A clever feature of the Shift X9500 is its ability to change between two operating systems. It has both Windows Vista Business and SnapVUE installed. The latter is a no-frills operating system providing access to e-mail, SMS, an address book, a calendar and weather details. Thanks to Direct Push technology, e-mails linked to an Exchange Server mailbox can be instantly received when travelling. Other POP3 e-mail services, such as Gmail, are also receivable on the Shift X9500 and updated at regular intervals.
SnapVUE also operates when Vista is shut down, reducing energy use and heat. In this setting it can last around two days without a charge. The battery life is reduced to less than two hours, however, if Vista is used with basic Web-browsing applications, which is problematic for those wanting to work on the road. We were able to use the unit for 1hr 45min while in Vista mode.
The downside to SnapVUE is that surfing the Internet and opening attachments is impossible due to the lack of supporting applications. You also can't make phone calls using the Shift X9500, which will be problematic for users who only have one SIM card for data and telephone services. Files downloaded from e-mails in SnapVUE are unable to be transferred to Vista.
Physically, the Shift X9500 weighs in at 700g without its power supply and 900g with it; with a length of only 210mm, this device truly deserves the title of "ultraportable". The Shift X9500 is also very stylish, with a mini-touchpad on the right side of the front panel instead of a joystick seen in other models, such as the Asus R2H UMPC.
An 800MHz Intel A110 CPU with a 512KB L2 cache has been installed to help reduce power consumption and heat. One gigabyte of DDR2 RAM and a 40GB hard drive are standard on this model, and it has a 7in touchscreen. Windows Vista can be sluggish when operating multiple applications and watching movies because of the relatively slow CPU, but is effective for Web-browsing and basic office tasks.
The touchscreen is small but effective, as it reads pen-strokes and finger-touches accurately. However, when used in its native resolution of 800x480 the windows of folders and applications have a tendency to get cut off. When used in higher resolutions, words and labels become difficult to read. This won't affect movies and images, however. These are also displayed with vivid hues and no dithering.
The resolution issue when combined with the tiny QWERTY keyboard greatly reduces the potential productivity of a user. The keys are small (most letters measure 10mm x 12mm), which will make typing at a fast speed difficult.
In terms of connectivity, the Shift X9500 offers 802.11b/g wireless capability and up to HSDPA speeds over mobile networks when a SIM card is inserted, as well as Bluetooth 2.0. A bundled USB 2.0 dongle device allows for a 10/100Mbps Ethernet connection and expands the number of USB ports from one to a total of three with an additional mini-USB port.
Other ports provided on the Shift X9500 include a headphone jack and a D-Sub port, which will help users deal with the small screen size if a larger monitor or projector is available. Two speakers are built into the front of the unit and the sound produced is relatively good, given the small size.
An SD card reader sits on the right side of the unit, just below a hold button, which turns off interaction with the small device.
Security is provided by a fingerprint reader, and there is also a built-in webcam and microphone, which work well together to provide video conferencing options.