HTC Shift defenses weakening

Htc_shift_tourSomething is seriously wrong with me. The more negative press and user comments I read about the HTC Shift, the more I want to violate my 7-inch device ban (yes, again) and check the balance on my credit cards. I need help.

While it’s true that my brief hands-on time helped the unit regain some of its lost sparkle and I’m still afflicted by the UMPC blues (which has been known to confuse the senses and magnify the perceived need for a shiny new plaything), I know that the 40GB Vista machine is just way too flawed to justify its exorbitant $1500 asking price ($1700 for the GSM version that, according to HTC, can’t be sold in the US). Right?

Most of the early reviews confirm previous hunches and details, so there isn’t a whole lot of new information out there. And as much as I’d rather not beat a dead horse (what a horrible expression!), I’m going to have to make a pros and cons list. I’ll need something to refer later when the Lure of the Shift becomes intolerable.

I’ll start with the good stuff first:

  1. Design. I love the way this things looks (blame my Advantage X7501 for this).
  2. Keyboard. Touch typing may not be possible for everyone, but my impressions of its usability at CES were pretty positive. I can’t recall any comparisons between the Shift and Eee PC keyboards (I know not everyone shares my experience with the sub-par 2G Surf one), but Mobile Tech Review says the Shift’s one is excellent and that it "beats all other UMPCs including the Fujitsu U810." Given how much bigger the Shift’s keyboard is, the assessment isn’t unexpected. I called the U810’s keyboard "the hands-down best" among other thumboards and mobile devices, though, so MTR’s conclusion carries a lot of weight with me.
  3. Integrated WWAN. I’d be much happier if the US version of the Shift was GSM, but I still like the built-in connectivity. Although sharing my AT&T Tilt‘s HSDPA connection over Bluetooth or USB is quick and easy, integrated mobile broadband (even if it’s only EV-DO through Sprint) is quicker and easier.
  4. Jailbreakable SnapVUE. I don’t know how often I’d really use the Windows Mobile component (maybe if I didn’t already have a WM phone?), but its inclusion is certainly unique.
  5. Vista. Yes, I know that Vista is commonly cited as a major disadvantage on UMPCs, but I really like it (the full-blown OS has always been one of my favorite UMPC features) and have no reservations about its performance on the 800MHz Intel A110/1GB RAM combo. Since the Fujitsu U810 is also a Vista/A110/1GB machine, my expectations are already in check.


Now for all the bad:

  1. Price. $1500 is just too much. We’d probably be a lot less critical of its shortcomings if it were priced below $1000.
  2. Battery life. Two hours using Vista is unacceptable in 2008. The first crop of UMPCs in 2006 got bashed for their shoddy battery life (about 2.5 hours), so HTC obviously lost track of the date when equipping the Shift with a 2700mAh battery.
  3. Screen resolution. Another blunder! 800 x 480 is 2006’s resolution for 7-inch screens. Some have reported that the interpolated 1024 x 600 is usable, while others have called it "fuzzy and not good for text entry or viewing."
  4. Attached leather case. This is weird. Both James Kendrick and Matt Miller found out from HTC that the included leather case is bolted onto the Shift because according to the FCC, the always-on SnapVUE/CDMA radio required an extra "buffer zone." James was able to successfully remove the unit from the case but says it can’t be securely reattached.
  5. 40GB HDD. Yet another substandard spec from 2006. The limited storage capacity doesn’t really bother me (I don’t store movies or music on any of my computers), but compared to the Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium‘s 80GB HDD and the various SSD options becoming available to more and more UMPCs/handtops, a 40GB hard drive doesn’t cut it anymore.

Uh-oh. I just ran out of cons . . . and it’s a tie. Five pluses, five minuses. Great. Anything you’d like to add to tip the scales?

Please forgive me if you see the HTC Shift being lovingly unboxed on the front page someday. I tried my best to resist it.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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