Dec 23, 2013 - The Beginning

On December 23, 2013 I ordered a Surface Pro 2 512GB version as a long awaited Christmas present for my self. I am not new to Windows 8 or Windows 8 tablets, as I already own the following tablets.

  • Acer W3 ICONIA Window 8 Tablet (Updated to 8.1)
  • Acer W700 ICONIA Windows 8 Tablet (Updated to 8.1)
  • Dell Venu 8 Pro Tablet (8.1)

 

 

I ordered the unit directly from Microsoft and  paid extra for the unit to be delivered before Christmas but, I did not receive it until Dec 28th.  Little did I know this was a long list of problems I would have with both Microsoft and the product.

Before proceeding I want to make a few things clear.  I am, and have always been a Microsoft fan boy. While I own an Ipad 3 and an Ipad mini, I hardly use them.  The mini is on loan to my daughter and the Ipad 3 is used only for one of its banking apps.

I own no less than 19 full blown computers. most are running Windows 7 and a handful running Windows 8.1. As for windows 8 and 8.1, that's another story. I have gotten used to not having the start menu and really like having metro apps in both the touch and desktop interface.  I say this so you can understand that noting in this journey has anything to do with Windows 8.  Its strictly Surface Pro 2 and Microsoft s implementation that's under question here.

Why I purchased the Surface Pro

I wanted a tablet for portability, but wanted the ability to dock the machine and use it as a backup desktop for running my business.  I wanted a machine that I could use to control my various 3D printers and CNC machines for my KRCNC.com and KronosRobotics.com web sites.  IE this was to be more than a consumption machine and more of a production machine.  This is what Microsoft promises with the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2.

I purchased the W700 back when the original Surface Pro was available.  The W700 had a larger screen a reported a better battery life. The machine has worked well as a backup mobile platform.  It is this machine that the Surface Pro 2 will replace when, and if the issues listed in this blog can be remedied.

The Problems

First let me say that as far as performance goes, the Surface pro 2 holds its own.  I have used it with PhotoShop, and video editing software and it performs very respectively. When doing such tasks it does get a little warm to hold but in desktop mode this is a mute point.

Let me list the two main problems I am experiencing with the Surface Pro 2.

  • When you put the unit to sleep it crashes or locks up when its woke up.
  • When using a SD memory card the unit can experience a high CPU usage when idle.

While I have had several other minor problems that I have been able to overcome, these two are the main reasons I cant recommend the Surface Pro.

Before getting into the problems let me say that there are workarounds.  First for the sleep problem, just don't do it.

Crash on Wake From Sleep Workaround

If I set my machine to hibernate instead of sleep I don't seem to have the crash problem. Others report that they do so this may vary from customer to customer. 

High CPU Usage Workaround

For the high CPU usage, you have two choices.

  1. Don't Use an SD card
  2. Don't Use your Build-in Sound system

The problem seems to be the drivers for the SD card socket and the sound card go into some sort of race state.  This can be confirmed by disabling the sound drivers once the high CPU usage starts. If you disable the on board drivers it will immediately stop.  Once the drivers are started it will start up again.

Note that the High CPU usage starts after you put the Surface to sleep and wake it up again.  A few observations about the SDCard.  If you are not actively using the SD card even if one is plugged into the slot then, the chances of this particular problem drops off drastically.  I could never get it to happen consistently until I started using Xbox Music and pointed to my SD card as the place to hold my collections.  After doing this and adding a couple new collections I could duplicate the problem consistently with almost every single sleep session.

March 5, 2014

on March 5, 2014 I decided I waited long enough for Microsoft to fist this problem with updates so I decided to report it.

You can see my chat session here:

March 5 Microsoft Problem Report

March 10, 2014

Received the replacement machine today. After performing the updates as directed it has the exact same problems as my original Surface Pro 2.

This leads me to believe this is a monstrous hardware issue or a driver issue.

March 11, 2014

I had planned on returning the unit they sent me, but after trying to do a Image restore my original unit is bricked.  I will be keeping the replacement unit for the time being.

 

March 12, 2014

I did a reset on the Surface pro. This takes it back to some point in time before the latest updates.  The way Microsoft handles updates its hard to give you an exact version of my current machine. In any case at the point of the reset, the wake crash and the heavy CPU usage do not exist.

I will attempt to install each update until I get the specific errors.  This may help Microsoft isolate the problem, since they don't seem to be able to have done so to-date.

 

March 12, 2014 - Reset Point 1

Everything seems to be working fine. I have noticed the unit runs a little warm to the touch. Even when idle.  Since I don't see excessive CPU utilization it has to be the GPU, Fans, or charge software causing the heat issues. I will run the machine a day or so at this point to see what problems manifest.

 

March 12, 2014

I have downloaded most apps and tested them and still the machine runs very stable.  No wake up crashes or high CPU usage.  I do have the one item in the device manager that is an unknown device.  It is an "ACPI\MSHW0027\2&DABA3FF&3"  I do know this item is fixed with one of the updates and since it does not seem to be affecting any thing I'm not worried about it at the moment.  It does tell me that the reset image does not truly take you back to your starting point. It could very well be a conflict between the reset image and the firmware that was previously installed. It is not clear the doing a system reset restores the original firmware and there does not seem to be a way to check this out.

 

March 13, 2014 Phase 1

I am about to install the following security updates:

Update for the English Input Personalization Dictionary - KB2881553 (Version 16.1.812.1)
Definition Update for Windows Defender - KB2267602 (Definition 1.167.1800.0)
Cumulative Security Update for ActiveX Killbits for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2900986)
Cumulative Security Update for Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2925418)
Security Update for Internet Explorer Flash Player for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2938527)
Security Update for Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5.1 on Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 for x64-based Systems (KB2898871)
Security Update for Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5.1 on Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 for x64-based Systems (KB2901128)

I will check in once I have tested the machine.

March 13, 2014 Update 1

The indicated security updates installed fine and the machine still looks to be stable.  Again no crash on wake-up and no excessive CPU usage. 

There was one slight hiccup however. The only thing I have installed is the 8gadgetspack so I can keep a constant monitor on a few aspects.  The above updates broke it and I had to uninstall/reinstall.  That fixed it.  

After some initial testing I'm happy with this set of installs.  I will be updating the next set of security soon.

March 13, 2014 Phase 2

I added the remainder of the security patches:

Security Update for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2862152)
Security Update for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2868626)
Security Update for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2876331)
Security Update for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2892074)
Security Update for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2893294)
Security Update for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2909210)
Security Update for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2912390)
Security Update for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2916036)
Security Update for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2929961)
Security Update for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2930275)

First tests were perfect.  I want to do several more sleep/wake tests before proceeding to the actual Windows 8.1 updates, as I suspect its one of these that cases the problems. 

March 14, 2014 Phase 3

Did a great deal of testing and the machine is still very stable.

I just installed the following updates:

Update for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2883200)
Update for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2884846)
Update for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2887595)
Update for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2894853)
Update for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB2902892)
 

First tests were good.  I will continue to test before the next batch of updates. 

March 14, 2014 Phase 3 - 30 minutes later

Serious problems started.  unplugged from docking station then plugged back in.  CPU usage went to 40% and stayed until I disabled built-in audio driver.

On another test I unplugged from docking station and then plugged back in.  Audio went crazy and machine locked up.  It would just keep restarting.  Finally it says it needs a repair.  Could not repair, now Im doing a refresh to see if I can at least get the machine to boot.

March 14, 2014 Phase 3 - 60 minutes later

Refresh worked.  It takes you back to reset state but with your apps installed.  Its good to know I can get back to a semi start point without having to do a full reset.  Please note however that it does not keep any of your desktop applications.  The files for these apps are still in place but they will have to be reinstalled. If you have several desktop applications installed this could be disastrous.

I did all updates this time except for the Firmware update.  I will be testing or a little while to see how things hold up.

March 17, 2014 Phase 3

All updates have been in place for a few days now. The high CPU usage problem seems to crop up after sleep and at other times.

I have removed my sdcard and that has seemed to solve the problem. Note however, that I had to point Xbox Music to another location before removing the card or it would still go to high CPU usage even without the card. Seems that Xbox Music would still try and access the card even if it was not inserted.  This also cause Xbox music to operate properly. After deleting the SD card directory from Xbox Music and pointing to a directory on my main drive. Not a single high CPU usage after 3 days of high usage.

Have not had a single crash on sleep restart, so that problem seems to be fixed. 

Some Observations

When I first installed all the updates after receiving my new machine, I had the same problems with both high CPU usage and crash after sleep.

After doing a refresh then loading the updates, then finally doing firmware upgrade has eliminated the crash on reset problem. 

Screen captures

High CPU usage

High CPU usage, processes

Normal CPU (Idle)

Good Operation, running HULU with active video running

March 18, 2014 Battery Life

I just thought I would report on battery life. These are real life observations and have been repeated.

Streaming Xbox Music - 9 Hours

With music running in background, screen on at about mid brightness and desktop active I get over 9 hours if I let it go until it shuts down.  Please note that this is without doing anything. I suspect turning the monitor off would give you another hour.

Streaming Hulu - 7 Hours

Running Hulu constantly yields about 7 hours give or take. Same for Netflix and most other videos. Streaming a 1280 x 720 vid also runs about the same amount of battery life. In some cases I have gotten more than 8 hours. Going to 1920 x 1080 movies does drop the battery life to around 5-6 hours. 

Controlling a CNC Machine - 9 Hours

 

One of the main reasons I purchased the Surface Pro 2 was to control a CNC machine.

This is for a MF70 CNC conversion project I will be publishing in Servo Magazine starting in April.

 

Surface Pro 2 In Action

I get over 9 hours of operation running jobs on the Surface Pro 2.