Although HTC announced the Shift over a year ago (the official press release is dated 27 March 2007), it has taken a while to get a fully working review sample in our hands. This arrived courtesy of Orange — the only UK network operator to take the device on and bundle it with a data tariff; you can also get the Shift SIM-free from vendors such as Expansys.
Either way, the HTC Shift will cost you the better part of a thousand pounds including VAT. Given that mini-notebooks such as the ASUS Eee can be obtained for around a third of that price, the Shift raises a number of questions. Can it function as an everyday notebook? What extras does it offer over a low-cost alternative? And how does it compare with similarly priced notebooks?Design
HTC's Shift has a slide-out keyboard mechanism that's reminiscent of its TyTN II handheld.The whole thing feels quite slick, but there are issues even at this early stage. Although the Shift's sliding/tilting touch-screen is a clever piece of engineering, it's not particularly practical. Whereas convertible Tablet PCs allow you to hide the screen when it's not in use, the Shift's permanently outward-facing screen feels vulnerable. The screen also exhibits a major flaw: its 800-by-480-pixel native resolution simply can't cater for a professional working environment. You can get a maximum of 1,152 by 864 interpolated pixels, but at the cost of some fuzzy text rendering. The keyboard offers a full set of QWERTY keys and a full-sized number row, but is simply too small to use comfortably. Individual keys are 12mm wide by 10mm tall, and we found them too cramped for fast touch typing. Hunt-and-peck typists may find the small keyboard easier to get on with, though. There's no room for a conventional notebook-style touchpad. Instead, a pair of buttons to the left of the screen act as left and right mouse buttons, while the right-hand side carries a small touchpad that you can navigate with a thumb. We found prodding at the screen with a fingertip to be a more efficient navigation method. There's also a stylus, which is housed on the left side of the device; this is particularly useful when you're using Windows Vista's handwriting recognition software. As supplied by Orange, the HTC Shift comes with a mains power charger, a spare stylus, a stereo headset, a screen protector, a printed manual and a getting-started guide, an envelope-style carrying pouch and a drawstring accessory case. You'll need the latter for the AC adapter and the three-port USB hub and Ethernet connector that's also supplied with the device. Features
SnapVUE is an HTC feature that provides a range of information without Windows Vista needing to be booted up.SnapVUE can be called up via a button on the bottom left side of the screen. Windows Vista does not need to be booted up, so SnapVUE is very quick to access. You can switch in and out of it when Vista is running simply by pressing the hardware button. SnapVUE delivers basic information such as the current date and time, appointments, incoming email and SMS alerts and a local five-day weather forecast which it picks up over the air via the device's built-in HSDPA connection. The HTC Shift's HSDPA connectivity is clearly the reason it appeals to Orange; this, along with its handheld-like access to information, makes it a viable mobile email device for professionals. The larger screen and keyboard, notwithstanding earlier comments on their usability, make it an interesting device for such users. The HTC Shift runs on an 800MHz Intel A110 processor, which is very much last year's platform as we eagerly await the arrival of mobile devices running Intel's new Atom CPU. It has 1GB of DDR2 RAM plus 128MB of ROM and 64MB of RAM for the SnapVUE module. The minimum specifications for Windows Vista Business, according to Microsoft's web site are a 1GHz processor and 1GB of system memory. The lack of CPU muscle made the HTC Shift painfully slow to work with in Windows Vista mode — an impression fully borne out by the system's pitiful Windows Experience Index (see below). Which is a shame, because the Shift is crammed with features. We have already noted the HSPA connectivity. We also installed and used Vodafone's USB Stick modem. The software installation took an age, but the Stick worked successfully. There is a VGA camera for making two-way video calls to the upper left of the screen. A fingerprint sensor sits on the lower right edge of the screen, while a pair of speakers flanks the screen. Our review sample had a 40BG hard drive, and a 60GB option is available. There's no optical drive, which is something you'd expect to find in all but the smallest of notebooks. Bluetooth (2.0+EDR) and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) are both integrated and are easily managed via the Control Centre, an interface that pops up when you hit yet another screen-side button. This also lets you turn the modem on and off, adjust volume and screen brightness, turn Direct Push on and off (for mobile email), and put the device into Flight mode. Unfortunately, you can't access the Control Centre in SnapVUE mode. Around the edges of the HTC Shift are a 3.5mm headset jack, a VGA-out port, an SD card reader and a single USB2.0 port. A 4GB SDHC card was successfully recognised. Performance & battery life
However, its extreme sluggishness under Windows Vista Business makes the Shift unsuitable as an everyday mobile workhorse. HTC needs to halve the price and double the speed in order to get close to being competitive in today's mobile device market.