HTC's Flyer is a good tablet overall. Aside from the pen functionality it has little to offer over Samsung's older Galaxy Tab, though, and with its much higher price and lack of phone functionality, we wonder how well it will sell
Stylish, easy to use, good pen input
Expensive, not significantly better than its rivals, lack of phone
£ 555 (inc VAT)
1.5GHz single-core processor, 7in 600x1,024 resolution screen, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot option, pen input, 420.8g, 195.4x122x13.2 mm
Apple chief executive Steve Jobs maintains that 7in tablets are "dead on arrival". His argument is that you need something larger to really be productive. But the original Samsung Galaxy Tab proved that this argument was slightly flawed, as the hardware was well thought-out and desirable.
The HTC Flyer is a clever idea, but it's blighted by the same problem as the 7in Galaxy Tab. It's just too expensive. When compared to an iPad, competitors need to be significantly cheaper, or there's really no incentive for customers to choose anything but the market leader.
Physically, the Flyer is up to HTC's usual excellent standards. The rear is a mix of white plastic and metal. The HTC logo is etched with silver writing and the now familiar 'with HTC Sense' is written near the bottom. There's also a large camera lens looking out from the top piece of plastic.
Under here are the SIM and Micro SD sockets. You'll need a decent amount of strength to open this flap, though, especially the first time you do it. Hopefully this will get a little easier as time goes on.
On the top of the device is a headphone socket and power/sleep button. On the right are volume controls and at the bottom a USB charging point.
As you would expect, you can use the Flyer in portrait or landscape mode. The Android function keys are clever here, moving to the bottom of the screen in either mode. The only problem is that this means you can only work on two of its four axes. The iPad, however, can be used any way around. A small point perhaps, but worth noting.
Gingerbread at launch
Like the Samsung 7in, the Flyer is an Android Gingerbread device. However, unlike Samsung, HTC intends to upgrade the device to Honeycomb at a later date. How this will work on a smaller screen has yet to be seen. However, Honeycomb offers so many advantages for tablets that we hope the update comes soon.
Of course, HTC's Sense interface will slow this, and it's likely that getting the pen to work on Honeycomb will be complex. But at least customers buying this expensive device now can be assured of an update in the future.
Pen input is HTC's USP
When it comes to tablets, you really need a unique selling point. HTC's is the pen input designed to help you turn your tablet into an invaluable business tool.
And to some extent, it's a good idea. For a start, the note app is able to sync with Evernote, which means your thoughts and jobs are synced to the cloud automatically and can be used from any other Evernote-capable device. As there are apps for virtually every smartphone, it's actually a great way to keep track of notes as you switch between devices.
The HTC can also record audio from meetings while you take notes. This feature, however, is sadly rendered useless by the loud tapping of the pen against the capacitive touch screen. The notes themselves are reproduced well, though, and we can see this being some use in meetings.
Writing on the Flyer is a novel experience. It's not something that's comfortable for a long time, but it's fine for making the occasional memory-jogging note in a meeting.
The pen takes a single AAA battery, which is installed by twisting the top end. There are a couple of programmable buttons on the pen which can be used for various functions, including erasing notes.
What we found most frustrating about the pen is the system's inflexibility. For example, when you've touched the screen to start a new scribble or note, some options appear at the bottom of the screen. We naturally wanted to select these with the pen, but that isn't allowed.
Then sometimes we wanted to press the pen options button with our finger. But that isn't allowed either. The net result is that you must switch between fingers and pen a fair bit and it simply isn't logical. You do, of course, get used to it, but it still feels a little frustrating.