So you just got a Surface Pro 3 and you’ve heard about some other people getting defective units. So, what can you do to ensure the Surface you just bought is going to be reliable and not cause you a lot of problems?
Well, if you’ve ever served in the military then you’re familiar with the concept of a weapon function check. If you’re not, a function check is a test you can perform (usually on a rifle) to ensure it is operating correctly.
You can do the same thing with your new Surface to make sure it’s in good shape and is going to work for you.
It won’t guarantee that you’ll never have problems with your new Surface but it will help ensure you didn’t pickup a “dud”. And, if you do discover that your Surface is defective, you get enough time to return it to the store before the exchange or return window closes.
So you just got a Surface Pro 3: Return Policies
In the US, you most likely got your new Surface Pro 3 from one of 6 places (Amazon, Microsoft Store, Best Buy, Staples, Walmart, or Costco – that doesn’t mean you couldn’t have gotten it from somewhere else but, these 5 places seem to sell the most).
Below, I have found and provided links to the return and exchange pages for each of those retailers. That way, if your function check turns up something defective, you’ll know where to go to get the exchange done.
- Amazon (Note: this is if you buy from Amazon. If you buy from a 3rd party through Amazon, you’ll have to contact them directly to see what their exchange/return policy is)
- Microsoft Store
- Best Buy
OK, now that you know what to do in the event that you got a defective unit, let’s get into what to check. We’ll start with the physical case…
So you just got a Surface Pro 3: Physical Inspection & Things to Check
While it’s not nearly as important to check for things like physical damage or abuse as it would be with an used Surface tablet, it is important to look for manufacturing defects or, potentially, damage that happened during shipping.
Look over the case and make sure there isn’t any obvious defects such as malformed vents or scratches on the screen. Basically, just give it a good once over (before you leave the store, if you can) or as soon as you open the box.
Pay special attention to the kickstand to make sure it works right.
This is a little less obvious. You should check that each of the ports is working correctly because you don’t want to find out that your DisplayPort isn’t working 6 months from the expiration of the exchange policy.
To do this, you’ll need some things. If you have them already then you’re set. If you don’t, I provided links to some fairly inexpensive versions of each item you can get from Amazon (Except for the USB items, I figure everyone has at least one USB device they could use to test their Surface).
- Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter
- USB Drive/Keyboard/Mouse/etc.
- Micro SD Card
Simply plug in each item and make sure it functions properly. I know it’s a pain and it might mean you’re spending a few extra bucks but, if you don’t you, might regret it down the line.
If you were observant, you noticed that I didn’t mention anything about the keyboard cover connection port above. That’s because at around $130 USD I figure it’s important enough to warrant it’s own function check. Of course, performing the check on the type cover makes sure the Surface is working at the same time (2 birds, 1 stone).
Things to look for:
- Make sure every key works. The old standby is to open Word/Notepad and type “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” as it uses all 26 letters. Don’t forget to test the other keys like shift, control, alt, caps, and the numbers
- Make sure the touchpad works
- Make sure you can fold the cover back (when it’s attached) and that the cover “turns off”, i.e. key presses do nothing
- Do the above in reverse and make sure the keyboard “turns back on” when you unfold the keyboard
- Check the edges for separations and wear pay particular attention to the top edge where the keyboard attaches to the Surface. I’ve seen more than one cover start separating at that point
OK, now that that’s sorted, let’s move on to the next thing to check…
The Surface Pro 3 pen is a pretty slick accessory but it can cause you some problems if you didn’t make sure it’s working. Fortunately, it’s really easy to check, just do the following things:
- Write or draw with it: Just make sure it “inks” correctly
- Check the buttons on the barrel of the pen: Click them both to make sure they work.
- Make sure it starts OneNote: With the Surface turned on and at the Start Screen, click the purple end button on the pen once – OneNote should start.
If those three things work, then the Surface Pen is working fine with your Surface Pro 3.
If any of the above pen test do not work, check out our post on fixing the Surface Pro 3 pen: Quick Things to Try If Your Surface Pro 3 Pen Doesn’t Work
So, this is very important to check. There have been a lot of complaints about Surface Pro 3 power supply problems lately.In particular, it seems there have been a lot of complaints about defective AC power cords that don’t snugly plug into the “brick” portion of the power adapter which causes issues charging the Surface.
If the connection isn’t snug or it pulls out too easily, you will need to exchange the power adapter for one that is nice and snug.
While you’re at it, go ahead and test out the USB plug in the power brick.
It doesn’t actually allow you to mount devices like a USB drive or CD drive because it is only a charging port. So, the most convenient way to check it (that I’ve found anyway) is to simply plug the USB cable for you phone into it and see if it charges your phone battery.
So you just got a Surface Pro 3: Software Tests to Run
The tests in this section will require that you install some software (which also checks out the WiFi connection at the same time). As you might expect, because you have to install some software, this might take a bit of time but the tests will help you find any internal defects that you might not catch otherwise.
The screen is very important to test, so make sure you give it a good once over. “Normal use” may be sufficient to make sure it’s OK but, if you want to be sure, try these things:
- Look for small scratches and chips on the screen. To make it easier, hold the Surface at different angles when you look as they might be easier to see from a certain angle
- Download Multi Touch Test from the Windows Store. Make sure the screen can detect the correct number of touches. Surface Pro 3 tablets should be able to detect 10 simultaneous touches
- Check for dead or stuck pixels (yes, new screens can have dead pixels too). There are several apps in the Windows Store to help with this. If you don’t have any experience with dead pixel finders, try Dead Pixel Finder
You’ll want to run a battery report. You can find instructions for doing it here: How To: Run Battery Report on Surface Tablets
What you’re looking for:
- Design Capacity vs Full Charge Capacity: You should be able to find these entries near the top of the report, just make sure the two numbers are pretty close (within 1000 mWh for a new Surface).
- Cycle Count: make sure this number is low. It shouldn’t be more than 2 or 3 for a new Surface.
After you check out the things above, save the file somewhere safe. That way, if you do battery reports later on, you’ll have the “out of the box” stats to compare them against.
The sensors like the the accelerometer, and inclineometer are often overlooked because they’re internal but, they could be defective right out of the box and there’s no way to tell just by looking at the case. Fortunately, they’re easy to test.
To test the sensors, just download SensorInfo from the Windows Store. Use it to make sure the sensors are working. Just start the app and move the Surface around a bit – the sensor indicator plots should move.
As soon as you can, install the software you care about on your new Surface. This is especially true if you are going to be using it for work or hobbies as some of those software packages may really hammer the Surface.
Then make sure you really test out your software to make sure it works for you as expected on the Surface.
Pay special attention to the following:
- Does the fan kick on a lot when you run your software?
- Does the Surface get too hot when you run the software?
- Does your battery discharge really fast when you run the software?
- Does your software run slowly or crash when you run it?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, it’s possible that the Surface model you chose is not powerful enough AND/OR that it’s simply not compatible with the software you want to run.
In either case, it’s good to know early so you can either upgrade to a more powerful Surface or return it and look for other computing options. Remember, as cool as the Surface may be, it is not always going to be the best option for every scenario.
So you just got a Surface Pro 3: Checklist
If you need a reminder of what to check out on your new Surface Pro 3 but don’t want to read this whole list every time, go ahead and print out the checklist provided to the right (click on the thumbnail for the full version).
It doesn’t have nearly the level of detail of the information above but is a convenient reminder of what to look at.
If you happen to work in an IT shop somewhere and would like to use the checklist as a basis for a process, go ahead with our complements.
So you just got a Surface Pro 3: Conclusion
It can be frustrating to get a new device (especially something as expensive as a new Surface Pro 3) only to have manufacturing defects plague you. Unfortunately, it does happen and it can’t really be avoided – even with modern manufacturing and QA techniques.
So, don’t get too frustrated with your Surface if it happens to be a dud, just be glad that you now know how to spot one and can get it exchanged; so to not cost you anything but a little bit of time.
Tim Rolston is a professional geek with over 23 years of experience working in Information Technology and dealing with everything from large-scale storage to remote systems management and automation for organizations such as Texas Instruments, Mobil Oil, and the University of Michigan (where he was an Academic IT Director).
He co-founded JTRTech along with Joanna to realize his long-time dream of working for himself.