Mobile connectivity

In order to be productive on the move you need a powerful, portable device and a great web connection. Technological advances mean that those options are now here.

Economics aside, when you consider the pace of technological change over the past decade it's a wonder that any of us have to work more than three days a week. Of course, the opposite is true: work today is a thing you do, not a place you visit, and white-collar professionals are on-call seven days a week.

The efficiency engendered by technologies such as email mean the competition is fiercer. If your competitor is answering emails on Sunday evening you ought to be. And because you both do it, neither of you is gaining an advantage. Stalemate.

Another reason technology hasn't made us more time, however, is because it doesn't always work. Take mobile broadband. In order to have access to such staples as trees and golf courses I travel into- and out of London for three hours each day. In theory I work for most of that time, but in practice I can tell you exactly at what point my signal works, and the many areas in which I struggle to load up a web page.

The theory of mobile broadband is great – a constant connection in the palm of your hand wherever you are. But your connection becomes a lot less useful if you are unable to rely on it. And that speaks to a conundrum – if you can't rely on mobile broadband you won't use it, so you may not have noticed that it has improved. Certainly that was my experience this month when we set out to test mobile broadband.

As you can read in the stories I've linked below, that experience saw us travel 800 miles around the country, carrying out 37 tests – simultaneously – on all the major mobile networks. It was a big undertaking that allows us to tell you with confidence which mobile networks are best.

When it works, mobile broadband works exceptionally well. I was surprised by the quality and speed of coverage provided by the better networks. But there's great variation between them.

Connectivity is but a small part of the ability to work remotely. You need a device on which to work, and we have been searching for mobile computers that offer the portability and staying power of a smartphone, combined with the productivity of a full-spec Windows PC. Could a Windows 8 tablet be the answer? We remain to be convinced.

We've taken a look at the factors involved in choosing a Windows tablet, and reviewed the cream of the current crop. There are great compromises to be had – full-spec, tiny PCs with decent performance – but compromises they are. And not cheap ones, either. We've yet to see a Windows tablet that can offer similar responsiveness and battery life to that of the iPad, but there isn't an iOS or Android tablet that can match Windows 8 for portable productivity. See our selection of Windows tablets reviews, and our feature Windows 8 tablets buying advice: best Windows tablets, Windows 8 hybrids, Windows RT.

One thing that may help is the introduction of Intel's 4th-gen Core processors, known as ‘Haswell'. Intel says Haswell will improve performance, but the most important change may be much better battery life. See how well early builds are performing in our first Haswell PC and laptops reviews: PC Specialist Vanquish 912 Intel 'Haswell' PC review and Schenker XMG A523 'Haswell' laptop review. But if Intel can make processors that run Windows 8 quickly for nine hours or more of battery life, truly portable, powerful Windows PCs could be on the way.