Late last year, Intel sold off its smartphone modem business to Apple for around $1 billion, but that still left Intel with the problem of figuring out how to add 5G connectivity to its laptop and PC business. So in an effort to support next-gen connectivity, Intel has teamed up with MediaTek to bring 5G to a wider range of laptops using MediaTek’s new T700 5G modem.
With the new chip, which supports both standalone and non-standalone 5G, laptops makers should now have more options for adding 5G connectivity to laptops instead of relying solely on modems from Qualcomm. This is important because while 5G-ready laptops are still a relatively recent development, Qualcomm has already jumped out to an early lead with products like the Lenovo Flex 5G, which features a processor (Snapdragon 8cx) and a modem(X55 5G) that were both developed by Qualcomm.
The T700G was developed mostly by MediaTek, but Intel has used its partnership with MediaTek to hopefully improve system integration, validation, and optimization of MediaTek’s 5G modem, with MediaTek president Joe Chen saying that with “Intel’s deep expertise in the PC space and our groundbreaking 5G modem technology, we will redefine the laptop experience and bring consumers the best 5G experiences.”
MediaTek claims its T700 5G modem was also designed with power efficiency in mind, which is often a major concern on 5G devices as they tend to require a greater power draw than a comparable 4G-only product.
The one small downside is that while the T700 5G supports both 4G and 5G networks, it does not support mmWave 5G(sub-6Ghz and mid-band 5G only), which means laptops featuring the T700 5G won’t be able to take advantage of the super high data speeds that mmWave 5G typically delivers.
However, because mmWave 5G currently still has a hard time penetrating inside buildings and structures, unless you frequently use a 5G laptop outdoors, there may not be a huge difference in everyday real-world performance. And that’s before you consider that demand for 5G—on both phones and laptops—remains relatively low as carriers continue to expand and improve their 5G coverage.
So unless you have a very specific situation that desperately calls for 5G, there’s no need to fret over buying a 5G laptop just yet. The bigger picture is that having more options for 5G connectivity will create more competition, hopefully driving down prices and increasing innovation. And with MediTek’s T700 5G chip not expected to be included on retail devices until sometime in early 2021, there’s no need to rush either.