Surface Pro 3

Change Config or Spend More Money to Fix Surface Pro 3 Slow WiFi?

 

People who purchased the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 have been complaining since June of slow WiFi speeds. Microsoft has not specifically addressed this issue or acknowledged that they are aware of this particular issue. This makes it tough to determine if or when a fix will be forthcoming.

A little background information on 802.11ac may be helpful for some people. The faster “ac” speeds apply ONLY to the 5 GHz band. If you are expecting supersonic speeds and are using a 2.4 GHz only 802.11n or 802.11g router, this isn’t going to happen. To truly take advantage of 802.11ac, you need a current generation 802.11ac dual band router (and currently, with the SP3, you need to specifically and deliberately attach to the 5 GHz band).

 

2.4 GHz only N routers

 

There’s not much you can do to resolve slow speeds with 2.4 GHz only routers, but you can perhaps get incrementally better speed in a congested area if you try a couple of things. There are lots of other devices that share the 2.4 GHz band and are potential sources of interference like microwave ovens, old 2.4 GHz cordless phones, and Bluetooth. Some folks may be using add-on keyboards that attach to the Surface Pro 3 via Bluetooth and are connected to 2.4 GHz wireless routers. Bluetooth and 802.11n 2.4 GHz share/overlap in the same frequencies. It’s entirely possible that there is interference. This hasn’t been proven, but since they do share the frequency range, some but not all devices may be impacted.

1. Change the channel from auto to 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, or 10. Almost everyone will be using 1, 6, or 11. You can try to determine the least congested channel by running the netsh command below from a cmd prompt:

netsh wlan show networks mode=BSSID

and then try to determine the least used channel (which will probably change anyway since all your neighbors are probably set to auto). I’m not sure this will provide much relief, but it is worth trying. You’ll get something like the output below. You can do this to determine both the least used 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channel.

 

Microsoft Windows [Version 6.3.9600]
(c) 2013 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.C:\Users\barb>netsh wlan show networks mode=BSSID

Interface name : Wi-Fi
There are 20 networks currently visible.

SSID 1 : hawk5
Network type            : Infrastructure
Authentication          : WPA2-Personal
Encryption              : CCMP
BSSID 1                 : c4:04:15:29:b4:23
Signal             : 82%
Radio type         : 802.11ac
Channel            : 157
Basic rates (Mbps) : 6 12 24
Other rates (Mbps) : 9 18 36 48 54

SSID 2 : fabfive
Network type            : Infrastructure
Authentication          : WPA2-Personal
Encryption              : CCMP
BSSID 1                 : 40:16:7e:bf:0d:0c
Signal             : 66%
Radio type         : 802.11n
Channel            : 157
Basic rates (Mbps) : 6 12 24
Other rates (Mbps) : 9 18 36 48 54

SSID 3 : high5
Network type            : Infrastructure
Authentication          : WPA2-Personal
Encryption              : CCMP
BSSID 1                 : e8:fc:af:94:fe:6c
Signal             : 88%
Radio type         : 802.11ac
Channel            : 48
Basic rates (Mbps) : 6 12 24
Other rates (Mbps) : 9 18 36 48 54

…etc…

C:\Users\barb>

 

2. Change the channel width to 20 if it is set on 40 or auto.

 

2.4/5 GHz Dual Band Routers

 

Some routers (Apple has been doing this for years) ship with both the 2.4 and 5 GHz channels set to the same SSID (name). Other vendors have started doing this, some by default, others let you specify this optionally. It’s marketed as an “Smart Connect” type config where the “best” channel is selected by the client/router automatically. I asked a couple of users in the Microsoft Surface Communities forum about their config and learned that they were using the same name for both SSIDs. I asked them to make a change and specify unique SSIDs and attach to 5GHz. They’ve reported their problem has disappeared. Similarly, people with Netgear, ASUS, and Linksys routers have changed to unique, separate names for the 2.4 and 5 GHz SSID’s, connected to the 5 GHz SSID and reported back that their issue is resolved.

 

1. Many of the newer 802.11ac routers are emphasizing using a single SSID name for all for smart connectivity that determines the best radio for a computer or device to attach to. This is an issue for the Surface Pro 3.

linksys

The Linksys/Belkin WRT1900AC ships with the same name for both SSID’s out of the box. This is an issue for SP3 owners.

smartconnect

The Netgear R8000 has Smart Connect features that depend on using a single name for THREE SSID’s. This is an issue for SP3 owners.

airport5GHz

Apple Airport Extreme Routers have used a single SSID by default for several years. This is an issue for SP3 owners.

There are some folks who just prefer to use the same SSID and manually configure whatever router they own in this single SSID name configuration themselves. Sadly, while this is not an issue for apparently any other computer or device, it is an issue for the Surface Pro 3. There is anger expressed when I suggest changing the configuration. Sorry, you shouldn’t need to do this, but if you want better speeds, currently, this is required.

 

2. If you have a dual band 802.11n router, not an 802.11ac router, the issue is the same. You need to use the 5 GHz SSID and configure separate and distinct SSID names.

 

3. If you are connecting to the 5 GHz band and are having speed issues, try setting the channel to the highest one available or to the lowest one available instead of “auto”.

Again, Microsoft has not acknowledged this specific issue or acknowledged that a fix will be forthcoming.

One more thing.. the throw money at it solution

 

For those of you with 802.11n 2.4 GHz only single band routers, as I mentioned previously, you won’t enjoy 802.11ac speeds unless you upgrade to a a 802.11ac (by definition, dual band) router, configure it for separate SSID names and connect to the 5 GHz band.

This is the current state of affairs. It’s up to Microsoft to fix.

Microsoft, Your Users are Crying Louder for Surface Pro 3 WiFi Fixes

 

Reading Microsoft Community Surface Pro 3 Forums has become even more painful than yesterday. Today, a marketing type statement post from a Forum Moderator went up stating:

 

Hello all

We have received a limited number of inquiries related to Wi-Fi connectivity on Surface Pro 3, which we are actively investigating. We are committed to providing the best customer experience possible and are working to quickly resolve.

 

Gee whiz. How about moving beyond the marketing-speak and  provide a real “status”.

 

sp3 wifi 9.4

 

After 60 days, there should be hard information and a status available of individual issues and more timing information on fixes. Not boilerplate:

wifi marketing answer

Microsoft, Your Users are Crying for Surface Pro 3 WiFi Fixes

 

Reading the Microsoft Community Surface Pro 3 Forums has become unbearably painful. There are three major threads and several others with large numbers of customers begging for relief from persistent WiFi issues. The numbers are growing. A capture from this morning shows:

sp3 wifi bugs

You can be sure that the number of people lurking and not posting is far larger than the number of replies.

Surface Phone and Chat Support has had people refreshing and resetting (which won’t resolve these issues) and they’ve replaced hardware. Some folks have replaced their hardware 4 times.

The official Forum support folks posted a vague statement a while back that “fixes would be available in the September timeframe’. It’s hard to tell if they even have a handle on the various issues since their participation has been abysmal. Refresh/reset is not participation.

Some of the worst issues:

1. Persistent slow WiFi

2. Adapters for WiFi/BT go missing after wake from sleep

3. Connection drops during use and goes Limited

4. Machine goes to sleep at home, travel elsewhere and on wake, SP3 doesn’t realize environemnt has changed and reports old SSIDs and does not see current SSIDs.

There are reports of some routers that the Marvell WiFi in the SP3 won’t connect to at all. If the same SSID name is used for 2.4 and 5GHz, the Marvell WiFi never sees the 5GHz.

Microsoft, you need to ENGAGE with your users and give them a status. The forum has turned ugly. I’m done trying to support your users on this issue. I know they don’t mean to take out their aggravation on me, but I’m not willing to get beat up.

My Portable Computing Adventures from the Stone Age to the Space Age

 

I was reflecting this morning what a marvel of engineering the Surface Pro 3 is. I’ve never owned anything like it. Light, fast, powerful. Versatile and comfortable to hold. Expandable.

sp3 

And then I got to thinking about the various “portables” I’ve owned, especially the early ones. I’ve always been a laptop person, although the definition of ‘portable’ has certainly changed over the years. And I started thinking about the hardware I’ve owned. And decided to post a short walk through those ancient devices I’ve owned over the years.

My first portable was a Tandy 1400FD, circa 1989

 

1400fd

This was a beast that weighed about 14 lbs as I recall. Equipped with a whopping 768K of RAM, it had a switchable clock speed of 4.77/8.16 MHz and an 8026/7 Intel 8 MHz processor.

The MS DOS operating system and applications ran off dual 720K floppy drives. In addition to MS-DOS 3.20, it ran a text based under interface called Deskmate with built in applications for drawing and word processing. The screen was a backlit LCD that reminded me of an Etch-a-Sketch toy. Hard on the eyes, so I printed out everything on a dot matrix printer.

 

Just two years later, circa 1991, I purchased a 6.7 lb. slightly more powerful Tandy 2810 laptop (it even had a 20 meg hard drive). With 16 shades of grey, 1 meg of RAM, MS-DOS 5.0 and an 80C286 processor, I ran Windows 3.0 in “Standard” mode. This was the first computer I seriously traveled with as it had a 2400 bps modem and in addition to local hobbyist BBSing, I’d added Prodigy, Genie, and CompuServe to my lifestyle.

 

2810.1 2810.2

Just six months later, I sold the 2810 to an online friend and purchased an AST Premium Exec 386/25SX.

 

ast

This technological wonder ran Windows 3.1 in Enhanced mode, and included 4 Megs of RAM and a 20 meg hard drive. Video was significantly improved at 256 shades of grey and with a 386 SX25 processor, it was the fastest machine I’d ever seen. This was the last portable I owned that required a separate, add-on mouse and I jumped on the ballpoint mouse (predecessor of the built in trackball) bandwagon.

 

1993-1995

I quickly graduated to my first color laptop, a passive matrix Compaq Contura 425c (a 486/25sx).

contura

 

From there, I moved on to an Ambra (offered by IBM as a separate non-IBM/ThinkPad brand) 486/DX4 100. I couldn’t believe how fast and colorful my mobile computing world was getting. Both included built-in trackball mouse support. Although each was initially purchased with Windows 3.1 or Windows 3.11, I upgraded to Windows 95. While neither originally came equipped with a CD ROM drive, I purchased one separately, a 2X pcmcia external drive. This was the bleeding edge. I thought I was all set for years to come.

1996-1997

Next came a store brand Pentium 120 laptop pre-installed with Windows 95. This machine died, the store (actually a small chain) had gone out of business, and I was about to enter what I considered to be the age of modern laptops.

1998-1999

I had always considered the IBM ThinkPad the ultimate portable machine (and a very expensive luxury) and one day while visiting a CompUSA store I caved, and bought a consumer 385XD Pentium II 266 MHz ThinkPad with 64 megs of RAM and a 4 GIG hard drive.

385xd

I loved the track point style mouse.  Later that year, I injured my back and suddenly needed a very light weight machine and purchased a ThinkPad 570 Pentium II 366 MHz machine, equipped with 128 megs RAM, a 5.1 GIG hard drive and it weighed under 4.5 lbs.

 

 570

At the time, I thought it was the ultimate “thin and light” laptop. But it was really the clever “slice” dock that enabled IBM to slim down and lighten up the 570. And I was definitely hooked on ThinkPad’s. Rock solid, and with the best keyboard to be found anywhere.

1999-2000

While beta testing Windows 2000, I treated myself to a ThinkPad 600X, a 500 MHz Pentium machine with 128 megs of RAM, 12 GIG hard drive and 4 megs video RAM (and my first DVD drive). I added a full docking station, full size monitor, and all the trimmings. This was a perfect Windows 2000 machine, and it was a good Windows XP Professional one as well.

2001

I bought an IBM ThinkPad T22. It boasted an Intel Speed Step processor, 384 megs of 100 MHz PC RAM, 8 megs of video RAM, a 20 gig hard drive and a 8x DVD. I added a long list of add-on peripherals, including 802.11b, firewire, and SCSI pcmcia cards, web cams, USB scanner, printer and a docking station. Again, I thought I was on top of the world, over the bleeding edge, set for years to come.

 

2003, 2005

Upgraded to new ThinkPad “T” models. These were incremental upgrades. Stronger, faster, better. thinkpad

2007

In 2007. by some strange alignment of the planets, I hooked up with some folks at HP who sent me a TX1000 tablet to play around with.

tx1000

This had limited touch capabilities (by today’s standards) and was a laptop convertible. You’d twist the thing around to a tablet like configuration. It was pretty awkward, but it was my first hands on experience with a tablet like laptop. The experience got incrementally better a little less than a year later.

 

2008

HP followed up the TX1000 with a TX2000 and sent one along for me to try out. It cane fitted out with:

Turion 64 X2 TL66 (2.3 GHz 512+512 L2 Cache)

4 GB DDR2 System Memory

Fingerprint Reader + Webcam + Microphone

Wireless a/b/g/n (draft) + Bluetooth

250 GB SATA 5400 RPM hard drive

LightScribe 8x DVD+/-RW Double Layer

Wireless Remote Control (for Windows Media Center and Quick Play)

6 cell & 8 cell Lithium-Ion batteries

Tablet Pen Digitizer and Cord

12.1” (1280 x800) WXGA Nvidia Go6150 powered graphics (shared memory)

2 sets earbuds

 

tx2000

 

 

 

In 2011 I bought a MacBook Air (mostly to run Windows).  It was, at the time, the thinnest, lightest “ultrabook” available.Enough said.

 

2013

I was first in line at the nearest Microsoft Store to Purchase the original Surface Pro.

 

2014

Which brings us to today. I love my Surface Pro 3. It’s been quite the journey. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

Microsoft Please Add Panorama Option for Surface Pro 3 Camera App

 

Dear Microsoft,

You documented how to take a Panorama on Page 84 of the  Surface Pro 3 User Guide (PDF). You provide instructions on the feature, but the feature isn’t available.

userguide

Your customers have been asking since launch http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/surface/forum/surfpro3-surfusingpro/no-panorama-option-in-camera-app/8b161c54-eb22-4cdf-9191-36a317da3d38 and no answers have appeared.

Compare what is available using the Camera App on every other Surface (on the right) with what is available with the Surface Pro 3 (left).

compare

I spent $10 to get http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/youcam-mobile/15058a8d-8408-4bdd-a43f-9ca0353ec32a which provides the functionality that your documentation states should be available free of charge. How about a $10 credit in the Windows Store to offset this?

youcam

Can’t you find a way to work with the folks that own the Microsoft Camera App and deliver on the experience you document? Please?

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