Surface Pro 3 firmware patch solves some glitches, but Wi-Fi problems persist

Microsoft releases its ninth firmware fix for the Surface Pro 3 in five months, and early results are mixed

Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Credit: Michael Homnick

Microsoft announced a firmware update for the Surface Pro 3 on Thursday. It's the ninth firmware patch in the five months the Surface Pro 3 has been on the market. Initial reports on the Microsoft Answers forum are encouraging for some peripherals -- Bluetooth seems to be getting better -- but many people report the Wi-Fi problems are still there. Some say they're getting worse.

Microsoft has yet to officially respond on the forums.

On the bright side, there are several reports that Bluetooth-connected devices are working properly after this latest update. Poster Dean Blakely, for example, says this patch finally allowed him to pair his Logitech K810 Bluetooth keyboard to his SP3.

Wi-Fi is another story altogether. The long-running "slow Wi-Fi" thread on the Answers forum has good news about better Wi-Fi connections -- poster ScumdogMillionaire says "much better after today's firmware update!!! FINALLY!" -- and bad news as well. Randy31416 reports:

After today's (November 19) update, wifi performance remains dreadful and it is even slower than after the late October firmware update. Transferring a folder with two files contaning rougly 1GB from desktop to Surface takes 42 minutes 53 seconds. (It was 37 minutes 16 seconds with the late October firmware.) A cheap Patriot dongle takes 1 minute 20 seconds.  An old Dell laptop takes 2 minutes roughly. The Surface is now 26 times slower than the Patriot dongle.

Poster Wildsoldier tells a similar tale of woe in a different forum.

Microsoft MVP and forum moderator Barb Bowman has an excellent, technical review of possible tweaks on her blog. In the end, she surmises, "It's up to Microsoft to fix."

I've been covering Surface Pro 3 Wi-Fi problems since the machine was first released in June. With each iteration, some Wi-Fi problems seem to get fixed while others get worse. Microsoft clearly hasn't solved the problem -- which points to the possibility that the Marvell Avastar Wireless AC Network Controller inside the Surface Pro 3 is having intractable problems.

If the Marvell Network Controller is the source of the problem, and if the problem can't be solved with software, Microsoft's caught between a rock and a hard place. Should all Surface Pro 3 machines be recalled to replace the faulty chip? Should a new version of the Surface Pro 3 be released with a network controller that works? Perhaps Microsoft will slipstream the change, without making a big deal of it? Or should Microsoft do the best it can with the cards it's been dealt?

Tough questions, with no easy answers.

We'll know a lot more when we see the specs of the next Surface Pro.

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