There have been tablets a plenty here at Mobile World Congress but one of the more exciting ones looks to be the HTC Flyer, which eschews the move towards larger devices with its 7in frame, and includes a digital pen for scribbling on the display.
The first thing that HTC has got right on this tablet is the styling. While all and sundry are opting for various combinations of black and silver (whether metal or not) the Taiwanese manufacturer has gone for white and aluminium, though to keep distractions down it has gone for a black bezel round the screen. Build quality seems excellent and, key to its appeal, its form factor is spot on.
We always said that tablets needed to be more book sized than magazine sized if they ever wanted to be portable, which was why the Samsung Galaxy Tab appealed so much at first. Of course, some tablets have embraced the fact that they won't be used out the house but for some people the appeal of a large device for taking notes, watching video and the like while on the move is still there, and that's precisely what the Flyer represents. Its 7in form factor and 420g weight means you can hold it in one hand (around the sides if you've large hands or just from the corner if your hands are smaller) without your arm feeling like it's going to fall off.
The screen itself also looks as good as we would expect. The LCD panel sports a resolution of 1,024 x 600 pixels so is nice and sharp, and thanks to its IPS technology it has great viewing angles and produces vibrant colours with plenty of contrast.
In keeping with its more portable stylings, the Flyer has a phone-esque arrangement of buttons and other physical features. The headphone jack is up top alongside the power button, volume sits on the right edge, microUSB on the bottom, and on the back is the 5-megapixel camera, which does unfortunately lack a flash. A front facing camera for video calling sits above the screen while below it are three touch sensitive controls for Home, Menu and Back.
Shipping with the tablet will be a stylus, or pen as HTC insisted we call it, and a leather carry case which includes a holder for the pen (the pen doesn't dock inside the tablet). The case looks smart enough, includes protective corners to keep the device as safe as possible in transit and has various creased sections for easy folding over. It's of course the pen that's the really interesting part, though.
It looks just like a typical graphics tablet pen with a white plastic tip and two buttons down its side. Thanks to the special software that's integrated into HTC's build of the Android OS, you can simply draw anywhere on the screen at anytime. You can scribble on your scrabble, doodle on your desktop, and scrawl on your Facebook wall, all without actually harming what's below. More than that, though, there are certain apps that support it allowing you to jot hand written notes or annotate ebooks. Nib size and colour and other settings can be adjusted from a little wheel that pops up in the corner of the screen.
The accuracy/refresh rate didn't seem all that brilliant, with lines appearing a bit jaggedy but as we weren't actually allowed to control the pen we can't say whether this was a major problem or just user error.