Microsoft Admits to Surface Laptop 3 Display Cracking

Posted on February 18, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 34 Comments

Multiple Surface Laptop 3 customers have experienced cracked displays. Microsoft says it is investigating the problem, but news of yet another reliability issue should be concerning to any Surface fan.

“A limited number of Surface Laptop customers have contacted Microsoft and have reported screens that have cracked through no fault of their own,” a Microsoft statement notes. “We are evaluating the situation and investigating the root cause of the claims.”

I first heard about this issue via my old friend Barb Bowman, a Microsoft enthusiast and consumer advocate. She reports that a growing number of customers have reported display cracks on their Surface Laptop 3s, on both Reddit and Microsoft’s Answers forum. The cracks apparently only appear on the non-Alcantara models, which is somewhat ironic, and none were the result of any accident.

In a separate report, ZD’s Mary Jo Foley quotes a Reddit user who believes the problem is due to Microsoft removing the gasket between the glass and the metal on the all-aluminum product. Whatever the cause, hopefully Microsoft can get ahead of this issue and provide a fix, something it was unable to do successfully with balky Surface Pro 4 and first-generation Surface Book PCs back in 2015-2016.

As I’m sure you know, I coined the term Surfacegate to describe those problems, which led to Consumer Reports temporarily removing its recommendation for the product lines. But Surface has had a much better reliability record since then.

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Comments (34)

34 responses to “Microsoft Admits to Surface Laptop 3 Display Cracking”

  1. christian.hvid

    No worries, a firmware update should take care of this.

  2. mikefrommarkham

    In reply to Greg Green:

    Oops! I meant to upvote your comment but my fat finger hit the wrong arrow. Sorry.

  3. faustxd9

    I have that same type of crack on my Surface Go and while I don't remember doing anything to make that happen it does get shoved into bags from time to time. At least it is not too noticeable from most angles.

  4. ruivo

    Oh, another Fliqlo user, neat!

  5. angusmatheson

    It’s OK. I only bought 3 of these. After being bitten by 2 apple macbook pros with repeated keyboard failures...I’m sure nothing could go wrong with my surface laptop 3s

  6. RobertJasiek

    This is the consequence of devices getting a "borderless" display design. The less protection the more likely they break.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      Unless they use the best of fracture-resistant glass, which substantially adds to price or substantially reduces margins. May also add weight. I go along with those who find this penny-wise, pound-foolish.

      The more useful thing to find out (which no one outside MSFT may ever do) would be what sort of testing was performed on these laptops before they shipped. Hard to believe this wouldn't have shown up in reasonable pre-release product testing.

  7. Bdsrev

    Surely they put the little plastic bumper things? If they did not put any type of soft bumper, they're nuts and they need to fix this

  8. BigM72

    The penultimate sentence reads as if Consumers Reports removed the recommendation because you coined the term Surfacegate, haha.

    Hope they sort it quickly and don't take another hit on the reputation (premium products must be reliable).

  9. Todd Northrop

    The headline is "Microsoft Admits to Surface Laptop 3 Display Cracking".

    The Microsoft statement was, "A limited number of Surface Laptop customers have contacted Microsoft and have reported screens that have cracked through no fault of their own.... We are evaluating the situation and investigating the root cause of the claims."

    I've read that Microsoft statement a few times and can't see anything admitting to a display cracking problem. They simply said that they received a few complaints and are following up. Seems like a sensible statement and reaction to a claim posted on the Internet.

    P.S., The level of Microsoft hatred among Thurrott readers/commenters is astounding.

    • r2d22

      In reply to Speednet:

      totally agree, specially with the ps, but everything was born from the direction of the latest years articles...anyway if it was apple they would say "you're folding it worng" and admit it only following several class actions

  10. illuminated

    It is good to know about the defect that is quite common in this release. Everybody makes mistakes from time to time. Except for some people in comment section who do everything perfectly.

  11. hrlngrv

    If nothing else, this is evidence (not conclusive proof) MSFT has a lot less experience making hardware than OEMs, and that making software for PCs may not provide much useful experience for making PC hardware.

  12. glenn8878

    Removing the gasket? Penny wise pound foolish. I can't help thinking about the red ring of death and the blue screen.

  13. lvthunder

    What do you mean they weren't able to fix Surface Book? My Surface Book still works fine to this day. They may not have fixed the issue in a timely enough fashion for some people, but they did fix it.

    • eric_rasmussen

      In reply to lvthunder:

      Fixing the issues more than a year after they were widely experienced and complained about is not just "timely enough for some people", it's absolutely absurd. It's as if Microsoft only has two part-time employees working on Surface or something.

      Had they communicated clearly on the issues it would have been more okay. But they remained silent for months and months and then quietly released updates to correct some of the problems with the machines walking up in people's bags.

  14. will

    I tend to agree with the comment about the removing of the rubber around the display. Panos made a point of this during the event, but I honestly have never thought this was bad and just part of what makes a laptop.

    This will be interesting to follow as it could also just be a poor grade of glass used in some batches.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to will:

      as it could also just be a poor grade of glass used in some batches


      If so, this raises worse questions about MSFT's QA, rather its contract manufacturers' QA which could be rather lax with MSFT's tacit OK.

      Unlike software, for which entire QA departments could be fired to be replaced by unpaid Insiders, that doesn't work so well with hardware.

      • will

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        I agree that QA is important, esp with your primary brand. However, it has happened to Apple many times and with other PC makers that devices have bad parts.

        For me the item to watch will be if this will be something they quickly get out ahead of?

  15. bnyklue

    Microsoft couldn't make quality hardware if their existence depended on it. It's actually incredible.

    • jean

      In reply to bnyklue:

      having used (and still using : two X1 Carbon, one Extreme) IBM/Lenovo Laptops from day one (back in the 1990s), I find the Microsoft ones I owned/still own (two Surface Pro, Laptop first Gen, Laptop 3, Go) at par if not better than those considered top of the market

  16. anderb

    The way Microsoft are dealing with these complaints is reason enough not to buy a Surface. Good luck to those who experience this manufacturing/design fault outside the warranty period.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to anderb:

      Surface Support is really good. They replaced my friends original Surface Book about 8 months ago for a few hundred dollars because the battery swelled and it popped part of the screen out of the bezel. It was only about 3 years after the warranty expired.

      • jwpear

        In reply to lvthunder:

        I've had good success with Microsoft's hardware support too. I'm not sure what "dealing with these complaints" is supposed to mean.

      • wright_is

        In reply to lvthunder:

        The battery on my Surface Pro 3 failed after 18 months, Microsoft sent a replacement the next day, express, and collected the old one at the same time, no charge.

        • christian.hvid

          In reply to wright_is:

          You're a lucky guy. When one of the keys on my Surface Book 2 started to malfunction, I kind of expected they would just send me a new keyboard base. With the hard drive located in the screen, fixing the problem by replacing the base would literally be a 10 second job. Instead, this is what I had to do:

          1. Spend half a day setting up everything I need on my spare laptop.
          2. Wipe the SB2 clean.
          3. Send it off to somewhere in Germany.
          4. Wait for a week.
          5. Receive a completely different SB2 - new or refurbished, I don't know.
          6. Spend another half day setting up everything on the replacement unit.

          Next time, I'm going for a Dell or Lenovo with on-site support.

          • wright_is

            In reply to christian.hvid:

            Yes, that is also the standard repair procedure for Macs and iPhones as well, except they need 2 weeks to analyse and return/replace.

            My first iPhone died after 2 days, took it back to the shop, it was sent off for 2 weeks, got it back (no fault found), it died 2 days later, returned to shop, sent off for 2 weeks, got it back, it died in the shop, they sent it back, I got a replacement, because they miraculously found the fault the third time it was sent back! 6 weeks without a phone! That was my first, and last, iPhone.

            The Android phones I've had, on the other hand, have been replaced next-day. The provider sent out a courier with a new phone and they collected the old one. There was also usually no charge, unless it was water ingress or a broken display - I had luck with my Galaxy, it fell from 2M, on top of the fridge, onto marble, screen first; the screen didn't break, but all the antennas stopped working, T-Mobile replaced it the next day, no questions asked.

    • ronh

      In reply to anderb:

      My wife's SP4 had a screen issue well out of warranty. They gave us $500 of an SP6.

      We have had good look with Microsoft service.

    • wright_is

      In reply to anderb:

      The way they are dealing seems reasonable, by the information provided here. They are assessing the individual cases, to see if their is a causal relationship, whether it might be a manufacturing problem, or a user problem - not dropped, but somehow undue stress on a certain part of the screen, for example.

      Until they know what the cause of the problem is and how to remedy it, there isn't much they can do, other than repair/replace the displays that break.

  17. hrlngrv

    In reply to Greg Green:

    Disclaimer: it's been over 3 decades since I took my last structural engineering course.

    There's a way to make the frame more rigid even with a bezel-less display, but it'd add weight and thickness, which are perceived as design flaws these days. [Another disclaimer: I don't mind weight and thickness, and would HAPPILY accept a heavy, thick, higher end Dell Precision laptop over pretty much any ultrabook.]

    We may have reached the point at which minimal bezels and weight only come in very delicate packages.

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