HTC Shift

 

Before I start I must make something clear. This is not a phone. Sure, you can probably make calls on it if you really want to, but the SIM card slotting into this baby is mainly for your internet connection.

We must also clear up a few misconceptions. A lot of people are wondering whether there’s two separate operating systems on this device. In a way yes there is, but it’s not a full-blown version of Windows Mobile. You can press the magic button on the bottom left at any time and the ultra-large Windows Mobile screen shows up. Nothing big happens though – the HTC Shift doesn’t spin any fans and your battery pack won’t get sucked dry. The Windows Mobile interface lets you check your calendar, email, SMS, contacts, weather plus you can set yourself an alarm too. This interface is called “HTC SnapVUE” and it’ll give you a simple, quick way to check your critical information when the device is effectively turned off. I wanted to show you this in action so, as usual, here’s a

YouTube video..

To be fair, this review has been recently enhanced – the video above was taken back in October 2007, however we’ve managed to get our hands on the retail unit since. The hardware hasn’t really changed at all, however the shiny box and contents is well worth going over..

When the box arrives it’s a polished and posh affair. You feel really privileged to own it. Slide off the silver outer packaging and there’s a solid black box with the HTC logo stamped on it..

Then inside you’ll find the HTC Shift hiding under the leather-effect cover. You get a screen protector too – you’ll probably notice a plastic screen protector on some of my photos later on (with the green tab), however this is purely for protecting it during transit. In that grey bag is the power pack – a tiny thing. Plug it in, put the plug in the side of the Shift and the setup begins..

 

Going through the contents of the box I figured another video would be a good idea, plus some comparison shots. As you can see below, the unit isn’t as small Windows Mobile devices by any means, and there’s less space on the keyboard to type on, however we shouldn’t forget that this is a fully fledged Windows Vista machine.

So onto the video. Here’s a chance to compare the HTC Shift to a standard laptop along with an overview of the box contents. The HTC Shift connects to WiFi and your phone network to browse anywhere, but what if you’ve got no WiFi or network coverage? Well, luckily there’s a USB dongle doobery. This plugs into the USB port and produces three USB ports, a miniUSB port plus .. an ethernet port too. Nice..

Here’s that extra bit of kit in action…

In the video above I showed you the HTC Shift playing a TV show. On full screen in Windows Media Player things can get a little juddery, however it worked well with the DivX Player. The video was stored on a 4Gb SD card, which slots here. You can also see the power switch for firing up Windows Vista – it’s that small
slider bar.

The headphones slot in and that cover can be used to protect your precious HTC Shift in the car or wherever you may be.



The Shift runs an Intel 800Mhz CPU with Windows Vista Business on board. The Tablet OS can take a few seconds to resume from its slumber at times, and I was surprised that anything of this size could cope with Vista, but cope it does. A graphics accelerator helps to make Vista run without fuss and, at times, you
feel like playing with it to see what it can do.



For example, I found that the ITV.com website lets you watch all the ITV channels live, so I fired up the HTC Shift, connected it to my WiFi and bang – I was watching TV full screen. We even decided to give it a real field test and popped a SIM card in from “Three” (it goes next to the battery by the way), then went to the pub and tried again – bingo… ITV in the pub. Watching football, over 3G, on a miniature laptop.

Top stuff. Still, if you wanted to take it further you could put your DVB stick into the USB port and watch TV anywhere you want!

Size-wise, this is roughly the size of a book, so when I walked into the pub with it I did feel a little self-conscious. The retro file-o-fax dimensions weren’t too bad though, as I didn’t get those looks you’d normally get if you walked in with a laptop under your arm. This will fit in a handbag, a large coat pocket or a folder without fuss. The very first thing we had to do was buy a beer….





After a couple more I decided to try out the HTC Shift using a 3G SIM card. The results were pretty excellent, and I could watch streaming TV, grab data over a VPN or send / receive email easily. It’s very easy to forget you’re using a phone network, so be careful if you’re on a limited data plan. Keep an eye on the 3G data light under the main screen to check whether you’re accessing your phone network. There’s also power, battery, hard drive access, WiFi activity and more…

Here’s the HTC on the table at the pub. It’s not exactly inconspicuous but, like I said before, at least I’m not "Mr Geek" enjoying a pint behind a large laptop screen.

 
To test the portability of the HTC Shift and to give you another quick overview of it, I parked up the car and showed how the HTC Shift could be typically used. Here we go through some of the functions of the device, including the SnapVUE technology, quick screen resolution change and the Microsoft Origami interface. I was in the middle of somewhere called Silverdale in Stoke-on-Trent. It’s not famed for its’ modern surroundings or internet connectivity, but with the HTC Shift it really didn’t matter…
 
I mention in the video below that the Shift has “all the Windows Mobile functions you’d normally expect”, however I said this by mistake, so ignore that bit.. :)


On board is a 40Gb hard drive and 1Gb of memory. The stereo speakers are fantastic and I ended up tilting the Shift from side to side to listen to them working. The stereo output sounded great, but if you’re still not impressed you can stick your normal headphones or the ones that are supplied into the 3.5mm plug and play some tunes that way.

Battery life is hotly debated. I dropped the brightness of the screen and got around 2 hours on Vista. Not bad at all, but if you “use it” (WiFi activity, HD activity etc etc) then battery life can drop quite significantly. There is a bit of heat generated from the three vents at the back when Vista is being used, especially the centre one.

Open up the battery compartment at the bottom and there’s two red pegs holding the battery in place. Slide theses back to release the battery. You may notice the stylus sat just above the battery on the right.

Then, to insert your SIM card, slide it into the slot provided. Like the SD card, it clicks into place and holds the card ..

The battery then clicks back in, locked into place with the red locks either side.

The keyboard on the Shift is revealed after sliding back the screen. It’s a very nice keyboard with standard laptop keys which have simply been shrunk down to around half the standard size. They’re very tactile and were similar to the keys on my Sony Vaio – responsive, solid and a distinct lack of “wobble” on each key. It may take a short while to get used to the spacing of the keys on this device, especially if you’ve used a standard laptop for some time. You’ll also probably miss the “F11″ and “F12″ keys too. :)

The screen, once pulled open, also tilts up. There’s no set position and you can tilt it to suit your height or environment. The tilt mechanism is well built and sturdy.

 

Firing up Vista and then pressing the “Comm Manager” button on the top right will get you into a HTC application to quickly adjust brightness (a big battery saver or sucker), volume and communication settings like WiFi, Modem (through your SIM card), Bluetooth and Push Email. You can even set the brightness setting to “Auto” and the light meter will lower the brightness when you’re in low-light situations to help save both your eyes and you battery life. This is quick, easy and simple. With every HTC device I review this talent is becoming stronger and stronger. HTC are adept at making often-used but laborious Windows tasks into simply HTC apps, buttons or dials.

As a Windows Mobile user, I did have the odd instance when I tried to use the HTC Shift in the dark and – because the keys aren’t lit – it was slightly difficult to locate the appropriate keys, however this was only a really very minor niggle.

Here’s me using the Comm Manager button, plus a quick tour of the screen sliding and tilting mechanism..

If you don’t wish to use the keys any longer then you simply push the screen flat and then slide it back down.

One thing I did notice here was that the screen can be slid back down at a “wonky angle” by accident. For example, if you pushed one side of the screen too hard you easily wind up with a screen twisted at a small angle and you need to pull the screen back up again.

Again on the top right we’ve got another HTC innovation. Now, as I never read manuals (because I always figure that a device should be easy enough to figure out without a manual), I’m going to call this key the “Screen Resize button”. Again, great idea HTC. The screen is usually set to 800×600 which makes icons and menus easily “finger poke-able”, however you can find that some web pages need some dragging around to view. Although this is made easier with the “Pen Flicks” (a great UMPC / Tablet PC trick) you can bash this button and quickly switch to 1024×768. Brilliant.

Even better when you consider that a lot of users will be plugging a VGA cable into the back for random projectors across the country.

The VGA output is great and really blows your fairly small unit
into a massive presentation system.

Here’s me using it on my TV at home…

I snapped a shot of the VGA output in action too…

 

Although the HTC Shift has a full touch-screen and the pop-out stylus below works well, you can also use the touchpad on the right. This takes a little time and setting-tweaking to get comfortable with, especially given the size of the pad which is just smaller than a postage stamp. Below you can see it along with the Comm Manager and screen resolution buttons I’ve just mentioned..


 

Below this is the biometric sensor for finger-print access into the system. I wasn’t able to test this, however it’s a great security mechanism considering the size, mobility and possible data stored on this device.

Over on the left of the device we have a couple of buttons for your left and right mouse-clicks. The positioning of these buttons along with the touchpad mean that you’re often holding the HTC Shift in a “gaming position”.

Down on the lower left is that magic “changer” button. Press this at any time and you’ll switch to the windows Mobile interface and check your mail, look up contacts or look at your appointments without drinking to battery power. Press it again (with the device powered up) and you’ll hop back into Windows Vista.

Around the edge of the device we’ve got a nice solid VGA port, 3.5mm audio port, a pop-out stylus..


 


The right edge is the busiest with the power-slider button to power up the Vista OS, an SD card slot, USB port and power input.

When you’re not using the HTC Shift in the car or on the move, you can plug in your USB mouse, keyboard and – should you wish – your normal monitor. This means no more “sync’ing” of your data. If you write a document on the train, just put the HTC Shift on your desk and print it off – no transferring of data, just plug it into your printer and off you go. The addition of the USB / Ethernet dongle you saw earlier means that several of your most used USB devices can plug in.

You can pretty much see from the image below how small the HTC Shift looks compared to the standard USB mouse I’ve plugged in! :)


Conclusion

I like the Shift. It’s well designed, strong and intelligent. Most mobile workers using “normal laptops” will sap a lot of their battery just checking email, so to have a Windows Mobile front-end which does all this without having to load up Vista is a huge bonus the extra battery life will let you get that vital Word or Excel document finished.

I can see this being used by several different types of people in many situations. Salesmen on the road, plugging into projectors and keeping up with email. Journalists typing out stories and using standard Windows applications to edit photos and send them back to the office. Area managers typing out reports on the move, IT technicians, engineers and mechanics testing and repairing plus much, much more.

The HTC Shift sells this and, as usual, you can put any SIM card in because it’s network unlocked. I tried it with a Three and T-Mobile SIM card – both were picked up and settings were automatically adjusted to make full use of the GPRS, EDGE, 3G or HSDPA services on offer. To be able to have Windows Vista in your hand along with the broadband connectivity you’d expect at home is great to have. You really do forget that you’re not connected to a WiFi access point and you’ll soon get used to being online all the time, anywhere. Couple this with the Windows Mobile interface to quickly check your emails and you’ve got an excellent combination. Top stuff HTC.

Read on for yet more shots of the HTC Shift being truely mobile!

Link – HTC Shift @ devicewire.co.uk

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