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  • Original Surface Books with Swollen Batteries, a Cautionary Story

    Posted on digitalmediaphile Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Home Forums AskWoody blog Original Surface Books with Swollen Batteries, a Cautionary Story

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      • #2015171 Reply
        digitalmediaphile
        AskWoody_MVP

        Microsoft’s Answers “Community Forum” for Surface Book (original) seems to be receiving a growing number of posts from unhappy customers whose $3000 c
        [See the full post at: Original Surface Books with Swollen Batteries, a Cautionary Story]

        5 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2015202 Reply
        Ascaris
        AskWoody_MVP

        Man, it just never seems to stop with the bad news about Surface devices.  It would cost Microsoft a lot less to replace the batteries if they hadn’t made the things nearly unserviceable, which is much the same as the problem that Apple had with replacing the butterfly keyboards.  Making the things hard to fix cuts both ways.  IFixit.com reported a terrible repairability score of 1 for these devices, which was the lowest score ever reported until the Surface Laptop came along and got a zero.

        The Acer Swift I am using now to write this is not in the same performance or price class as the Surface, but I could have the battery out in about ten minutes if I had the requisite tool with me (a tiny torx screwdriver) with no substantial risk of damaging anything.  You can always manage to mess something up, but the risk with the Swift is about as low as it gets in a laptop.  If a $350 laptop (which I got on clearance for $100 off!) can manage to be thin (all-aluminum case) and still easy to open, I would certainly expect a much pricier Surface to be the same way, but I’d be disappointed.

        I understand that the things are beyond the warranty period, but yeah, I do expect a laptop to last longer than 3 years, particularly a premium-priced one.  If I were Microsoft, I would offer a low-cost battery replacement for the affected models (regardless of age) if they are out of warranty.  IMO, it doesn’t have to be free (that is, after all, what the warranty is for), but an affordable low price like the $29 Apple charged for the battery replacement on some of their phones would be a nice gesture.

        Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.18.4).

        6 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2015205 Reply
        AlexEiffel
        AskWoody_MVP

        Voting with our wallet is the best way to discourage Microsoft from making unfixable computers and ignoring their customers that way. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help those who bought the product without knowing about Microsoft’s numerous issues on the hardware front and how they handled them.

        6 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2015236 Reply
        OscarCP
        AskWoody Plus

        I have the following questions that keep coming back to me every time I learn of yet another arresting problem with some MS-made hardware item and I’m really curious to know the answers:

        Has MS ever made and, or sold hardware (e.g. Nokia cell phones) that was not a source of grief to its users and, or a commercial failure for MS? Any item of hardware that was indisputably any good? If it has, please, I’ll be thankful for an example. And if it hasn’t, I really would like to understand why not.

        Windows 7 Professional, SP1, x64 Group W (ex B) & macOS + Linux (Mint)

        • #2015880 Reply
          anonymous
          Guest

          Quote:
          “Has MS ever made and, or sold hardware (e.g. Nokia cell phones) that was not a source of grief to its users and, or a commercial failure for MS?”

          Yes.

          Intellimouse Explorer 3.0 (mine still works, although it needed a disassembly and wash in soapy water because the wheel is covered in some rubber like material which “breathes” and over two decades gradually makes its surroundings sticky)

          Natural Keyboard

          1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2015269 Reply
        F A Kramer
        AskWoody Plus

        Yes, one. The Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 4000 intended for use with laptop computers. Mine has served faultlessly for several years. And the replaceable AA battery does not explode.

        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2015271 Reply
        NoLoki
        AskWoody Lounger

        I wonder if security officials at airports are aware of this potential hazard. As the article states, these Surface Books ‘bulge’ if faulty, so it would be easy to identify and ban them from a flight. If not, a fire or an explosion in-flight could result in a massive loss of life.

        Microsoft was voted the most ethical company in America in 2019. To prove that they actually earned this honor they should announce that the risk of potential personal harm from these faulty batteries has compelled them to recall all these Surface Books, no matter the warranty situation.

        It will be a financial burden for Microsoft to do this but if a plane goes down with hundreds of people on board they will be sued by the airline and the relatives of the dead passengers and crew, which will far exceed the cost of a recall. Criminal charges may follow – huge cost.

        1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #2015283 Reply
          OscarCP
          AskWoody Plus

          NoLoki: The way you put it, this looks more like something that calls for a government-mandated recall, rather than a voluntary one, as in: “Oh, MS, would you be good enough to recall all those laptops with dicey batteries, visibly swollen or otherwise, so planes do not start crashing and burning on top of people’s houses and the people inside them, with lots of actual people also inside those planes? Dreadfully sorry, MS, to dare interrupt your most perfect and transcendental tranquility so very rudely, but I can’t help thinking that it would be really nice and sweet of you if…”

          Windows 7 Professional, SP1, x64 Group W (ex B) & macOS + Linux (Mint)

          1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #2015349 Reply
          Ascaris
          AskWoody_MVP

          The worst case would be that such a defective computer would be checked in baggage.  It’s actually better for things like that to be onboard in the passenger cabin, as the flight attendants have access to fire extinguishers.  For this reason, lithium ion batteries that are not installed in something like a laptop or a phone cannot be placed in checked luggage– they have to be in carry-on luggage.

          Since the Surface’s battery is still installed in the unit when it bulges, it would seem to be allowable to put it in checked luggage, where the danger would be the greatest if a fire were to begin.

          Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.18.4).

          1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2015367 Reply
        doriel
        AskWoody Lounger

        Oh, I see. These are devices that get the lowes repairability index? 2017 model got number like 1 ..

        https://www.ifixit.com/tablet-repairability

        And Microsoft is using batteries, that can cause fire 🙂 this is why they will change it for free, because someone can call the lawyer 🙂 that company is total juggernaut.

        Dell Latitude E6530, Intel Core i5 @ 2.6 GHz, 4GB RAM, WX 1809 Enterprise

        HAL3000, AMD Athlon 200GE @ 3,4 GHz, 8GB RAM, Fedora 29

      • #2015376 Reply
        Alex5723
        AskWoody Plus

        Voting with our wallet is the best way to discourage Microsoft from making unfixable computers and ignoring their customers

        People are voting with their wallets. Surface Tablets/laptops are failing in sales. Microsoft sells ~2M devices a year for the last 7 years.

        https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/10/24/editorial-why-microsoft-surface-isnt-growing-after-seven-years-of-trying

        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2015406 Reply
        HarryH3
        AskWoody Lounger

        Between the myriad of hardware issues, unrepairability, and the ridiculous problems that the Surface line has had with Win 10 updates (Really Microsoft?  You don’t even bother to test updates on the very hardware that you sell!!?!?), I have steered many friends and clients away from purchasing one.  It could have been a great product, but Microsoft doesn’t listen to customers any longer.  They’re like a spoiled child that says “I do what I want!”  🙁

         

        3 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2015464 Reply
        anonymous
        Guest

        Sounds like a Lemon Law(Some States) issue where if enough devices are having the issue folks can seek redress that way.

        With regards to any business users MS better realize that reputation matters but really Business Grade laptops from other OEMs may be the better option at less than 3 grand. Really 3 grand is where Portable Workstations can be had and folks are really paying too much for such small and under powered devices.

         

      • #2016064 Reply
        wavy
        AskWoody Plus

        Sounds like some lawyers will make $$ off a class action whether or not the Surfaces are recalled.
        It would be nice if regulatory authorities took notice.

        I wonder if the Surface and such are sold just to stir the market for new computers and keep the MS brand in view. Perhaps making money on the is an aside. ( for the $3000 quoted above there would be very few takers IMHO).

        BTW batteryuniversity has a good write up
        https://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/safety_concerns_with_li_ion

        🍻

        Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
        • This reply was modified 4 months ago by wavy.
        • #2016284 Reply
          ve2mrx
          AskWoody Plus

          I wonder if they forced a mediation clause and made you give up class-action rights in the license agreement or warranty like they do in the Windows license?

      • #2016134 Reply
        Alex5723
        AskWoody Plus

        Sounds like some lawyers will make $$ off a class action whether or not the Surfaces are recalled.

        No one takes Microsoft to court regarding software or hardware. Microsoft’s EULA took care of that.

        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2016141 Reply
        Noel Carboni
        AskWoody_MVP

        Could it be that people expect to use their multi-thousand dollar portable tech devices for more than a few years? Why? When in history has that been true?

        My question is this: How do you expect such a device to fail when it reaches the end of its useful life? Something is going to fail first.

        Manufacturers are missing a trick, IMO: Once the battery starts to expand and put pressure on the components, the machine ought to sense that via a switch then prompt for a short time (days?) that failure is imminent and to get your files the heck off. Once that time is up, just self-brick.

        Hey, either the battery is serviceable or it is not. If not, irrevocably ending the life of the device is the most prudent possible move.

        -Noel

        • #2016144 Reply
          Noel Carboni
          AskWoody_MVP

          Or, of course, make the battery serviceable.

          -Noel

        • #2016146 Reply
          jabeattyauditor
          AskWoody Lounger

          Hey, either the battery is serviceable or it is not. If not, irrevocably ending the life of the device is the most prudent possible move.

          Similar to the Google approach…

        • #2016219 Reply
          OscarCP
          AskWoody Plus

          I have only had portable devices for computers: all my laptops, three of them so far, not counting the still newish and going strong 2 1/2 year-old Mac portable, just the Windows ones, have lasted me:

          6 years (Toshiba, Win 98) No hardware problems.

          5 1/2 years: IBM (made by Lenovo, Win XP)  Optical drive failed, replaced with an external one.

          8 years and counting (HP, Win 7) Only battery has needed replacing so far.

          Be all that as it may, I fail to see a ‘Surface’ in my future.

          Windows 7 Professional, SP1, x64 Group W (ex B) & macOS + Linux (Mint)

        • #2016288 Reply
          ve2mrx
          AskWoody Plus

          Hmm, by the time it bulges, it is already dangerous… And the only safe thing to do is to isolate it in a safe, ventilated, non-combustible place.

          Keep in mind that once it punctures, flames will likely follow as many are sensitive to air. The fire department is likely the only thing you should think about then!

          Martin

        • #2016345 Reply
          Ascaris
          AskWoody_MVP

          Could it be that people expect to use their multi-thousand dollar portable tech devices for more than a few years? Why? When in history has that been true?

          I have to admit that I’ve never owned a multi-thousand dollar portable tech device.  I have one that was manufactured in 2005, and another from 2008, that both came in under a thousand when they were new, and certainly my current models were well under that too.  The older two are still quite usable right now in terms of continuing functionality, though neither is in daily use anymore for other reasons (having been replaced by newer gear).  The 2008 one was one of my daily-use machines until I bought my Swift a bit over a year ago, though, so it had a ten year run, and it’s still a little bit faster in most ways– and a lot faster if you consider battery drain time, which is why I have the Swift.

          I’d expect more expensive devices to be at least as good as this– not less so.  Back when I bought those two older machines, serviceability wasn’t even something I had ever considered.  It was simply something I’d taken for granted.  I’ve had both of those laptops disassembled for varying reasons without any difficulty, and it never occurred to me that this characteristic was actually going to be a feature in the coming years.

          Now when I buy a laptop, I make sure it’s serviceable first.  Both of my daily-use laptops have batteries that are not glued in and can be swapped with simple hand tools.  I wouldn’t even buy a cheapish laptop that wasn’t serviceable… it would have to be “deal of the century” cheap for me even to consider it.  I don’t buy things with the intention of discarding them a few years later, and the only justification for disposable design is that it has a price as low as its life is short.

          Whether you are talking about my TV, my computers, my car(s), my cell phone (a slider-type model that I had before it was ever known as a “dumb” phone), my microwave oven, or any other thing, I expect it to keep working physically until it is truly obsolete (and not just because the maker of the OS, if the item in question has one, has decided not to update it).  That’s not always the case, but I do consider it to be a design or manufacturing flaw if it doesn’t.

          My TV has been obsolete by most people’s standards for a long time, but it works, and certainly my 2005 HP/Compaq laptop with a single-core 2.2 GHz CPU (AMD Turion) has been obsolete for nearly all uses for some time too, but it too works as well as it ever did.  It’s got scuffs and scrapes and signs of wear on the case, but everything that has a function is still doing it.  My microwave is approaching 10 years old, and I just replaced a microswitch in it (cost < $10 shipped for an Omron OEM switch) and returned it to daily use a couple of months ago.  I’ve had my car for close to two decades, and it was considered to be old when I bought it.  Until a month or so ago, I was using my ten plus year old Netgear router (with DD-WRT firmware), and I still would be if I hadn’t seen a much newer, faster one on closeout for 30 dollars.  I did have to replace a few capacitors in the old Netgear, but after I did, it was as good as new… or better, really, if you consider that I used capacitors of a quality tier far above that of the originals.

          Needless to say, none of these disposable, high-dollar devices are likely to ever end up in my hands.  The Dell G3 that I am using now to write this was a Black Friday purchase last year, but even then, I made sure to go to the Dell site and download (and read through) the service manual that Dell makes available for the model before I bought it.

          The approach taken by Dell, of not only designing the unit to be serviceable, but even going so far as to provide a manual to tell you how to do it, along with having a parts department that will sell consumers the spare parts, is the polar opposite of the disposable tech approach of far more expensive gear.  It’s why I bought the Dell in particular.

          HP, also, had a service manual available online for a competing model of laptop (also on a Black Friday sale) I was also considering, though they had a disclaimer on the first page of the .pdf that said that the information therein was intended for service professionals, not end users.  That cost them a bit in my personal evaluation, but not a lot… they’d made the manuals available, and the unit in question appeared to be as serviceable as is my Dell G3.

          Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.18.4).

          1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2141188 Reply
        rpetruzz
        AskWoody Plus

        Hi… here’s my tale of the “swollen battery”.  And it has a happy ending for me.  Last December I started to notice that my Surface Book 1 was not charging consistently.  Losing charge even when powered down for just a short time.  Then in January I started to notice that it wasn’t closing completely.  Soon I noticed that when starting up the corners of the screen were off color like light was bleeding through.  Soon it was obvious that the screen was convex with the swollen battery.

        Like everyone I went 1st to the internet to get the real expert opinions and found all of the posts about the woes of everyone with this problem.  Sigh… I bought mine in August 2016 so I was 4-6 months past the 3 year period where Microsoft would fix it.

        I am fortunate to have the resources to replace the machine so I bought a new Maingear Element laptop which is an absolute screamer.  Still just for the principle of it I wanted to take it out to my local Microsoft store so I could at least say “I tried…”.  Then I ran a full reset on the Surface Book so I wouldn’t care about tossing it anyway.

        This morning I went to my local MSFT store and to my surprise …….. they gave me a brand new out of the box Surface Book 1.  The store manager did explain to me what the 3 year policy was and then said that they would override the policy and give me the new machine.  Now I have a new Surface Book 1 and a replacement laptop.  Personally I prefer the new one so I’ll be looking to one of our children to see if they want the Surface Book.

         

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