On Thursday, Consumer Reports announced that it was revoking its recommendation for Microsoft Surface laptops and tablets, citing the results of a survey showing that people found them to be unreliable.
Speaking personally, I’m a big fan of the Microsoft Surface — I’ve reviewed every Surface device from late 2015 through the present, including the Surface Pro tablet and the Surface Studio PC, and I’ve given each and every one of them a glowing assessment.
And so, I have some feelings about what Consumer Reports found in its own research.
Here are my two main thoughts:
- I would still recommend the Surface to pretty much anybody, provided they’re ok with the premium pricetag. Each Surface device is a worthy alternative to the equivalent Apple product, which is a heck of an achievement for Microsoft after only five years in the hardware business.
- I would be lying if I said that I’ve only ever had positive experiences with the Surface, and there have been some hiccups. However, things have gotten much better with recent iterations of each device.
On that second point: my own experience dates back to 2015, when I received not one, but two busted Surface Pro 4 tablets to review, one after the other. By the time I got to the third, fully functional unit, I ended up loving it unreservedly. But the experience was enough to cast some doubt on Microsoft’s canniness as a hardware developer.
Similarly, Microsoft’s Surface Book device launched around the same time and was greeted with a chorus of user complaints around bugginess and random crashes. In February 2016, Microsoft issued a software update to fix the worst problems, along with an apology for taking so long to fix things.
But since then…nada. The Surface line has been nice and stable, without major incidents. Oh, sure, there have been the odd bug here and there, which have required some patches. But it’s way better than it used to be.
It’s also worth noting that the Consumer Reports survey was measuring failures after two years of ownership, which means that they’re largely dealing with those older Surface devices, not the newer, better, more stable models. The Surface Laptop, Surface Studio, and current-model Surface Pro are all rock-solid, in my experience.
So while I don’t exactly doubt the findings of the Consumer Reports study, I remain bullish on Surface in general, and would still recommend its hardware — especially its most recent hardware — to anybody who was looking for a Windows-powered Mac alternative.
Microsoft may push back against Consumer Reports, just as Apple did last year when it downgraded its MacBook Pro review over battery life issues.
Surface chief Panos Panay wrote a blog entry late on Thursday, titled “We stand behind Surface,” insisting that most people are happy with their devices.
“While we respect Consumer Reports, we disagree with their findings. Surface has had quite a journey over the last few years, and we’ve learned a lot,” writes Panay.
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