Without reading all of the reviews or spending a good amount of time with one yourself, it’s difficult to know more than just the basics about the HTC Shift X9500 (GSM version). That it runs Vista on an 800MHz A110 processor, has a subpar battery life of about 2 hours, and includes a Windows Mobile component that can be "liberated" are all common facts that most people, even those with no interest in the UMPC, have known for months.
But what about the not-so-common stuff? The details often overlooked or just mentioned in passing? While using my new Shift this week, I came across so many unexpected little things that I decided to make a list. What I ended up with are 10 lesser known facts about the Shift that wouldn’t make or break a purchasing decision, but are still good to know when $1500 is at stake.
1. Spring-loaded stylus. Most devices rely on grooves/notches to make removing the stylus from its dedicated slot quick and easy.
The Shift has no such groove or slot, making stylus removal incredibly difficult . . . if you don’t know the stylus is spring-loaded like a retractable pen. Push the top of the stylus, and out it pops.
2. Landscape only. Unlike most UMPCs, the Shift cannot be rotated into portrait mode without the use of third-party software available separately. Out of the box, the 7-inch display is landscape only.
3. No F11 and F12 keys. Why they couldn’t be double-mapped onto other keys is beyond me.
4. Hardware controls cannot be remapped. Since the buttons surrounding the display on the Vaio UX180P can be reconfigured to launch apps/change settings and the Samsung Q1 is equipped with user-defined controls, why can’t the Shift’s button be remapped too?
Their current functions are useful, sure, but I’d much rather be able to decide for myself what I’d like each one to do without having to turn to third-party software solutions.
5. Inaccessible SD card and wi-fi in SnapVUE. Even liberated SnapVUE cannot see or make use of the Shift’s SD card slot and integrated wi-fi radio.
This means that without a SIM card and data plan, the Windows Mobile side of things cannot check email, update weather, or surf the web (liberated SnapVUE only).
6. American keyboard may be included. The Shift sold in the US is the X9000, the CDMA (Sprint) version. The one I have, the X9500, is the imported GSM version sold in Europe. The keyboard, then, is European. Here’s a photo of it from UMPCPortal:
This is obviously the keyboard I expected when I bought the X9500 from NetworkingRus.com. But look at the one I got:
It’s the one included on the X9000!
The difference in the layout may be subtle, but it’s still different. On the European keyboard, there are British pound and euro symbols on the "3" and "4" number keys, the @ symbol above the comma key, and a few keys arranged differently on the bottom row.
7. Awakens only by power switch. A sleeping Shift can only be awakened with the power switch. This may seem like an obvious statement but considering that many UMPCs can be set to awaken when the display is slid up (Vaio UX180P) or the lid is opened (Fujitsu U810), it’s really an oddity.
8. Sleeps by power switch and function key combination. See what an oddity the previous item is?
Why allow the Shift to be put to sleep by something other than the power switch if it can’t work in reverse? It doesn’t make sense to me. That aside, I really like being able to put the unit to sleep using the keyboard.
9. Sticky Keys makes typing easier. Sticky Keys is an accessibility feature built into all modern Windows machines that allows keyboard shortcuts to be pressed sequentially rather than simultaneously. It isn’t unique to the Shift, but enabling it (Control Panel -> Ease of Access -> Ease of Access Center -> Make the keyboard easier to use) still makes typing easier. The keyboard is small, so being able to press key combinations separately reduces hand-cramping.
It enables grab-and-drag panning, kinetic scrolling, and flick gestures, all of which make excellent use of the Shift’s 7-inch touchscreen (especially in slate mode) and greatly improve the web browsing experience.