Hundreds of Surface Pro 4 owners have been complaining about screen flickering issues on their tablets. A thread over at Microsoft’s support forums shows that the problems have been occurring for more than a year, and most devices affected are out of warranty. Dubbed “Flickergate,” a website to report the issues claims at least 1,600 Surface Pro 4 owners have experienced the screen flickering problems.
The flickering appears to be a hardware issue, which occurs after the device heats up during use. “We are aware that some customers have experienced a screen flicker on Surface Pro 4 and are monitoring the situation closely,” says a Microsoft spokesperson, in a statement to The Verge. Customers impacted by this should contact Microsoft support.”
A freezer might help, temporarily
Some owners have even started freezing their tablets to stop the screen flickering temporarily. “I get about half an hour’s use out of it after ten minutes in the freezer,” says one owner. Another user posted a video showing how the flickering stops as soon as the Surface Pro 4 is placed in a freezer. The Verge understands that the screen flickering problem is a hardware issue that Microsoft won’t be able to fix with a software update. It’s currently affecting less than 1 percent of all Surface Pro 4 devices.
While Microsoft recommends that owners contact their support lines, devices are generally out of warranty when the problems start occurring. Some affected users have reported paying $800 for an out-of-warranty exchange with Microsoft to fix the hardware issue, although Microsoft’s support site lists the cost for a screen replacement at $450. “Surface Pro’s are marketed and priced as premium devices,” says the Flickergate group. “Microsoft should therefore respond accordingly by acknowledging the issue and offering a solution. If the issue is a hardware fault, then Microsoft should recall affected devices.”
The Surface Pro 4 issues come months after Consumer Reports removed its “recommend” badge from Microsoft’s entire lineup of Surface PCs because the hardware was found to be less reliable than other PC brands. Microsoft experienced issues with Surface Book sleep problems previously, and the company had to issue a firmware update to fix battery failures with the Surface Pro 3.
Attorneys at Migliaccio & Rathod LLP previously won a class action case against Lenovo involving defective laptops, which resulted in a classwide settlement. The law firm is investigating Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 battery failures, and has also received complaints about the Surface Pro 4 screen flickering problems. “We are still considering our options,” says Nicholas Migliaccio, a partner at Migliaccio & Rathod LLP, in an interview with The Verge. “We’ve received a number of inquiries over time with other issues beyond the battery issue, beyond flickering. People have a variety of problems, but if we’re looking at problems we’re looking at the common ones.”
It’s not clear if any class action suits will be filed against Microsoft over some of these Surface issues, but it looks like affected owners will have to replace units or try and fix them. That might be easier said than done, though: Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, and even the latest Surface Pro received 1 or 2 out of 10 on iFixit reparability scale, making them difficult or even impossible to repair yourself.
Update February 2nd, 5AM ET: Added Microsoft’s official support charge for Surface Pro 4 screen replacements.