Michael Breitung Photography


Surface Pro 3 Color Banding Fix

Last week I finally bought a new mobile PC to be able to edit photos during my travels. I went with Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 3, which is light, powerful enough to run Photoshop and has good sRGB coverage.

Before I’ll be able to post a full review, for which I’ll need to use the Surface a bit longer, I wanted to share the solution for a problem I noticed right after installing Photoshop.

Upon editing my first photo I noticed strange artifacts in the darker parts of the photo. First I thought it was noise but looking at the photo on my EIZO revealed perfectly smooth shadows. What I had noticed on the Surface was so called color banding. When looking close I could also see it in the tiles of the home screen – basically anywhere where gradients are used. This made the Surface unusable for photo editing, at least for me.

So I started browsing the web and found that I was not the only one experiencing this issue and that it also occured on the Surface 2 Pro. Even calibrating the monitor didn’t help.

I found the solution through this video on youtube. The Surface 3 Pro was also running the Intel driver from March 2014. The only problem was that the advanced graphic settings were not available.

To get them back I needed to install a generic graphics driver directly from Intel. I can’t say yet, if it impacts the energy consumption of the Surface negatively or not. But what I can say is that after installing the latest Intel HD Graphics Driver (check official Intel site) the banding was gone.

I will not make any recommendations to install it or not. This is up to you. But in case you want to give it a try here is a short walkthrough on how to update the driver:

  1. Download the Zip version of the driver and extract it to a folder of your choice
  2. Open the Device Manager and look for the Intel HD Graphics Family driver located under display
  3. Double-click on the entry and go to driver – update
  4. Select Browse my computer for driver software
  5. Click on Let me pick from …
  6. Select that you want to install from disk and then go to the location where you extracted the driver Zip. Look for the kit64ics.inf file and select it
  7. Click ok to install the driver
  8. Restart the Surface

After the restart the banding on my Surface was already gone. In case it’s not gone for you right-click on the desktop. In the context menu you will now find an entry for the graphic settings. Try the steps shown in the linked video.

Microsoft Surface 3 Pro and i1Display Pro

After fixing the banding I was finally able to calibrate the Surface. I used the i1 Display Pro, which worked perfectly with the Surface Pro 3. In the profiler software I left nearly all settings untouched. I only switched the display type to white led and selected to manually set the display brightness. Automatic mode made the software crash.

After the calibration I compared the result to my main PC where I have an sRGB Monitor from EIZO attached. Both displays are now very close in colors and brightness and I can finally use the Surface for photo editing.

I only wish that Microsoft will come up with an official driver to fix this problem as the oldest post I found describing it was older than half a year and I’m sure Microsoft is aware of it. I reported it anyway.

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