HTC Flyer: Real Honest Review – Part 1

When I heard about the HTC Flyer I was very excited about the prospects of this little Android tablet. Why? Mainly because it had a stylus – yeah, yeah, seems kind of stupid that this one feature would win me over so much, but I really liked the idea of a small tablet with a pressure sensitive pen. So, when I heard that Best Buy was going to sell the Tablet a day early, I immediately rushed out to Best Buy to grab one. It wasn’t easy… The difficulty had nothing to do with lines or demand. Nope, it was just the staff at Best Buy didn’t even know what the heck I was talking about, and the staff didn’t even know if they had any. Worst yet, they didn’t even seem to have the pens, and told me they didn’t know when they would get them. On Sunday, the pens mysteriously went on sale… Horrible shopping experience aside, you probably want to know what I think of it? I’ve got lots to say, so I’ve decided to break this review into a few parts.

Unboxing

First off, the unboxing. The HTC Flyer box is pretty simple; clad in ipadish white, the front shows a nice image of the Flyer, and in the lower left corner the ominous Best Buy logo. Opening it up, you get a view of the Flyer tablet. Below the tablet is the power cable, USB sync cable and some sparse manuals. Interestingly enough, there are some included stickers, that basically say “HTC Void” on them. I figured out they are the same stickers that kept the box sealed… I have no idea why HTC put them in the box, unless it was for me to seal it back up to sucker someone into thinking the box was unopened. There’s also not much in the way of an introduction to what the heck Android is like.. So for an Android virgin like myself, there wasn’t much of an intro.

Characteristics of the HTC Flyer

Looking around at Best Buy, you’ll see the other popular Android tablet models, the Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy, the Nook, as well as other larger 10″ tablets. The HTC Flyer’s design really sets itself apart from the very boring designs offered by Motorola and Samsung. The HTC Flyer has a aluminum silver and plastic white backing, but the case design wraps around to the front, creating a raised bevel, that cradles the display, giving the Flyer a slight attractive curve to the front of the device. The design also means if you place the device screen down on a desk, the screen doesn’t actually touch the surface, offering a little more protection for the screen. Starting from the top right of the device, held in portrait position, you have the headphone jack, and a small power button. On the right side of the device you have two microphones and buttons for volume. The bottom of the device has their proprietary connector (it’s not a microUSB). The back of the device hasa slight bulge at the top for the rear camera, which is a bit odd, since the camera sensor isn’t really that big, in fact it’s the same physical size as any other tablet or phone camera, so it seems the large area on the HTC Flyer for the camera is purely aesthetic. The back of the device also has two small openings for speakers. The device itself feels well built and solid, it actually is rather heavy for it’s size. but it’s still lighter than my iPad2.

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Powering it Up and Initial Use

Upon powering it up, I had a brief customization screen to set it up. Nothing special, but once in, I was in Android 2.3. I’ve been an iPad, iPod, iPhone man for a while now, and this was my first Android experience, so I’m not going to be the best at giving you the ups and downs of what Android 2.3 even means, but I’ll give you the straight talk from an IOS user. HTC’s Sense UI, looks pretty nice. But it’s a bit intimidating to figure out, since there’s so much more going on. This is in stark contrast to the iPad, where you boot it up, and you got your screen full of icons. The Sense UI and Android appear to offer more of a deeper experience than the iPad or iPhone. Indeed, Apple’s devices are starting to look pretty boring after many years of being the same. There isn’t much of a tour or an introduction, so you’re left to on your own at the start screen. I can understand why Android is considered a tech geeks operating system. I couldn’t possibly give this device to my 80 year old mother and have any hope of showing her how to use this device… Although the included Kid Mode might help…

I did discover that Android and the Sense UI does provide a much more satisfying user experience when it comes to customization, but that was only after a good amount of time spelunking into the guts of the system settings.┬áBeing a tech geek myself I do appreciate the refinements and customization options available. I will say though that some of the options are really unclear. I still can’t figure out how to tell the HTC weather widget to use my current location as the default location.

Plugging it into my Mac and PC

I wasn’t sure how an Android tablet behaves when you plug it into a computer. My iPad brings up iTunes automatically on both my PC and Mac, so what happens when I plug the sync cable in? Actually nothing. It actually sat there and didn’t do anything, why? Because it seems I didn’t tell it to be used as a disk drive. It appears that there are a few options available for how the device behaves when plugged in, the default is “Charge Only”. Other options include a pass-through for internet, which I’m guessing is a kind of tethering mode, another is “HTC Sync”, which will automatically launch the HTC Sync software (if you have it), so you can syncing contacts and your calendar; unfortunately, this is a separate installed app, that doesn’t come in the box. The last option was “Disk Drive”, which upon using, mounted the HTC Flyer as a storage device in both Windows and Mac.

I must admit, it was a bit liberating to be able to poke around the tablet without an application like iTunes as my entourage. With this new freedom, I now had to figure out what to do with the device, so I immediately set put to load the HTC Flyer up with stuff to see what happens.

I’ll conclude part 1 with this for now, for the next part, I’ll go into my impressions for using the device to read PDF’s, play music, music and more.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to leave comments or ask any questions.