The HTC Shift's design straddles the middle ground between smartphone and laptop.

Folded up and ready for transit, the HTC Shift is a touchscreen tablet wrapped in a leather a shell. However, the screen slides up and even tilts backwards at an angle, which makes this unit a versatile mobile computer that you can easily use either in-hand, or on a surface. ??

The HTC Shift distinguishes itself from competing ultramobile PCs (UMPCs) in several ways. This is the first shipping UMPC to showcase Microsoft's Origami Experience 2.0, a customised interface and software suite that runs on top of Windows Vista.

The HTC Shift also integrates a cellular radio.  

Under the hood

Almost by definition, you can never expect any UMPC to pack a performance punch. But, certainly you're hoping for enough oomph to make Windows Vista Business run at an acceptable pace (at the least, a pace that out-runs snails).

Surprisingly, in spite of its modest components - Intel's A110 800-MHz Pentium M processor and an anemic 1GB of RAM - the HTC Shift performed serviceably in our hands-on tests.

We found basic tasks and programs jammed on to the HTC Shift's 40GB hard drive (about 23GB are available with a factory-fresh machine) snappy enough. My biggest annoyance was the unit's pokey boot time: about 90 seconds from dark to startup.

In addition to using the Windows Vista Business operating system, the HTC Shift incorporates Origami 2.0, an optimisation for underpowered mobile processors attempting to slog through a full-fledged OS. Origami 2.0 promises to provide better performance for multimedia players, photo viewers, web browsing and other resource-intensive apps.

Does it work? Our initial impressions are that it has little more spring in its step than its predecessor. ??