HTC Flyer Wi-Fi review

Can the HTC Flyer, HTC’s first Android tablet compete with the rest of the Android tablets that are currently available? While everyone else decided to go with Android 3.0 and a 10.1-inch screen, HTC decided to release their first Android tablet in a 7-inch form running Android 2.3 with an optional digital pen that doubles the tablet as a notebook. Can the 7-inch Android 2.3 tablet compete with the plethora of Honeycomb tablets that are now available? Check out our review of the HTC Flyer after the break.

Hardware

The first thing that you will notice about the HTC Flyer is that it looks like a bigger version of the EVO with an aluminum unibody-style. Its 7.7” x 4.8” x 0.52” measurements makes it slightly bigger than the similarly spec’d Samsung Galaxy Tab, and at 14.82oz, it’s slightly heavier. When you hold the Flyer, you will feel that it’s made of superior material and that it is sturdy.

The HTC Flyer fits perfectly in the palm of my hands

Holding the Flyer felt just right. The bezel on the front of the device is properly sized. I didn’t find myself accidentally activating the touch screen while holding the device in either orientation. Physical buttons on the Flyer are limited to the power button and the volume rocker buttons. The power button is located on the top right edge and the volume buttons are located on the right edge (when held in portrait orientation).

The top of the Flyer has the power button a 3.5mm headphone jack

In addition to buttons, you have a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top edge, right next to the power button and a microUSB port on the center bottom. The microUSB port is used to connect the Flyer to the AC adapter and also to your pc via the included cables. For those of you who like to charge your devices on your PC, you will be happy to know that you can charge the Flyer when connected to the computer.

The bottom of the HTC Flyer contains a microUSB port

If you turn the Flyer over, the first thing that you notice is its 5-megapixel rear-facing camera. Also visible on the back of the device are the stereo speakers, microphone, and the two white plastic sections, one of which covers the camera. The top plastic section removes to reveal the microSD slot, which you can use to increase the storage on your Flyer by up to 32GB. One thing that I realized was that removing the top section required a little force, and at times, I thought that my fingers were hard against the screen on the other side. On the WiFi version of the Flyer, do not try remove the bottom plastic section; it’s not going anywhere 🙂

5-Megapixel rear-facing camera

Instead of going with a dual-core processor, HTC has opted for a 1.5GHz single-core processor, specifically, the Qualcomm MSM8255. That processor, along with 1GB of RAM gives the Flyer enough power to get the job done nicely and smoothly.

The Flyer has a 7-inch capacitive touchscreen running at a 1024 x 600 resolution. The touchscreen itself is an LCD, which equals to a bright, clear display with great colors. Since this tablet doesn’t run Android 3.0, there are no buttons built into the OS. Instead, HTC has included capacitive touch buttons on the bezel. Located right below the screen, you will find the home, menu, back, and Digital Pen buttons. The buttons only illuminate when the device is turned on and switch orientation depending on how you hold the tablet. If you hold the Flyer in landscape mode, the buttons appear a long the bottom, on the long edge of the display. If you hold it in portrait mode, the buttons appear along the short edge the display. Although there is no way to permanently set the location of the buttons, you can change settings so that the screen doesn’t automatically rotate.

Digital Pen

Not included with the HTC Flyer is the Digital Pen or stylus, which allows you to take notes, makes sketches and annotations, and pretty much transforms your Flyer into a digital notebook. We were surprised when we learned that the Digital Pen would not come standard with the Flyer. Instead, in the United States at least, you will have to shell out an additional $80 in order to be able to take notes directly on your Flyer.

The HTC comes with an optional $80 digital pen

Although the Digital Pen is priced too high in my opinion, it does do a good job at what it does. If your idea of this stylus is like the old-style stylus that we’ve seen in the past, thin, and made out of hard plastic, think again. This digital pen actually feels like a pen. It is powered by a single AAAA battery and it seems to be made out of the same aluminium material that graces the back of the Flyer. The pen contains two buttons, which are used to erase and highlight text.

The only real problem that I had with the pen was that I really had no place to store it. I often found myself misplacing it and worrying that I had lost the most expensive pen that I’ve ever bought. I could see why HTC didn’t include a slot for the pen on the tablet; it would have made the device significantly thicker. In addition, it is an optional accessory. If you worry about losing the pen, you should get a case that has an accompanying slot for the pen.

Software

The HTC Flyer doesn’t run the new version of Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) that Google built specifically for tablets. Instead, it is running on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) with a newer version of the Sense UI that includes modifications for tablets. Although HTC plans on upgrading the Flyer to Honeycomb in the future, their decision to not load it could be due to some compatibility issues with Honeycomb on 7-inch screens.

HTC Flyer - lock screen

The first thing that you will realize about the Sense UI is the new unlock screen. Rather than keeping things boring and usual, HTC has decided to do something a little new with the unlock screen. You now have two ways of unlocking your device. 1, you can simply drag the ring outside of the bottom portion of the screen or 2, you can drag one of the 4 applications to the center of the ring. Unlocking via the second option immediately opens that applications as soon as the screen is unlocked, which is a quick way to get to the apps you access the most.

Once you sign in, you will notice that the home screen now works in both landscape and portrait orientations. The Sense UI gives you up to 8 screens to customize to your liking. You can see the power of the 1.5GHz processor when you flick the home screen; the screen pulls back and you can see the 8 available screens rotate endlessly like a carousel. Pinching and zooming on the home screen shows all of the 8 available screens in thumbnail format.

8 screens to customize to your liking

The notification bar that you’ve been used to on Android 2.x is here with a twist. Pull it down and you are presented with more than notifications. While in landscape mode, pulling down the notification bar reveals the last 10 applications that you used, notifications, and some quick settings. Directly from this screen you can jump into any of the 10 previously used apps or manage some settings such as brightness, auto rotation, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.

Notifications in landscape mode

Pulling the notification bar while in portrait mode provides us with the same information and option, but divided into two different tabs. The Notification tab provides you with the recent apps and notifications while the quick settings tabs gives you access to quick settings.

Notification pane in portrait mode

Personalization

The HTC Flyer comes pre-installed with 32 apps, a lot of them being the usual Google apps that you’re used to. New on the Flyer are apps specifically for the tablet, such as Reader, Watch, Notes, and Zoodles, an app designed specifically for kids. Along the bottom of the screen you have the app menu button and shortcuts to the HTC Notes app, HTC Reader app, HTC Watch app, and a button to customize the look and feel of your Flyer. The button to customize your Flyer takes you to the personalize page, which allows you to make all sorts of changes to the look of your Flyer.

App drawer

It is also in the customization menu that you can choose to customize the lock screen. By default, Mail, Calendar, Internet, and Camera are the 4 apps that you include in your lock screen for quick access. If you don’t like any of those, you can quickly change it to any of the apps installed on your tablet. Having apps that you can launch directly from the lock screen might not seem like such a big deal, but I found myself using it often to access my email and calendar.

Another cool feature that is available from the same menu is the ability to display the weather on the lock screen. After check the box to display weather information, a nice weather animation appeared on the home screen, complete with full weather info.

Lock screen with weather information

HTC Notes

Notes is a new application from HTC that allows you to take virtually all types of notes directly on your Flyer. You can input text via the on-screen keyboard, by using the digital pen. In addition, you can also attach files, add pictures and video, and record sounds. You can store your notes directly on your account or, if you have an Evernote account, you can set it up to sync with Evernote for cloud storage.

Notes on the HTC Flyer

Depending on your situation, the Notes application might not be so practical for you. I, personally, wouldn’t use this app if I had to write down a lot of information, such as in during a lecture in school. I could see myself using this at work meetings, where I often have to scribble notes here and there. Overall, I think that the Note app is great for taking short, quick notes.

Notes on the HTC Flyer

Zoodles

Zoodles is an app designed specifically for kids. If you have kids around, I’m pretty sure that you occasionally let them play around with your phone or tablet. The Zoodles app allows kids to learn while having fun. Zoodles contains games, videos, drawing canvas, books, and even access to email (to and from approved people only). It’s a great way for kids to learn while using technology.

Zoodles on the HTC Flyer

Reader

The reader app is just that. It allows you to buy and read ebooks. Pre-installed on your Flyer are 8 books: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, The Art of War by Sun Tzu, Dracula by Bram Stocker, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronite, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Alice’s Adentures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne, and White Fang by Jack London.

Your bookshelf

The Notes app works with both Adobe ID for reading books and Kobo for purchasing books. You will need to create accounts on both services to enjoy these features. The book app by itself is pretty simple. The coolest thing about is the ability to use your Digital Pen on the book. You can scribble notes directly on the book, highlight, underline, and draw. As soon as anything is written on the book, the app automatically bookmarks your place so don’t you don’t have to browse your book to find the location of your scribbles.

Write on books

HTC Watch

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get HTC Watch to work on my Flyer. I kept getting an error stating that the service was unavailable and that I should again later. HTC Watch allows you to buy and rent movies and TV shows directly from your tablet.

Camera

The Flyer comes with two cameras. A front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera and a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera. The front-facing camera, at 1.3-MP was expected to not be the best. But I was also disappointed with the 5-megapixel rear-facing camera. The images weren’t very sharp and the colors weren’t the best either. You can see some sample pictures and videos below.

5-megapixel sample picture

720P sample video



Youtube link for mobile viewing

Front camera, 1.3-megapixel

Front camera sample video



Youtube link for mobile viewing

Battery

The HTC Flyer comes packed with a 4,000 mAh battery that is non-user replaceable. During my testing I was able to easily go the day without requiring a recharge. On days of heavy use, such as constant streaming, GPS testing, media playing, etc, I was forced to recharge the battery at the end of the day. On days of casual use, I was able to get two full days of use. HTC says that you can expect 4 hours of continuous video playback and anywhere from 820 to 1470 hours of standby.

Battery level

Wrap-up

Overall, I think that the HTC Flyer is a great tablet. The new version of the Sense UI that has been designed for tablets makes using the tablet fun. In addition The Digital Pen and the new scribe technology make the tablet what it is. Without the pen, the Flyer is just another tablet running a non-tablet version of Android.

The heavy feel of the Flyer makes it look and feel like its made out of top quality material. At 7 inches, it is easy to hold and fits in my pocket without a problem. The new Sense UI has been improved for tablets and it makes for a better overall experience. The best part about the Flyer was its Digital Pen. The ability to take notes on almost any screen is a truly great feature.

The Wi-Fi HTC Flyer is currently available at local Best Buy locations and online at BestBuy.com. It will cost you $499.99 for the 16GB model. In addition, you will have to pay an additional $80 for the Digital Pen. So you’re looking at $580+ tax.

I personally think that the Flyer + Digital Pen are priced too high. When you have tablets like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer that sells for $399, and the Acer Iconia Tab A500 that sells for $450, paying $580 for the Flyer and its pen just seems like too much money, especially when the other lower-priced tablets are 10-inch models. Had both the Flyer and the pen been priced at $499, I wouldn’t have such a negative opinion on pricing.

If you need a tablet that gives you the ability to take notes, then the HTC Flyer is the tablet for you. If you’re a budget-minded shopper, you might want to take a look at the other Android tablets that are currently available.

Jonathan converted to the Android platform from Blackberry with the original Motorola Droid. He currently has a Samsung Galaxy Nexus complete with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean on Verizon Wireless, a Motorola Xoom, and a Kindle Fire. Besides keeping up with Android news, he enjoys spending time with his family, gaming, reading, and computers. Google+

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