Mini mobile devices impress

The scoop: C5 tablet, by Motion Computing, starts at US$2,200.

What it is: A portable tablet computer aimed to appeal to the healthcare industry, the C5 includes several data-capture technologies and design choices to help healthcare workers become more productive. For example, a built-in handle on the top makes the C5 easier to carry than a normal tablet. A built-in digital camera, RFID tag reader and optional bar code scanner allow workers to document injuries, read RFID tags and scan bar codes (for security or other purposes). An optional docking station includes an Ethernet port connection, multiple USB ports (if you want to add a keyboard or mouse), and VGA output to display contents on a larger monitor if you want something bigger than the 10.4-inch touch screen.

Why it’s cool: The obvious cool feature of the C5 is the built-in handle, which makes it much easier to carry around than a typical tablet. I’m sure many doctors and nurses that have moved toward tablets will appreciate the ease in which they can carry the device without having to strain their shoulders or arms as much. In addition, the built-in camera and security features (RFID, integrated fingerprint scanner) are nice touches.

Some caveats: The device’s pen is tethered to a string behind the handle — not only can the string break off during use but it also tends to get in the way of the digital camera’s location. In addition, this device is so focused on healthcare that other industries might not be interested in it — it’s hard to imagine a marketing person using one of these. However, Motion does make the Motion M5 device, which is similarly designed with a built-in handle but is more rugged and aimed at field service workers.

Grade: 4 stars (out of five).

The scoop: Shift, from HTC, starting at $1,500 (plus service plans).

What it is: An ultraportable computer, the lightweight (about 1.7 lbs.) Shift runs Windows Vista and includes features like built-in wireless WAN connectivity, an integrated fingerprint scanner, and a qwerty-style keyboard that slides out from underneath the device. You can also then tilt up the monitor to make it more notebook-like. The Shift includes 1GB of memory, a 40GB or 80GB hard drive, 7-inch display, and built-in VGA camera for videoconferencing applications.

Why it’s cool: In addition to built-in 802.11b/g wireless LAN connectivity, the built-in WAN connectivity (supporting either CDMA EV-DO or HSDPA/UMTS) makes it a lot easier to connect, especially in places where Wi-Fi isn’t present. The Shift also has a nice feature, called ShiftVUE, which lets you quickly access your e-mail and get quick updates (like time, temperature, weather and contacts) without having to boot up the device.

Some caveats: Getting the monitor to snap up into the notebook-like position is tricky, I was afraid I was breaking the device. While I appreciated the qwerty keyboard, the tiny keys prevented speedy typing, and I went back to hunt and peck. The mouse navigation is tricky, too, requiring mouse buttons on the left side and the touchpad on the right side — for heavy-duty use I’d just bring along a USB mouse to attach.

Grade: 4 stars.

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