I’ve been a long time fan of tablet and touch computing. I’ve owned various tablet devices and smartphones long before Apple made its big splash on the stage with their iPad. For me, the iPad is almost the best tablet out there, and I say “Almost” because of a few things that annoy me. In particular, the lack of a decent pen, something Apple will probably never give me (prove me wrong!). What makes matters worse is that most, if not all, tablet manufacturers are following in Apple’s wake with iPad wannabe’s trying to claim the crown of iPad killer, but all seemingly missing the point about why they are really in the tablet market space. It’s because of this vapid pursuit of the iPad that’s caused me to all but ignore Android Tablets; until I stumbled upon the HTC Flyer.
What’s so special about the HTC Flyer that piqued my interest? Simply put, a pen. They are the only major manufacturer that’s come along with an Android tablet that has this feature.
Isn’t the Pen Dead?
Apple would have you believe that the pen is dead, but honestly, I can’t work without one. I pack a Boxwave stylus with my iPad to try and simulate working with a pen, but I have to say that I HATE taking notes on my iPad! The experience is equivalent to taking notes on a whiteboard with crappy markers, which pales in comparison to taking notes on a Windows tablet with a Wacom digitizer. The major issue is that a stylus on an iPad only serves to simulate a finger, which is about 20 pixels wide, whereas a digitizer pen has pixel perfect accuracy, in conjunction with the ability to sense pressure. The HTC Pen isn’t a Wacom, but their own brand. It has three buttons on it, counting the tip. They say it’s pressure sensitive, but I won’t know how this works until I get my hands on one. The only drawback I see with their pen is it needs a battery. From footage I’ve seen, it appears to be a AAA battery. The last point about the pen is it doesn’t dock into the tablet, but they include a case that has a place to put the pen. I believe this to be a poor design choice in an otherwise impressive tablet. The pen is a simple cylinder with no clip, so the chances of it getting lost are pretty high.
Performance and Specs
Having a pen is great, but it isn’t useful unless there is a mechanism that uses it, and this is where HTC has gone above and beyond. HTC has tightly integrated the pen into their interface, called HTC Scribe. Looking at the demo’s you can bring up a screen palette that looks heavily borrowed from art programs like Autodesk Sketchbook Pro or ArtRage. The palette lets you choose pen types and color options to draw on the screen, make annotations or take notes – Very Impressive indeed!
On the hardware performance side, the HTC Flyer sports a single core processor, but it clocks in at 1.5ghz, which is faster than the similar Samsung Galaxy Tab and Motorola Xoom; both sport a 1ghz processor. The only tablet that may beat the HTC may be the Dell Streak 7, which has an Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, which is a dual core processor. Time will tell how this tablet holds up to the onslaught of additional upcoming tablets.
Memory wise the HTC site says it will come with 32gb of storage, and 1GB internal memory (RAM), plus, as with all Android tablets, it will have a microSD slot for added storage options.
The HTC Flyer is packed with a front and rear facing camera, both of which puts Apples iPad2 crumby camera’s to shame. The rear one is 5 megapixels, and the front one is 1.3 megapixels. A more detailed specifications list can be found on HTC’s Flyer page.
The only thing HTC doesn’t say much about is the version of Android it ships with. Searching around the internet seems to indicate that Android 2.4 (Gingerbread) will ship with Flyer, and HTC promises to have an upgrade to the new 3.0, Honeycomb sometime soon.
HTC’s done an impressive job with this tablet, they’ve took a bold risk by including an actual pressure sensitive pen with a 7″ tablet form factor. The pen definitely sets the Flyer apart from it’s competition. HTC has also done a fine job of incorporating the pen into their interface which makes it an extremely useful peripheral. Below is a bulleted list of the Pros and Cons as I see them:
Android tablets have been around for a while now, but for the first time, there is one that has piqued my interest. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave comments or tell me know what you think?
UPDATE: I just discovered from a post at Engadget that the Pen is an optional $80 accessory if purchased from Best Buy! I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I am to hear this, because basically, Best Buy is the only US Retailer to carry the HTC Flyer! It’s unclear if it’s HTC’s fault or Best Buy’s, but this situation truly sucks!