Surface Pro 3 Follow-up: When it all goes bad

January 13, 2016 Blogging, Personal Comments (0) 229

Yesterday, my Surface Pro 3 was working great, just as it has been for the last 9 months.  It’s not my primary computer, but I basically use it for two things: Drawing cartoons and taking notes in meetings.

(OneNote is a fantastic program, if you’ve never given it a chance. I want so badly to prefer Evernote, but I just can’t.)

I was taking notes in my first meeting of the day when I noticed it didn’t want to scroll. A strange sort of problem, because the pen input worked perfectly, but the touch (ie, finger) input, which one uses to scroll in the virtual notepad, was generally unresponsive, particularly in a roughly 2-inch by 3-inch section square in the center of the touchscreen.

I rebooted. Problem didn’t go away. I did a full shut-down, waited a bit, and restarted. Still no fix. So I poked around online for a bit, and found some other possible solutions: Clean the screen (no good). Reset the touch calibration (nada). Factory reset the Surface–problem still stuck around.

I’ll note that, since the SP3 is not my primary machine, I keep almost nothing on the hard drive that isn’t also in my Dropbox (personal) or OneDrive (work) clouds, so the factory reset was no big deal. If this had been my main computer, things would have been a lot more complicated.

After letting the thing download updates from Microsoft for about two hours and still having the same problem, I did the next logical thing: Check to see if I was still under warranty. Microsoft, like Apple, offers a one-year warranty at no additional cost when purchasing a Surface. Since mine was new in April, I was in the clear–I left the office and walked 20 blocks north to the shiny new Microsoft Store on 5th Avenue.

A quick aside here: The Microsoft Store is basically the Apple Store with different logos. Seriously. Same minimalist layout and decor, same silver walls and natural wood tables, same smattering of products on those tables for people to peruse, and same cast of associates in brightly colored t-shirts and plastic lanyards. It’s the exact same thing, except Minecraft is everywhere.

The associate who greeted me took me to a coworker in a different colored shirt, who typed something and then sent me to the second floor where a third associate brought me to a fourth person who would help me with my problem. She introduced me to a fifth associate who poked around in my drivers, checked for updates, and poked around at the screen until he was satisfied that, yes, this problem was exactly as odd and frustrating and unexplainable as I’d told them.

Another aside: If you poke around online you’ll find other people who have encountered this same problem, where portions of the touchscreen stop responding to touch (in a roughly geometric pattern) but the pen still works normally. I haven’t found any explanation, and while the Microsoft Store staff didn’t know what caused the problem, it wasn’t the first time they’d seen it.

But here’s the key: I spent maybe 30-45 minutes at the Microsoft Store, mostly talking to staff and waiting while they examined my device. At the end of that period, they handed me a new Surface Pro 3 (to match the specs of the one I carried in) and wished me well. I ran a few updates, synced my pen (I bought a SP4 pen because it’s way better than the one that came with my SP3) and I was up and running like nothing ever happened, roughly 10 hours after I noticed the problem and three or so hours after I walked into the Microsoft store.

Nothing to complain about in this experience. Like my experience thus far with the Surface line, it was smooth, worked as it should, and generally exceeded my expectations for anything Microsoft.

I don’t have much to add. I’m sticking with the SP3 for now (the SP4 isn’t quite enough upgrade, and the Surface Book, while enticing with its expanded real estate, seems a little too new and experimental in its first iteration) but I definitely intend to stay with this line, at least until Apple puts out anything remotely competitive–and I don’t consider the iPad and Pencil competitive; not when the SP3 runs full windows and the iPad is limited to iOS.

I’ll report back if this new SP3 blows up my apartment or something, but for now I remain impressed with the Surface line and with Microsoft’s new direction in general.

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