Screen quality is of paramount importance on a tablet so it’s good to see HTC hasn’t skimped here. The 7in display packs in 1,024 x 600 pixels, which compares to 1,024 x 768 in the iPad 2. The result is a much sharper looking picture, which benefits all uses for the tablet. Colour reproduction is also excellent, with strong yet natural tones, while it produces truly black looking blacks yet maintains a high overall brightness when required. Backlighting is also even with no sign of light bleed.
The one thing the display fails at is being big. While we’re fans of the smaller factor, due to its greater portability and ease of handling, there’s no denying larger screens are easier to read from a distance and are better for watching video. The difference is akin to thinking about how you hold a book as compared to a laptop, and is precisely why we maintain the larger tablet sector would be better served by laptops with touchscreens or devices like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer.
The touch sensing of the screen is also excellent, with it responding rapidly to multi-touch gestures and other pokes and prods. You can also scribble on it with the included stylus. Yes, in a move that some people are ridiculing as a throwback to the old irksome and slow resistive touchscreens that all required styli to be usable, HTC has bundled (at least on some models) a precision poking device. However, rather than being a necessity for simply navigating the tablet, the Flyer uses the stylus for note taking and doodling.
Simply tap the screen with the stylus and a screenshot will be taken, ready for you to start scribbling on. This allows you to really quickly and easily annotate a snapshot of a webpage or circle just exactly where Wally is. Perhaps more useful than this, though, are the note taking facilities.
Alongside the standard, Home, Menu and Back, Android navigation buttons in the bezel there’s a little green symbol depicting a stylus in a circle. Tap this and a small menu pops up in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. From here you can tap the picture icon to take a screenshot or tap the notes icon to start taking a note. Powered by the widely used, cross-platform EverNote app, this lets you import pictures and text onto a notepad style interface, and of course scribble away on it. Whether you’re jotting down a shopping list, planning how to landscape your garden or just fleshing out your latest idea for that web cartoon you’ve always wanted to do, it’s a great feature to have on hand.
Unfortunately the stylus isn’t quite accurate enough to make for a truly compelling artist’s device. While the 99 pressure levels it can sense may sound like a lot, in reality it pales in comparison to the 1,000 on professional digitisers and even trails significantly the 512 levels found on the Wacom enabled Asus Eee Slate EP121. What’s more the minimum detection point is quite high, so you have to press just a little bit more than you might expect to get a response. The tracking accuracy isn’t perfect – something that isn’t helped by the slightly oversized nib – either with it not quite offering the absolute finest level of detail, nor is the angle of the pen recorded. So, all told, you won’t be able to happily sketch in any particularly artistic manner but you can make a few jottings to prompt your memory.
The pen itself is made of aluminium so has a sturdy feel to it, though might prove a tad short for some. It houses two buttons that fall comfortably under your thumb; one for erasing and one for selecting or highlighting text. Sadly the latter only works in a few apps including the e-book reader and notes apps. Were this a universal way of selecting text, say from a webpage, it would be a killer feature. As it is, it’s just quite useful. The stylus uses a single AAAA battery for power.
Something else that’s a bit of a missed trick is how you store the pen. Instead of docking inside the tablet, it goes in the included case, which is frankly rubbish! It’s made of a nice enough leatherette material but the pouch style is not very convenient for quickly accessing the tablet and it only stores the pen on an outside loop. It has proved quite protective and secure in our use so far (several train and bus journeys in) but there’s no doubting a better solution could be found.