Editor’s Note: The HTC Flyer is now available. See our full review here: HTC Flyer Review.
HTC seems to be the only company shipping a tablet with Gingerbread (Android version 2.3), a smartphone operating system, since Google unveiled Honeycomb, the search giant’s tablet OS. HTC is also the only company with the Sense UI, an Android overlay which distinguishes its Flyer tablet from the collection of Android rivals.
I have managed to get ahold of this tablet, which HTC announced at Mobile World Congress in February. This was a pre-production sample in what I’m told is the finalized packaging, and even though the software is incomplete, it looks like the combination of the Sense UI and the reliable Android 2.3 is quite powerful and will provide users with an entirely new tablet experience.
Flyer Specs Recap
To recap, the Flyer is a 7-inch tablet with a 1024 x 600-pixel resolution that comes with a single core 1.5GHz processor. It has 1GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. The Flyer includes a five-megapixel rear-facing camera that can record HD video clips and a front-facing camera for video calls, as well as HSPA+, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 and GPS support. A WiMAX version dubbed the EVO View 4G will be coming to the Sprint Network this summer. A Wi-Fi only version also called the HTC Flyer will hit Best Buy shelves this spring.
What’s in the Box
The Flyer comes packaged with a white, fake leather case, a charger that unfortunately includes a non-standard/proprietary jack (for the time being), a USB cable which has the same non-standard jack on one side, headphones, and a pressure sensitive N-trig pen. Sprint has confirmed the pen will be sold separately with the EVO View 4G.
As the Flyer is switched on, its resolution is salient and offers a greater pixel density than the larger iPad. This makes for exceptionally sharp screen imaging and clear detailing that allows me to read even the finest text. The colors on the display are vivid and realistically interpreted; even though colder hues prevail (probably because of the user interface design).
The screen contrast is consistent and is only slightly lost if the tablet is exposed to direct sunlight, which is a shortcoming with all HTC mobile devices. Screen sensitivity to touch and finger movements is timely and there are no problems with precision.
When the N-trig pen is used for writing on the display, creating notes, drawing and similar tasks, there is a slight but noticeable imprecision and lag. This is probably a software flaw, which can be expected in a pre-production unit.
It should be pointed out that using the Flyer for electronic notes seems very practical and efficient — the tablet switched over to this mode as soon as I put pen to display and it is possible to write on the home screen, web sites, applications, anything at all. The pen comes with two buttons — one for altering the writing mode and one for deleting.
The Sense UI
HTC’s Sense UI, applied on Gingerbread, seems luxurious, futuristic and even a bit kitschy, which is currently a trend supported by many gadget enthusiasts. Widgets, like those found on HTC’s smartphones, are adjusted to Flyer’s bigger resolution, as well as icon dimensions, making everything look harmonious — one can say even better than with tablets that use pure Honeycomb with no overlay.
Furthermore, Sense UI brings 3D desktop rotation effects, 3D animated weather forecast and similar neat things that make the device not only practical, but also fun. Everything seems very smooth and tasks perform without glitches, making the decision to include a single core processor with such a fast clock an optimal call for this device.
Design and Form
The HTC Flyer cannot be used to make phone calls, but it does include a front-facing camera that can be used for video calls via IP. The Flyer also sports a slight curvature on the edges towards the display, giving Flyer the shape of a plate, which seems natural for this type of device.
In the end, it should be said that despite its 7-inch diagonal, the Flyer seems rather heavy when held (it weighs .9lbs). It is lighter than the original iPad and iPad 2, but it feels heavy due to its smaller size. At the same time, this device seems robust, even though its back is made of plastic materials. Many will find using the Flyer with one hand a bit clumsy, although its dimensions enable it in theory.
HTC has not yet announced pricing for the Flyer, and Sprint has not yet announced pricing for the EVO View 4G. The Flyer is expected to ship this spring and the EVO View 4G this summer.