Microsoft Surface RT Tingle sensation

Posted: January 30, 2013 in Information, Surface RT
Tags: , , ,

This didn’t really cause me any concern, but I thought it was very odd for a modern computing device to exhibit this. Considering all the shielding and insulation usually required of modern electronics it was rather unexpected.

Something I noticed a long time ago while laying in bed with the electric blanket turned on was that you could feel this small tingle when touching another person. While I haven’t exhaustively researched this phenomena my belief is that the electric blanket is generating a small electromagnetic field which is then inducing a simliar field in a person lying on the blanket. When lightly touching another person (using the back of your fingers is most obvious) you feel a small tingle like an extremely mild electric current. I’ve played with electronics a lot as a kid so I knew it wasn’t a “bad” thing.

I have not felt a simliar thing from a piece of computer equipment though except for when working with computers that had bad power supplies that didn’t have proper grounding.

This effect only happens on the Surface tablet when it is connected to the mains power adapter, not when it is on battery. The effect is stronger if the tablet is drawing more power (e.g. it first starts to charge, or is already doing something cpu/graphic intensive). When idle, and fully charged the tingle is much less.

I was actually able to measure the voltage differential at different levels using an AC multimeter. While this is not by any means a solid scientific approach, it was able to show that there is a real physical and measurable current (i.e. It wasn’t all my imagination).

While the levels were not at all dangerous, it was something I thought MS might want to know about. Did they have a bad batch that weren’t properly insulated? After the initial report, the incident was escalated to a critical response team, especially when it was established that children were using a device exhibiting an “electric short-circuit effect” 🙂

After a while though the response that came back was that it was normal. I wonder though if this was expected or noticed during the design and testing phases though. I have never felt this from any other tablet, laptop, phone or computing device for many many years, and then it was only because of bad wiring. I wonder if others have noticed the same thing?

I’ve just checked out a Microsoft Surface Pro and it has exactly the same sensation. Another person in the office here could feel it as well, but only very lightly. I’m thinking some people may be more sensitive to it than others.

I’ve also thought of another way to describe it. If you’ve ever tried rubbing two of those flat fridge magnets against each other you will feel a kind of “bouncing” as the magnetic poles jump over each other. The tingle sensation is similar to that. You only feel it when you move your hand across the surface, but not when you are just touching it.

  1. Ed Starkie says:

    Same thing just noticed on mine for the first time after 5 months. Most noticeable when touching the corners with the inside of my arm. Very odd and I agree that I have never noticed this from any other laptop, tablet etc…

    • Scott says:

      None of my kids have died from it yet, and there don’t seem to have been too many other hysterical reports about it, so I’m guessing it’s nothing to worry about.
      If it did turn out to be a problem, the MS h8ters would be out in force using it as a club to beat the Surface down.

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