Business-like, isn't he?



Business in Vancouver logo

    Quest for small and light turns up the nifty Shift,
    -- albeit it takes some getting used to, especially typing

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business in Vancouver July 1-7 2008, issue #975

    High Tech Office column

    On our quest for small and light “stuff” to take on the road, whether for business or pleasure, last week we discovered UMPCs-ultra mobile PCs, such as HP’s Mini-Note 2133.

    Weighing in around three pounds, with a nine-inch screen, and priced between $500 and $750, it’s pretty capable as a scaled-down notebook.

    In a case of small and smaller, HTC’s Shift X9501 pushes the ultra-mobile envelope still further, while adding a number of features you won’t find on typical notebooks.

    At first glance, it’s a 1.8-pound tablet, about the size of a stacked pair of DVD cases, complete with stylus. Slide up the seven-inch screen, to reveal a keyboard (69% of standard size). Continue to slide the screen and it flips into a near-vertical position for typing.

    Inside the high-end packaging, the Shift is wrapped in a soft leather protective cover, and is built around a magnesium frame with aluminum accents.

    The small size, however, takes getting used to; I found it difficult to type on its scaled-down keyboard. The one-inch square mini-touchpad, located on the side of the display, was surprisingly usable, though. (Alternatively, you can just move your finger directly on the touch-sensitive display, tapping with your finger to click.)

    The screen defaults to 800x480 pixel resolution; if you find that doesn’t display enough, a button alongside the screen flips it to 1024x600.

    Another button, for so-called Flight mode, instantly turns all its communication functions on or off.

    You can boot the Shift into a fully functional Windows Vista Business system, but a press of the so-called SnapVue button shifts it (get it?) into scaled-down Windows Mobile mode, optimized to check e-mail, the weather, time and more.

    In fact, if that’s all you need, there’s no need to wait for Vista to boot up – the Windows Mobile system (and access to youre-mail) is instant on. Booted to Vista, you can use standard 802.11 WiFi for Internet access or you can connect via Rogers’ high-speed HSPA data network if no WiFi hotspots are available.

    Windows Mobile data access is via Rogers only – and that’s why the HTC Shift is being marketed by Rogers (for $1,600 along with a three-year contract).

    Data pricing ranges from $50 per month for up to 50 MB usage to $100 per month for up to five GB usage.

    Rogers is promising a software update to provide GPS in the near future.
    Don’t think of it as a larger than normal smartphone, however. There’s no voice access – though I suppose you could install something like Skype and make voice over Internet protocol phone calls on Rogers’ data network, and there’s a built-in webcam for video conferencing.

    Like a BlackBerry, and unlike most notebooks, e-mail access on the Shift is “push” – at least when you’re using SnapVue Windows Mobile interface; rather than having to repeatedly check whether there are new messages, new messages come to the Shift as soon as they arrive – at least if your mail comes to a Microsoft Exchange server.
    You can also easily set up other standard e-mail accounts. The SnapVue interface is also kind to your battery; in that mode, you can expect several days of battery life, compared to a meager two hours of life in energy-sucking Windows Vista.

    While you won’t get much battery life, the 800 MHz Intel A110 processor, 40 GB hard drive, and 1 GB of memory is an adequate platform for basic Windows Vista functions, including web browsing – as long as you don’t have to type too much!

    If you need right-now e-mail access on something bigger than a smartphone but still easy to carry around (and if you have deep pockets) the HTC Shift provides a professional-looking but still stylish package. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
Search WWW Search