For the last week or so, I have been using a computer to work from a train, in a park and in a cafeteria. All that is quite normal, but what was unique last week is that I did not have to connect to Wi-Fi or prepared to set up a hot spot on my phone once, thanks to the LTE connection built into this computer. Wherever I've gone, the Internet has continued.
It has not been easy to find a laptop that has a built-in cellular connection and a feature set and modern design (also known as something you really want to use every day). Every PC or laptop with a cellular connection has been for the business crowd, with clumsy designs and outdated features. The other main option has been an iPad Pro with LTE, something that may not meet your real computing needs.
But laptops with LTE are about to become serious this year, as Qualcomm's Always Connected PC platform devices are expected to hit the shelves for a week. Until they arrive, we have the new Microsoft Surface Pro LTE, which is the same Surface Pro that was launched last year, but with an additional dose of LTE. It is available for pre-order from Microsoft and Best Buy starting today.
The Surface Pro LTE will continue to attract commercial users and their purchasing departments (in fact, it has been available for purchase since the end of last year), but it will also be attractive to regular PC buyers. It is a modern, capable, 2 in 1 computer that can also connect to the Internet without the need for a Wi-Fi network or a hot-spot device. It is the first Surface computer that really lives up to the notion of a real mobile computer that can go anywhere and not lose any of its functionalities. (Microsoft tried before with Surface 2 and Surface 3 without power, but this is the first Surface Pro with integrated cellular connectivity).
I covered the details of Surface Pro's standard features in my review of the Wi-Fi model last year, so look at how it is to use this computer. For this article, I will focus on the unique aspects of using a computer with a built-in Internet connection.
The best word I can use to describe the use of the Surface Pro LTE is "free".
The LTE version of Surface Pro shares all the same features and design as the Wi-Fi model that was launched last summer. It has a 12.3-inch touch screen with a 3: 2 aspect ratio, a seventh-generation Intel Core processor (unfortunately, there is no upgrade to eighth-generation chips, despite the long wait for the LTE model to arrive ), and weighs less than two pounds (without an attached keyboard). The only visual differences between the Surface Pro LTE and the Wi-Fi model are a polycarbonate strip on the top that is a slightly different silver color than the rest of the metal chassis and the SIM tray, which is next to the slot for microSD cards under the kickstand.
For $ 150 more than the standard Surface Pro, you get an integrated modem that supports 20 LTE service bands. (It's a Qualcomm X16 modem, the same one found on many Android smartphones launched last year.) Microsoft does not explicitly say which operators the Pro supports, but it sells unlocked and supports bands for AT & T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, in addition to international networks, so it should work almost everywhere you go. Just like the iPad Pro equipped with a cell phone, the Surface Pro LTE has an integrated eSIM and a tray for a nano SIM, and you can configure the service in both and switch between them through the Windows 10 configuration application. Configuration also provides a data usage monitor so you can see the amount of mobile data you are using and set limits on it.
Microsoft says that the LTE Pro lasts 12.5 hours between charges (compared to 13.5 for the Wi-Fi model), but that is based on a looping video test and not on real-world usage. In my experience, the battery life in LTE has been about seven hours, which is a bit less than what I saw with the Wi-Fi version, but still in the acceptable range for this computer size. I would have loved to see Microsoft include an even bigger battery in this version to really turn it into a truly mobile computer, but I think most people will be happy with the life of the LTE Pro battery.
The differences between using a computer that depends on a Wi-Fi network for Internet and another that always has a connection available are small, but add up. Instead of having to set up a hot spot on my phone before opening my computer on the train and then waiting for the computer to find the hot spot and connect, I could turn on the LTE Pro and get to work. As the train moved and the mobile connection went in and out (I tried it with the T-Mobile service, but this applies to any operator), the LTE Pro was able to find the network and reconnect faster after losing the network. service that when I had to trust the hot spot connection of my phone. On top of that, I do not have to worry about exhausting my phone's battery and my laptop's at the same time just to connect to the Internet.
Connecting with LTE Pro is so easy that I never had to think about it
Using a computer connected to the cellular network is also safer than relying on public Wi-Fi networks, and it is more convenient than using an access point that requires an account and a login, such as those provided by Boingo.
Connecting with LTE Surface Pro is so easy that I never had to think about it. It's a computer that goes out of my way and lets me do the things I need to do, instead of distracting myself with network settings or other hassles. This is the reason why I have long preferred an iPad with cellular connection through a Wi-Fi only model, but here it extends to a complete work computer.
Since Surface Pro is a complete Windows 10 PC, with a desktop browser and desktop applications, the use of data is something you should consider, especially if you use it with a prepaid or limited data plan. In just a few days of exclusive use of LTE, I was able to record almost 4 GB of data with only my daily work load (Slack, email, many browser tabs, much Twitter, download and update applications from the Microsoft store, etc. .), which would put me about 20 GB in a month. I would use even more if I were to stream Netflix or another video. An unlimited data plan is probably the smart move if you are using a computer like this.
All this adds to a more fluid and pleasant work experience when you are away from my home or office. Instead of having to worry about whether or not I have a connection or a map where I can connect ahead of time, I can only turn on the Surface Pro and get to work, saving time and hassle. It may not be worth the extra cost of LTE capacity and the monthly service it requires for everyone, but for those who are constantly mobile and still need to do their job (like me), it definitely is.
Now I want every computer to have a cellular connection
Using a computer with a built-in cellular connection is so convenient that now I want all computers to have it. (It's also something I've explicitly asked Microsoft in the past). Prefigure a time when we will not have to worry about whether the cafeteria we want to work with has wifi or if we will be able to take care of those emails while traveling. That future is not far away, and in the case of the Surface Pro LTE, it is here now.
Built-in LTE connectivity
Lightweight and portable design
Battery life that lasts up to a business day
Keyboard is an additional cost
The 2 in 1 design is not for everyone
Vox Media has affiliated associations. These do not influence the editorial content, although Vox Media can earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.