What are always-connected PCs?

Microsoft believes that always-connected computers are "reimagining what a PC can be", but is this just more marketing spiel?

Also referred to as mobile PCs, they're basically laptops with built-in mobile phone-like data connections, a long battery life and an even longer standby time. Most will be built around a lightweight, portable design.

Why would that be good?

It means you can take your PC almost anywhere and remain connected to the internet without having to depend on public Wi-Fi or a separate portable hotspot. The longer battery life means that you can use your PC for around 20 hours between charges, whereas most current laptop batteries top out at about 12 hours. Standby time is up to a month, meaning that you never need to shut down your computer to save power, so it's always instantly on when you need it.

Who's behind it?

Back at Computex 2017, Microsoft announced that it was partnering with Qualcomm and Intel to launch a brand-new generation of portable PCs, and now the first models have since been announced, with Asus and HP among the manufacturers that will be producing the new devices.

How do they work?

The first always-connected PCs are to be built around a Qualcomm Snapdragon system on a chip (SoC) running an ARM processor, similar to those that power many mobile phones and tablets. This allows the PCs to be much more power-efficient compared to computers running regular CPUs.

For the always-on connection, the PCs will include a built-in embedded SIM (eSIM) and most will support external SIM cards too. The eSIM will allow users to switch between local providers by buying data from the Windows Store, rather than being tied to a specific mobile network. The Snapdragon chip also features a gigabit LTE modem that supports theoretical download speeds of up to 1Gbps, though it's currently unclear as to when mobile networks will be rolling out gigabit LTE services in the UK.

All always-connected PCs will run Windows 10.

Is this just another gimmick?

Microsoft sees always-connected technology as a way to make PCs relevant again, with Windows Executive Vice President Terry Myerson claiming that new always-connected computers have the power to "fundamentally transform" how we work.

The reality is less grandiose - these are just laptops, after all. But battery life, connectivity and portability are three of the most important factors to consider when buying a laptop. And, since always-connected technology has the potential to provide massive improvements in all three of these areas at once, it's an undeniably attractive concept.

Where can I buy one and how much will it cost?

Asus' first always-connected model, the NovaGo, has now been released in selected countries, including the UK, starting at 450, while HP's model, the Envy x2, is also now available starting at 999.

Image courtesy of HP

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