitor and a number of peripherals. This would be a simple, cheap(ish) dock that the clipboard clicked onto and instantly connected all of the peripherals and monitors. Easily a worthwhile option at somewhere around $100-150 in many corporate environments. Second: A higher powered option that fully utilized the PCIe lanes of the Surface Connector. This would be more akin to a Razer Core or other eGPU enclosure, but with Surface flair and a more direct IO access that comes from the Surface Connector vs Thunderbolt 3. This, with or without a GPU included, was easily a worthwhile endeavor for the Surface team, with the only limitation being that Surface users may forget to charge the battery in the Book's base if they're constantly switching between laptop use on battery and desktop use on the dock, but that's a trivial issue to avoid for the end user. I really thought Microsoft was going to come out with both of these options before the launch of the SB3, but now I realize it'll likely never happen. For that reason, to hell with Surface, I'll be looking at a more traditional laptop in the next year or two (3 years feels pretty long in the tooth for this SB2) that supports more universal features, like Thunderbolt 4.
  • I have been a Surface Book 2 user and my biggest problem has been wireless drivers. For years, connecting to 5 GHZ Wi-Fi was a major issue, thankfully fixed about a year ago. But Bluetooth remains a constant problem. This is a major issue in coronavirus times. Lastly, the keyboard back-lighting is terrible. Otherwise, it's been pretty decent.
  • I've been through SFP1, SF3, SP4 and are currently using SFP17, and I don't feel this applies to me at all. Now, granted, I only use the Pro, not the other devices, but I'll never go back to regular laptops. That said, I have a $4K desktop at home and a decent desktop at work as well, so my usage might be different than others, but I never felt like the performance of the i7 Pro17 is holding me back, it never gets too hot, neither do the weather here though, but the wife likes it hot inside. Another thing to note, how many actually use Photoshop, Premiere and such applications? I think many journalists and content creators feils to put them selvs in the shooes of the average user. Sure, this might be slated for people drawing on screen, and those might use PS, so do I, but I never experience performance issues when drawing. I will never go back to using my Wacom as the primary tool for this.
  • Well like I said in the intro, this is WHY I STOPPED buying Surface. So it has nothing to do with "being in other people's shoes," and like I said in the intro, if you still like them, cool. But I feel like Razer just offers more bang for buck for almost every scenario.
  • Funny, one of the worst experience I had was with a Razer laptop a few years ago. I was younger, didn't know much about tech, knew enough by reputation that Razer was terrible value, still somehow talked myself into getting one anyway, and was eventually incredibly disappointed with the design flaws, the spontaneous issues and how Razer handled their service. I say incredibly because only then I realized how much I'd overpayed to one of the worst mobile PC manufacturers. To be fair, they had a neat design, better battery life, and were more durable than other competing gaming laptops back then. But never once did I bamboozle myself into believing that Razer laptops were "bang for the buck" in any way or form.
  • "I bounced between Razer and Surface for a couple of years before finally accepting that I've just had better experiences on Razer devices. ", why even compare these two? If you do not need the touch/pen or the form factor fine, but why even adding this in the article than? Why not just buy one of the countless clamshell laptops out there and call it a day? Also I see Surface Pro's regularly in sales where they provide pretty ok bang for buck if you count all the extra features. I can get a new Surface Pro 7 (with warranty) at midrange prices (or even budget prices if you get a bluetooth keyboard), the same does not apply for XPS or Razer laptops. I do agree about the driver issues and stuff like that, like that weird throttling issue some Surfaces had. Stuff like that really to be prevented by MS.
  • All three of these issues kept me from going back. I bought a refurb Surface book several years ago, and enjoyed it. The price to performance point only worked for me because I bought refurb, *and* on sale. Most of the time it worked great, but the odd display ratio didn't work for a lot of games , so I would run windowed which turned the 13" screen into 11 or 12". I also had several random BSOD events that I couldn't track down. Eventually, the SSD gave out, and the effort & risk to repair outweighed going back to Surface. I loved it for when the itch to sketch something kicked in, but the Win10 tablet interface needs a lot of work.
  • when you can get a laptop with a 3080 in it for the same price of a surface, with no gpu , something is messed up.
  • You exaggerate the price especially since you can just buy an entry Surface and replace the SSD on newer models or use a microsd card / cloud storage. And you cannot compare the 2. One if a clumsy heavy laptop (unless you are shelving a lot of money and even than it is still somewhat bulky) while the other is a compact & very light laptop/tablet with pen support. Completely different use cases.
  • Really appreciate this article, Jez, both the honesty and the bravery. It kind of marks a turning point for me, too. As someone who has scanned every Windows Central article on my RSS reader going back to the old mobile-version days and my Windows Phone 7 phone, plus listening to tons of episodes of the podcast, I find myself stepping back as well. Actually (and sorry about this) with this post I'm finally unsubscribing after all these years from the RSS feed, not because this article is a low point, but rather a high point. What I loved over the years of reading were the product insights, road-mapping and realistic articles like yours here. What I didn't love over the years were the times when the site seemed to be promoting fanaticism (and the frequent times on the podcast when the hosts would mock their readers--please just ignore those vocal fringe folks). But whatever. All in all I'm grateful for the msft coverage, and the point of this comment is really just...thanks for all of that. And I remain really hopeful that Microsoft will find some new energy behind their consumer products and services at some point, as I almost certainly will continue to buy whatever they feel like selling to me. Sigh. :-) Cheers.
  • Also sorry about my stupid handle. I must have created that a decade ago and just didn't know how to change it.
  • I think Microsoft can go a very long way to improve price-to-performance issue by allowing you to independently pick storage and CPU. If you want more storage, you have to go with the more expensive CPU, and that can drive the price way up. I only consider the Surface Go the only viable 2-in-1 in the Surface line. The reason for that is its weight of 1.15 pounds. To be a viable tablet, I feel the weight needs to be around a pound or less. I have a HP Spectre x360 13 inch. That thing weighs like 2 and half pounds. For that reason, I almost never use it as a tablet. On the other hand, I use my Surface Go as a tablet a lot for uses that the HP is not that good at. My Surface Go is the most used device in the house since it can be used as eReader, movie watcher, recipe reference when cooking, sheet music holder, and whiteboard for meetings, but at the same time makes for a cute little laptop that is super portable.
  • "I think Microsoft can go a very long way to improve price-to-performance issue by allowing you to independently pick storage", you can practically can on newer models since you can replace the SSD and/or use a microsd card.
  • it is curious that there is no mention of one of the faults that hurts the most to the owners of a surface book 2, and is that the terrible LG screens end up burning over time producing this phenomenon of "image retention" ... a problem that is clearly documented and referred by users, who change again and again their surface book 2 using the warranty but, unfortunately, continue to have the same problem over time ... I have already changed 3 times my SB2 using the warranty (which I have already completed), and with each new replacement I have the same problem, no matter if I apply low brightness, screen protectors every few minutes, etc ... is a clear failure of the LG screen of a team of thousands of euros that do not have my old laptops that have accompanied me for many years. And Microsoft keeps talking about individual computer problems even though it is clearly reported by their users.
  • Maybe I expect too much from laptops... Last year I shelled out $2800 for the 2020 Razer Blade Advanced with the 2070 super GPU and 300Hz screen. In part, I wanted it to be a desktop replacement as well. I wasn't impressed with the performance when connected to my 1440p LG display. On top of that, I had all sorts of driver issues and stuttering/lack of smooth performance. It also ran really hot, which I guess was to be expected with that kind of hardware. I ended up returning it. Next, I decided to skip going the desktop replacement route, and decided I'd pick up a used Surface Book 2 13 w/1050 GPU. I was excited because it was still under warranty, which I ended up using right away to get a replacement. I figured the detached tablet mode would come in handy since I like to put my guitar music on there and use a Bluetooth pedal for page turning. That part works fine and all, but I've had GPU driver issues with Nvidia, and am quite underwhelmed by the performance of Adobe Premiere Pro. Even just some basic editing on a 1080p video can be painfully slow. I expected it to perform better having the dGPU. And forget 4k video editing, even at 1/4 scale. Maybe part of the problem is Windows 10. Either way, I'm bummed because this is my first surface, and I'd been wanting one since the beginning. Now I'm debating selling it (they retain their resale value at least), and looking into a proper 2-in1. My wife has had mostly good success with her 8th gen i7 x360 spectre, and that was before they used precision drivers. Who knows now...
  • The one thing I'm getting a lot from comments in this thread is that a lot of people who started off using Surface have since switched to HP for their 2-in-1 needs (myself included, although I opted for the Elite over the x360, although I rarely detach the keyboard, when I do I like that I can).
  • I love my Elite! I much prefer it over the Surface Pro I had before.
  • The Elite tablet with 13 inch is awesome but it is much harder to get than the Surface devices in some countries, especially for a price as low as a Surface Pro in a sale.
  • I agree with that. I ended up buying mine New-in-box from Ebay. The price was far better and it arrived brand new in box. Cases and screen protectors are another issue with the HP Elite tablets. There is only one case that I could find, and it is bulky, heavy, ugly and expensive.
  • Interesting, thanks. Concerning screen protectors, I think you could pick from an other 12.3/13 inch 3:2 tablet as long the dimensions are the same (like maybe the 12.3 Elite tablet with bigger bezels?).
    With cases you could sort of do something similar, possibly need to cut some holes for the ports
    & buttons.
  • good article. I think I may have to sell my Surface Book 2 for a desktop.
  • Fair enough on the Surface Book but your comment on the Surface Pro is ridiculous. It's a tablet pc, it's not a gaming pc or a workstation. If you want this level of performance why are you buying a Surface Pro? I owned a Surface Pro 4 for 3 years and now a Surface Pro X. Not once has either device overheated or required a fan next to it. I question what are you doing to yours. p.s. Not once have I had a driver issue either.
  • In my experience Surface nailed the surface studio. We tried a Yoga a940 and the Surface ran circles around it. Palm rejection was poor. The glass was too thick to be accurate with a pen. Side by side everyone in the office preferred the Surface without question. It didn't help Lenovo's case when the yoga camera broke and the repair guy had to ask us how to turn the computer on. ??? 3 repair guys later, it wouldn't even turn on. It was returned for a full refund.
  • Jez it seems like with your workflow if you wanted to stay with a tablet form factor the HP Zbook X2 might be the answer? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on that tablet. The girth and cooling system on that tablet seems to explain why regular tablets like the surface pro don't cut it for high power programs like Adobe products. I love the tablet form factor for digital drawing, but due to issues with Surface products where I worked over the years I went with an HP Elite x2 when I went on my own. Other than the heat issue, which effects all tablet 2in1's I love my Elite x2.
  • I’ve had a surface pro 3, surface pro 5, surface book 1 and surface book 2. My wife has a surface laptop. Although as a visual and music creative the book on paper is my dream machine in practice it always had too many issues. My book 1 came with a broken gfx card, book 2 with a broken speaker. Never had those issues with the pros. However they both had backlight bleed which is annoying for something so expensive. Really though as others have said I think the problems tech wise with the book stem from the detachable base. Also due to its design I didn’t carry it around and draw on it in the same way as I did with the pros. Too bulky and not as quick to flip into a sketchbook form. I ended up selling my i7 15 inch book 2 a month after buying last year as it wasn’t as powerful as i expected and I didn’t really trust it to not to crap out after the broken speaker another few small issues. Currently using an iPad Pro and 16 MacBook Pro combo although I’d love a surface pro x as a luxury.
  • Just wanted to add I’m still tempted by the 7+ too ha ha. The jump in power and battery looks awesome.
  • Yeah 7+ its quite an upgrade actually. I really like it how you can replace the SSD, that is pretty unique for a tablet device (and gives some comfort for longevity of the device as well as the bigger battery). Also agree with Surface Book; imo the form factor while cool is to complex with the seperate gpu. They either need to redesign the hinge to prevent disconnects or replace it with a x360 hinge Surface (if they do the latter the cpu will have more breathing room too).
  • Love my Surface Pro 7 bought at Black Friday. Surface, Pen and keyboard for little over $1K. But I also didn't buy it for heavy content creation.
  • I own a SP7 (i5, fanless model). For many reasons, I prefer the Surface Pro form factor over a traditional laptop. Love the screen with touch and pen support. Love the keyboard and trackpad. Love the kickstand. I use my SP7 for media consumption in the living room, with Surface keyboard attached, and as my work PC, connected to a 4k monitor and wireless keyboard and mouse, in my office. I don't need or want a separate tablet or more powerful laptop/desktop PC. I should note that my work these days involves mostly writing/editing Office docs (Word, PowerPoint, Excel). Regarding 1) my SP7 never gets too hot. But I do admit we use AC in the summer! 2) Never had driver issues. 3) I dropped by SP5 a few years ago, cracked the screen, and ended up exchanging it for a "new" unit for a several hundred bucks. Then, recently, one of the hinges on the kickstand of my less than one-year-old SP7 broke (in normal use). So far I have refused to pay $450 for a "new" unit since this issue is not covered by the Surface Pro warranty and is not repairable. So I agree that reparability is an issue with Surface Pros, but think this is also true of tablets, phones, and ultrabooks these days. Bottom line - I still love my Surface Pro 7, broken kickstand notwithstanding.
  • I've had great experiences with the surface. I have an original Surface 1, that I'm still using to this day, which only needed one reset,
    but works perfectly fine. A few years ago, I got a Surface pro 2, which is the one I'm using right now, and have never
    had an issue with it. A friend gave me a Surface Pro 3, and I rarely use it, but it's a backup for the 2, since I prefer
    the pen and screen factor of the 2. The only thing I've worn out is the power adapter on the surface Pro 1, i've replaced it twice,
    and that was the docking station version, not the standalone adapter. I have the music remix
    blade for the 1 and 2, and docking stations for all 3 of them. Surface pros are the only computer that I use daily, day in, day out, year after year. I use it
    for rendering video, music production, and heavy duty web development. Yes, I live in the US,
    so heat is never an issue for me. I take each one to job locations, other houses, and outside,
    and they have all worked fine. Maybe in a decade, I will get a surface pro 4, or higher, but I don't really need to upgrade.
    The first two surface pros were bought used on Ebay for abut half the original price or
    less of what they cost originally. And I got the third one free. So to me, they've been worth it, and it's interesting to see the problems and issues
    with all the current ones. I'm sticking with windows 8.1, although the surface pro 3
    has 10 on it unfortunately, I could try to downgrade it. I've tried downgrading all of
    them to 7, but that doesn't work though. In the end, its a great product, and is still serving me well, i see no point in switching
    or replacing them, since they are so durable. later
  • Microsoft has had endless issues with hardware and software after they axed their Q&A team and programmatic testers. I don't see them ending anytime soon as they aren't going to re-hire a Q&A division. Damned bean counters. The hardware that hasn't really had many issues is the Xbox One Series - other than the initial launch fiasco; Xbox has been extremely solid. I reckon the thermal throttling issues boils down to a few things primarily 1)Not enough testing done in warmer climates for proper fan profile calibration. 2)Intels CPU architecture has been flagging for some time now especially with thermals in a confined space + low surface area for heat dissipation (same applies to AMD's Ryzen mobile APUs prior to the Zen 2 4000 series albeit even more so). Hopefully, we will soon see Ryzen 5000 APUs in Surface devices soon.
  • Agreed, that being said Surface Pro's are more stable now than than they were at the times of eg Pro 4 or older. A Q&A team does help with smoothing out issues with big updates but the engineering seems much better now with newer Pro's. Now I would recommend delaying feature/big updates for a few months (I would recommend this with every Windows laptop anyway), and possibly update earlier when you have issues (like an touchpad stopped working here on a new HP laptop and updating made it work again, bit offtopic but you get the idea).
  • Disapointed
    Maybe think of tablets to inserts in workstations for more power, tablets are made to move.
    A little as Nintendo Switch with dock.
  • I agree with most of this and am a surface fan as well having the Surface Pro 3, Surface Book 2 15" loaded and a Surface Duo. The Surface Book is an amazing device and I am one of the people who does actually disconnect the screen to sit down and write and read. The tablet is amazingly thing and the display outstanding. I love that experience. the problem is the battery is dead within 40 mins or so making me flip it on the base most of the time . I have had my share of issues with the detaching mechanism as well and agree the 360 hinge idea is smarter. We need a Surface Laptop that flips around to meet those needs. The DUO is an amazing piece of hardware. I bought it in November from Microsoft and can return it, no questions asked through the end of Jan. I will not return it. I love the device. It is so different, you can only understand the love for it if you buy it and give it a few weeks. Amazing device. Will it have issues down the road? we will see I will most likely move from the Surface Book to a non-Microsoft hybrid and just plan to upgrade every 2 years versus spending 3k+ and hoping for more longevity.
  • I gave up on Surface stuff a long time ago. Over priced and under powered. Apple stuff looks like a bargain in comparison. More importantly, what is with the crappy google ads at the bottom of the page that can NO LONGER BE CLOSED? Really? Its come to this? Are things this bad in Windows land?
  • You got spyware, there are no ads.
  • Finally someone, who isn't selling kool-aid here
  • Having thought a bit about your article I think one the issues here is that you only used old Surface Pro's and than upgraded to a Surface Book while in reality it seems like you wanted something like a Surface Laptop but with Nvidia gpu and high power processor (H/HQ variants).
    Surface Pro's after the Pro 6 make lots of sense since quad core processor is by far enough power for almost all Office / Ultrabook workflows and the like, while older Pro's were dual core's and the Pro 1-4 had heating issues.
    The other thing regarding the Book is that I think you picked the wrong device to say it bluntly. The Book seems to be more like a niche device for artists and designers (maybe Zbrush or Autocad users, heck even the Book 3 came with Quadro gpu's). The Razer devices with their highend Nvidia gpu's and higher power cpu's but no pen support are very different beasts.
  • Well I am a graphic designer and photographer and will never give up any of my Surface pro machines. It's such a versatile machine in so many ways that people don't realize until they are confronted with a unique experience. My coworkers ended up buying 7 (1 for each) after seeing what I do on it. Heck a couple bought it after I digitally signed some pdfs. But I do hope my next one has amd in it.
  • I am selling my Surface Book 2 on ebay after reading this article. I am opting for a desktop this time around. I am still going to hold on to the Surface Pro X because it works best for me. I feel like during the pandemic, a desktop is the best option and makes the most sense.
  • The pandemic will not last that much longer though probably, I mean most likely a few months yeah but not years. Its your choice but in your position if you would otherwise need a laptop I would buy a desktop replacement laptop (so a 15 or 17 inch laptop with high power cpu & gpu, different ports and at around ~2-2.5 kg so it is still somewhat portable if needed). And not something thin, but something thicker like Clevo/Sager laptops or such for good cooling.
  • I actually just got my Razer Blade 15 2020 Base Model just a few days ago (as a matter of fact the same day this article came out) and am writing this comment on it. I can say I have to agree with you on this case. As someone who got the Surface Pro 6 right before the 7 came out, it was great when I needed portability the most (and will still gladly take it over the Razer). This proved especially useful when flying out of the country and lugging it around campus. However, as you said, the underlying issues the Surface Pro 6, is one of the reasons I switched. Among the lack of upgradability and servicing, the issues I have with it, are mainly the I/O and keyboard. I don't know if it's because of the keyboard, but sometimes the keyboard won't properly connect with the Surface, even if left connected prior on the table. Which with that said don't even start me when carrying the Surface around. Additionally, the single USB port just doesn't cut it for me when I need at least two when not at home. Which of course could be mitigated by a USB hub, but that's just one more thing to carry. Thankfully though, I didn't have the supposed driver issues on my Surface Pro 6 and it works just fine, but I do agree with the price to performance is abysmal. Especially with how bad it throttles, even if undervolting. The only way I see getting around it is lowering the screen brightness to 50% which even then, is still too dim for me to work on properly. All of these issues are why I have finally decided to bite the bullet and buy a Razer Blade 15, it has a small form factor as well, better I/O, and while this doesn't apply to most people, it's an actual laptop and not a hybrid laptop. I understand, the Surface was never meant to be a full-fledged laptop, but trying to work on one's lap with the kickstand proved more troublesome than an actual laptop. Lastly, serviceability is an actual thing on the laptop, aside from the GPU and CPU, I can upgrade or replace the RAM, Battery, and SSD, all while utilizing Thunderbolt 3, which I know some other Surface devices feature, but the Pro has yet to do. I will conclude with being satisfied with the Razer (despite its own issues such as battery swelling, which is a deep concern for me) and be listing my Surface Pro 6 on eBay. While it lasted me well for the 1-2 years I have had it, it's issues were enough for me to move on to an actual laptop with features that make it worth over a tablet trying to be a laptop.
  • One of the better articles on WC.
    So do you mind sharing what laptop you're using now that you don't use a Surface?
  • Just out of curiosity, what real work do you do that requires a more powerful machine? "While using Surface products, I always felt like I was being held back by the hardware to some degree, especially after that initial honeymoon period wore off and it was time to get down to doing some real work". I agree the pro's are expensive and many have claimed issues, but to say they are not good enough for real work is a bit of a stretch. Just innovation/R&D alone make these computers worth the asking price. They have opened the door to other manufacturers to come up with better form factor of a traditional laptop. They are not for everyone and they are not perfect, but people need to stop comparing them to other devices because they are one of a kind. Same goes for the Duo that has been criticized because "the phone does" not have the newest chip, camera, or bells and whistles of today's phones. By the way Microsoft never said it was a phone, but everyone has reviewed it as a phone. They introduced it as a multi-tasking device that makes calls. You are entitled to buy any machine that best suits your needs, but don't try to make an argument that these machines are not for "Real work". I do all type of "real work" on my surface Pro 4 from coding to simple web browsing and it is still running great for my needs.
  • I've always been amazed how Microsoft have all the components of Apple's success with Macs, building their own hardware and their own software, but in contrast to Apple where everything is so optimized, seamlessly integrated, smooth and exclusive, with Surface you have Windows slapped on top of a hardware just like any other PC OEM... very pathetic
  • I totally agree with your point. The whole reason I purchased my Surface Book gen1 back in 2015 was for the Apple experience of hardware and software being integrated and optimized. But it’s been anything but that. Why can’t Microsoft own Surface devices get their bi-annual Windows update without their being software issues or one Surface device gets the update but other Surface device has to wait a month or more later to get the latest update? This is one of the reason I’m contemplating going with a Razer laptop or Mac later this year now that my Gen 1 Surface Book is starting to show it’s age with all sorts of quirks. I’m hoping now that Panos is over Windows that future Surface hardware and software will work better together.
  • I love Surface, but very nearly gave up on them a couple of years ago because of their chargers. I wrote a blog post b!tchin about it back in 2018 BTW....Jez Corden's reply to my post in 2019 didn't age well....."I've owned almost every Surface device and I've only ever had a problem with a Surface Book 2, which was broken out of the box (poor shipping maybe? dunno). I think they're totally worth it." ;) It seemed that with every early Surface I bought, the charger would pack up within a year. I replaced them with generic models on Amazon, but never felt comfortable using them (they felt very plastic, and would get worryingly hot). But I couldn't justify spending £100 on replacement charger's on the Microsoft store...which is what I ended up having to do. Since then, I've had a Go and Go 2, and happy to say that the chargers are a lot more robust. But still, when you're dropping £800-1500 on a machine, you expect the charger to last as long as the device itself, if not longer. Nowadays, my issues aren't so much hardware as they are software related. Seriously, Windows 10 has been the defacto Windows platform for 6 years now, and it's still a terrible touch screen experience. Buying a Surface without a keyboard would offer the user nothing short of the worst PC experience available. Windows absolutely needs to focus on the tablet/touch experience. My wife opted for a Surface Go 2 over an Ipad for Christmas, and within a fortnight I had to buy her a keyboard, because she'd quietly stopped using it. She'd gone back to using her 2014 Ipad because she couldn't get by on Windows in Tablet mode. Simple things like opening/closing browser tabs, or opening apps from the task bar, were driving her nuts. Everything is too small to use comfortably. Windows 10 does not do tablet mode well at all. And it needs sorting out. She's using it a bit more now that she has the keyboard (£, Microsoft, are massive pee takers) but her first and only experience with the Surface brand has been forever tainted. Hardware...ok to good. Operating system (in tablet mode)...still shockingly poor over half a decade on.
  • Very unlucky. The only issue(s) we've had is with the batteries within the Surface Books. Other than that, the Surface Pro has been really solid and, thankfully, lasted the test of time. I still have a Surface Pro 1 behind me connected to the Wifi management router. I've owned nearly all of them and, right now, I'm typing this on a Surface pro 7+ with a 1tb 2230 M.2 transplanted from a Tuff Nano device. It's a shame that MS didn't add a full TB3/TB4 port to this latest model.
  • Pretty generic complaints, then. Valid ones, absolutely, but not really problems with the devices themselves. It's just not your market. Lenovo etc have devices better suiting your niche.
  • The only Surface devices I have used and owned are the Surface 3 (girlfriend is currently using this,) Surface Book2 13" (current home device,) and the Surface duo. I haven't really had any issues or concerns. Will I go around touting to others the get these devices... Only those in my industry (design, interior design, etc) because the way they would use the devices would be similar to how I conceptually. My only gripe is I opted for the SB2 as I thought I would find myself detaching and writing to my heart's content. This has yet to happen though. Perhaps in time I will be taking advantage of this especially since the g/f (Mac user) has taken over the Surface 3.