Early Surface Pro 3 users struggle with wireless networking glitches

Early Surface Pro 3 users struggle with wireless networking glitches

Summary: After only one week of public sales, some early Surface Pro 3 buyers have confirmed an issue with routers using the relatively new 802.11ac standard. When will a fix be available?

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A week after the Surface Pro 3 went on sale to the public, some early buyers are grumbling about poor performance on advanced Wi-Fi networks using the 802.11ac standard.

A reader tipped me this week with an email detailing his reasons for returning the Surface Pro 3 he had just acquired, thanks to its inability to connect reliably to a recently installed 802.11ac router (aka Gigabit Ethernet, although that name is a bit misleading). He told me that a support tech had advised him the problem was related to a "defective driver" in a recent update.

SURFACEPro3-innards

That same reader shared his experiences in the replies to a Microsoft Community forum thread titled "Surface Pro 3 Slow WiFi - 72Mbps Max (driver)." Another commenter added, "So I got my [Surface Pro 3] yesterday and it was blazing fast on wifi. I did all the new updates and after doing so every web page was loading slow or timing out. I did some searching and there [are] a bunch of people with the exact same problem…"

Barb Bowman, a networking expert (and Microsoft MVP) who has worked as a Comcast Engineer, confirms the problem occurs on her new Surface Pro 3, purchased from Best Buy, with a variety of 802.11ac routers from Netgear, ASUS, and Belkin. Via email, she notes that the issue only occurs when the Surface Pro 3 is running on battery power and resuming from Instant Go (formerly Connected Standby), a sleep state that allows the system to update email and notifications from a low-power state.

On battery power, she says, the result is a "Limited connection, even after waiting 60 seconds." When the connectivity issues occur, she says, "upload speeds go to zilch." I have seen the same problem occur on my Microsoft-supplied review unit, and my ZDNet colleague Matt Miller reports via Twitter that he was bitten by the same bug.

My original correspondent tested and confirmed the bug on Linksys and D-Link routers.

The problems apparently started after a firmware and driver update Microsoft shipped on June 19, the day before the Surface Pro 3 went on sale to the public. That set of close-to-the-metal updates was intended to swat some other reliability bugs that reviewers encountered with devices from the early manufacturing run.

But it also introduced this unwanted behavior.

This sort of issue isn't unexpected in the early days of a new device. Getting firmware, operating system software, and device drivers to cooperate is a constant engineering challenge, which gets more complex when you add in a relatively new networking standard and a bunch of routers most of which are built around the same silicon.

Some users are reporting reliability improvements after completely removing the latest driver for the Marvell AVASTAR Wireless AC Network Controller, restoring the original driver, and then manually reinstalling the latest driver from a manual download. Barb Bowman confirms that this procedure provides "some relief, but is only a partial fix."

I've reported the issue to Microsoft and I'm told that report has been forwarded to engineers. I'll update this post when I hear back from them about a fix.

Meanwhile, if you're a Surface Pro 3 owner, I'm interested in hearing your networking experiences, good and bad. Feel free to use the comments form (linked from my bio here) or send details to me using this email alias: sp3-issues@realworldwindows.com.

Topics: Mobility, PCs, Microsoft Surface

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35 comments
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  • Very impressed with SurfacePro 3

    WIFI network is minor issue, but I don't return for such a small issue. However I am very happy with my surface pro 3, It's really replace for my laptop, iPad and old surface.
    nayeemur@...
    • Better not get rid of laptop

      If I were you, I would keep a laptop around. Just saying. If its anything like my wife's Surface RT be prepared to get frustrated at times. A company like Microsoft should be able to better test products and updates. I cannot believe a bunch of these Surface tablets were not tested by a lot of Microsoft people before released to market. Come on Microsoft, if your going to do hardware do it right! Don't put it out the door and then fix it.
      JohnnyES-25227553276394558534412264934521
      • Hardware out the door.

        I'm not a fan of Win 8 or 8.1. However, issues like this seem to have been a norm for many systems and OSs for the better part of the last decade.

        My Xoom runs smooth as silk, and runs perfectly on Kit Kat 4.4.2. That being said, many others have trouble with their installations of the same OS on Android.

        I'm really sorry for Microsoft, and hope that they get their act together soon. A little good competition really helps all of us in the long run.
        Robert Christopulos
      • You don't really say what the problem is...

        What exactly did your wife have a problem with the Surface RT (which is now three generations old and not a full Windows device)?
        Rann Xeroxx
      • The Surface 3 is nothing like the Surface RT

        So yes, get rid of that laptop and never look back. This is the future of computing but some of you won't admit it because it was Microsoft that made it possible. I have the Surface 3 and use it on a 4K monitor as a fully functional programming workstation. It competes well with my 8 core desktop with most tasks, but is infinitely more versatile. Love this machine and I am not easy to please. By the way, I own and use a Linux box for a sever, android for my phone and have yet to find a compelling use for an apple product, but am always looking. I believe in using best in class and the surface pro 3 leads it's peers by leaps and bounds.
        brant@...
        • It is.... "A" future of computing

          Not "the" future.

          I never get so star struck as to believe anyone machine is everyone's answer to everything.
          Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • Great news - The Surface Pro 3 isn't your wifes RT

        The surface pro 3 is a Mac Book competitor where as the RT is, well, a tablet.... Comparing the two devices is like comparing a 2014 Mustang to the go carts at swings and things. They're not even the in the same category of device.
        Michken2point0
    • Re: "WIFI network is minor issue"ARE YOU JOKING?

      Without WiFi the average Smartphone, Tablet and Laptop is no more than a doorstop.
      5735guy
      • Overstated

        It's not, no wifi, it's poor performing wifi. And it's only with the 802.11ac standard, which isn't really even mainstream yet. I'm sure this will get patched.
        bmonsterman
  • Not sure what the issue is...?

    In the last 7 years, I've had Lenovo T61p running Windows Vista, then a Lenovo X220 running Windows 7 then finally a X1 carbon with Windows 8...and ALL HAD ISSUES connecting to Wifi Networks? I always thought it was a native Windows issue. I have a Mac now (since 2012) and had not issues what soever.
    cootified
    • Oh I had Mac's with WiFi issues too

      I had a couple Mac's that struggled to keep a connection to a particular router. Sad to say it was a Airport Extreme from Apple. WiFi is something that has only become more complicated with the changes in bands and standards. Right now all my stuff runs faster defaulting my N mode 2.4 ghz router to G mode then running higher speeds. Sometimes, you just have to play with settings to get something all device can work with.
      JohnnyES-25227553276394558534412264934521
    • Macs have issues too

      At work we have been struggling with Mac WiFi issues for months. We even have a ex-Apple tech on our team and he has been working with Apple to try and resolve the issue.

      I have had issues off and on with Mac, Windows, and Linux.
      Rann Xeroxx
    • Ironcially, Apple just released a bug fix for OSx wifi issue today

      http://www.zdnet.com/os-x-mavericks-10-9-4-out-bring-wi-fi-and-reliability-fixes-7000031080/

      Here is the ZDnet coverage.
      Emacho
  • Ahh nothing new!!

    I've been using Sony Vaio Tap 11 for almost 8 months now. 2 biggest problems .. 1st the keyboard supplied by Sony can sometimes stop working even when I was typing. 2nd I use this machine with a Microsoft wedge mouse which is Bluetooth connected and that too can just suddenly stop working. Of course these are "driver" related problems, and until now no fix. I've gotten used to it and of course sick and tired of it as well.
    dennis.ser
  • Surface Pro 3 Owner

    I got mine on launch day and have mostly had no issues with it. However, I've definitely experienced issues with the wireless adapter. I blame the MARVELL chipset more than anything since ALL of the Surface models have used it and had issues... I much prefer Intel and Broadcom.

    The only other issue I have is that occasionally the touchpad will go wonky and will think I'm still using it long after I remove my hands from it (and I turned off tapping).

    Both of these are things that I'm sure will receive firmware/driver updates for in the future, and they don't bother me enough (presently) to overlook how fantastic it is in every other way. It's only been a week, but it's already the best system I've owned in the past 10 years.
    GoodThings2Life
  • Surface RT had issues too

    I bought a Surface RT for the wife just as a second device. She has had problems too with it reconnecting to a preferred connection? All I can say from experience, is that a lot of WiFi cards out there are cheap or have lousy drivers or both.
    JohnnyES-25227553276394558534412264934521
  • Dell venue 8 Pro has same issue

    The driver crashes when waking from sleep. I deal with it because it cost me $159. I think if I had a $1000+ machine I would be looking longingly at the receipt. Hopefully they will get it fixed quickly because I was thinking about getting one.

    Dell solved the problem with the venue 8 pro by disabling the button for chat and hiding the phone number deep in the fine print on the product support page for the device. Problem solved.
    redhaven
    • See my solution below. It works and is recommended by several

      online sources.
      kenosha77a
  • Fix coming

    Talked to a former peer and a hotfix should be released in the July patch cycle.

    Ran into the same issue myself. Not so much a WiFi issue directly but more a power mgmt issue trying to tweak every place that can conserve battery...in which case wireless adapter power reduction.

    Temp Fix:
    Enable Hyper-V to expose advanced power options settings, restart, open power options, click change plan settings, click advanced settings, expand wireless adapter power settings, change to max performance. Disable Hyper-V and restart. Now connects everytime and fixes connection speed display. May suck a little more juice but only for a week and half.
    -Tom
    • Thanks!

      That's actually a pretty cool trick-- though cumbersome for non-techy folks. I just did it on mine, but it's good to know that they're working on a fix for the July updates.
      GoodThings2Life