HTC – Shift review

laptop-PDA hybrid with problems in both areas
Photo of HTC – Shift
£759.99 (SIM-free)

HTC’s Shift is a strange hybrid of a device. Announced before Asus’s EeePC was heard of, and so before its myriad of followers hit the streets, and before Intel’s Atom processor for small format devices was available, the Shift could be described as ‘before its time’.

So what is it? The short answer is; a combination of mini laptop computer and Windows Mobile device complete with keyboard. It is available either standalone or from Orange with a SIM to take advantage of its built-in 3G with HSDPA.

There is a VGA camera for two-way video calling, fingerprint sensor, stereo speakers, a 40GB hard drive, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. A 3.5mm headset jack, VGA out, cardreader and USB 2.0 connector are provided. Not quite the gamut you’d expect from a laptop, but more than you get from a Windows Mobile device.

If you are used to Windows Mobile the Shift is large, but if laptops are your thing it is small. At 207 x 128 x 25mm and 800g it’s too big and hefty for a pocket, but small enough to slip easily into a bag.

At 7 inches across diagonal corners the screen is small, but that is not the main visual problem. The 800 x 480 pixels aren’t enough to show much information about any particular application that is running. Software can raise the resolution up to 1152 x 864, but text is then fuzzy and hard to read.

The screen faces outwards and the keyboard slides free from a long edge when required, at which point you can tilt the screen up at an angle for a more laptop-like look. The keyboard is necessarily tiny and far too small for touch typing. There is no laptop style touchpad; instead there are buttons and a mini trackpad to the side of the screen. The screen is touch sensitive and this proved to be our favourite way of getting around.

The Shift runs both Windows Vista Business and a cut down version of Windows Mobile called SnapVUE. You switch between the two by pressing a button and the switch doesn’t require a reboot. And you can turn SnapVUE on without going through a full boot.

SnapVUE lets you see the current date and time, calendar commitments, incoming e-mail and SMS alerts and will display a local five-day weather forecast which it picks up over the air using the SIM card. But it lacks the full Windows Mobile software range and you can’t add applications to it. You can’t even type data into it as it lacks a document editor.

For that you need to switch to Vista Business. The 800Mhz Intel A110 processor (the Atom’s predecessor) and 1GB of RAM are simply not up to the job of running Vista. It runs slow, and using it can be frustrating.

Battery life is poor, too. We suspect you’ll be charging twice a day and maybe more if you want to use the Wi-Fi and HSDPA.

Company: HTC

Contact: 0161 868 0868

The Shift proves you can put Vista in an inadequately small and underpowered computer and bring it to market. But that doesn't mean it is worth buying.