The Hardware

Compared to early Android tablets the Flyer doesn't look very different. It's a 7-inch almost 16:10 tablet with a 1024 x 600 resolution. In the grand scheme of things however, this is a pretty different form factor - particularly for a tablet released in 2011. Apple set the tone for at least the first generation of tablets with the iPad: nearly 10-inches, and at least a 1024 x 768 display. Steve brought forth the iPad and it was good. The only problem with this approach is that tablets, like notebooks, aren't one-size fits all. People are different sizes (tiny vs. large hands) and usage models vary (couch surfing vs. portable computing device). While the iPad has clearly done very well, it's clearly not the only answer.


HTC Flyer (left) vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (right)

Viewed through iPad colored glasses, the Flyer starts out very different. In fact, it takes a page from RIM's playbook (giggle) and aims for portability rather than the comfort of a large screen size. I'll say the same things I said about the PlayBook about the Flyer: it's far more comfortable to carry around with me, but at home it's not as enjoyable to surf the web on. I think that's ultimately what separates the 7-inch tablets from the 10-inch models, portability vs. ease of use at home. It remains to be seen if Samsung's forthcoming 8.9-inch Galaxy Tab can really provide the best of both worlds.

I don't have particularly large or small hands but I can actually hold the Flyer with a reasonable level of comfort in the palm of one hand with my fingers gripping the outer edges.


Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (left) vs. HTC Flyer (right)

The Flyer isn't thin. At its thickest point it's 13.2mm, that's around half an inch. Even the original iPad is thinner. The back however curves out to that point and because there's not a lot of surface area it actually doesn't feel overly thick. I'd go as far as to say that the Flyer feels like it has a good grip to it.

The device is light by tablet standards at only 420 grams. Even the Galaxy Tab looks porky on paper by comparison. Again, in a smaller package the Flyer ends up feeling more dense despite its light weight. You can definitely hold the Flyer in a single hand without much fatigue, but I personally got the feeling that HTC's first tablet was about 10 - 20% over weight for its size. It's not bad, but not perfect. Don't feel too bad though HTC, in my opinion no one else has really gotten the whole form factor thing perfect either.

The HTC logo on the front panel implies that the Flyer is designed to be held in portrait mode, although obviously rotation is supported. In landscape mode there's a 1.3MP front facing camera in the center of the top bezel. Around back there's a 5MP rear facing camera as well.

You can't rotate the Flyer in all directions however. Either the HTC logo or the front facing camera have to be at the top of the tablet. Holding the Flyer the other two ways won't rotate the screen. HTC does this because it actually has two sets of backlit capacitive buttons in the bezel around the screen - one set are illuminated in landscape mode, the other set in portrait mode:

It's a nice addition but one that forces HTC to limit the rotational freedom of the device. It's not a huge tradeoff, but one that doesn't exist on Honeycomb tablets since they integrate the standard Android buttons into the OS itself.

HTC only includes three standard capacitive buttons on the Flyer. From left to right there's home, menu and back. The search button is gone but not missed. Honeycomb also only includes three buttons (home, back and recently used apps), but it's just as quick to get a listing of recently used apps on the Flyer by holding down the home button. Some might argue that it's a quicker way of switching tasks than Honeycomb offers.

There's a fourth button on the Flyer, but this one is only accessible via the optional HTC Scribe - a battery powered digital pen accessory. I'll get to that bit in a moment.

Up top there's a power/lock button with integrated status LED. The LED blinks green for notifications (e.g. new email) or glows orange when charging. If you don't do your homework it turns red. Next to the power/lock button is a tapered 1/8" stereo headset jack. The Flyer doesn't come with any earbuds, you'll have to supply your own.

The left side of the device is barren and the right is home to volume up/down buttons as well as two microphones. Along the bottom of the Flyer is HTC's proprietary dock connector that's used for getting content onto the device as well as charging it.

The Flyer comes with a power brick as well as a dock to USB cable. Unlike larger tablets the Flyer can charge (very slowly) off of a standard USB port while running.

The back of the Flyer is all aluminum save for two plastic inserts. The bottom insert is immovable and feels equally stuck in place.

The top insert is a removable cover that hides the Flyer's microSD slot. I'm not a fan of hiding microSD slots behind large removable covers - it seems silly to have to remove something so big to access something so small. With the Flyer the removable plastic cover seems to somewhat ruin the point of the device's aluminum back. The removable cover definitely flexes under your grip and just doesn't feel as solid as the rest of the device.

There are two tiny speaker grills on the back as well for stereo sound. Sound quality isn't anything to write home about, the speakers get loud but harsh at the same time.

Introduction Gingerbread & Sense 3.0
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  • aranyagag - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    99.999% of the time. I am the only person in the surgery wards, OPD, and OTs carrying a tablet. Because my Samsung galaxy tab (the original 7 inch version) can fit into trouser pockets (even though just barely). There are four other people in my department who have iPads (both versions 1 and version 2), but they are always, and I repeat ALWAYS left at home. The only time when another tablet comes into our domain is when somebody from another department comes in with a galaxy tab (7 inch). This is because THEY say that instead of carrying along and iPad it is easier to carry along their laptops.
    It seems, however, that Samsung must have done a lot of research before deciding the dimensions of of my tablet, because even with a cover it refuses to fit into any pocket. This means that while it may fulfill one aspect of my use-- Using the tablet while on rounds, the HTC flyer cannot be carried as easily and hence is not as useful.
    To summarise, I would like to quote something that my head of the department said oon seeing me use my tablet, "I have an iPad 2 , but it remains on my bedside table acting as a radio".
    Reply
  • Impulses - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    Altho I agree that it's too expensive (specially for a service that may forever lag behind the pack in OS updates), I do hope it does well enough for HTC to release a Flyer 2 next year. The digitizer is intriguing, particularly if it gains more app support.

    Personally I don't have a problem spending $500 on a tablet, but I know companies like ASUS will have brought prices down across the board within a few months... And there's still plenty of innovation to come from devices like this and the ASUS Transformer (part of what makes Android great imo).

    If the smartphone market is still in it's infancy, the tablet market is barely out of the womb...
    Reply
  • chomlee - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    499 for a 7" pad???? I was hoping HTC was going to be the company to break the IPad streak like they did with the EVO and Iphone. What a joke. These marketing people at all the tablet companies should all be fired, except for Asus. Asus is the only company to offer a decent alternative at a lower price. What kind of idiot are you if you are trying to compete in a market and say " are device is going to be smaller than the competition, not as good, and with much less battery life, but we are going to charge the same".

    They need to take a lesson from Asus and realize that you can't offer a device that is "almost" as good as the current leader and charge the same. You either have to be noticably better, and/or cheaper.

    Maybe the only reason why they did so well with the EVO was because loyal sprint customers couldn't get an Iphone.
    Reply
  • ap90033 - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU!!! Flyer=Fail... Reply
  • ap90033 - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Looks lame to me. To be so small it seems to have crappy battery life. Seems like the wanna be Tablet with a "special" UI that isnt really that awe inspiring. Its to big to be a phone, its to small to be a tablet. Its like a Phablet! I also dont get the reference to all the suck behind honeycomb. I have the Eee Pad with 3.1 and its GREAT. No issues, 9+ hours battery life and zippy performance. All for the low low price of $399 (that cheaper than the poser Flyer btw)... Maybe I am wrong here, but I feel a tablet and a phone are currently two different things. I bought a tablet as a fairly functional camera/browser/video/email/word processor type device and I have a Phone (HTC Evo running 2.3.3) for my phone and more on the go needs... Reply
  • grenzo - Tuesday, July 05, 2011 - link

    I bought the 3g+WiFi 32gb Flyer with pen here in Singapore for usd730. For weeks I was waiting for the arrival of the 10in tegra 2 honeycomb tablets but I found that I wanted my tablet to be more portable, something I can carry without a bag and hold with one hand while standing in the train. 1.5ghz with 1gb ram is plenty powerful for this device. Games like Gun Bros and Pocket legends perform very well. It would have been great if this was running honeycomb but very happy with what HTC has done with HTC sense. I can wait until HTC is ready to upgrade this to hc. In the 7 in space the Flyer is way ahead of the rest. Yes it seems a lot of money to pay for the specs, but in terms of real world use this is a fast smooth tablet with a great screen. Web browsing, email, news, weather, games, all work almost perfectly. Camera is bad but i can live with that. Pen is just a nice plus. Evernote integration is great but I use the screen keyboard more often than the pen.

    I saw a video comparing the browsing speed of this and the iPad 2 and at times this came out faster. They also showed that Angry Birds loads slightly faster on this device than the iPad 2 but they still dissed the Flyer because of its processor and OS. Its not just what's on paper but you have to see how it actually performs.

    The other Android tablets like the ASUS transformer offer more value for money but i don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a portable device that i will leave at home most of the time.
    Reply

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