The first of Microsoft's "always-connected" PCs with LTE connectivity is now available for pre-ordering, and early reviews are enthusiastic. Featuring a 7th-generation Intel Core processor and SIM/eSIM support, the Microsoft Surface Pro with an option for advanced LTE connectivity is available for ordering today in the U.S., and is set to start shipping May 1. The LTE option enables wireless, on-the-go networking without the need to connect via WiFi or mobile hotspot.
The Surface Pro with LTE launches ahead of the arrival of other new Windows 10 devices powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon ARM processors instead of x86-based chips from Intel and other companies. The new "always-connected" PCs are designed for lower-cost and more secure mobile working, according to Microsoft.
Built-In Cellular 'So Convenient'
According to today's review in The Verge, the Surface Pro's LTE connectivity makes it the first "true mobile computer." PCMag, meanwhile, called it "a top choice for those who want a sleek, travel-friendly 2-in-1 hybrid tablet, but need absolute connectivity."
"Using a computer with a built-in cellular connection is so convenient that now I want every computer to have it," senior editor Dan Seifert wrote in The Verge. "It foreshadows a time when we won't have to worry about whether or not the coffee shop we want to work from has Wi-Fi or if we'll be able to take care of those emails while traveling."
Adding the option of cellular connectivity to a PC comes with a price, though. While CNET described the new Surface Pro as a "best-in-class" device, it noted the LTE option is an "expensive alternative to tethering from a smartphone." ZDNet's review expressed similar concerns, asking whether LTE connectivity was worth the extra $150 added to the price of the standard Surface Pro.
ZDNet's conclusion? "For someone whose work depends on fast, reliable access to mobile networks without the hassle of hotspots, it's worth considering," ZDNet said.
The Surface Pro's eSIM service will be able to provide LTE connectivity via France's Transatel, with pay-as-you-go prices ranging from $4.99 for one-day, 200 MB access to $29.99 for 30 days and 3 GB, according to PCMag.
'Always-Connected' PCs Arrive in Spring
Beyond the support for LTE, the new Surface Pro is "almost indistinguishable" from the standard Surface Pro released by Microsoft last year, ZDNet said. The LTE version has been available to enterprise customers since late last year.
With a starting cost of $1,449, the LTE version of the Surface Pro features a 12.3-inch PixelSense touchscreen, Windows 10 Pro, dual microphones, stereo speakers, and front- and rear-facing cameras with support for Windows Hello face-based authentication. Depending on the Intel processor inside, the device weighs a little more or less than 1.7 pounds and provides enough battery life -- according to Microsoft -- for up to 13.5 hours of video playback.
Sometime later this spring, the Surface Pro with LTE will be joined by other new Windows 10 devices with ARM chips for cellular connectivity. Among the Microsoft hardware partners planning to come out with such "always-connected" PCs are Asus, HP, and Lenovo.