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Don’t Buy a Surface Pro 4 Just Yet



It was on October 6th that Microsoft’s Panos Panay and a few other key executives took to a stage in New York City to reveal the new devices. These devices, he and others said, would showcase the full breadth of Windows 10. Among these new devices were the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone at that briefing thought Microsoft was making the wrong move. Even today, nearly a month after they launched, it’s not hard to find users singing the praises of the Surface Pro 4’s design. I spent time with both the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book at that launch event, taking time to appreciate every curve, design change and feature addition. I felt that Microsoft had some compelling hardware on its hands as I joined the crowds streaming out of the briefing location.

Surface Pro 4 Impressions (5)

Read:Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Impressions

A month after their release, I’m still convinced that the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book are spectacular pieces of hardware. I’m also convinced that everyone who hasn’t purchased them yet should not buy either until Microsoft has publicly acknowledged and offered fixes for each device. Strangely enough, Microsoft – the software company who started making hardware – can’t seem to get the software that powers its Surface devices right.

Surface Pro 4 Problems: Chapter 1

It all started just after that early October event. I went back to my hotel room and pre-ordered a Surface Pro 4 with an Intel Core M processor. I later pre-ordered a Surface Type Cover to go with it, having sold my previous one after the tablet itself took a tumble and landed on its screen. Reviews arrived the week before release. Every reviewer noted that they were not able to test out Microsoft’s Windows Hello feature because it wasn’t available at the time. Microsoft added support for the feature on launch morning.

Read: 9 Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Problems & Fixes

I’ve had nothing but problems out of Windows Hello and the Surface Pro 4 since release. Even after that first update and subsequent updates, Windows Hello fails to log me in. This morning, after another round of firmware updates I awoke to find that Windows Hello and my web cameras in general were broken. I cleared everything and restored Windows 10, trying to fix early Windows Hello issues to no avail. Restarting my Surface Pro 4 hasn’t managed to fix my now disabled web camera.

Surface Pro 4 Problems: Chapter 2

Windows Hello aside. I’ve had tons more issues with the Surface Pro 4. Many of them are mirrored in reports at the Microsoft Answers community website and the r/Surface forum on Reddit.

The Surface Pro 4 will sometimes refuse to go to sleep in my bag, even though I’ve closed the cover and put it to sleep. Twice now I’ve arrived at a destination to find a hot Surface Pro 4 and half-depleted battery. Even without the battery bug, I’m getting significantly less than the 9 hours of battery life that Microsoft advertises. Battery life is tough to standardize because you have to account for screen brightness and apps. I spend 9 hours a day writing, listening to music and browsing in Microsoft Edge. I’m not doing anything special, at least nothing that should require more battery power than what Microsoft tested for. Reddit community members have noticed the drastic difference in battery life too sometimes too.

Surface Pro 4 Problems: Chapter 3

Then there are some very serious, issues that are driving me crazy despite restoring from factory settings. The Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book have a display driver issue that causes the entire tablet to lock momentarily. The screen flickers then returns, noting that Windows has automatically recovered from the error. This has happened at least once a day for the past month. Right now it’s isolated to Microsoft Edge. One time, the driver crashed and did some temporary damage to all of Windows.

I can reliably cause the Surface Pro 4 to crash by trying to cast media from it to an external media device connected to my television. It happens every time, without fail.

Surface Pro 4 Impressions (6)

Microsoft sells the Type Covers as the ultimate accessories, but I’ve had a hard time getting it to work sometimes. Though connected, the cover’s keyboard and mouse pad will stop functioning. Forcing me to restart. When the keyboard is folded back during start up the Surface Pro 4 will hang on its boot screen. Detaching it finally gets things moving. Connecting the keyboard, folding it back can sometimes make screen orientation controls disappear. Sometimes the Surface Pro 4 freezes or loses its connect to the Surface Pen without warning.

There have been random lock ups and failures to connect to external display. Again, checks with prominent Surface communities confirm that I’m not experiencing these issues in a vacuum. They’re happening to real people everywhere.

Wait to Buy

Surface Pro 4 Impressions (1)

I’m not saying don’t purchase the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book ever. They’re terrific pieces of hardware, engineered to perfection. On the other hand, I am saying hold off on purchasing either device until Microsoft has fixed these issues. Check with online communities and keep your eye on recent reviews. If you are buying a Surface Pro 4 and run into issues, don’t hesitate to contact Microsoft’s Support channels; you probably aren’t alone.



  1. Emanuel

    11/20/2015 at 11:18 am

    Got my Surface Pro 4 today but I cannot update it nor can I use Windows Hello.. Very sad..

  2. Nak

    11/21/2015 at 6:42 am

    I have a SP4 and agree with the admonition not to buy one yet. I’ve spent more time trying to keep mine running than I’ve spent using it. Too bad really, because it really could be great. I wanted this thing to work so badly, but so many minor problems that together make the SP4 unusable. As well as a few major problems. Looking over the forums, I’m going to guess that the device is plagued with hardware issues as well as software. Sadly, I’m returning mine. I’ll try another though. Maybe it’s possible to get a good one? I’ve seen good reviews, but I have to wonder if those aren’t written by Microsoft employees. I’ve yet to actually find a real person yet that has had a good experience with the Surface Pro 4.

  3. Emanuel

    11/21/2015 at 7:15 am

    After reading some post and finally updating my SP4 it works great ! :) Surface Pro 4 as good as expected.

  4. Federico

    11/22/2015 at 12:26 pm

    I have a SP3 and, after migrating to Windows 10, I started experiencing several issues described in your post plus performance problems that I didn’t have with Windows 8. I suppose that the problem is Windows 10 and/or its drivers.

  5. OneFiveNine

    11/24/2015 at 8:08 am

    I bought a Surface Pro 4 and it’s terrible. The touchscreen responds badly, the touchpad either. Software is buggy, the onscreen keypad crashed several times, picture log-in doesn’t work, live tiles won’t open after touching them and the whole system crashed more than once. Sometimes, the cursor disappears. Edge is a terrible browser. It has one job: show websites to me. Apparently that’s too difficult. The screen has backlight bleeding.

  6. David A

    11/26/2015 at 10:38 am

    I am a first time Microsoft Surface Pro 4 user ( first Microsoft product ever) and overall my experience has not been to shabby. The first surface pro 4 which I received from the pre-order failed to work at all. The system kept saying “Attempting repairs” and never moved passed that screen. I took it back and was given another surface at no cost. I am a student working towards my doctorates degree, so the programs in constant use include basic Microsoft office programs. For the most part they work fine but have crashed a couple of times and I keep running into issues with the files saving correctly. This causes a lot of headache because many times I am doing the work 2-3 times before it saves. I finally started saving things to my USB just to be safe. As the review mentions, the keyboard mouse functions seem to be off. Many times I’ve had to restart my surface in order to get the cursor back. I have also had many issues connecting to WiFi. Overall the experience has been much more efficient than my iPad but i am not sure if I would say it “replaces my Macbook pro.” That old guy is running slower but considering it is from mid 2009 he still runs very well. I am happy with my purchase so far and Microsoft’s surface surface is excellent in fixing the issues I have called in about, the only problem is there should not be so many issues. Does anyone know Microsoft’s policy for surfaces as far as exchanges if they fix the bugs we are experiencing now.

  7. konflict (@rolex_905)

    11/26/2015 at 3:47 pm

    What is the next machine similar to the Surface that is due out soon? Probably something made by Dell, no?

  8. David Taylor

    11/26/2015 at 5:33 pm

    Purchased one for my wife and I must agree. I have buried my head in the sand for the last 3-weeks that the ‘problems’ will go away or be fixed with an update. The problems are often intermittent, but also almost impossible to tolerate compared to a cheap Dell or HP laptop – which honestly are way more reliable.

    I am calling support today. It should have taken 2+ hours to apply the November update. I am now trying a ‘refresh/reinstall’ – and have been waiting 2-3 hours and it still isn’t finished. This is a Core i5 8GB RAM machine. It just doesn’t make sense.

    My issues are “Really slow hard drive times intermittently”; “Fails to restart without hard reset”; plus the usual more common ones.

  9. HBert

    01/04/2016 at 12:19 am

    I bought a top of the line SP4 i7 three weeks ago. Worked smoothly for two or three days with MS Office and Visual Studio installed. Then the trouble started. The SP4 crashes into a black screen (no cursor, no mouse pointer) and turns unresponsive at random times – frequently (but not exclusively) when watching youtube movies or scrolling pages in a web browser (edge, chrome, firefox – equal trouble). After becoming unresponsive there are two scenarios. (a) when crashing in youtube I have a 30% chance of recovery when pushing the on/off button two times shortly. In all other instances, I have to hold it for 15 seconds to force the device to power down and reboot.
    I have already refreshed the device and refrained from installing MS Office and Visual Studio. Now I more-the-less have only Firefox, Thunderbird, MySQL and a Python distribution (Anaconda) installed. Same problems as before. Crashes happen at random times – approx. every 20 minutes or so (longer and shorter intervals also occured; however I never managed more than 2 hours); it seems, that the problem mainly occurs with a web browser open or active. All patches applied. Any ideas on that?

  10. Cheesed off

    01/20/2016 at 3:40 pm

    Sp4 is. Utter pants throw it in a skip on the way to the computer store

  11. Jo Bond

    02/23/2016 at 1:37 pm

    Purchased top end sp4 and very disapointed. Essentially unusable. Frequent black screen requiring reboot. Warching videos it sounds like a broken lawn mower before unresponsive black screen returns. Spent huge amount of time checking out fixes. No more, giving up on it even though it cost £1500. Piss poor, really piss poor.

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