The HTC Flyer goes on sale at Best Buy this weekend for $499.99, and the folks at HTC were kind enough to loan me a demo unit to test out in advance of the US launch. The Flyer is one of the most intriguing Android tablets to hit the market in recent months for a couple of reasons:
- While most big name tablets have 10 inch screens, the Flyer has a smaller 7 inch display.
- Most of tablets from major PC makers only accept fingertip input, but if you pick up an optional digital pen, you can write or draw on the screen — and HTC has developed custom software to make Android more pen-friendly.
- The tablet runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread instead of the tablet-optimized Android 3.x, but HTC has updated its Sense software to play well with the larger-than-phone-sized display.
- The Flyer is also the first tablet with a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.
I’ve only had the tablet on my desk for a few minutes, but there’s already a lot I like about it. It’s smaller and lighter than the Motorola XOOM, weighing just about 0.9 pounds, which makes it feel a lot more portable. It also just feels better in my hand, which makes me think that the 7 inch form factor might be better for reading eBooks, surfing the web, or doing just about anything short of playing games or watching movies where a bigger screen is generally better.
I almost feel like it’s unfair to even put the Flyer and other 7 inch tablets in the same category as 10 inch devices such as the Motorola XOOM. Side by side they almost look as different as a smartphone and a laptop.
As you can see in the unboxing video below, there are still some things I need to get the hang of before I can really judge the Flyer. I’m not accustomed to the HTC Sense software yet, for instance. And while HTC sent me a digital pen to try out, I’m going to have to spend a few moments figuring out which apps can actually use the pen. I can already say that it makes a rather loud clicking noise when you write or draw on the screen, and if you’re not careful, you can bring up the on-screen keyboard if you place your palm on the display before touching the pen to the glass.
Overall the HTC Flyer looks promising — but the true test will be whether I find myself actually choosing to use the tablet over the next few weeks or if it stays on my desk while I carry my Google Nexus One smartphone around in my pocket. So far I have yet to find a tablet that offers enough features I can’t get from my phone to make me want to carry it around in addition to my phone.