Review HTC Flyer is almost perfect

first_imgIt is probably important to start this off by admitting something; I have yet to be impressed by a 10-inch tablet. The whole idea to this ultraportable slab of mobile-amazing is that it’s supposed to be… well, ultraportable. I should be able to comfortably walk and be more productive then I am on my phone, and also satiate my seemingly unquenchable thirst for entertainment. As a Macbook Air owner–one who has spent more then his fair share of afternoons walking about in my house with the laptop crooked in one arm and handling children with the other–I feel like a tablet should be more portable than that. When I hold an iPad 2, Galaxy Tab 10.1, or Motoroal Xoom, I hold it in almost the same way I hold my Macbook Air. When I want to type on either of these devices, and I mean multiple paragraphs, I usually set them in a dock and grab a keyboard. I keep finding myself asking “What exactly is better about the tablet?” every time I catch myself going through more steps to accomplish something I could have done on my laptop.When Samsung released the Galaxy Tab I thought I was home free. The 7-inch size made walking around with it much easier, and offered much of the portability I was really looking for. Unfortunately, Samsung didn’t spend a whole lot of time optimizing the UI or making the tablet particularly thin, which made the device somewhat less appealing. I’ve waited, quite patiently in fact, for another manufacturer to step up to the plate. Apple had already laughed a the idea of an iPad Nano, HP’s Touchpad isn’t the right size, and the Playbook lacked so much in functionality it was unreal. Finally, HTC stepped up to the plate and decided to put all of these misconceptions away with their 7-inch Flyer.AdChoices广告“But it’s not running Honeycomb. How can it be better?”I have heard this a lot. To be honest, it’s real simple: HTC’s SenseUI optimized the user interface to take advantage of the new screen without completely alienating users with a whole new layout. Hand someone a Nexus S for an hour, and then hand them a Xoom. They won’t have a clue what’s going on. Now, hand someone a Sensation, and then hand them a Flyer, and the transition is so subtle that the switch is effortless. Android 3.0 was supposed to bring some real tablet-y UI goodness like fragments and highly interactive widgets. Guess what Sense for Tablets has?The left and the right sides of this UI are interactive both simultaneously and interdependently. In no way is Android 2.2, which is what the Flyer is built on, affected by not being built on Honeycomb. The reality is that a well built and well optimized app will work and look good on any device.Notifications and Settings were the next on the list. Honeycomb made notifications, quick settings access, and task switching “so much better”. What they did was put them on opposite sides of the screen from each other, so you have to reach all over the place to get to these things. Individually, the Honeycomb optimization is pretty cool, but their combined implementation seems to be change for the sake of change. The Flyer maintains the Android 2.2 “phone style” notification bar, which was good enough to be implemented on the iPad, and added to it a number of needed features.Right at my fingertips are quick settings, recent applications, and my notifications. When in Portrait mode, the notification bar switches to a tabbed interface, hiding the quick settings behind the tab. This solution is simple, familiar, and quite frankly better than the Honeycomb implementation.The final sticking point I hear when defending the Flyer is widgets. The Honeycomb interactive widgets are extremely cool. I’ve spent minuted flicking through YouTube videos on Honeycomb devices just because I liked how it works. However, many of the most successful interactive widgets I have enjoyed were, in fact, Sense widgets. On the Flyer, many of them are full screen panels of useful information, like the Calendar. These give me the option to glance quickly at a page and return to what I was doing, which was the original purpose of a widget to begin with.As you can see, using the Flyer in Landscape view allows you to see a 3D like view of the things to the screens on the left and right of you. Quickly flicking to the left or right shows off a carousel of your pages, allowing you to jump to one of your other pages very quickly. Plus, like a carousel you aren’t stopped when you reach the end of the pages, you are looped back to the first page. This navigation makes it very easy to grab quick information without a series of swipes in both directions, something not offered in Honeycomb.The PenOriginally, my impression of the HTC Scribe Pen was one of necessity. I even went so far as to comment that without it, you shouldn’t even bother getting one. After spending some time with it, however, I see that the way the pen interaction is (or isn’t, in most cases) integrated into the UX being only for pretty specific users. For me it’s great, since I take screenshots and like to doodle little horns and black eyes on pictures of my wife. The Flyer doesn’t include any kind of MS Paint like app to just simply doodle on, but instead seems to resign the capabilities of the Pen to basic note taking and communication.Since the pen’s usage is so limited, it would have made a lot more sense for it to have a home on, in, or near the tablet in some way. Since that’s not the case, I don’t see many people bringing the pen with them anywhere and just using it at home. Since replacing one is (another) $80, you aren’t likely to just keep it in your pocket or behind your ear for no good reason. So, is the pen cool? Yes, I love it. Is it completely necessary? Not at all. HTC would need to give you a convenient way to carry it and some more functionality in order for it to be useful to the majority of users.PerformanceDespite not being a dual core device, the Flyer handles itself very well when compared to dual core Honeycomb devices. With half the boot time of the LG G-Slate and a third of the Xoom’s boot, the tablet holds its own. Loading any app happens just as fast on the Flyer, and you can’t ask for a smoother navigation on a tablet.  The Dual Core tablets are simply not generating anything more than what a well made, well optimized single core tablet is able to bring to the table right now.The battery life is great on this device as well. Being a 7-inch device it’s going to consume a lot less power than the larger tablets, but you’ve also got less space to fill with battery. I was able to get 14 hours of battery life in a day where I beat Plants vs Zombies from beginning to end and downloaded and watched a movie from HTC  Watch, the movie rental and purchase market from HTC. I would tell you what its standby battery life is, but since I’m unable to keep my hands off of it, I can’t tell you. The specs sheet offers a ridiculous 1400 hour standby, which would be truly insane if it were true.Final ThoughtsThe HTC Flyer is the closest thing to a complete thought I have seen since tablets became a thing. The device combines power and performance with an all day battery and a thoroughly enjoyable user experience. There’s no messing with a whole new user experience, and all of the apps that I like so much on my Android phone not only work on the Flyer but actually look good. The Flyer may have a special power cable for changing at the correct voltage, but the tablet still charges via USB, something I have yet to see from the other major tablets.I see the Flyer as being a clear cut example of what happens when you sit back and watch the other guys make their mistakes before releasing a quality product. There will still be those who are simply not interested in a 7-inch tablet, no matter how good it is. the 10″ form factor is significant to them for enjoying movies and games.Knowing that HTC has plans for a 10-inch tablet in the not-so-distant future, my suggestion to the other players in the tablet game is to get it together before HTC comes in and dominates yet another market.flyer 3flyer 3flyer 2flyer 1Flyer 4IMG_2334IMG_2335IMG_2336IMG_2341IMG_2343IMG_2349IMG_2350last_img

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