Some New Surface Pro Owners Complain About Light Bleed

Posted on July 17, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 30 Comments

Some New Surface Pro Owners Complain About Light Bleed

I’ve now received several emails from readers complaining of a light bleed issue in the new Surface Pro. But I’m not really sure this is an endemic hardware problem.

But let me at least document what I see, what readers have told me, and the wider complaints on Microsoft’s support forums.

“[Does] anyone have this new light leak issue on Surface Pro?” a reader asked on July 7, in an email that included a short video showing a light bleed right in the center of the screen.

That’s unusual-looking, and I advised swapping out the device. But it isn’t what most Surface Pro light bleed complainers are seeing. Instead, most are seeing light bleed at the top and/or bottom screen edges.

In another email from this past weekend, an unhinged emailer accused me of being “clearly biased” for Microsoft for ignoring this problem. While antagonistic, this one at least encapsulates the issue most are seeing.

“Why aren’t any of the tech sites reporting the prominent backlight bleed display defect in ALL Surface Pro 2017 devices?” the emailer questions. “There has been no response from Microsoft one month after product launch. It is the second most unanswered issue on the forums (after the hibernation issues which they claim to have resolved with a firmware update).”

This person compares the issue to Apple’s Antennagate event, where a hardware design issue prevented the iPhone 4 from getting a clear cell signal while it was being held normally. At that time, Apple said, a bit disingenuously, that all smart phones suffered from this issue, called attenuation. Which is only technically true: The iPhone 4’s attenuation problems were the worst in any shipping handset.

So how does this compare to Antennagate? Well, all portable PCs suffer from some level of light bleed, so there’s that. It all comes down to individual PC designs, variances in individual build quality, and other factors. More to the point, I review a dozen or so portable PCs every year. And I see some level of light bleed on virtually every PC I use. Heck, I see it on iPhones too, along with other weird issues related to screens being jammed into ultra-thin form factors.

So when I look at my own 2017-era Surface Pro, I see no light bleed at all in normal usage. Which explains why I am so “Microsoft biased” and didn’t mention it in my review. But you can contort things to see a bit of light bleed by hiding the taskbar and using a solid color as the background image. It’s there, a little bit. Just like it is on other PCs.

In the Microsoft support forums, there are some photos of light bleed. You’ll note that all are using a blue (or other solid color) background that you normally don’t stare at all day long.

So … Does the new Surface Pro emit some light bleed at one or more screen edges? Yes, as with most other modern PCs, it does. Does the location and amount of light bleed vary by device? Clearly. Does it impact “ALL” new Surface Pros? I can’t say, but I can say this: The amount of light bleed, and one’s acceptance of this, varies by device for sure.

Is that light bleeding at the bottom? I guess.

I struggled to take a photo that would show light bleed on my own Surface Pro, but I’m just not seeing it as worse-than-usual or notable in any way. Is there technically “some” light bleed? Yes. But it doesn’t bother me. And I do not notice it. In fact, the light bleed is worse on my Surface Book; in fact, it’s on the top and bottom. Which also doesn’t bother me.

Anyway, I’ve tossed aside my normal Microsoft bias—cough—to report on this issue. I hope that the customers bothered by this get a resolution from Microsoft. And that, in many ways, is the real story: How, and if, Microsoft responds to this issue. Whether its real, exaggerated, or just imagined.

And if you are seeing a light bleed, here’s an idea. Just sign-in to Windows and use the computer. It goes away when you do that.


Tagged with

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (30)

30 responses to “Some New Surface Pro Owners Complain About Light Bleed”

  1. Jaxidian

    Paul, is there any obvious light bleed with a black background? I think that's the most important scenario that matters (given it's not obvious with every-day use) for people watching movies and playing games.

    Otherwise, I've gotta agree with you - doesn't seem like much of a big deal.

  2. Vuppe

    I occasionally notice light bleed with my Surface Pro 4, as well. It's an unfortunate problem for a premium device. Makes me think twice about what my replacement will be.

  3. mariusmuntensky

    mediocre quality as usual since Nadella is in charge...

  4. gvan

    IPS screens all have these light bleed issues when displaying a black or dark screen. Apparently it's just part of the trade off for all the improvements in IPS. I'm a huge fan of IPS screens despite this one limitation.

  5. OhAlan

    I'm an unusual user: I use my Pro touch first and then only when required, with the type cover.

    I have tablet mode on 99% of the time and I limit win32 apps to bare minimum. I also use Edge as primary browser. At least I'm using it the way Microsoft intends for the future.

  6. OhAlan

    Absolutely had this on my pro and I was shocked. When windows Starts or installs updates it was very noticeable,

    Which, being on insider fast ring, was quite often.

    I had sent older pro's back for serious light bleed when they were worse than the device I had just returned for another issue.

    This time I wasn't going to risk it, so as soon as I had a problem I couldn't resolve, it went back for refund.

  7. thisisdonovan

    My SP3 has some light bleed, I only ever notice it when there's a black screen on starting it up....I just don't notice it at all when I'm using I don't care.

  8. zorb56

    My SP3 has always had this weird yellow strip of light going down the left side. Like the screen was jaundice or something. It really can only be seen when looking at a white screen (notepad, new tab in browser, etc). But after frantic searching and seeing others had the same issue, I soon forgot about it and got over it. I get it, these devices are 1-2 grand, but like you said Paul, this happens when you jam incredible screens into ultra thin, small-bezel form factors. I would have taken it back if it were still under warranty, but this did not appear until later.

  9. rfog

    Both my SP3 and SP4 have *a lot* of side light, most when showing black color and on power on. I assumed as normal, as I assume other zillion flags as normal. I returned 3 SP3 and 2 SP4 before get one that had not much problems... and still they have.

  10. SDreamer

    Every Surface I've owned except the Pro 1 has had light bleed. Just bad attention to detail by MS after their debut. Every Apple device I've had has never had it. It may seem like a trivial issue, other devices doe have more obvious light bleed than others, even my Samsung TV has it and it drives me nuts when the screen is a solid color. For a pro device, that's suppose to go out to the field, and help creatives, especially the photography community, this can be detrimental. It shouldn't be seen for professionals. If they want to retain what they've captured, then they need to keep the quality up. This can affect some professional work. thus taking the Pro moniker out of the Surface Pro.

  11. rameshthanikodi

    Don't most screens have "light bleed" to various extents? You don't notice it until you put up a flat color on the screen.

    • Surface Guy

      In reply to FalseAgent:

      Yes! All screens have light bleed, but that is not what we are discussing. We are saying relative to all those "other" screens this light bleed is much more noticeable and annoying when in portrait mode.

      Also depending on the price you pay for the product you expect better quality control to mitigate the effect as much possible, where they would trash the worse screens for cheaper markets, which Microsoft has neglected to do for this so called "premium" product.

  12. Surface Guy

    Why don't you consider the major difference it has with the Surface Pro 4 display and put them side by side if you have one?

    It's as if the display has been downgraded in terms of backlight bleed. That's the issue! Yes, all IPS displays have backlight bleed more or less but it's a question of the extent. You clearly do not use it in portrait mode but for people reading fullscreen white articles in portrait mode, it is really annoying for one side of the article/book page to be brighter than the other side.

    Hold it vertically once if you are so unbiased! This is one of the most biased coverages of the recent complaints I have seen in the past 24 hours...instead of asking Microsoft for an answer and trying to get a response from them you bash the consumers.

    All of them have light bleed, right! But we expect at this price point better quality control than a cheap tablet!

  13. Darmok N Jalad

    I was wondering if I'd see an article here about it too. :)

    It's probably something like discovering the arrow in the FedEx logo--once you see it, you can't unsee it anymore. I have had such issues to varying degrees on devices before, but it was almost always limited to a mostly black screen being projected at high brightness. It's not something I see as often as I once did when LCD panel tech was still relatively unrefined.

    • Christopher Panek

      In reply to Darmok N Jalad: I see it most at low brightness and on light colors. It's invisible on blacks. Bleed might be a misnomer. Discovering it like the FedEx arrow would be how I'd describe normal bleed on a cheep device. This goes beyond that. The floor model exhibited none of this defect, but three boxed units did.

  14. TheOctoberist

    Paul—frankly, I think you're downplaying this issue a bit too much. You don't need to "contort things" to be distracted by this issue. The experience of using some of the product's most appealing features—writing in Microsoft OneNote in portrait mode, using the default Windows 10 sketching app with the pen—is hindered by this screen issue.

    The right questions are: (1) what's a "reasonable" amount of light bleed for an LCD screen at this price point and (2) how many devices are afflicted by "unreasonable" bleed. Given that this device has been out and available for *only one month*, the amount of user feedback on Microsoft's forums and Reddit is meaningful. As is the sample size. And this suggests, to me, that there are a concerning percentage of Surface Pro 2017s with an unreasonable amount of bleed.

    Personally—I've had to return three of these products because I get too distracted when writing with the Surface Pen in OneNote. A fourth one is on the way. I'm a lawyer and being able to annotate on a tablet is a big feature for me. But every time I used the product's screen, I was reminded that I just spent $1,800 on a product with a sub-par LCD panel.

    This is not the premium experience folks bought.

    • BSC

      I don't mean to make light of your experience, but how are you seeing light bleed with OneNote? Light bleed typically happens with a dark screen or background and OneNote has a white background.
      In reply to TheOctoberist:

      • Christopher Panek

        In reply to BSC:Yes, at least I am. I took mine back to Bestbuy and handed it to the CS rep on a white screen and they saw it right away. We opened two more and they were worse than the first one. I don't care if you can call it bleed or what, the color is ridiculously uneven on the lower 3rd of the display and can be seen easily during normal use. Why is the attitude of this article so dismissive? The iPad gets this right. Why not the surface at three times the price?
      • Andrew G

        In reply to BSC:

        The pattern in the photo above, with a bright band across the bottom of the screen? That's what I see in OneNote. Every day.

        If it doesn't bother you, fine. But don't pretend it's not there.

  15. MemphisNET

    We saw ''light-bleed'' from virtually every generation of Surface and Apple laptops in the retail environment. Telling someone this is normal was a sure fire way to get your head torn off. When showing a customer that my iPhone was the same, he told me that it was just mine. I then showed him on his own device, and blew up saying "you did something to my phone"

    ... if there is one thing I hate about people, it's everything.

    • Waethorn

      In reply to MemphisNET:

      Not a people-person. Got it.

      Why do you work in retail, again?

      • MemphisNET

        In reply to Waethorn:

        Was anticipating this kind of reply; I must have forgotten a smiley face or some other emoji to show that I was ''tots jokes, brah".

        And I'm not going to assume you've never worked in retail either but I will say this - people like to be mad. They've spent a LOT of money and they expect things to be flawless. When their machine is broken/not performing correctly, they frantically Google and find that ''everyone'' is having the same problem.

        I actually like people. And Sales. Those who can engage in a level headed conversation and look forward to their new purchase are the bright part of my work days. Trust me, I NEVER have blown someone off because they are upset or disappointed in their brand new toys. But there is a group (a very loud and closed minded group - who happens to be more prominent than not) that just LOVES to get mad, irrational and engage in child-like behavior because they aren't getting their way or that they've been personally injured and shamed that their product has not done what they expect. They love to start a fight. And when you try to insert some logic into that fight, it just makes it worse.

  16. adamcorbally

    Paul from my perspective you are anything but Microsoft biased, if anything you are more antagonistic towards Microsoft than you are towards google and apple because you actually care about Microsoft products and providing readers with good advice on where to spend their money. I might not always agree with you but to those of us that are unhinged this comes across, keep up the good work.

  17. ibmthink

    "all portable PCs suffer from some level of light bleed"

    All except PCs with an OLED screen (which is still rare, but they exist). The light bleed comes from the LED backlight, so OLED screens can´t have any light-bleed because they don´t have any backlight.

    But yes, if it is an IPS screen, there almost certainly will be backlight bleed. The amount varies from screen to screen and machine to machine.

  18. Christopher Panek

    I own an iPad 2 ($500), Nexus 7($200), several laptops (various $), and surface pro 3 (1500$ all in). The Pro 5 ($1600 all in) I bought bleeds very badly and noticeably compared to everything less expensive that I own. Your dismissive tone is disrespectful to the people and the community you write for. Do you think we should expect less than premium? Here’s an idea, draw on it like they advertise, watch a video on it like they advertise. Yes it is sort of hidden by the task bar, but in any other use case that this device is designed and marketed for the bleed is glaringly obvious. Going soft on Microsoft, Paul?

Leave a Reply