Surface Pro 3 plagued by yet another battery problem

Complaints about the SP 3 LGC battery may have their origin in the recent Simplo 'batterygate' patch

Surface Pro 3 plagued by yet another battery problem
Pixabay (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

Remember the Simplo battery problem in Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 -- the one that many in the press called “batterygate”? It’s back with a vengeance. This time it’s hitting the other, more common battery found in the Surface Pro 3, the one from LGC.

Moreover, in a spectacular display of batt-fratricide, it looks like the new LGC battery problem was caused, or at least exacerbated, by the patch that fixed the Simplo battery. Microsoft MVP and Microsoft Answers forum community moderator Barb Bowman tweets:

It looks like the @Surface Pro 3 Simplo battery firmware fix is causing issues for LGC batteries. Microsoft is silent.

If you own a Surface Pro 3, it would behoove you to run a simple test. Make sure your SP3 is fully charged, unplug it from the wall, right-click Start (or hit Ctrl-X), and choose Command Prompt (Admin). In the resulting box type: powercfg /batteryreport and press Enter (note the space before the / and no space in batteryreport). That generates a file, typically c:\Windows\System32\battery-report.html.

Open the file. Near the top of the report you’ll see the battery manufacturer name (likely SIMPLO or LGC-LGC) followed by a series of numbers. Design Capacity will tell you what the battery should be pushing. For LGC batteries, that’s going to be 42,157 mWh. Look at the Full Charge Capacity, which may or may not match the Design Capacity, thus showing one level of degradation of your battery reserves. Then look at the list of Recent usage power states, where you may find that your battery’s been unable to get up to a full charge.

On the Microsoft Answers forum thread devoted to the subject, original poster ashtaron14 reports on his LGC battery problems:

Since the Win 10 Anniversary update, I was not able to turn on my Surface Pro 3 i7 512GB with LGC battery without having it plugged in with the power supply or docking (I own a total of three Surface Pro 3 docks at home and 2 offices). It always said "82%, Plugged in, Not Charging," and would always instantly turn off once I pulled off the power supply tab.

I spoke with a technical agent online, had my Pro 3 remote accessed, did all the proposed solutions, and even had a call from Bellevue, Wash., (I live in Hong Kong) before I found out that it was a software issue as stated by Microsoft.

With Auto Update turned on, I was notified that I should restart my Pro 3 this morning while I was on the docking station. I was happy that this issue was going to be resolved, but now I am disappointed that this firmware update did nothing for my Pro 3.

Ashtaron14 was referring to the Surface Pro 3 firmware update on Aug. 29 -- the one that fixed the Simplo battery problem. It didn’t fix the LGC battery problem. Perusing the thread (now nine pages long) reveals a litany of problems with LGC batteries on the Surface Pro 3. Many report that there was an abrupt change after the Aug. 29 firmware update, but the change invariably made the LGC battery situation worse. Many say their Surface Pro 3 dies when the power cord is pulled out of the wall.

Many of you recall the Simplo battery kerfuffle. I first read about it on March 16, when Charles McKay posted a cry for battery help on the Microsoft Answers forum titled “Surface Pro 3 serious battery drain issue.” (Microsoft has since removed his post.) On May 11, Kridsada Thanabulpong, posting on the Microsoft Answers forum, reported that his Surface Pro 3 battery would only last one to two hours on a charge. (The post is still there.) Microsoft wanted $560 to fix the battery, as the machine had gone out of warranty.

Many, many Surface Pro 3 customers responded and it took a few days to isolate the problem: Some SP3 machines ship with a battery made by a company called Simplo, and Microsoft's drivers for the Simplo slowly killed the battery. Most Surface Pro 3 machines come with LGC batteries, and they weren’t affected.

Confronted by the obvious problem, Microsoft stalled. Various employees blamed anything they could conjure up. Finally, on July 27 we got confirmation of the problem -- and it was finally fixed in a firmware update on Aug. 29. Those who were charged $500 or $600 to have their defective batteries replaced received a refund. That’s more than five months to fix a faulty battery driver.

Now it looks like Microsoft’s trying to sweep this second SP3 battery problem under the same rug.

How should the batteries behave? Surface honcho Panos Panay described the situation in a Reddit “Ask me anything” session two years ago. During the AMA, the Surface Team assured us:

The batteries on our Surface products are designed with some of the highest charge cycles for consumer electronic devices. This means that the battery can get charged daily (5 days a week) for over 4.5 years and still maintain 80% capacity…

IF the battery fails during the warranty period, we’ll replace the battery. IF the battery fails after the warranty period, you’ll call Microsoft support and arrange for the battery to be replaced. The cost will be $200 USD.

I would submit that the present record, using Microsoft’s own reporting tools, shows there’s something wrong with LGC battery life in the Surface Pro 3. I would similarly submit that anyone paying $200 (or $500) to fix a clearly defective battery -- more accurately, battery/driver combination -- is getting taken to the cleaners.

The ball’s in your court, Microsoft.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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