63 Reasons I’m Returning the Surface Pro 3 to Microsoft

I like Microsoft’s Surface in concept. But unfortunately, even with a third kick at the can, the company has failed dismally to execute. I’ve spent about a week now using the Surface Pro 3 exclusively and found it to be an imperfect grab bag of compromises. It’s a pale excuse for both a tablet and a notebook computer simultaneously and, as such, it’s a constant source of frustration.

The devil’s in the details with this device. At first its striking industrial design and bold use of colour and materials draws you in. But then, through use, you quickly grow weary of its many, many quirks, idiosyncrasies and plain old technical failings. It’s as though a team at Microsoft designed the Surface Pro 3 but then didn’t even bother to actually try using it before they boxed it up and put it on a shelf for sale.

This is not a usable device, in the sense of a traditional laptop or standard tablet. It’s a device you suffer and curse in order to celebrate the fact you don’t have an iPad or a MacBook Air.

Well, that’s not quite true. There are some positives to the Surface Pro 3. In particular, its glorious stylus and the way that stylus interacts with Microsoft’s superlative OneNote app. This is the closest any device I’ve ever used has come to replicating “ink” digitally, and it is truly wonderful. If this device was just about the stylus and OneNote and cost half as much, it’d be a triumph and I’d keep it without a second thought. Unfortunately, Microsoft has heartbreakingly buried that potential success in a torrential mudslide of blindly traditional PC aspirations that suffocate the device’s true value as something remarkable, unique, and useful.

On that note, without further ado, here are the 63 reasons I will be returning the Surface Pro 3 to Microsoft…

  1. Camera takes random pictures when device supposed to be asleep
  2. Extremely poor Microsoft support
  3. Extremely erratic automatic wake and sleep behaviour
  4. Screen size – too large for tablet use
  5. Weight – too heavy for tablet use
  6. No option for typing with keyboard in portrait mode
  7. Microsoft logo as Home button orientation in portrait mode is incorrect (actually, the use of a logo as a Home button is just dumb to begin with)
  8. Placement of Home button is odd and awkward (on the right side of the screen, where your hand often naturally lies while using the stylus?!)
  9. Desktop/touch environment dichotomy is extremely confusing and frustrating
  10. Internet Explorer touch and desktop unaware of one another (in terms of open tabs)
  11. Missing app: DayOne
  12. No good place to store stylus — it’s certain to get lost eventually
  13. Missing app: Rdio
  14. Missing app: Coda
  15. Missing app: Pixelmator
  16. Missing app: iPhoto
  17. Missing app: A good RSS reader like Reeder
  18. Extremely inconsistent sharing functionality (i.e. to Evernote never worked)
  19. Dearth of well designed, highly-functional touch apps — still!
  20. Most touch apps are too functionally limited (i.e. Evernote, Twitter)
  21. Missing app: Photolife (touch)
  22. Limited integration with iCloud (mail only)
  23. No integration with iCloud calendar (makes migration difficult, if not impossible — doesn’t Microsoft want people to abandon Apple? Then make it easy!)
  24. No photo folder or gallery sharing in OneDrive photos
  25. Camera quality is awful, really abysmal
  26. Kickstand warps with use (yes, after just a couple of days)
  27. Kickstand only works in landscape orientation
  28. Keyboard only connects in landscape orientation
  29. Keyboard requires physical connection
  30. Screen too dim in even moderate daylight
  31. Hand “sticks” to screen when handwriting in moderate humidity (halts “glide” of hand over surface of screen)
  32. Screen surface too reflective – seems even more reflective than iPad
  33. In handwriting to text input panel, touches by hand are interpreted as text (usually punctuation)
  34. When using Sharing panel, some unidentified gesture often causes panel to close, losing any input info or text before share occurs
  35. Kickstand/keyboard combination requires too much lap/desk surface area for optimum use
  36. Missing app: Path
  37. Keyboard oftens stops responding – needs to be disconnected and reconnected
  38. Lack of migration tools in general sucks – makes moving from Mac or iOS impossible
  39. Keyboard smells funky (maybe it’ll wear off?)
  40. Device doesn’t automatically wake when opened from keyboard — but keyboard lights up (WTF?)
  41. No LTE
  42. Super finnicky Wifi, often disconnects when asleep
  43. Returning to a wifi location generally requires a reboot — Surface can’t reconnect to previously used wifi points (tested on 6 different ones)
  44. IE11 had poor standards compliance, affecting compatibility with sites and impacting functionality
  45. Missing app: Safari
  46. Every time I hear about a cool new game, it’s for ipad
  47. Missing app: Espresso
  48. Trackpad on keyboard is very small
  49. Blocks of text intermittently, inexplicably disappear when writing
  50. Chrome looks like crap on screen
  51. The way the keyboard magnetically lifts up and connects to the bottom of the screen makes it impossible to perform up swipes to access bottom panel touch items
  52. Typing on the keyboard on a hard flat surface is noisy and bouncy (affecting accuracy), unless you type very lightly
  53. Pen buttons don’t work when composing a note prior to unlocking device.
  54. Touch keyboard not accessible when composing a note prior to unlocking device
  55. Skype video call quality sucks (compared to iPad)
  56. Hidden taskbar (and therefore touch keyboard) inaccesible without using mouse or pen
  57. Precise cursor placement and text selection impossible with fingers in desktop mode
  58. Battery is pretty darn awful
  59. Light on power adapter provides no indication of device’s charge state
  60. It’s too easy to accidentally brush against Home button and get unceremoniously dumped to Home screen
  61. Only black ink available when composing a note prior to unlocking device
  62. Loose keyboard hinge is not optimal for all non-desktop typing situations (i.e. cross legged)
  63. Device bounces awkwardly when typing on non-desktop surfaces

I could have continued expanding this list, but I had to stop somewhere. As I used the Surface Pro 3, the challenges and frustrations continued to collect. I was expecting them to end somewhere, but they never did. For every positive moment I loved using the device using the stylus and OneNote, there were a dozen or more frustrating or unsatisfying ones that made me loathe the damn thing.

Microsoft could certainly fix many of the problems I had, and maybe they will over time. But, really, shame on that company for failing to thoroughly test a device before shipping it to ensure that its users’ experience is optimal. Instead, I feel like I was part of some grand, expensive beta test with no end.