Consumer Reports pulls Microsoft Surface recommendation, citing high breakage rates

The Surface line has been a surprising hit for Microsoft in recent years. What many regarded as little more than proof of concept for Windows 10 has become a leader in the two-in-one tablet category in its own right. But according to a new survey conducting by Consumer Reports, the devices have proven far more unreliable than much of the competition. In fact, things are so bad, the publication has revoked its recommendations of the products.

In a survey of 90,000 tablet/PC owners, Consumer Reports found that around a quarter of Surface owners reported breakage problems with their devices within two years. That’s significantly higher than the number reported for Apple, Samsung and Acer at 10-, 16- and 18-percent. Though Toshiba and Dell followed close behind at 24- and 22, percent, respectively.

That means that Microsoft’s not alone at the top of the list, but the idea of a quarter of customers reporting significant problems with a product within the first two years is troubling — particularly in the case of a tablet or PC. The investment involved in purchasing such a product comes with the expectation that it’s going to last longer than a smartphone contract or a term in the House of Representatives.

In fact, it’s high enough that CR has pulled its stamp of approval from two Surface Laptop
and two Microsoft Surface Book SKUs. The publication does this from time to time, and it rarely bodes well for the company in question. Often times it’s followed by a public reaction mirroring the five stages of grief. In Microsoft’s case, we appear to be in “denial.”

The company offered us a statement that basically agrees to disagree with Consumer Reports about the whole kerfuffle.

“Microsoft Surface Pro is designed and built with performance and reliability in mind,” a spokesperson writes. “Microsoft’s real-world return and support rates for past models differ significantly from Consumer Reports’ breakage predictability. While we respect Consumer Reports, we don’t believe these findings accurately reflect Surface owners’ true experiences or captures the performance and reliability improvements made with every Surface generation. We’re proud of the high performance and versatility marks Surface Pro received in Consumer Reports’ laptop lab evaluations.”

If this plays out the way these things usually do, the acceptance stage should involve the company promising to work more closely with Consumer Reports.

My own experiences with the Surface line of products have been mostly positive, though my testing hasn’t included the sort of day to day rigors these devices are subject to by the people who own them. As Microsoft notes in its statement, the devices, including the new Pro and Laptop, have performed well in CR’s lab testing, but that also fails to take into account long term, real life usage.