Microsoft schedules Surface Pro 3 update to fix Wi-Fi issues

Updated: In the second of two July updates, Microsoft says it has resolved some of the reported networking issues with its new flagship device but is still working on others. Surprisingly, this isn't uncommon for new hardware platforms. Just ask Apple.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

Update 16-July-2014: The firmware update is now being delivered via Windows Update. The update is listed as “System Firmware Update – 7/16/2014” or “System Hardware Update – 7/16/2014” in the update history. The package contains the following two updates, according to the Surface Pro 3 update page:

  • Surface Integration (v.2.0.1038.0) further enhances system stability.
  • Wireless Network Controller and Bluetooth (v. 15.68.3044.85) further improving WiFi connection and throughput scenarios.

Early adopters of the Surface Pro 3 who’ve been struggling with some hardware- and driver-related bugs can expect more relief soon.

A firmware-and-driver update delivered on July 8 was intended to clear up some known issues with sleep and Wi-Fi connectivity issues, among others.

A separate driver update, due to be delivered on Wednesday, July 16, will address some of the remaining issues.

In a post on Microsoft’s Surface support forums, a spokesperson said the “second July update for Surface Pro 3 Wi-Fi” should address most (but not all) remaining issues. Collectively, he said, this month’s updates should address the three biggest “limited connectivity” complaints, in which network performance degrades after exiting Connected Standby, after resuming from hibernation, or during active use.

If you are experiencing Wi-Fi connection inconsistency, we strongly recommend that you download and install this update; we have been using this update and have seen an improved experience. But we are not done. We are still very focused on two remaining areas:

The note also describes two groups of issues that are still actively being worked on:

Wi-Fi isn’t available in the Settings charm or under the Connections setting. We are seeing a few reports of Wi-Fi being unavailable, which requires a reboot to resolve.  We don’t have an immediate fix, but we continue to work on this and will have an update as soon as possible.

Dropped connections or reduced throughput to certain access points. As mentioned above, the July 16 firmware update will address the majority of Limited Connectivity scenarios. However, there are still fringe scenarios where Limited Connectivity errors are present or network throughput is lower than expected, depending on the network configuration. We anticipate multiple improvements over time.

After applying last week’s firmware update to a review unit here, using two different Netgear routers (including an 802.11ac device), I have seen none of the networking issues noted in this and other support threads.

Wi-Fi issues are relatively common with new devices, and it sometimes take months of real-world testing and multiple updates before a platform reaches a stable level of reliability and performance.

The first round of touch-enabled Windows 8 Ultrabooks, which shipped nearly two years ago, were notorious for Wi-Fi glitches that affected devices from multiple manufacturers (these threads about the Sony Vaio Pro are a good example, but there were many others).

Wi-Fi issues even plague Apple, which controls the entire hardware and software platform for its mobile devices and doesn’t have to deal with the sprawling diversity of Windows OEM PCs. MacBook Air models that shipped in mid-2013 with support for 802.11ac networking were plagued with Wi-Fi issues, some severe enough that Apple replaced the affected devices to “capture” the problem units for testing. Roughly a month after those first reports, Apple released a software update with an accompanying support note that acknowledged “an issue that, in rare instances, may cause an intermittent loss in wireless connectivity.”

And the recent fourth major update to OS X Mavericks, released on June 30, 2014, more than eight months after the operating system publicly debuted, contained fixes for “an issue that prevented some Macs from automatically connecting to known Wi-Fi networks,” as well as improvements in “the reliability of wake from sleep.”

If you're a Surface Pro 3 owner, I am interested in hearing about your experience after this update arrives. If you see any improvements or unresolved bugs, let me know using the contact form below or this email alias, sp3-issues@realworldwindows.com, which goes directly to me.

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