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Like Some MacBook Pros, Microsoft Surface Batteries Are Expensive To Replace

Microsoft set the bar for its new Surface Pro 3 last week when it compared the new device, designed to combine the functions of a tablet and a full-powered computer, to a MacBook Pro. At the launch event in New York last week, Panos Panay, the corporate VP for the Microsoft Surface group, put the two devices on a scale to show how the MacBook Pro weighs more. At the same time, Panay emphasized the optional Intel Core i7 processor with 8GB of RAM in the new Surface Pro 3 makes it powerful enough to run the Adobe Creative Suite, including Photoshop.

But the Surface Pro 3 also shares one of the most undesirable features of the latest crop of high-end MacBook Pros -- a factory sealed battery that isn't user replaceable. To change out the battery once the extended warranties expire, the cost is $200 for both systems. That was one of the top topics during a Reddit IAmA (Ask Me Anything) discussion Tuesday moderated by Panay.

Panay and his team fielded numerous questions about the new Surface Pro 3, a device that breaks quite a bit of ground in the full-featured laptop-tablet field. In addition to the battery-related questions, participants wanted to know when a Surface Mini is coming, how the different processor versions handle power and if Microsoft is walking away from Windows RT.

The battery issue appeared to raise some eyebrows among several participants who were seemingly sold on the device until Reddit member "Caliber" asked why it would cost $450 to replace the battery on existing Surface models. If your system is under warranty, it won't cost anything to have the battery replaced, but Panay (or someone on his team) said replacing the battery on the Surface Pro 3 after the warranty expires will cost $200.

That's still quite expensive -- in fact it's the same amount it costs to replace the battery in the Apple Retina MacBook Pro. Traditional MacBook Airs and Pros have user replaceable batteries, but two years ago with MacBook Retina, Apple upped the cost of the new battery, which requires a technician to upgrade.

So now the Surface and high-end MacBooks share that unpleasant cost, though users hopefully shouldn't need to replace them very often.

Microsoft's $200 price tag to replace the Surface Pro 3 battery should be more palatable than $450 for earlier models. Wondering if Caliber was given bad information from the Microsoft support rep, I called the Microsoft Store myself. While the rep didn't give me a price, she said it would be cheaper to replace the Surface than sending it back for a new battery (likewise with replacing the display if it cracks, she said). Most would agree, $450 for a battery is off the charts and while $200 is pretty high as well, I don't think it's a deal breaker.

Also, it's possible the cost of replacement batteries could come down in the next four-and-a-half years -- the amount of time Microsoft said it would take before anyone should notice deterioration of the battery. If the device is charged five times per day over that period, the Surface Pro 3 should still maintain 80 percent of its capacity by that point. If indeed this turns out to be the case, replacing a battery after about five years isn't too bad. At that point, many may be ready for a new system, anyway.

Fans of the Surface were also wondering when a Surface Mini will arrive, a question shared by many who expected Microsoft to launch one last week. "Please for the love of God give us some more concrete info on Surface Mini," wrote Reddit member "swanlee597." "I was really disappointed in the lack of a reveal. Is it real? Is it coming out this year? Should I just buy an OEM 8-inch Win 8 tablet instead of waiting for Surface Mini?"

As for the future of Windows RT, offered on the Surface, Surface 2 and some Nokia tablets, the Surface team said that "Windows on ARM continues to be an important part of the Windows strategy." Responding to questions regarding the difference in battery life between systems developed with the Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, the company said they will offer the same performance. When it comes to compute performance, however, "the i7 will see benchmark scores approximately 15 to 20 percent better than the [Service Pro 3] i5."

One other question that struck a nerve: Why isn't there an i5-based Surface Pro 3 with a 128GB SSD and 8GB of RAM? Microsoft launched one with a 128GB drive and 4GB of RAM for $999 but the next step up is $300 more for a 256GB unit with 8GB of RAM. That question remained unanswered.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/28/2014 at 12:06 PM


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