Replacement Lasted Only Hours Before Succumbing to Flickering

  • I bought Surface Pro 4 back in September 2017. Other than a straight horizontal line of flicker along the bottom of the screen, the device ran pretty well for 1 and a half years. Then around September and October of 2019, the flickering took the worst form, which Microsoft defines as a scrambled screen(customers would describe the screen's behavior as unstable and shaky, which would kick in when the device was left idle but stop once the screen was touched with fingers, Pen or even a hover on the trackpad.

    By this time my device was already out of warranty but still I contacted Microsoft, having learnt through online forums and blogs that they were replacing out of warranty devices with scrambled screen. The support agent was very helpful and after seeing the videos that I'd shot of the flickering screen, made haste to place a replacement request. I'd have liked to visit a Microsoft store personally for replacement but since the nearest one is about 5 hours drive, I opted for 'wait for delivery'. On 4th of November, my device went out for replacement.

    It took a total of 11 days for the replacement to arrive - 15th November. The replaced device looked neat and brand new on the surface(no pun!) and it indeed it was as I performed a battery report check. The device had 0% charge, so I had to plug it in to get things started. Plugged in and a beautiful welcome screen greeted me. Everything seemed perfect and I was glad I had acquired a new device at virtually zero cost. The first thing to get the most out of the device is obviously to install the latest updates, which this device needed in abundance. I must note this device's charging speed was uncharacteristically slow for Surface devices. My previous device, even after 1.5 years of use could reach a full charge within 30 minutes if left on Sleep mode. If, however, the device was being used with Wi-fi on and light browsing going on, it might take 1.5 hours. This replacement was taking something like 15 minutes to go up a single percentage of charge. Thinking it might have something to do with the older version of Windows and that newer updates would resolve the slow charge issue, I payed no heed to it.

    Then after around 2 hours of being plugged-in and still reaching only 40% charge, I saw the first glimpse of the trouble. It wasn't the same sort of shaky, loose or wobbly screen I had experienced on my previous Surface Pro 4 but more like the stable yet hazy display, one you're likely to experience when wearing someone's high-powered eyeglasses. I thought it might be my spectacles at first, so I took them off and had a closer look at the screen - it was still the same. My guess was that the device had been heavily used and it might just be showing signs of stress, which wouldn't occur in a normal use. It was late in the night, so I decided to give both myself and the device some rest.

    Woke up on 16th November and the first thing I did was pick up the device and finish the work I'd started last night - install latest windows update. It would only take around 45 minutes this time for the same hazy screen to develop. My worst fear had been realized and several thoughts were going around in my head - contact Microsoft again, describe the same issue after 1 day's use of the replacement device, sounds awkward enough to me, what's Microsoft going to say? Will they believe their replacement hasn't lasted a single day's usage before succumbing to the flickering woes? They'll take a request for replacement, right? Sure, they will but I'd still have to wait another 10-12 days for a new device to arrive.

    I did contact Microsoft support using the Get Help app on Windows 10. A very helpful support agent named Henry A. was connected with me. I described the whole saga. He did sound alarmed that the device had been received by me only the previous day and already it was experiencing screen issues. He shared a link with me and asked to record a video in which I had to write my name on a piece of paper, today's date and the service request number. Last time, they only asked to record the flickering screen so I felt this was an added step to validate my identity. I did that but during the chat, the hazy screen turned into a flicker and the flicker transformed into a chaotic screen where flashes of gray, green and black, at a closer inspection mainly the existing display distorted and stretched about the screen, were in constant motion. I made haste to record this terrible sight and upload it on the shared link by Henry A. He was equally shocked after he'd seen the video.

    This is the worst kind of flickering I've seen on any device so far. Microsoft should be ashamed of building devices so poorly. From what I've read on online forums, this issues is widespread in virtually all Surface Pro 4 devices. There's no point in extending the warranty if all Microsoft can do is keep sending the same woefully designed devices over and over again to its customers. I must admit the support agent was very helpful and he apologized unreservedly for this experience, stating that this is an isolated incident and the replacement devices are not prone to exhibit this kind of behavior so early in the usage. Well, I've certainly witnessed it and so have many other Surface Pro 4 users. I understand he was only doing his job in reassuring me that Microsoft values its customers and wants to give only the best service possible. But I'd expect their devices to do the talking as opposed to the high-flown marketing where they're just trying to present themselves better than Apple and leading tech innovators. I've been a Microsoft user since childhood and buying the Surface Pro 4 over a MacBook air in 2017 was a way to express that loyalty and trust in the company. Had I known, this was the experience I was in for, I would have thought twice about my purchase decision.

    Video link of flickering -

    A disappointed Microsoft user,
    Mandeep Singh


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