One area where the HTC Flyer falls down somewhat is video and audio playback. While the screen shows of video magnificently and the device has enough performance to play HD video, format support isn’t great (Samsung really leads the charge on this front). While you can download the likes of RockPlayer to bolster format support, most of these apps don’t support hardware acceleration so can’t keep up with playing HD mkvs for instance. The result is that you’ll have to convert most of your videos to get them to play on the device.
Audio support isn’t much better, though again other software can be installed to help here. The main problem with audio is that the headphone jack is ever so slightly noisy. It really is a bit picky to point this out but using some high-end Unique Melody Mage IEMs we were able to notice a constant slight background hiss not present on an iPhone 4 for instance.
The speakers aren’t a great help either. The presence of stereo is to be applauded but the quality of audio is about as mediocre as we’ve come to expect from HTC. The addition of stereo is noticeable and beneficial but there’s just no oomph like on the astounding BlackBerry PlayBook. For a company that otherwise makes such great hardware it really is baffling how poor it tends to make its speakers, headphone jacks, and cameras.
Yes, despite the rear camera’s large size, it isn’t much cop. It’ll get you by for all tablet duties but we really would’ve hoped for a bit better. In good light both front and rear cameras are okay but they’re just particularly bad in low light. At least there’s a fun PhotoBooth app for mashing up your image into all sorts of more intentionally bad forms.
HD 720p video is also available from the rear camera and again it’s decent in good lighting but poor in the gloom, and with no LED the Flyer can’t help itself in the dark.
Coming back to those HTC favourite apps strung along the bottom of the homepage. Reader is an ebook reader app that provides quite a nice reading experience, with little animated page turns just like the iPad, and has all the usual settings for font size, bookmarks, and searching through the text of the book. You can also buy books through Kobo books or open copyrighted works with an Adobe ID. This is one app that takes advantage of the stylus, allowing you to annotate the book either with scribbles or highlights.
The other app is Watch, which provides video downloads and streams. You can rent films for around £3.49 or buy them for £9.99. It’s an easy enough service to use but the selection of films seems very limited thus far.
Battery life proved very variable with us getting a week of light use on only Wi-Fi yet hammering it with everything on killed the Flyer within a working day. Overall, though, we suspect many people will be able to get away with charging this tablet twice a week for average commuter-type usage.
Coming full circle back to this issue of price, if we compare this 32GB, 3G enabled Flyer to a similarly specced iPad 2, it comes out looking reasonable with both pushing £600. However, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, while only providing 16GB of onboard storage (though it can be bolstered by the addition of both SD and microSD cards) and lacks 3G, comes with a keyboard attachment that ups the battery life to double that of nearly all other tablets and can be bought for just £430. Then there’s the fact that this is a smaller tablet and it does ‘only’ have a single core CPU (fast though it be). So, all told, we would like to see the Flyer available for around the £400. Currently Best Buy is listing the Flyer for £480, though with no other shops yet following suit, we don’t know whether this a sign of things to come or just an anomaly.
The HTC Flyer has lived up to our expectations in terms of the experience it delivers. It’s beautifully made, easy to use, fast, and that stylus is great. However, not only do we have reservations about the current and long term app support but currently it’s severely overpriced. Until it drops well below the £500 mark, it’s not the tablet we’d go for.
Score in detail
Battery Life 7