(Editor's Note: As of 7/5/11, Best Buy is bundling the Scribe digital pen with the Flyer. It is not clear if this is a permanent change or limited time offer.)
HTC is certainly bringing something different into the tablet market with the Flyer. Instead of rolling out a Honeycomb tablet with the same specs as the Xoom and the rest of the newly released Android lineup, HTC instead released a seven-inch Gingerbread tablet with the custom Sense UI and single-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm processor. But the Flyer?s most defining characteristic is its N-trig pen accessory and HTC Scribe Technology, which turns the Flyer into a bona-fide note-taking tablet.
Read on to find out if HTC?s gamble paid off and if the Flyer is a scribbler?s dream tablet.
Not only does the HTC Flyer sport unique specs, it looks different too ? or, about as different as a slate can look from the other rectangular devices.
The Flyer?s back panel tapers off at the edges and bleeds over from the back to the front of the device, slightly protruding from the display. This, coupled with the two grip-friendly plastic covers/bumpers on the short sides of the Flyer make it exceptionally easy to hold with one hand. Of course, if you are going to utilize the Scribe tech and take notes, it makes sense for the Flyer to be one-hand friendly.
A quick tour of the Flyer reveals nothing is out of place. The display dominates the front with the front-facing camera lens punctuating the upper landscape portion of the frame. There are also four soft keys on two sides that light up depending on the Flyer orientation, including the familiar Android home, menu, and back options, as well as the Flyer-specific pen options, which include the various pen types, colors and sizes, as well as quick access to the notes app. This pen soft key won?t register finger taps, only pen input. The back houses the rear-facing camera lens and two speakers.
On the short side are the power/wake-sleep button on the top cover, next to the 3.5mm headset jack, and an odd USB connector input on the bottom cover, which works with both the proprietary cable that ships with the Flyer and mini USB. The top cover slides off to reveal the microSD card slot.
The upper long side of the Flyer houses the volume rocker and two on-board microphones, the bottom side is bare.
Overall, the Flyer feels great, and the little bumps and protrusions make it the best tablet for one-handed gripping to date. It has a great balance and is just heavy enough to feel solid.
It?s almost twice as thick as the iPad 2 at its center, but that?s the tradeoff for a solid device. The rear-camera lens protrudes from the back, making it especially prone to scratches, and the speakers are on the rear of the device, facing away from the user, when they ideally should be on the front.
I?m not a fan of the removable case. Unless it provides access to the battery or other element that is off limits with today?s tablets, I?d prefer a single piece body. The fact that it only provides access to the microSD card slot, which I don?t use much anyway, makes me wonder why HTC even bothered with it.
Finally, there is no place to dock the pen on the Flyer. I understand an embedded slot would compromise the design, but a removable clip or magnetic solution seems doable -- especially considering the $80 pen is expensive to replace.
HTC Flyer Specs:
Display and Speakers
The HTC Flyer has the same 1,024 x 600 resolution as the other big-name seven-inch tablets on the market, the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the BlackBerry PlayBook, and it is certainly a Flyer strength. The display is bright and crisp with a pleasant and slightly warm tone, and is one of the best we?ve seen when viewed in the sweet spot, which is about a twenty-degree range directly in front of the camera. Touch sensitivity is also spot on, and Android tablets have really improved in that area since the early, slightly jittery days of the original Galaxy Tab.
Glare from the sun, which plagues tablets, is an issue for the Flyer, so outdoor use might be tough. Also, viewing angles are good, but not great, with the screen losing brightness when viewed off the sweet spot. I suspect this has something to do with the scratch resistant glass and/or pen sensors.
In addition to be poorly placed, the speakers poorly perform. They are plenty loud for personal use, but fidelity is sub par. It?s tinny and the bass is non existent. Thankfully, the sound is much better over headphones.
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