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Review of HTC Flyer Tablet
Live photos of HTC Flyer
I usually try to understand the gadget before writing the review. On the one hand any review is just a list of characteristics of a hardware piece with some feedback from the author, but at the same time you end up with a subjective view of a single person. To make it more impartial you have to understand from the very beginning the target audience of the product, its price range, etc.
In the case of HTC Flyer I decided to drop this point, because I am not going to understand this gadget as it is an Internet tablet. It says all, but I can provide explanations if needed. The tablets market rejuvenated by Apple iPad is at the crossroads now. There are two Apple tablets and their owners always inventing new usage scenarios. On the other hand we have the rest of the pack looking bewildered at iPad. They are seemingly happy with their sales, but still envy everybody associated with iPad. I am pretty sure that many readers share my opinion. You can hate Apple and its merchandise, but you cannot ignore their preeminence in the tablets market despite all attempts of other companies to bridge the gap.
At the moment HTC Flyer belongs to the rest of the chasing pack. You can buy it to envy those who boast Apple iPad with its more developed ecosystem and numerous apps available from AppStore. I will try to decide in this review if HTC Flyer brings something new to the segment or merely competes with models from Samsung, LG, and Motorola.
The presence of design is good news from HTC Flyer. Traditional conservatism and metal are coupled with brave colors to do the trick and Flyer stands out of seemingly analogous Android models and numerous offerings from Motorola, LG and Viewsonic. By and large its origin is vivid only due to a large HTC logo at the back of the tablet. The company would have benefited from its proprietary logo like that of Apple. Frankly speaking the tablet looks impressive and unusual. The model will not be lost among the multitude of rivals courtesy of its design to say the least. The metal cover and white plastic elements attract attention.
The build is good and you cannot complain about it. The panel at the top, which covers the memory card and SIM card slots, is fixed properly and there are no other moving elements in the tablet except the volume and power buttons. Apart from the screen the body is resistant to soiling. The only issue is the white plastic, which attracts some traces and requires cleaning from time to time.
The bottom line is the following. HTC Flyer looks nice due to the combination of colors and body materials. Plastic is used sparsely at the back, while the cover and sides boast aluminium and the front sports pre-stressed glass.
In this respect HTC Flyer fits in between classic tablets (Apple iPad and its copies) and the largest smartphones - Acer Iconia Smart and Dell Streak 5.
You can hold the tablet using one hand, but it is not convenient if you do it for a long time. If you need to read a message or do a similar task go ahead, but if you intend to read a book or watch a movie with the help of HTC Flyer then you would better use both hands.
You can carry the model in the bag or backpack. You can even squeeze it into a winter coat pocket, but you have to think twice if you want to carry a gadget costing $870 in outwear. It is summer at the moment anyway.
This point always seems to be straightforward: a sensor panel under the screen should be accompanied by several hardware buttons. Nevertheless, HTC Flyer offers a new user experience, no matter how ambiguously it sounds.
First, let's mention the controls. Here we get a hardware volume rocker on the right side and the power button at the top. Both buttons are convenient to use. Above the volume rocker you see a microphone. By the way, the power button is combined with the light sensor, which is located inside the button on the left and signals missed events. It emits green light when the tablet is connected to the PC or is fully charged. The charging process is heralded with the red light, while green blinking means missed events. Red blinking is for a low battery.
HTC Flyer has two unique features in the controls section, which make it different from the rest. First, the tablet has two sensor controls panels for horizontal and vertical operation. When you hold it in a portrait orientation you see the lighted controls down under the screen. These are Home, Menu and Back buttons and the stylus menu icon. If you go to the landscape mode the panel becomes inactive, while at the bottom of the screen you see an identical panel. You must have already noticed the phenomenon in photo samples. Despite different orientations controls icons always stay under the screen.
This feature has one downside though, which is more associated with the lack of appropriate experience. For example, when I was watching a movie on HTC Flyer in the landscape mode I was initially looking for the menu to the right from the screen, which was inactive at the time and I had to look down under the screen. To my mind, apart from that the solution is excellent. It is worth getting used to the fact that despite the screen orientation the controls will stay down under. It is unclear how we could have lived without the option before.
The second point here is a so called magic pen. It is a special stylus, which is connected with all preinstalled apps. Read on for details.
Near both sensor panels there is a button to activate the stylus menu. I will not mention all pen features for the apps available here, but the main ones deserve attention. If you touch the icon with the finger nothing will happen. The pen will open a menu in the bottom right hand corner. Depending upon the application different items will be featured in the menu.
If you touch the icon on the desktop or in the incompatible app the menu with one or two items will open to start the notes app or make screenshots to further edit it with the pen (you will be able to leave any handwritten notes on the screenshot or draw there).
In real life the pen brings numerous possibilities unavailable in the standard Android. I think all of us come across situations when despite the presence of a smartphone or tablet we need to scribble something down in a notebook or on a sticker. It is not caused by the conservative thinking. Sometimes we need to make an instant note and the tablet has no tools for that. To be more precise the tools are still there, but a notes app will require more time than just writing something down on a piece of paper.
When you need to take a quick note in HTC Flyer you just touch the icon under the screen with the pen and press a screenshot button or open a new note to start writing down immediately. Moreover, a screenshot can be taken when the browser is open and your notes will go over the page. Alternatively, take a screenshot of a message and add your notes there.
In certain apps the magic pen features are even more attractive. For example, start the pen in the preinstalled reader app and you will be able to edit the text or leave notes on pages among other things. You will edit the content of the page and not merely a saved screenshot. When the text is altered this additions will be marked with a bookmark.
In the gallery you can write on pictures and photos.
In the pen menu you can select different brushes, the width and color of strokes. It is a nice choice. If you need to leave notes pick a pen or pencil, but if you want to draw then look at brushes imitating oil and other paints. Screenshot changes made by the pen can be reversed with the Undo feature or hidden.
To my mind, courtesy of the Magic Pen this HTC tablet will stay ahead of the game at least for the time being until rivals unveil similar offerings. This is relevant for particular tasks. If you need the tablet to read textbooks and prepare for exams the pen will help you to make notes and HTC Flyer could be more convenient than any other gadget. The same applies to letters you need to edit. The screen keypad can be too heavy for leaving comments. The pen will be faster. Delete some parts of the text or add feedback. It is my personal opinion and Magic Pen is probably not a seismic breakthrough, but this tool is very convenient, especially for me.
The pen itself is rather long and thick with good grip. It is easy to use and has two buttons. By pressing and holding the upper button you can delete recently added notes or drawings, while the lower one helps marking the text in certain apps like readers and notes applications.
The pen is powered by a simple AAA battery or a storage battery.
HTC Flyer uses a 7" capacitive S-LCD touchscreen, the physical size of the screen is 155x90mm (6.1x3.5 in), the resolution is 1024x600 and it displays up to 16 million colors. The view angles are outstanding – even if you look at the screen at a very acute angle the picture remains unaltered. The brightness levels are good but under sunlight the screen glares a lot and you cannot do a thing about it – you have to look for a place and angle to be able to make out what is on the screen. At the lowest brightness level the tablet is comfortable to read in darkness.
The screen is very responsive to both your digit and the pen. I have some doubts about whether the screen will do well if you use the pen all the time but this issue might arise only a few months after the release.
I think I can skip the part where I talk about compatibility of applications with the resolution since I have not found any issues or artifacts. All in all, the screen is good and it provides nice brightness levels, excellent view angles and a rather mediocre resolution. I'm not saying that the picture is grainy but it is not impressive – still the screen is not bad and quite comfortable to work with.
The screen is protected by scratch resistant glass which is rather easily soiled but if you use the tablet for just an jour it is hardly noticeable.
But if you use the tablet for a whole day and don't clean every once in a while then if you turn the screen off you will see this. I must add that this problem concerns just about every big touchscreens and HTC Flyer is just not an exception.
HTC Flyer has two cameras: on the back and on the front sides. The main camera has a resolution of 5MPix, the front one – 1.3MPix. Both cameras can record video up to 720p (1280x720). The main camera also features autofocus while the front one has a fixed focus.
The camera interface is exactly the same as in all latest HTC smartphones so I am not going to go into details describing the settings but just show you a few snapshots and a video. I believe that cameras in tablets are not as important as in smartphones so I can easily forgive the rather mediocre picture quality HTC Flyer produces. Besides you can use focus while shooting movies (only with the main camera), the camera will also do for taking pictures of texts (if you are ready to take a few doubles). The camera supports geotagging, effects, scaling and manual focus.
Below you can see the sample pictures and a video made on the main camera of the tablet.
When the front camera is active the light indicator next to it turns on. There is an application called Snapbooth for this camera (similar to PhotoBooth on iPhone) – you can take auto portraits with different effects and immediately mail it to your friends.
The tablet uses a 4000 mAh non-removable Li-Ion Battery. The manufacturer does not yet provide any official life time data so I can only share my own user experience.
My observations show that an hour of movie playback at the maximum brightness level consumes about 20% of the battery charge. The battery can give you a total of about 5 to 5.5 hours of movie playback. If you start using the tablet in the morning, listen to music for a couple of hours, watch a few episodes of your favorite show and use the Internet via Wi-Fi you will still have about 10-20% charge left.
You can also use the sleep mode – it turns off all the wireless interfaces off to save the battery. This mode can automatically turn on or off on schedule specified by you in the settings.
The tablet uses a 1.5GHz processor; unfortunately I was not able to find any specific info on the platform so I will be grateful if you could help me out. It also has a 1GB of system memory and 32GB of inbuilt storage. The system can use approximately 800MB of system memory while 330MB remain free for you. I must make a note that this is the performance of my sample tablet and it probably works on an early firmware version.
My HTC Flyer had a bit over 19GB of available storage space and also a microSD slot for memory cards up to32GB.
The performance is good – I have not noticed any lag while working with the menus or applications except for the weather app and if you scroll through desktops very fast.
The tablet supports video playback for the following formats: 3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .wmv (Windows Media Video 9), .avi (MP4 ASP and MP3), .xvid (MP4 ASP and MP3). Too bad the preinstalled player cannot properly play movies with resolution even lower than the screen native. I tried watching a movie with the resolution of 624x352 and the bitrate of 1000Kb/s and the default player played it with lags. However, you can download another player from the Market and watch movies in this quality with no problems. But anyway, you can understand that you won't be able to view any HD videos and have to prepare movies before watching them on the tablet by decreasing the resolution and the bitrate.
The tablet features Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 b/g/n) and Bluetooth 3.0, a SIM card slot for 2G/3G networks and support for SMS – but you cannot make calls from it. Working with the SIM is easy – you just insert the card and the tablet automatically sets the right APN settings for networking, or you can enter all the settings manually.
Wi-Fi has the settings of turning off on a certain condition and a maximum bandwidth limit.The tablet can also serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot as all latest Android devices.
On the top side there is a 3.5mm audio jack for headphones; on the bottom you find a microUSB slot for PC syncing and charging.
The tablet features a GPS module and preinstalled Google Maps and Google Navigation applications. A cold start takes a bit over a minute then satellite search takes 30 seconds tops.
HTC Flyer runs on Android 2.3 instead of the latest Android and it may seem that it is a downside of the device. It may be true but just a month ago all 3.0 devices were so unstable that HTC opted for an older but more reliable OS version. Also HTC has done a great job making Flyer ready to work out of box and HTC Sense has been tailored to the tablet as well as mail and SMS clients, the player, gallery and many other things. I will not go into details describing the changes but I promise that as soon as I get HTC Sensation I will review the latest HTC Sense version (it is similar to the Flyer interface). As for now I will make just a brief overview of what's new in Android 2.3 featuring Sense on the Flyer tablet.
The main menu has been changed and in the landscape mode you see several desktops at once: one main and partially two at the sides. I can't say I really like the look of it but it allows you to work with the main Sense menu in the landscape mode which you cannot do on smartphones.
The tablet features the new lock screen (the same as in HTC Sensation). If you pull the round thingy up you unlock the screen and if you drag and drop an icon into the round thingy you immediately launch the application.
The landscape mode works as it should in most basic applications – I mean it not just stretches the interface out but also changes the window structure and the information is presented in blocks the left and to the right. But you'd better look at the screenshots – it is really hard to explain.
Unlike the cool interface solutions I have mentioned the Gmail app interface remains unaltered and looks like this.
The weather app animation has been completely rethought and now looks fantastic, though I have seen it somewhere.
The note making app is really handy: you can use either the pen or your digits to write, you can very quickly attach pictures or system screenshots or voice notes you can make right here. Moreover, notes are automatically synced with your account Evernote.
My HTC Flyer had a very nice application for periodicals called Press Readeror a fee (you can choose among several subscription plans, more info) you can download newspapers and magazines: the number of periodicals available is humongous.
The composition of this article is a bit messy and I decided to tell you about all the things that did not fit in the previous chapters here. The tablet has a light sensor placed to the left of the front camera. Also there is a G sensor and stereo speakers on the back of the tablet. They have a good volume level – enough to watch a movie in a company.
you can get a case for your Flyer: it is white and it has a pen compartment – just a good looking case with a lid on a magnet, I don't really have anything to add.
As far as the price is concerned HTC Flyer looks worse than the competition – it has been released much later, other manufacturers have released their 7" tablets months ago.
However, if we forget about the price for a moment and I am sure it will go down very soon we will see that it is a very interesting tablet different from its competitors in many respects. If you compare it to other Android 2.3 tablets Flyer has a big advantage called HTC Sense which has been seriously modified for the tablet. It also has Magic Pen and its own attractive design – unlike the boring sameness of all the other tablets.
I think HTC has chosen the right way and the tablet is actually different from others and this means a lot. They have also done a nice job managing their priorities: instead of releasing another dual core monster with a 3D camera (the company probably does not have the manufacturing capabilities or funds to do that) HTC gave us a simple yet outstanding product. To be franc, when people ask me what tablet they should get I sincerely recommend them to buy an Apple iPad, moreover I recommend the first gen iPad which I think has a better price to quality ratio. But before HTC Flyer I could not recommend anything if the person did not want an iPad, all the other tablets were very similar. But from now on I will definitely keep HTC Flyer in mind.
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Published 29 May 2011
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