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07/10/14 New Surface Pro 3 Firmware–All is still not well with WiFi and battery life

As of 07/08/14, Microsoft has added yet another firmware update to the Surface Pro 3 family of Laptop/Tablets.  This is the 2nd firmware released since the units were first sold.  You can access this upgrade via the Surface Pro 3 update process.  Once there,  you should find the firmware (07/08/14) towards the bottom of the update list along with about 15 other software updates, mainly to Windows 8.1.  The update takes about 5 minutes on a normal DSL link, so if you are running a more modern internet connection like U-Verse it should be much faster.

I am still seeing a pretty consistent issue with my Surface Pro 3 where the WiFi connection is not very reliable.  This morning for instance, I powered on, made my normal connection and started to work on my websites, however withing 4 minutes of connection, I was seeing slow responses, and hangs.  While this was going on, I grabbed my Surface Pro 2 and also connected to the web via DSL, no problems, no hangs, etc.  I was able to get the Surface Pro 3 to finally settle down, by going to Control Panel, and disabling the WiFi (Marvell), then re-enabling it.  This seemed to fix the problems as for the next hour I was fine, web browsing was excellent and uploads were not a problem.  I have had to do this or something similar now about 1/2 of the times I have powered up my Surface Pro 3.  Luckily I am mainly using this unit for a tethering PC for my Phase One digital back, so WiFi is not critical, however for the average user, I would say this is issue Numero Uno.  I still may just have a machine with flaky  WiFi, but in my 25 years of hardware experience, such intermittent issues don’t tend to be hardware especially on a machine like the Surface Pro 3, so it’s drivers or software or a combination of both.

I am still seeing a few issues that concern me on the Surface Pro 3

  1. WiFi is not anywhere as consistent as the WiFi I had with Surface Pro 2
  2. The battery life may actually be less than the Surface Pro 2.  After 2 weeks of use, I am seeing my machine at best getting 3 hours of constant use.  This is with the LCD brightness well below 1/2 and running in “power saver” mode
  3. The fan is behaving erratically.  At times it comes on when I am just browsing the web, and it stays on.  You can feel heat on the back side of the machine so the fan is working like it should, but it seems the processor is working a bit hard
  4. Whenever I run a hardware update, after the files have been downloaded and installed, during the reboot process the fan runs at full bore, and it’s quite loud.  Don’t be fooled in thinking this machine “has no fan”
  5. I still see the strange issues with the trackpad as I did with the Surface Pro 2 where the mouse pointer just stops working or when the mouse pointer doesn’t enable what it’s clicked on.  As with the Surface 2, removing the keyboard and snapping it back on seems to fix this 85% of the time
  6. Machine seems to run hot even with very low taxing work, (I base this on the fan behavior) so I am not sure it the Surface Pro 3 will work for tethering in the field since during tethering the processor and memory are working much harder than when web browsing
  7. Sadly, Microsoft forgot to include the feature of the Surface Pro2 where when finished charging, the light on the A/C adapter goes out.  With the Surface Peo 3, the light stays on all the time.  Maybe a minor nit pick, but it was a nice feature to know when charging was finished.

Based on Microsoft’s past history, I don’t expect to see any real changes to this behavior without some EC’s (Engineering Changes) and this won’t apply to my machine, only units shipped after a certain period of time.  In fact Microsoft more than likely has already made several EC’s to the Surface Pro 3.

My conclusion is that for now, once again sticking out my neck an buying bleeding edge equipment was not a good decision.  My Surface Pro 2 was purchased only in April 2014, so it was much further along in EC’s and internal fixes.  I still feel that the design of the Surface Pro 3 is excellent, but overall I don’t feel that enough testing and Quality Control was done on the Surface Pro 3’s prior to shipping.  This is sad as you only get 1 chance to make a first impression.