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Hands-on with the new Surface Pro with LTE Advanced

Microsoft’s CVP of devices Panos Pany officially announced the Surface Pro with LTE Advanced in London this morning, and the new tablet will be available for business customers this December. If the Surface designer didn’t give a lot details about the new LTE version during the main Future Decoded keynote this morning, we learned more about it during a private panel as well as a quick hands-on session.

As you may remember, the first Surface device with an LTE antenna was the 2015 Surface 3, which was mostly aimed at consumers. Microsoft is doing things differently with the new Surface Pro with LTE and focusing on businesses first. Panay did say during the private panel that it would be available for consumers at some point, but he didn’t give an ETA for retail. According to the exec, the enterprise is where the demand has been really coming from so far.

Microsoft waited a long time to include a USB-C port on a Surface device (the new port will be available first on the Surface Book 2, which will start shipping next month), and Panos Panay explained that Microsoft has been “super patient” with LTE as well. The company thinks that LTE networks are now good enough, and and using cellular connectivity doesn’t impact battery life significantly on the 12-inch tablet.

To enable cellular connectivity on the Surface Pro, Microsoft integrated Qualcomm’s X16 Gigabit Class LTE modem right into the motherboard. The tablet supports up to 450 Mbps speeds, and the modem actually uses 7 LTE antennas for better connectivity. The Surface Pro with LTE looks almost identical to the one without LTE: you can only tell the difference by looking at the top of the tablet, which has no plastic band. Additionally, there is a nano-sim tray under the kickstand, right next to the micro-SD port.

The nano-sim tray is located next to the micro-SD port.

To enable LTE, you can either use the embedded SIM and choose your data plan from the Windows Store (LTE wasn’t functional on the demo units, unfortunately), or pop in your own nano-SIM card. Even better, you can use both options and switch between them at any time.

You can switch between using LTE with the embedded SIM or your own nano-SIM card.

The new Surface Pro with LTE Advanced will be available for business in December, with prices starting at $1,149 for the base model with an Intel Core i5 processor, 4G of RAM and 128GB of storage. A more expensive model with the same processor but and double the RAM and SSD storage will cost $1,449. Since Microsoft removed the fan to make room for the LTE modem, it’s doubtful we’ll see a Core i7 version.

Does LTE connectivity make a difference for you? Will you be lining up for this new Surface, either as a business customer or a consumer? Let us know in the comments below.

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