Even though Mobile World Congress 2011 is nearing its end, HTC made a splash, as the EVO maker launched its first tablet, an Android-powered device dubbed “Flyer”. After testing the Flyer, we came away very impressed as HTC presented a polished and exceptional device.
It’s interesting that HTC went with Gingerbread instead of Honeycomb as the Flyer’s OS, given Google’s claims that Android 2.3 is meant for smartphones and Android 3.0 is a tablet OS. But because the HTC Flyer has Gingerbread upgraded with HTC’s user interface, Sense UI (“for tablets”, as HTC execs emphasized), Flyer’s Android 2.3 is equally functional as Android 3.0, at least as far as we could tell during our brief time with it.
The bottom line is that the combination of Sense UI and Gingerbread is an excellent call by HTC, given that this created a software platform that is entirely polished, making Flyer a standout tablet amongst the many unfinished Honeycomb devices at the show and at CES.
Everything we tried doing on Flyer worked without any problems (apart from using the web browser, seeing as there was no Wi-Fi or 3G signal available) and it was exceptionally fast — even when we ran videos, zoomed in on images, swiftly scrolled documents etc.
Even rotating a simulated 3D wheel with applications (a part of Sense UI) was very smooth, leading us to conclude that HTC’s decision to go with a 1.5 GHz processor instead of a 1 GHz dual core solution, and a 1024 x 600-pixel resolution coupled with an earlier Android version, were wise decisions.
HTC Flyer’s screen has precise and fast touch/ finger movement reactions, just like HTC smartphones. It provides very sharp imaging, but the unit we tested did not seem bright enough, and the colors are not as vivid as those found on the most advanced HTC phones.
The device looks “modern,” featuring an aluminum unibody that makes for a solid device. Unfortunately, it’s also a bit heavy for a 7-inch tablet, coming in at just under a pound.
Interestingly enough, just like the other Honeycomb tablets, Flyer does not have hardware keys on its front; they have been replaced by screen icons. Depending on the tablet orientation, the four common Android keys now appear along the screen edge. This feature is part of the Sense UI for tablets.
We also tried out the N-trig pen, which ships with the Flyer Android tablet and works with HTC’s Scribe technology. Overall, it’s very polished, precise, and accurate, and the pen’s pressure sensitivity works well. Another useful feature automatically creates a screenshot just by the touch of stylus on the screen. Note-taking is a simple joy, as is erasing.
HTC’s video-on-demand service, Watch, seemed like an abundant video store judging from our quick browsing. However, pricing is not yet clear. There is a similar problem with the cloud gaming service OnLive, which allows users to access and play first-rate games remotely, without the need to download. As a concept, it’s a great service and addition to the Flyer, but we’ll have to see it in practice before rendering judgement.
HTC representatives claimed the Flyer will be available worldwide in Q2 2011. As it stands, the HTC Flyer seems very polished, and with some time to go before its release, HTC has an opportunity to really take advantage of the Flyer’s potetnial.
HTC Flyer In Action