T-Mobile knows that the easiest way to get new customers is to give away your service for free, and it’s handing access out like so much candy with its new 4G Connect strategy. Similar to what we’ve seen for Chromebooks, the deal supplies 200MB of free data every month for up to two years, right out of the box. Those who need more than casual email checks on the road just need to pay T-Mobile’s prepaid rates to keep the broadband going. The Dell Inspiron 14z and HP Pavilion dm1 are the only devices available for now that qualify for the 4G Connect plan, but more are lined up for 2013, including (but not exclusively) devices with Qualcomm’s Gobi chipsets in PCs or its Snapdragon chips in Windows RT tablets. T-Mobile tells us that we won’t have to hunt down specific Magenta models, either — once a PC line includes 4G Connect, every American variant should carry the needed modem as a matter of course.
We had the opportunity to try a Pavilion dm1 with 4G Connect, and it’s clear that T-Mobile is largely letting the PC builder take priority. The hardware is very much vanilla on the outside. Most of what you’ll notice, apart from reasonably fast HSPA+ data when you’re away from WiFi, is a custom T-Mobile app. Both a Live Tile and the full app will show usage; diving in shows everything in a simple not-Metro layout with extra options for SMS messaging and topping up when the bandwidth runs low. Apart from having to register the PC in the first place, the service is as simple as we’d care to see. Now, where’s our LTE connection?