First buyers of Microsoft's Surface Book report freezes, lock-ups

Customers suspect bad chips; Microsoft tells them to keep updating software

Microsoft Surface Book running Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud / CC [2015]

Some owners of Microsoft's new Surface Book have reported that their premium-priced laptop sporadically freezes, requiring a hard reboot to recover control.

In scores of messages on Microsoft's Surface Book support forum, owners have vented since Monday, when the notebook went on sale at the Redmond, Wash. firm's stores and began appearing on the doorsteps of those who had pre-ordered a system.

"Got my Surface Book i7, 512GB today. From the start I have had problems with it randomly freezing. Nothing will break the freeze short of holding down the power button and forcing a restart," wrote "DDB7" in a Monday message that kicked off a thread, which by early Thursday had been viewed more than 1,400 times and included 145 messages.

Microsoft declined to comment on a timeline for a fix, but acknowledged the reports. "A small number of customers have flagged some issues with their Surface Book. We are working hard to resolve them quickly and easily with Windows Update," a company spokeswoman said in an email.

The machine freezes seemed to be limited to the $2,099 and $2,499 models equipped with an Intel Core i7 processor. Those notebooks feature either 8GB or 16GB of RAM, a 256GB or 512GB SSD (solid-state drive), and the optional dedicated Nvidia graphics processor.

"I have this issue with an i7/256GB/8GB model. I also have a second Surface Book, i5/256GB/8GB which has not exhibited any issues," noted "sbny02" in a Wednesday message on the same thread.

Typical for a peer-to-peer support forum, users proffered a host of theories about the cause -- or causes -- of the lock-ups, and proposed numerous solutions. Invariably, people chimed in to say that the assumed fixes did nothing for them; dismissed others' diagnoses; or later returned to report that what they thought had stopped the freezes had, in fact, not.

A consensus, however, was building that the freezes stem from a bad batch of Intel chips, with the integrated graphics portion of the processor the prime suspect. Those who pointed fingers that way wondered how a software update would make things right.

Instead, many had returned their Surface Books for replacements, or in a few cases for a refund. From their accounts, Microsoft was making it easy to get a replacement, although delays were cited by some because of low or nonexistent inventory.

"I have already put in my replacement order online, and the service agent didn't even question me or my request and I am sending mine back today," said "polysculpture" on Wednesday. "They did not ask me to install or try different things at all either, which I am unwilling to do on a brand new machine. I just hope I don't get another faulty model."

"I went to the [Microsoft] store today and they said they were out of my model to replace it with. After contemplating on what to do for a few minutes, I just returned it for a refund," reported "Jason784512," also yesterday. "The amount of stress it has caused me made me lose the appeal for the Surface Book. I think I'll just hold off on my laptop upgrade for this year and wait until next year to see what Apple or Microsoft pulls out of their sleeves then."

That's not what Microsoft wanted to hear about its debut into the top-end notebook market, which has been dominated by Apple and its MacBook Pro line.

Early glitches with new hardware aren't exceptional. In 2009, for example, buyers of Apple's iMac all-in-one desktop reported flickering-screen problems with the then-just-refreshed 27-in. models. The next year, Apple's iPhone 4 suffered through "Antennagate" when customers said that touching the external antenna -- embedded in a steel band that encircled the case -- often dropped calls or caused the signal strength indicator to plummet.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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