Like every other 7-inch Android tablet, HTC's Flyer is essentially a very big phone. It even looks slightly phonier than the rest. But it might be the nicest oversized phone-tablet yet.
Like previous 7-inch Android tablets, it's not running Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Instead, it's running Android Gingerbread with HTC's Sense software slicked over the top for widgets and a nifty 3D homescreen.
Mixed with a few new software features to make it more it tablet-y is OnLive's cloud-based streaming game service (last seen on the iPad and Vizio TVs). The idea behind OnLive is that you can play console games anywhere. The Flyer is promising to be the first tablet to have true OnLive support, so you can play console games on the tablet or "pipe the OnLive service through the HTC Flyer tablet's broadband wireless" to your TV. Hopefully, it's good.
I'm still not sure about using styluses with tablets (unless you're cranking out the artworks faster than you can paint), but HTC's bundling the Flyer with a stylus and has new "Scribe technology" for recognizing hand-writing (and allowing you to draw pictures of horses, or whatever it is you can't do with a pen and paper). And the Timemark feature lets you record audio which is saved alongside the notes for later use. Tapping a word within the notes will automatically play that relevant recording.
The main reason it's probably the nicest Android tablet yet? That aluminum unibody. The screen is a thoroughly standard 7-inch, 1024 x 600 LCD, with a 1.3MP camera strapped onto the front, and a 5MP one on the back. Inside, it's running a 1.5GHz processor with 1GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage (expandable through the microSD card slot). Right now, it's got HSPA+ connectivity (think AT&T or T-Mobile) but that doesn't mean they won't have a version for Sprint or Verizon.
If you've read this far and were already imagining yourself watching videos on this thing the whole way from New York to China, think again—the battery can only handle four hours of video playback, though the standby time is listed as up to a whopping 1470 hours—that's 61 days. Playtime is obviously a lot less. HTC's not talking pricing but it's probably not cheaper than what Samsung or Dell are asking for their tablets—so think $450 and up.
Additional Notes After a Quick Demo
HTC's not actually letting anyone touch the Flyer, but I've had a bit of a demo and managed to snap some photos. You know how real-life gadgets quite often barely resemble the product shots? The Flyer remains true to those glossy-looking images, but in a little fatter than I was expecting, at 13.2mm.
• Speed seems to be great, despite it only running of a 1.5GHz processor (HTC hasn't specified which one it is). It may not be dual-core like LG's G-Slate, but switching between apps and screens actually seemed faster on the Flyer—though that could be down to the fact that the G-Slate wasn't running final software when I was using it yesterday.
• While it comes bundled with a stylus (and white leather case, which the stylus clips to), the tablet doesn't actually have OCR for translating handwritten scrawl to digital text.
• You can annotate web pages with your scrawl, and then screengrab and save it, to email to friends or share on Facebook etc.
• The two buttons on the stylus—which looks like a smart aluminium pen—allow you to erase, and select text.
• On the bottom-right corner of the Flyer bezel, there's a button which can only be activated using the nib of the stylus, when you're on an appropriate page or application which supports the stylus. Using the Scribe notes app, for example, brings up a palette of options for your handwriting—such as pen color, pen size, highlighter and so on.
• Screen resolution is 1024 x 600, which could be improved upon I suppose, but the overall effect was a bright, colorful, clear and sharp image—when browsing, watching a video or using the Scribe feature.
• There are new 3D effects on the homescreen, using the g-sensor to show when it's tilted. The time/date widget? It actually shuffles sideways and distorts when the tablet is titled. Same for the various other widgets. It's just a little tweak on the existing Sense UI, but almost had the people around me oohing and ahhing at how special it looked.
• SRS Surround Sound is included, so it doesn't quite match up to the four speakers on Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10-inch.
UPDATE: So why no dual-core processor? HTC told us that "We've looked to combine the best possible mix of innovative technologies and features to offer a uniquely HTC user experience and we decided to increase the overall performance of HTC Flyer beyond what dual-core can offer today with a new Qualcomm 1.5Ghz processor which provides even faster performance. Today, with the exception of the browser, Android OS is not optimized for dual-core scenarios because it lacks multi-threading."
HTC Flyer Hands-On
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