Microsoft announced today that a long-expected new Surface model, the Surface 2 (AT&T 4G LTE), will be available for purchase starting to tomorrow. This LTE-equipped version of the Windows RT 8.1-powered Surface 2 device commands a $130 premium over a similarly equipped Surface 2, and will retail for $679. Whether this new model is worth such a heady sum is of course up to the buyer.
I was able to preview the Surface 2 LTE briefly back in early February. This is what most blogs would eye-rollingly refer to as a "hands-on" preview, but I won't insult your intelligence like that. I saw the device, got to paw it a bit, and wasn't allowed to take any photos. So here's what I've learned about this new Surface model.
What is it? Surface 2 LTE is a 64 GB version of the Surface 2 with LTE capabilities. It is otherwise identical to the 64 GB Surface 2.
Does it require a wireless contract? No. The Surface 2 LTE is unlocked and compatible with AT&T's wireless network. AT&T will allegedly be offering some deal on this service, but I wasn't able to find out what that is ahead of time. (Pay as you go, monthly, etc. Not sure.)
Identical form factor to the existing Surface 2 models. The LTE version of Surface 2 has the exact same dimensions as the existing Surface 2 devices.
Slightly heavier. You'll never even notice the SIM card is there, for the most part. The device is now "very slightly heavier" thanks to the addition of this tray and some supporting internal silicon. The extra weight is "the equivalent of 5 paper clips" for you pedantic types.
SIM card. The SIM card tray is flush on the outside edge of the device, like the microSD card is on Surface Pro 2. Its outside edge is colored light gray (sorry, "natural magnesium") to match the color of the device. The SIM tray also doesn't require one of those annoying pin openers, you can just open it with your fingernail. (Like the SIM tray on the Nokia Lumia Icon, sort of.)
Audience. Surface 2 LTE is aimed at "mobile pros," I'm told, those who need to get more done in more places, and have constant connectivity.
Price. Surface 2 LTE costs $679. When you consider that a non-LTE 64 GB version of Surface 2 retails for $549, that's a pretty serious up-sell of $130. (This is exactly the same premium Apple charges to get LTE on an iPad Air, as it turns out.)
Does that include a keyboard of any kind? No.
Extra perks. These are not unique to Surface 2 LTE, but it's worth mention that purchasers of this device also receive free Skype calling to landlines in more than 60 countries for one year, unlimited Skype Wi-Fi available at more than two million hot spots worldwide for one year, and 200 GB of free OneDrive storage for two years. (These are perks for all Surface buyers.)
Where you can buy one. The Surface 2 LTE will be available for purchase from Microsoft Store and Best Buy, in the US only.
What about Europe? A version of this product was announced for Vodafone as well, but this isn't being announced today, I was told.
Surface Pro 2 version? Nope. At least not for now: Microsoft will not comment on such a product.
Will I be reviewing this product? I had hoped to, but Microsoft isn't making a device available for review, and I'm certainly not paying $679 for one. So ... no.