The HTC Flyer has a faster processor than most of the Android pack: it’s powered by a 1.5GHz ARM Snapdragon processor, but it’s more oversized smartphone than of-the-moment tablet. It runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread rather than Honeycomb, reflecting the fact it was developed and first unveiled prior to the advent of that version of Android. HTC has always maintained it always intended to offer an upgrade as soon as Honeycomb launched, but the Flyer is still being sold without it. However, HTC has ‘unlocked’ the Flyer and there’s an update available at htcdev.com for those that care to chance installing the upgrade themselves. The Flyer’s main issue, though, is that it’s expensive.
We are very fond of its aluminium finish and vibrant, but rather shiny 1024x600-pixel screen. The large icons of the smartphone OS play well here as accuracy is all but guaranteed. The screen orientation updates in one direction only, which is annoying. In portrait mode, there’s a great preview feature for emails, plus useful icons showing which messages are yet to be replied to. The web browsing experience is hobbled by the need to press a + button to create a new page, but pages appear quickly and are crisply rendered. Pinch-to-zoom page expansion helps you zero in on detail.
Entertainment is largely well-handled. YouTube clips can only be played from the accompanying app, not as embedded web video. There’s a microSD card slot rather than a full size SD card slot. Thankfully, the impressive HTC Watch portal lets you access paid-for content. The movie library is relatively limited, but now Google has launched YouTube movie downloads in the UK, you at least have an additional option.
One putative use for the Flyer is as a graphics tablet. There’s no reason why touchscreen devices should only be viewing and playback terminals, after all. A stylus is supplied (it can be stashed in the Flyer’s snug carry pouch when not required). Compared with some of our finger-based drawing attempts on the Sony Tablet and Acer A100, we felt satisfactorily creative here. You can annotate photos too. An upside to HTC’s focus on resolution and the stylus input is a more precise touchscreen experience than on other tablets.
The 5Mp camera is an above-par snapper with autofocus, flash and responsiveness on its side. This is joined by a 2Mp front-facing camera that acts in a similar fashion to FaceTime, with several zany effects to try out for size. The Camcorder function does not integrate directly with the stills camera. You can easily view your handiwork in the Gallery though.
As a smaller tablet with graphics slate aspirations and entertainment options, it’s actually rather good. HTC really ought to drop the price of the Flyer if the promised Honeycomb upgrade is not going to materialise.