HTC Shift just days away

The HTC Shift handheld computer is now available in the United States.

The HTC Shift: Like a DVD case, but thicker.
Michelle Thatcher/CNET Networks

Amazon is quickly joining the FCC and U.S. Patent Office as a source for tech product leaks. Case in point: This morning the long-awaited HTC Shift showed up for preorder on the retail site, spoiling the company's plans to officially release the product Monday.

The device itself defies easy categorization; it could be described as either a larger OQO Model 02 or as a Samsung Q1 Ultra with a keyboard. Essentially, the HTC Shift is a small Vista tablet with built-in CDMA connectivity. About the size of a DVD case (though a tad thicker), the Shift weighs just over 2 pounds. Its 7-inch touch screen slides up to reveal a tiny keyboard with Chiclet-sized keys. The tablet also has a USB port, a headphone jack, and a VGA connection, plus an SD card slot.

HTC Shift
Honestly, I don't have giant hands--the keyboard is just small. Michelle Thatcher/CNET Networks

HTC sent us a Shift review unit last week, and I've found myself using it more like a smartphone--albeit one wrapped in a permanently attached brown leather folio--than a laptop. I seem to reach for it primarily when I'm away from the desk and want to pound out a quick e-mail or browse the Web (though, given the screen's small size, there was a lot of scrolling to be done). But when possible I've reserved more substantial work for when I got back to the office, mostly because the Shift's keyboard is a bit too large for comfortable thumb typing and a bit too small for standard 10-finger typing, especially given my medium-length nails.

That's a problem for a device that costs $1,499--though, to be fair, the pricing is competitive with UMPCs and similar small tablets. I'm still working out the finer points of comparison, so keep an eye out for the full review this week.