Edge of Innovation

Will your next PC be an Always-Connected PC?

Dean Evans Technology Writer Twitter

My first laptop was an always-disconnected PC — a 486 with Windows 95 and a monochrome screen. It had a network port but no Wi-Fi (that wasn’t an option until 1999). No Bluetooth either. There was no such thing as ‘wireless’ back in the early 1990s and besides, there wasn’t much of an Internet to stay connected to.

Today’s laptops and convertible/detachable 2 in 1 computers are a world away from that clunky, chunky, mostly offline PC. These days, we spend the majority of our time online, hooked into email, social media and our favourite websites, not to mention apps like Dropbox, Todoist, Google Drive and Spotify.

It’s why a new class of computer is emerging — the Always-Connected PC.

Get online wherever you are

Thanks to modern wireless networking technologies, it’s easier than ever to get online wherever you are. Can’t find any Wi-Fi? An LTE dongle, portable hotspot or a secondary SIM can provide mobile broadband access to keep you connected to the services you can’t live (or work) without.

At CES 2018, manufacturers including Acer, HP and Dell have announced new always-connected machines that combine the latest Intel® Core™ processors with 4G LTE-capable Intel® XMMTM modems.

HP Envy X2 always-connected PC
The new HP Envy X2, launched at CES 2018, incorporates 4G LTE-capable Intel® XMMTM modem.

Acer, for example, took the wraps off an always-connected version of the Intel Core i7 processor-powered Swift 7. It was already a nippy, lightweight laptop, but this new 14-inch model is super-thin too, measuring only 8.98mm. And with the addition of 4G LTE connectivity, it can deliver go-anywhere productivity with all-day battery life.

Go anywhere productivity

HP, meanwhile, rolled out the new Envy X2, a fanless aluminum tablet that incorporates a vibrant 12.3-inch diagonal WUXGA+ touchscreen, a 7th Gen Intel Core Y-Series processor, up to 256GB of SSD storage and a battery life that could last up to 17 hours.

Dell is also getting in on the always-connected act. Its new Inspiron 5280 2 in 1 system also comes with built-in 4G LTE and an Intel Core processor.

You might be thinking that adding LTE to a laptop is expensive. But plans are getting cheaper all the time — you can get 5GB of data for a monthy fee of around £15. As for fiddly, bulky USB dongles and portable hotspots are being replaced by thin devices that feature mobile connectivity built right in.

Huawei E5573 MiFi router
This Huawei mobile Wi-Fi router can provide web access on the go.

Take the Samsung Galaxy Book. Available in 10.6-inch and 12-inch models, the top-of-the range 12-incher comes with a 7th Gen Intel Core i5 processor, a vibrant 2160 x 1440 Super AMOLED screen, a 256GB SSD, two USB-C slots and S Pen support. In the US, Verizon offers an enticing LTE model that lets you access the web anywhere you can get a phone signal.

The interconnectedness of things

“Samsung’s Galaxy Book is a great example of the Always-Connected PC,” explains Chris Walker, vice president of the Client Computing Group and general manager of the Mobility Client Platform. It delivers “what we’ve envisioned for years and what we’ve heard you say you need.”

Walker’s definition of an Always-Connected PC is a machine that is “exceedingly powerful. Always connected. Mobile. Personal… A device that makes you more productive, more creative and more connected from any place you need or wish to be.”

Samsung Galaxy Book always-connected PC
The Samsung Galaxy Book ships with a Verizon SIM in the US.

The Galaxy Book isn’t the only Always-Connected PC in town either. There are more the way. Xiaomi, for example, has launched a 4G/LTE version of the Mi Notebook Air 13.3 in China, while the 14-inch, Intel Core CPU-powered Lenovo ThinkPad L470 comes with onboard LTE-A in the UK.

From SIM to eSIM

While most of these machines feature traditional removable SIM cards, future smartphones and Always-Connected PCs may ultimately use the more secure eSIM standard. This ’embedded’ SIM card is soldered into the device and can be programmed with carrier information over-the-air (OTA).

The benefits are obvious. With an eSIM there’s no SIM-swapping required when you switch between services (you can activate a new contract with a click). Not only that but eSIMs will be significantly smaller, promise to cut costs for manufacturers and will offer greater security, making the standard perfect for all manner of Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Computing doesn’t stand still. It is always evolving. We’re already seeing a seismic shift from traditional clamshell laptops to flexible 2 in 1 machines that can transform into tablets. After that, adding LTE (and eventually 5G) to create an Always-Connected PC is surely the logical next step.

Find out more about the latest 2 in 1 computers here.

Main image copyright: Shutterstock/Dragana Gordic

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