We’ve said for a long while that with Apple having pioneered the tablet market in its modern form, and been pretty successful with it, other companies were either going to have to beat the iPad on price and key specs or try something different to succeed. We’ve seen plenty of examples of both already but none have quite got the balance right, except for Asus with its brilliant Eee Pad Transformer. As such, we’ve long been excited about the HTC Flyer, ever since we first saw it at the start of the year. Now it’s finally hitting shelves, has it been worth the wait?
Well, with a list price of around £600, there’s little point beating about the bush; as it stands the HTC Flyer is too expensive and as such there are very few people we’d recommend buy one. However, if you do have a bit of spare cash or if the price drops in the near future, this tablet has a huge amount to offer.
Starting as ever with the look of the thing, it’s classic HTC with a combination aluminium and matt plastic on the back and a simple slab of glass filling most of the front. In fact, with its oversized hole for the rear camera, it could easily be mistaken for a phone if perspective got the better of you. All told, while inevitably derivative to a certain degree – there’s only so much you can do to style a device of this form factor – HTC has done enough to set the HTC Flyer apart yet have it still look very elegant.
It has thought about usability too. On the back, a small raised section helps prevent the tablet rocking about too much when laid on a flat surface, while small raised lips above and below the screen keep the glass held clear of whatever surface the tablet’s resting on. Most of all, though, the curved back and sides make it a very comfortable tablet to hold.
This also brings us to the Flyer’s most obvious design difference as compared to the likes of the iPad – its size. Sporting a 7in screen, the device is some 45mm shorter than the iPad 2, 63mm narrower and 180g lighter. At 13.2mm thick, it is a little thicker but this is essentially unnoticeable in normal use, and arguably desirable for easier handling.
The end result is a tablet that is very comfortable to hold, and feels like a much more natural size for one-hand holding and navigation in portrait orientation. Tip it into landscape mode and it remains easy to hold, helped by the raised lips at its edges as well. It really cannot be overstated how much nicer to handle it is than larger tablets.
Features wise, there's little missing from the Flyer. Joining the camera on the back are stereo speakers, while up top is a headphone jack, along with the power/screen lock button, and the bottom edge is home to a microUSB port. The only obvious omission is an HDMI socket for piping video out to a TV. It's definitely a regrettable omission but is probably a minor consideration for most users.
Contrary to what its shape (and the rather noticeable gaps around its edges) suggests, the bottom white plastic section on the back isn't removable but instead the top one slides off. Under here you'll find a microSD slot, for adding more storage to the already healthy 32GB onboard, as well as a SIM slot. A cheaper, non-3G version is also set to be available.
As well as the rear camera, there's a 1.3 megapixel front facing one nestled in the bezel. Opposite this are another of this tablet's rather adorable features. In normal portrait position, with the screen unlocked, four navigation buttons shine from the blackness of the bezel but tilt the tablet into landscape and the buttons disappear to reappear opposite the camera. It's not a necessary trick but it is a very welcome one.