This is HTC’s first tablet and unlike the Android tablets that launched last year, it doesn’t suck. At the same time, unlike those that came out this year – it doesn’t run Honeycomb. You see, NVIDIA was Google’s target partner for Honeycomb and Qualcomm was pretty behind on porting the OS to its
hardware. As aresult the only Honeycomb tablets on the market today use Tegra 2.
Qualcomm is a minority shareholder in HTC and as a result the Taiwanese manufacturer tends to only ship Qualcomm SoCs in its products. With the NVIDIA option pretty much off the table, so was Honeycomb.
Yet HTC clearly saw it as very important to deliver a tablet this year. I’m getting close to overusing this quote but I will never forget what : the best way to lose a fight is to not show up. The tablet battle has only just begun and only through tireless iteration will we see clear leaders emerge, so not showing up to this early fight isn’t an option for most of the players.
If you don’t have the hardware platform to ship Honeycomb on time and all non-Honeycomb tablets seem to fail horribly, what is a company left to do? Try something different of course.
Compared to early Android tablets the Flyer doesn’t look very different. It’s a 7-inch almost 16:10 tablet with a 1024 x 600 resolution. In the grand scheme of things however, this is a pretty different form factor – particularly for a tablet released in 2011. Apple set the tone for at least the first generation of tablets with the iPad: nearly 10-inches, and at least a 1024 x 768 display. Steve brought forth the iPad and it was good. The only problem with this approach is that tablets, like notebooks, aren’t one-size fits all. People are different sizes (tiny vs. large hands) and usage models vary (couch surfing vs. portable computing device). While the iPad has clearly done very well, it’s clearly not the only answer.
Viewed through iPad colored glasses, the Flyer starts out very different. In fact, it takes a page from RIM’s playbook (giggle) and aims for portability rather than the comfort of a large screen size. I’ll say the same things I said about the PlayBook about the Flyer: it’s far more comfortable to carry around with me, but at home it’s not as enjoyable to surf the web on. I think that’s ultimately what separates the 7-inch tablets from the 10-inch models, portability vs. ease of use at home. It remains to be seen if Samsung’s forthcoming 8.9-inch Galaxy Tab can really provide the best of both worlds.
The Flyer isn’t thin. At its thickest point it’s 13.2mm, that’s around half an inch. Even the original iPad is thinner. The back however curves out to that point and because there’s not a lot of surface area it actually doesn’t feel overly thick. I’d go as far as to say that the Flyer feels like it has a good grip to it.
HTC Flyer (left) vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (right)
The device is light by tablet standards at only 420 grams. Even the Galaxy Tab looks porky on paper by comparison. Again, in a smaller package the Flyer ends up feeling more dense despite its light weight. You can definitely hold the Flyer in a single hand without much fatigue, but I personally got the feeling that HTC’s first tablet was about 10 – 20% over weight for its size. It’s not bad, but not perfect. Don’t feel too bad though HTC, in my opinion no one else has really gotten the whole form factor thing perfect either.
The HTC logo on the front panel implies that the Flyer is designed to be held in portrait mode, although obviously rotation is supported. In landscape mode there’s a 1.3MP front facing camera in the center of the top bezel. Around back there’s a 5MP rear facing camera as well.
You can’t rotate the Flyer in all directions however. Either the HTC logo or the front facing camera have to be at the top of the tablet. Holding the Flyer the other two ways won’t rotate the screen. HTC does this because it actually has two sets of backlit capacitive buttons in the bezel around the screen – one set are illuminated in landscape mode, the other set in portrait mode:
It’s a nice addition but one that forces HTC to limit the rotational freedom of the device. It’s not a huge tradeoff, but one that doesn’t exist on Honeycomb tablets since they integrate the standard Android buttons into the OS itself.
of recently used apps on the Flyer by holding down the home button. Some might argue that it’s a quicker way of switching tasks than Honeycomb offers.
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