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Summary:

HTC’s Flyer recently landed in stores for $499. In this early look, you can see the hardware and the customized HTC Sense software, which is both good and bad. And in a video first, I actually test if the device fits in my back pants pocket.

htc-flyer-featured

The HTC Flyer is already in stores, but some retail locations don’t have working demonstration units on display. Lucky for me (and you), a review unit arrived late yesterday, so here’s a first look and some brief, early impressions of the 7-inch Android tablet. A tour of the hardware shows a well-designed and -constructed device. I particularly like the capacitive buttons in the bezel that automatically compensate for both landscape and portrait use.

Although I’ve only had the device for a short while, I’m concerned that in some ways, HTC Sense may have limited the Flyer. In the video, for example, you can see fewer shortcuts fit on each screen. On the other hand, the 3-D interface used in the new Sense 2.1 for Tablets is slick. So too is the customized lock screen that allows fast access to certain functions. And in a video first, I actually test if the device fits in my back pants pocket, which is how I usually carry my Samsung Galaxy Tab. Aside from providing a look at my behind, this first look video also shows a quirk with the browser; it doesn’t seem to fit the page to the screen, although it’s possible I’ve overlooked a setting.

HTC included a digital pen with the review device, which normally costs $79 here in the U.S. I haven’t used it yet, but will for my full review. The pen and WiFi-only tablet costs $580, which may put some folks off, depending on the experience and performance. Although I haven’t used the pen, I’m already wondering if HTC should have skipped the cost of the N-Trig digitizer in the Flyer — that’s what allows the pen to work — or offered the Flyer in two models: one with the N-Trig digitizer and pen, and one with just a standard touchscreen. Any thoughts as I put this tablet through the paces?

  1. Honestly, I’m not interested in a tablet without a good pressure sensitive digitizer so this is the first Android tablet I’d consider.

    OTOH, at $580 it’s still a bit too expensive.

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  2. Regarding the digitizer on the Flyer, I don’t think HTC had any option to make a version without the digitizer included, at least not initially. If the average tablet consumer saw two models for the flyer, the initial reaction would have been that the pen is not necessary, and they would buy the non-digitizer version to save some money. With only the digitizer model available, people might give it a try. If it really is useful and worth the price increase, then word of mouth will make more users consider the Flyer with digitizer as a real value add.

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  3. The digitizer is what makes the Flyer, HTC and Best Buy should have included the pen. And HTC should release an API to allow developers to make use of it. I’m curious to know how the n-trig pen writes compared to a capacitive pen. If they are not that much different then I wouldn’t feel bad about getting any tablet, like the Samsung 10.1.

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  4. Looking forward to the full review Kevin. Here are my random thoughts after a few days with it.

    Regarding the large homescreen widgets, just as it works wonders for honeycomb, installing Launcher Pro creates a totally different experience. I know you need to review it stock, but my screens are absolutely packed with info now and it’s a joy. Does not affect the ability to ink or the other nice UI enhancements HTC added.

    I find the grip a bit slippy without a case, but the size is great.

    I do find it odd that the Infuse can play 1080p videos just fine, but the xoom and the flyer don’t have the codecs. They should have the horsepower. Seems a bit arbitrary.

    Battery seems effectively the same as the Xoom, possibly slightly less. Makes it through a heavy day or a light few days easily.

    Digitizer works for rough sketches and notes. Not fine work. The included PDF reader let’s you ink and highlight excellently, and saves the PDF properly with the option to flatten the ink to the page for signatures, or to keep it as an editable layer. Great annotation support. Their evernote client also works as advertized too, and leverages evernote’s OCR to index handwritten notes. Obviously not handwriting conversion, but searchable.

    People complain about it being a big phone with scaled up UIs. I’m not bothered by this. Honeycomb’s panel layouts are nice for 10″ tablets, but I could take it or leave it on 7″ screens. I’ve eschewed the HTC paneled email client on the flyer for the basic gmail client and it’s working just fine.

    I can type a lot faster on a base 7″ tablet versus honeycomb, which I customized with the Thumb Keyboard app to make typing bearable at all.

    I just need a decent skin so it’s not so slippery!

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  5. I just returned mine to Best Buy tonight, I had bought it on Saturday. Overall I liked the tablet and interface, and felt the digitizer was good enough, obviously not as good as a tablet PC, but good enough for a quick note. I had bought mine to supplement my IT work, figured syncing it with my Evernote account and having IP’s I jot down available. The tablet went back because I kept getting errors in the Notes application that it forced quit. Not sure if it was due to the size of some of my Evernote files or just a bug, working with HTC support ended up with a factory reset, and when reloading my notes, the same error kept occurring. That broke the deal for me, the digital notes were the only reason I bought it.

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  6. fyi, I believe this device can also be charged and synced with a standard micro usb plug. Again, not sure but I have read that HTC uses this special connector because it allows for more faster charge.

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  7. as good as Sense is on phones, I find it to be absolutely awful on this. just the fact this tablet wont be updated until ICS would make me not want to use it stock.

    try the Zeam launcher instead

    most minimal, fastest, yet robust launcher out there. makes LauncherPro & other big names seem like a slow bloated mess.

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  8. There is a softness in the recordings, and the 720p video feature that HTC advertises is not apparent.

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  9. I too bought the Flyer just yesterday. I mainly wanted it for work where I take a lot of notes at meetings, and I don’t have a table surface to work from most of the time, so I have to balance a laptop on my knees for 2-6 hours at a time. The hook for me was the stylus (I won’t call it a magic pen) and Evernote integration, and I too seem to be having a lot of ‘force close’ messages when using the note taking app. I set the error notification to auto, so it generates a report automatically each time to HTC. It seems to be happening during the initial syncing process. I haven’t seen how well it operates when it wasn’t syncing (I have a lot of data), so I’m not sure. I think I’m willing to stick with it. The force close messages don’t kick me out of the program – I just hit ‘ok’ and keep writing. I’m wondering if I should just keep going and wait for a patch.

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  10. I’ve been using this tablet for a couple of days, and have to say I like it. It feels really good in hand, and is easier to grab and use in and around the house than my iPad, Xoom or Adam. It is the first Android tablet that my boys seem to have taken to. I think it fits in their hands much better than the others. Haven’t made much use of the pen yet, but will try that out during the work week.

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