Select Surface Pro 3 units suffering battery woes

The Surface Pro 3, the high-end 2014 entrant in Microsoft’s fairly successful Surface tablet lineup, seems to still be plagued with a few issues.

Around April or May of this year, people noticed that reports of SP3 devices needing battery replacements were a little frequent; once the users pointed this out, it was only a matter of time before other upset users chimed in with their experiences. They all report that their battery no longer holds a significant charge, holding anywhere from only an hour or two to only a few minutes of charge, if the device doesn’t immediately hibernate when disconnected from mains power.

Users have found that the Surface Pro 3 supply chain included two battery manufacturers: LG Chem Ltd. and Simplo Technology Co., Ltd.

Users with a battery from LG Chemical seem to be reporting only a moderate reduction in maximum battery life, equivalent to the expected degradation rate of rechargeable batteries. However, users with Simplo batteries are not so lucky, with all users affected by the issue sporting them in their SP3 unit.

Although it’s not guaranteed that the issue will affect everyone with a Simplo battery, the fact that it doesn’t seem to be happening at the same rate to LG’s cells suggests that some users will have to be more mindful of how their system performs when on battery power.

Windows 10 (and 8.1, the shipping OS version for the first year of SP3 products) provides a command line utility known as powercfg which, among other things, supports checking the battery health. When run in the command prompt with elevated (administrator) privileges, users can get a battery report in .html format by entering “powercfg /batteryreport” (no quotation marks).

For SP3 users, once you open the battery report, check the manufacturer. If you see LGC-LGC as the manufacturer, you should expect to see minimal degradation.

respectable degradation after 2 years and only 73 full cycles
LG Chem battery stats; acceptable degradation

However, if you see SIMPLO, be sure to scroll down and compare the original design capacity (should be over 40,000 mWh) to the maximum full charge capacity; if your full charge capacity is, say, 22000 out of 42000 mWh, your battery has lost around 48% of its capacity. Some users are seeing a full charge capacity of less than 1000 mWh — guaranteeing only 2% of the battery life available when the Surface was new. But if your full charge capacity is 38000 mWh or greater, and the report shows a steady decline over time, you should be fine for now.

Microsoft has recently pushed out another firmware update for the SP3 which mentions, among others things, a tweak to battery life while the device is asleep & an improvement for how the SP3 behaves when the battery is low. While it’s possible there’s another soft fix included in the firmware update, keep in mind that users have had to send their devices in to fully replace the battery. We won’t know for sure if this is strictly caused by the hardware itself, or if it was caused by a software bug.

[Sources: WinSuperSite, Microsoft forums (Surface Pro 3 battery degradation)]