Windows 8-Intel tablets with 4G/LTE still scarce in 2014

The Windows-Intel tablet camp still can't deliver 4G widely in a tablet. Let's hope that changes later this year.

The Surface 2 is one of the precious few exceptions of a Windows tablet with 4G. Problem is, it runs Windows RT not the full version of Windows 8. Microsoft

Apple started making cellular-capable tablets in April 2010, but four years later most Windows-Intel tablets are still Wi-Fi only. One would charitably call that being late to the tablet party.

The tablet isn't a novel device anymore. You might even call it a mature market. IDC said Thursday that worldwide tablet shipments (including 2-in-1 hybrid devices) showed only 3.9 percent growth over the same period a year ago.

And 2014 will be a "challenging year ahead for the category" with the "the rise of large-screen phones," IDC added.

So, what's the state of the Windows 8.1 tablet in 2014 ? While there are some decent new designs from the likes of Dell ($249 Venue Pro 8) and Lenovo ($399 ThinkPad 8), there are precious few with 4G/LTE.

For instance, the relatively-comprehensive Microsoft Store tablet page shows no Windows 8.1/Intel tablets with 4G. And Best Buy lists one among dozens. Verizon lists none. Ditto AT&T.

There are exceptions. Lenovo says its new ThinkPad 8, which has received good reviews, will come with a 4G option. Problem is, that feature is not listed on the current ThinkPad 8's spec sheet and, moreover, a 4G model is not being sold by Microsoft.

I would submit that an 8-inch tablet and 4G go together like air and breathing. Apple understands that. The Android camp gets it. Even Microsoft finally gets it -- though at a larger 10-inch class size and running a relatively obscure operating system, Windows RT.

In March, the first Windows RT-based Surface tablet with LTE was introduced. And the Microsoft Store also offers the LTE-capable Windows RT-based Lumia 2520. But again, that's a small market that's not compatible with Intel x86-based Windows software.

On a positive note, Hewlett-Packard is one of the few to not neglect 3G/4G in both laptops and tablets. Its new 10.1-inch ElitePad 1000 (PDF) Windows 8.1 tablet is offered with built-in 4G and for years it has offered its business laptops with an option for integrated 3G/4G.

Here's hoping that Intel gets with the 4G program later this year.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.


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