Microsoft's ARM laptop is slim but not so fast

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/11/05/microsofts-arm-laptop-is-sli.html

  1. Way too expensive for what it is.
  2. The shrink wrap agreements are ridiculous
  3. Sleep mode has NEVER worked well on any versions of Window (don’t use it)

So, basically, don’t buy this. Get yourself a nice Dell laptop, they work.

1 Like

You want an ARM laptop, get a ridiculously fast iPad with a keyboard - at least you know all the apps will work.

5 Likes

This is supposed to be MSFT’s version of a chromebook? With Windows? Why?

Speaking of chromebooks, I wonder what the clickwrap agreements say with one of those.

1 Like

I’m old enough to remember the first ARM-based personal computer.

3 Likes

Eighteenhundered bucks for an underperforming 32bit system with compatibility problems, seriously?
I can get a X1 Carbon for that price whithout worrying if it will run whatever I want it to. I wonder what their target group is; it’s not even really good as an expensive toy to show off.

1 Like

Wait. Some years back I won a Surface 2 tablet. I forget now what the CPU was, but it wasn’t Intel. Soon after, Microsoft announced that they were abandoning that path, so it was back to Intel CPUs. Now they have an ARM processor? Maybe buyers shouldn’t rely on long support for this.

2 Likes

Windows 10 handles the different ISAs in two ways. Apps that are made for ARM32 and ARM64 ISAs run natively — that is, they communicate directly with the ARM chipset. For x86 apps, Windows would put them through an emulation layer that compiles x86 instructions into ARM64 instructions. The instructions are then optimized and cached so they don’t need to be recompiled the next time the app is launched. Furthermore, the compiled instructions can be shared by other apps to help speed up the initial launch.

What the hell? If they don’t have Arm64 native code versions of the apps, why aren’t they using some environment that compiles down for a virtual machine (which can be further optimized for the native processor)? C#, Java, Python, etc…

Translating x86 to Arm64 and not handling x64? /facepalm!

2 Likes

You mean like the .NET runtime was supposed to be with the Common Intermediate Language? If I had to guess the problem is native libraries, so they’d need x86 compatibility anyway.

I really don’t get the “why” of this thing. I thought idea of the Surface business (like Google’s Pixel business) was to let Microsoft showcase what their platform is supposed to be, if they had only had Apple’s vertical integration, despite their core business being founded on the fact that they don’t. But whatever, that makes sense, even if it’s only a loss-making PR exercise.

But if this Surface Pro X is supposed to justify its price by being, like, a textbook Platonic ideal of what future Windows 'ptops should look like, then surely the whole point is for it to be minimal and flawless – not smothered in clickwrap bullshit, with multiple different keyboard options, some of which obscure the system tray, and forcing users to care about processor architectures(!), etc. If it doesn’t tell you specifically what it’s supposed to be like to use an ideal Windows device, then what is the point?

If you’d asked that 17 years ago, Microsoft would’ve said “of course, .net, which is our new answer to everything, uses a common intermediate language that lets any code run on any architecture” (at the time they would’ve meant Alpha and PowerPC, but I’m sure their runtime now supports ARM). But as it’s Microsoft, they soon reverted to supporting .net equally alongside Win32 and COM and everything else they ever came out with, because they’re institutionally incapable of making editorial decisions about their platform.

1 Like

Not true. The problem with it is that it is very hardware dependent. I’ve had some machines it works fantastic on, some not so much. Some not at all.

My current laptop is a Surface Book 2. For it to work right, I have pinned a batch file which calls the sleep API directly in a *.dll via rundll32.exe. The Start > Power > Sleep option doesn’t do it right.

1 Like

Have you had a recent Dell? My dad’s has had 5 different catastrophic failures down to bugs and documented equipment problems on Dell’s side. They’ve fought him on every warranty repair, and he’s ended up sinking $600 into a $1200 laptop too keep it running. I have no idea why he hasn’t replaced it. But in the 2 years he’s had it its spent more time getting mailed back and forth to Dell or dismantled on his work bench then being used.

Apparently the Intel cpu shortages. The suspicion is that MS is experimenting with different product approaches in case lack of Intel stuff effects their product lines or creates some price pressure. Or to avoid it if the problem comes up in the future. So they’ve got an AMD based Surface out, and this is supposed to test the waters on a more stripped down ARM approach.

The short run up on that being a concern is probably why this seems fairly half cocked and too pricey. Low volume product developed on a short time line. Without prep work on the software side to pave the way.

1 Like

My office is all Dell. I also bought my wife a Dell for Christmas last year. Yes, there are always a 2 to 3% failure rate in any model series from any manufacturer, but my experience with Dells over the last ten years as a support technician and user have been that they are generally rock solid machines that just work.

EDIT: I wanted to add, that in no way is meant to demean your dad’s experience. The people who get those 2-3% bad systems out of a model batch go through hell getting them fixed, and manufacturers are often very difficult to work with, even if your warranty is still in effect.

I mean, yes, I was being hyperbolic. But you’re basically agreeing with me (when I’m being a bit kinder). Sleep mode is not reliable and it’s entirely hit or miss if it’ll work on any given system. My home system (dell desktop) it works great. My previous Dell work laptop, it blew chunks and would wake out of sleep and forget it needed to feed me a screen image. Current work laptop it seems to be fine. Two laptops ago, it just crashed my system.

Sleep mode is a wonky piece of software that no one should use. These days, with SD’s that boot up in ten seconds, it’s not even needed.

Well you can poke around a bit if you’d like. Over the last five years Dell has had a lot of serious, documented issues that hit every unit of a particular model. Or across multiple models. Particularly in the XPS laptops and consumer targeted models. Like there was a specter/meltdown update they put out that was bricking nearly every laptop it was installed on. And one of the things that hit Dad was a mainboard failure that affected some rediculous proportion of 3 different models with boards from a particular production run or from a particular manufacturer. And then there are general quality issues. A single drop of water in his keyboard rendered the whole thing non-functional and non-repairable.

There’s been far fewer issues with enterprise products and lower cost lines apparently. And the problems are general build quality and truly disastrous stuff with particular models or groups of models. But when there are problems its well above normal 3-5%.

As for their tech support. Again apparently great on the enterprise side, or if you pay for extended warranties or whatever. But any time I’ve dealt with normal consumer support its been pulling teeth. It took me 3 months to get a warranty replacement on a Dell monitor where the screen had delaminated slightly, admitting a fruit fly into the panel.

Every attempt to submit a ticket by phone, email or the website dead ended. Because everything operates on a service tag number associated with every device these days. But my screen was manufactured just months before they actually started printing those on consumer products. And there’s apparently no process for setting up a support claim without one. Or creating one for a device without one.

So even calling and speaking to some one got nothing. The support folks were just completely confused, and would transfer you to a manager or technician who was also confused. And they’d tell you to use the website to submit an email. But you couldn’t do that cause it needed the tag number.

I eventually had to post on their support forum, and wait a month or so for a Mod to notice the post. Once some one did the whole process had to be handled through the forum, because none of the other systems would function without that tag.

I did eventually get the monitor replaced, but the whole thing was just rediculous. Dad’s experience has been similarly frustrating. With the main board failure they actually charged him more than the computer cost for the repair and reimbursed him later. Claiming that was normal and the only way they could do it.

What reputation Dell has seem to mostly come out of their office based business.

1 Like

Obviously I feel for you if you’ve had problems. But the XPS line has pretty decent ratings from Consumer Reports. Certainly a bit above average, if not among the best. And my experience with them has been “they work great.” Your experience obviously differs.

You are right, Enterprise agreements (meaning we pay a lot for the right) means Dell caters to our needs and complaints. We even have a full-time Dell tech on site per the agreement we negotiated, and a parts locker that keeps in stock the most common replacement parts needed for our in-warranty models. But again, we pay for that privilege. And I’ve done failure analysis for my company as we worked to roll that parts locker out eight years ago, the Dell failure rates were in line with industry standards (including Apple, which most folks don’t seem to realize have similar failure rates as everyone else). The D-series models were sort of crappy, but the E-series were rock solid. Newest ones I don’t know about, I’ve finally moved away from the repair side of computing work after twenty years.

Note: I don’t know why your laptop would not have had a service tag. They all do.

Also note: specter/meltdown is a CPU vulnerability not caused by Dell, and it affected ALL manufacturers.

As for XPS models, my wife has one, as well as all three of my sons. They’ve been purchased over the last two years, and represent three different models of XPS over that time. None of them have had problems. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear there was a particular XPS model that had a chronic issue, that happens from time to time to all manufacturers. All manufacturers source their hardware from different places and at different times, and once in a while they get a bad batch of something.

And really, you encountered problems. So of course you’re going to go looking for others who encountered them, which would give you an idea that certain models had serious problems. When I did some quick searches, I find very little other than positive reviews about the XPS product line. The 15" 9570 seems to have had some relatively minor issues (coil whine, some latency) but I’m not seeing anything other than the usual single consumers here and there loudly voicing their complaints. Something all consumers do when they buy an expensive item and it fails to perform to their standards.

We have different experiences. It happens. I still stand by my recommendation that Dells are good products. I ran into a bunch of really bad HP laptops at a previous job that put me off that manufacturer forever. But almost ten years after arriving at this job and using Dells exclusively over that time, I’ve been impressed with how solid the various models have been. The same goes for what I’ve seen of their home line, although I haven’t touched as many of those.

It was a monitor that didn’t have the service tag. Dell originally did not use the service tags on consumer/retail products. Using model and serial numbers and what have like everyone else.

Before that it was something they only used for those enterprise service agreements and from what I was told tags were basically issued at sale. At some point a few years ago they decided to extend that system to retail and consumers and started issuing the tags at manufacture.

That’s fine. The thing is though that there was a gap where they had transitioned to a service tag only system. But products manufactured, shipped and sold at retail before they started putting tags on everything were still under warranty.

And they had no system for issuing tags to products already sold, or processing customer services requests without the tag. You couldn’t even contact CS because the first question was “whats the service tag”, not even any of the systems on their end could progress without it. The process of getting the monitor replaced involved coordinating with the forum guy via his personal email to make sure I posted exactly the right response in the forum post for him to follow up on his end and create a ticket. It was weird as fuck.

It should be a problem that’s over now, as all that stuff should be well enough out of warranty that customer service couldn’t do anything for you anyway. But it was weird as fuck.

I didn’t say Dell was responsible for specter/meltdown.

I said Dell pushed a security/chipset update related to it that bricked a bunch of (at the time) new and recent retail laptops. IIRC they fucked up implementing code from Intel or MS in a automatic update or something. Might have been an unrelated security update, wasn’t my laptop. But I do remember it being very much on Dell’s end.

to me “slim” just sounds like “fragile”

how about a thick, heavy laptop with a power supply that won’t drop out if I bump the plug

2 Likes

I need it. You should see how many browser tabs I keep open. Massive numbers of tabs are how I organize my work.

Panasonic has just the thing for you :slight_smile:


If my current laptop fails, I’ll probably replace it with used Toughbook (new ones are way too expensive).

2 Likes