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Review: HTC Shift (CDMA version)

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htcshift

The HTC Shift (CDMA version) is a UMPC with a 7-inch tilting screen and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The device runs Windows Vista Business and connects to Sprint’s EVDO data network for on-the-go computing. At around $1500, the device is a no-brainer for businesses that need super tiny notebooks for salespeople or field technicians and it even falls into the temptation zone for well-paid casual computer users who want an awesome ultraportable machine.

Features

  • 7-inch touchscreen LCD with user-selectable 800×480 or 1024×600 resolution
  • Full QWERTY keyboard
  • Tablet PC functionality, Origami interface, SnapVUE interface
  • EVDO data connection
  • Bluetooth (version 2.0) for using wireless communication headsets
  • USB 2.0 port
  • VGA output for connecting to an external monitor or projector
  • 3.5mm stereo audio out jack, 3.5mm microphone jack
  • Integrated Web came with VGA (0.3 megapixels) resolution
  • Dual speakers
  • Processor: 800 MHz Intel A110
  • RAM: 1 GB at 400 MHz
  • Hard drive: 40 GB
  • Weight: 28 ounces (1.75 pounds)
  • Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.1 x 0.98 inches (LxWxD)

Pros

From an aesthetic and portability standpoint, the Shift is a pleasure to travel with and elicited more than one “Hey, is that the Shift?” comment from passers-by. It was awesome having something roughly the size of a book in my carry-on bag versus a full-sized laptop. Plus, being able to fire it up and connect to Sprint’s EVDO network quickly was a godsend while waiting for delayed flights and layovers.

SnapVUE

The SnapVUE interface is wonderful. It’s basically a large-screen version of a few Windows Mobile features with some nice interface tweaks by HTC thrown in. You get quick access to things like e-mail, weather, contacts, text messaging, connections, and your calendar. Note that the Shift can send and receive text messages but not calls.

origami

The Origami interface is also quite nice for watching videos, listening to music, and surfing the internet. The Shift actually has something for everyone as far as interfaces go. You can use Windows Vista straight up, you can use the Shift as a tablet PC, you can use Origami, or you can poke around in SnapVUE mode. The touchscreen worked pretty well with my fat fingers, too, as I didn’t need to rely on the stylus very much at all. If you need it, though, it’s housed on the backside of the Shift above the battery.

Handwriting recognition actually worked really well. Here’s a video.

http://blip.tv/play/AbPzKwA

Performance was actually quite snappy given the size of the device. I was able to liveblog from it and even do a little photo editing without much trouble at all. You won’t be able to run dozens of programs at once but for surfing the web, reading and writing e-mails, and other relatively simple tasks, the Shift performs just fine. 

Cons

The biggest shortcoming of this small device is that the battery life is also, unfortunately, quite minute. Count on about an hour’s worth of whatever before you need to recharge. The power brick is pretty small, so it’s not hugely inconvenient to lug it around but it’d be nice to see future iterations get 2-3 hours out of the Shift.

Also, the leather case that folds around the Shift isn’t removable — it’s got something to do with the device’s classification and the radio waves it emits. It was pretty annoying at first but after a while, I got used to it. The leather itself is quite nice, it just makes the whole package a little bit bigger.

trackpad

Finally, the keyboard and tiny trackpad are a bit hard to use — no surprises there. I hesitate to categorize this as a “con” because for its size, it’s about as good as it can be. However, you won’t be typing all that much. Not comfortably, at least. I found myself pecking away with my two index fingers most of the time and poking the screen instead of using the right-side tiny trackpad and left-side mouse buttons.

Conclusion

If you’re a mobility buff, you’ve no doubt heard of the HTC Shift and as far as UMPCs go, the Shift is hard to beat when it comes to price, features, and performance. It probably won’t replace your desktop or big-boy laptop, but it could, depending on what you’re doing. Road warriors, especially, will absolutely love this machine. 

If I had $1500 to burn plus another $60 or so per month for unlimited data access from Sprint, I’d definitely buy this machine just for airport and couch use. If you’ve got the moolah and you like to stay connected, the Shift is a great choice.

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