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Hands-on with the HTC Shift: UMPC slider

We've got our hands on an HTC Shift. Does its compact design, lightweight chassis and versatility make for a winning combination? Hang on, it costs how much?!

We've been wanting to get our sticky Jaffa-coated hands on the HTC Shift for some time, and for good reason: it's arguably the most interesting-looking UMPC-style device in recent memory. But does its compact design, lightweight chassis and versatility make for a winning combination?

Sort of. It feels a little plasticky at first, but it's comfortable to hold. It can be controlled with the touch-sensitive 7-inch 800x480-pixel screen, or via the mini mouse trackpad on the right, and associated selector buttons on the left.

Unlike many early UMPCs, the Shift has an integrated keyboard, which reveals itself when you slide the screen upwards. Better still, the screen can be tilted forward until the device resembles a mini laptop. Typing in this mode is much easier, but there's no getting away from the fact the keys are extremely fiddly. We've actually achieved faster typing speeds using the Qwerty thumbpads of some mobile phones, HTC's included.

Arguably the cleverest part of the device is the fact it uses dual operating systems. Most of the Shift's functions can be accessed via Windows Vista Business edition, but you can also swap over to Windows Mobile at the touch of a button, if you only need to access certain phone-centric features such as SMS messaging, Outlook email and calendar. Battery life in the Windows Mobile mode is said to be approximately 72 hours, while battery life in Vista is approximately 3 hours.

Specs-wise, the Shift packs an Intel A110 CPU on the Intel 945GM chipset, 1GB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, integrated Intel graphics, a fingerprint reader and a copy of Microsoft Office. All this can be yours for a humongous £999 from Orange, but if you want Internet access you'll need to buy a data tariff. Orange recommends the Business Everywhere package, which costs £17 per month for 24 months, and has an 'unlimited' data cap that's limited to 3GB.

It doesn't compare very favourably to an Eee PC, especially in the price department. Hang tough, though, we'll give it a fair hearing in our full review. Keep your eyes peeled. -Rory Reid

Update: Read our full HTC Shift review