Following its annual survey of some 90,000 laptop and tablet users, the consumer watchdog publication Consumer Reports yesterday pulled its buying recommendations for Microsoft Surface devices, citing reliability issues.
Available only to subscribers, the study found that Microsoft laptops and tablets have breakage rates of 25 percent within the first two years of ownership, according to a statement on the Consumer Reports Web site. That put the company's hardware in last place when compared to eight other device manufacturers, while Apple was ranked number one with a two-year breakage rate of 10 percent.
"Microsoft's real-world return and support rates for past models differ significantly from Consumer Reports' breakage predictability," Microsoft said in an emailed statement published on the consumer site. "We don't believe these findings accurately reflect Surface owners' true experiences or capture the performance and reliability improvements made with every Surface generation."
Problems with Freezing, Shutdowns, Touchscreens
Compared to the other companies reviewed by Consumer Reports, including Acer, Apple, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, and Toshiba, Microsoft has been making its own hardware for only a short period of time. It released its first Surface tablet just five years ago.
However, the problems cited by the consumer publication appear to reflect software issues as much as hardware ones. Electronics editor Jerry Beilinson told Reuters today that common problems in Microsoft devices included freezing, unexpected shutdowns, and difficulties using touchscreens.
"If you are very concerned about how long your products are going to last, it might be better for you to go with a brand that has a higher predicted reliability," Beilinson said in the interview.
After Apple, Consumer Reports ranked devices from Samsung (16 percent breakage rates after two years) and Acer (18 percent) highest in reliability. HP and Asus, ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, had breakage rates of 20 percent, while Lenovo, Dell, and Toshiba had rates of 21 percent, 22 percent, and 24 percent, respectively.
Reliability Scores Separate from Performance
Consumer Reports said its buying recommendation withdrawal applies to several Microsoft laptops as well as Surface two-in-one devices with detachable keyboards. They include the Microsoft Surface laptop (both the 128 GB and 256 GB models) and the Microsoft Surface Book (128 GB and 512 GB models).
Noting that Microsoft is "relatively new to the hardware business," the publication said this was the first year it has had ample data to calculate reliability figures for the company's Surface devices. The publication added that Microsoft's reliability scores don't necessarily reflect hardware performance in general.
"Several Microsoft products have performed well in CR labs, including the new Microsoft Surface Pro, which earned Very Good or Excellent scores in multiple CR tests," Consumer Reports said. "Based purely on lab performance, the Surface Pro is highly rated when used either as a tablet or with a keyboard attached."
However, "[c]onsumers tell us that reliability is a major factor when they're choosing a tablet or laptop," according to Consumer Reports survey manager Simon Slater. "And people can improve their chances of getting a more dependable device by considering our brand reliability findings."