Surface Pro 3 Color Banding Fix
September 4, 2014 | Equipment, Photo Editing | by Michael Breitung
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:
- Download the Zip version of the driver and extract it to a folder of your choice
- Open the Device Manager and look for the Intel HD Graphics Family driver located under display
- Double-click on the entry and go to driver – update
- Select Browse my computer for driver software
- Click on Let me pick from …
- 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
- Click ok to install the driver
- 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.
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.