Review

While the current tablet marketplace has a wide variety of options to choose from, there are very few devices that have legitimately unique features to set them apart from the rest of the crop. The HTC Flyer is one of those devices.
It’s been a while since HTC has been back in the tablet game, but the $499 Flyer is a solid entry into the field. At 7-inches, it’s similarly sized and priced to the Samsung Galaxy Tab but feels a bit heavier — and sturdier — in your hand, contributing to an overall higher-quality build. The screen offers 1024 x 600 resolution and a responsive touch screen, which is adequate but not mind-blowing, for watching video.
The Flyer has its fair share of stock features you’ve come to expect in a tablet in this class, including MicroSD storage, Bluetooth connectivity and dual cameras (5-megapixel rear, 1.3-megapixel front). But what really sets the Flyer apart from the competition is HTC’s Magic Pen peripheral, which adds a whole new way to interact with the tablet.

In addition to the standard touch screen, HTC has developed a stylus for the next generation. To call the Magic Pen a stylus is to shortchange it a bit. It seamlessly integrates with the tablet to open up new possibilities for text entry, simple note taking and even some sketching. The Magic Pen is extremely accurate and pressure sensitive, which really makes it feel like it’s own device rather than a mere afterthought.

Unfortunately, the Magic Pen does not come bundled with the Flyer in the U.S. (although it does in Europe.) and will run you about $80. And while the device shows a lot of potential, there aren’t a ton of applications that support it just yet. If HTC can convince developers that the Magic Pen is worth their time to support, there are a ton of possibilities that may justify the additional cost. But a present, a wait-and-see approach is probably for the best.

Another unique feature is the fact that the Flyer will soon utilize the OnLive gaming platform, which will have an entire library of games on demand and at your fingertips. Just how many games and the level of support from third party developers still remains to be seen, but it’s a welcome addition for those who’re looking for more entertainment than productivity in their tablet.

One thing to note is that HTC has opted for Android 2.3 OS (Gingerbread) rather than the more tablet-friendly Honeycomb. There are a few instances where the limitations of the phone OS are apparent, but HTC has made enough tweaks to the system (including the trademarked HTC Sense) to both make a custom HTC experience and minimize the negative impact. As a result, there is a decidedly tablet feel to the device. Unlike Gingerbread phones, for example, a set of navigation buttons will appear on the bottom of the device in both landscape and portrait mode, with the others being turned off when not in use. The Flyer also multitasks very well, nearly as well as many of the more advanced, Tegra-2-based devices with Honeycomb.

Aside from the minor issue of the operating system, the Flyer does have its fair share of shortcomings. For starters, the cameras do not seem to capture stills and video as sharply as they should, and the lack of a flash only makes matters worse. The battery is also not user-replaceable and, while offering quite a bit of standby power, won’t get you very far in terms of video playback. And if you don’t have a set of decent headphones, prepare to be disappointed by the Flyer’s internal speakers, which are tinny and underwhelming.

CONCLUSION
Overall, there’s plenty to like about the HTC Flyer. While running an inferior operating system on paper, HTC’s device seems to perform nearly as well as most Honeycomb tablets while cutting down a bit on cost. It’s flaws are not uncommon in its class, nor are they especially deal breaking. When it comes down to it, the marketplace’s approval of the Magic Pen is going to make or break the device. If HTC can carve out its niche with that peripheral, this may just be the beginning for its series of tablets.

CONS

  • Poor camera resolution
  • Gingerbread OS
  • Disappointing speakers

SPECIFICATIONS

SIZE — 7.7’’ x 4.8’’ x 0.52’’

WEIGHT — 14.82 ounces

DISPLAY — 7-inch, touch-sensitive screen (1024 x 600 resolution)

CPU SPEED — 1.5 GHz

STORAGE

  • 32 GB internal (16 GB on Wi-Fi only model)
  • 1 GB RAM
  • microSD expandable

CAMERA — 5 megapixel (rear), 1 megapixel (front)

CONNECTORS

  • 3.5 mm stereo audio jack
  • micro-USB

SENSORS

  • Ambient light
  • G-Sensor
  • Digital Compass
OPERATING SYSTEM — Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)
AUDIO
  • Playback: .aac, .amr, .ogg, .m4a, .mid, .mp3, .wav, .wma
  • Recording: .3gp

VIDEO

  • Playback: .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .wmv, .avi, .xvid
  • Recording: .3gp

NETWORK — HSPA/WCDMA, Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE

INTERNET — IEEE 802.11 b/g/n/ WiFi

BLUETOOTH — 3.0 with A2DP for wireless headsets

 



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sean