Grading on a curve: Microsoft Surface Laptop

Consumer Reports:

Consumer Reports is removing its "recommended" designation from four Microsoft laptops and cannot recommend any other Microsoft laptops or tablets because of poor predicted reliability in comparison with most other brands.

Here's how the publication came to that decision:

To get at reliability, the Consumer Reports National Research Center surveys our subscribers regularly. There are millions of these folks, and many of them supply us with information on hundreds of thousands of individual products, including everything from pickup trucks to washing machines.

I'm not a fan of how the modern Consumer Reports handles technology reviews. Ever since the iPhone 4 "antenagate" scandal, I've felt they've emphasized sensationalism and attention-seeking over data and trustworthiness. The ridiculously rushed MacBook Pro battery life bruhaha from late last year was just the latest nail in the trust coffin — and that includes reporting CR has done on Samsung as well as Apple.

Paul Thurrott, on the other hand, knows his Windows:

Microsoft had benefited from a curiously skewed series of positive editorial stories in mainstream publications because of its perceived innovation with PCs compared to Apple. I dispute that view, actually, and have wondered aloud how any PC maker could be called an innovator when they just released their first laptop in 2017.

That's similar to how I perceived Google Pixel phone reviews last year: That many in the technology industry were grading it on a curve:

The popular press has a weird relationship with Apple. They tend to be massive users of Apple's products, even as they take any excuse, real or imagined, to stick Apple in doomsday headlines. It makes sense — Apple has terrifically usable products, and those headlines garner huge amounts of negative attention. As long as you're willing to swallow the contradiction, it's win/win. Well, for everyone but readers and consumers.

I get it. Apple has topped the charts for so long it feels boring. And any excuse to get a breath of fresh tech air into the discussion feels new, different, exciting. But it often also seems forced.

Apple's no longer the underdog so, now, some actually seem to believe — and are probably right given social feedback — that knocking Apple products for any reason makes them look cooler, less biased, and more populist.

The problem is, people are looking for real advice on real products that they're going to spend significant real money on. Industry ennui does those people a profound disservice.

Surface Laptop is Microsoft's first real laptop. It's not in the least bit surprising it has issues. It's why many people simply never buy "Rev A boards". Give Microsoft a few years, though, and they'll get better and better. Until then, grading on the curve isn't a win/win. It's a lose/lose.

I'm happy Google is making phones and Microsoft is making laptops. The competition is better for everyone, companies and consumers alike. But it has to be treated like that — a competition.

Read more about Surface Laptop at Windows Central

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.