HTC Shift X9500 review review
HTC's long awaited Shift is finally here but, despite valiant efforts, it fails to revitalise the UMPC format.
Review Date: 12 Mar 2008
Reviewed By: Sasha Muller
Price when reviewed: £783 (£900 inc VAT)
HTC might be best known for its range of Windows Mobile-powered smartphones and PDAs, but its latest offering, the Shift, hopes to inject some new life into the flagging UMPC market.
Even if the considerable price tag doesn't give enough of a clue as to the Shift's luxurious aspirations, the HTC's packaging will. The Shift comes in a huge black box, sheathed in a cardboard slip with a natty aluminium-effect finish.
The attention to such minor aesthetic details is a reassuring touch, especially when you've spent ï900 of your hard-earned cash, but delve inside the box and the good impressions continue - at least in some regards.
HTC provides an assortment of extras: an attractive brown leather pouch for protecting the unit itself and a drawstring felt bag for the mains adapter and accessories. There's also a wired hands-free kit and a mini docking station which provides three USB ports and ethernet networking.
But, after patiently waiting the months it's taken for the HTC Shift to finally arrive, the first glimpse of the hardware is somewhat less than revelatory. The 7in wide screen display takes up most of the front of the device, save for a handful of buttons and controls; a mini-trackpad and a fingerprint reader are spread around the display's aluminium bezel.
The rest of the unit is finished in a glossy gunmetal grey, which looks smart enough, but set against the likes of OQO's gorgeous Model e2, it looks decidedly plain, and more than a little bit on the chunky side.
Considering how much smaller it is than a traditional laptop, it's really not that light either. Without the power supply, the HTC still weighs in at a not-inconsiderable 790g, and its dimensions preclude it from being carried in all but the most gargantuan of pockets.
Still, build quality is beyond reproach, and apart from the odd creak when we really grappled with it, the Shift feels well up to being carted around on a daily basis, even if you do need to carry a bag with you to do so.
What the Shift lacks in straightforward good looks it more than makes up for in usability. Other manufacturers' takes on the UMPC form factor, such as the Samsung Q1 Ultra, Medion RIM1000 and OQO Model e2, are designed primarily to be used as a handheld devices, with keyboard arrangements that just don't suit deskbound usage. The Shift, however, is a little different.
Slide the display upwards and you'll reveal the Shift's full qwerty keyboard. The nifty hinge is the real talking point however: you can leave the display flat when you're typing on your lap, and also tilt the display forward for a more comfortable position at a desk.
Fitting a keyboard in to such a small device is a trial at the best of times, but HTC has made a brave attempt with the Shift. The keyboard is the best we've encountered on a UMPC, with each key offering a light, responsive action, and even a little travel too, unlike the unpleasant clicky buttons which beset most of the competition.
It's still pretty cramped - and far too much so for the more chubby-fingered members of the PC Pro team - but a little practice helped us get up to a reasonable typing speed. Given the option though, we wouldn't hesitate to connect a full-sized keyboard.
When it comes to navigating around Windows, there are a couple of options. A tiny trackpad on the right-hand side of the unit allows you to control the cursor with a thumb and there's also a touch screen, which is as responsive to the prod of a finger as it is the supplied stylus.
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