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Leaked Microsoft memo exposes Surface quality issues

Consumer Reports has been around since the 1930s. It’s an independent, nonprofit organization that works with consumers to create a fairer, safer and healthier world.

The organization is very trusted, it has to be to stick around for over 80 years. Last week, Consumer Reports removed a popular line of Microsoft laptops from its recommended list. Microsoft is now fighting back.

What Microsoft is saying about Surface Laptop return rates

Consumer Reports took away the “recommended” rating for Microsoft’s line of Surface devices because the hardware was deemed as “significantly less reliable than most other brands.”

The publication said that its new annual survey of 90,000 tablet and laptop owners who bought their gadgets new between 2014 and the start of 2017 found that an estimated 25 percent of Microsoft Surface device owners were presented with “problems by the end of the second year of ownership.” These Surface issues include freezing problems, unexpected shutdowns, and irresponsive touch screens.

According to Consumer Reports, Microsoft’s estimated breakage rate was higher than other brands and the differences were statistically significant hence the reason for the revised rating.

The four Surface laptops that are being stripped of their recommended ratings are the Microsoft Surface Laptop (128GB and 256GB versions) and Microsoft Surface Book (128GB and 512GB versions). However, the overall “not recommended” decision applies to all Microsoft devices with detachable keyboards including the well-reviewed Surface Pro released in June, and even the clamshell Surface Laptops.

Now, Microsoft is trying to fight back. An internal Microsoft memo, discovered by, said the company believes Consumer Reports is wrong for removing its recommended rating.

In the memo, Microsoft Corporate VP Panos Panay said the company experienced “some quality issues” with previously released Surface models. However, those issues have since been fixed and new models are not having the problems. He believes the Consumer Reports recommendation removal is skewed by using older model details and should be separated from new ones.

Here is a chart showing the 90 days return rate for Surface models:

Image: Example of Surface laptop 90 days return rate. (Source:

As you can see in the chart, the highest level of returns occurred in 2015 at around 16 percent. Newly released models have a much lower return rate, some are closer to 1 percent.

Microsoft said it will work with Consumer Reports to try and learn from the survey as well as “reverse their findings.” In the end, this could be good news for consumers as Microsoft will focus more on quality and deliver even more reliable products in the future. At least that’s what we are hoping for.

Note: If you are reading this article using the App, click here to see the chart.

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