I guess we all knew it was coming but it’s still an announcement sure to generate surprise, excitement, anticipation, and discussion. Yesterday, HTC finally revealed its long-awaited and long-rumored entry into the tablet market in the form of the HTC Flyer. Interestingly, the final device matches and in some areas surpasses some of the previously speculated specs with the name also being spot-on. HTC has also made some interesting variations and additions to its Android tablet in an effort to stand out from the crowd so without further ado, let’s get straight to the details!
The first thing that strikes you and one of the selling points highlighted by the manufacturer is the Flyer’s stunning aluminum unibody construction made from a single block of metal in a similar style to the HTC Legend Android smartphone and various Apple products. As a result the slate has a very clean, appealing, minimalist design combined with what is sure to be a very strong and durable case, measuring 7.7 x 4.8 x 9.5inches and tipping the scales at around 0.9 pounds.
Going inside, the Flyer has a capacitive touch screen with a resolution of 1024×600 and is powered by a 1.5GHz single-core CPU running the previously revealed Android 2.4, an updated version of Gingerbread with the ability to run upcoming apps coded for dual-core processors (running Android 3.0 Honeycomb) on existing single-core devices. Other specs include 1GB RAM, 32GB local storage, a 5MP rear camera and 1.3MP front camera, a 4000mAh Li-on battery rated for 4 hours of video playback, b/g/n WiFi, WCDMA/HSPA+ 3G, Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, and support for microSD cards.
Moving on to the more unique, exclusive features, the Flyer will as previously speculated include a new version of HTC Sense specifically developed for the tablet form factor with customized widgets and apps.
Even more interestingly the device will also include the rumored pressure-sensitive active stylus allowing more realistic drawing, handwriting, and easier note taking. To clarify, the Flyer’s stylus is not simply a capacitive pen, but is actually an active electronic solution with a pressure sensitive point that communicates wirelessly (probably through Bluetooth) to the tablet’s touch screen digitizer. HTC says the tablets customized Android OS, Sense UI, widgets, and apps will be able to know when you are using the stylus and as such will have full native support and additional functionality. The stylus also includes two buttons, one for erasing and the other for text-selection.
Lastly, HTC revealed that the Flyer will include support for the OnLive streaming game service in the form of an app. The cloud-based service is based on games being run and rendered by servers remotely, with only the compressed video and audio stream along with control functionality being sent to the user’s terminal of choice. This will allow users to play games on the tablet itself or plug the device into a TV for console-style gaming in the vein of OnLive’s existing MicroConsole box. Due for release in Q2 2011 for a currently unknown price, the Flyer has been spotted for pre-order on Amazon Germany for €669, although this is likely to be a placeholder, with the device sure to be more reasonable at launch.
HTC has taken its time to try and develop a tablet that stands apart from the crowd and on first impressions, it’s a very positive effort. The device has a very compelling combination of great hardware, software, design, quality, and some intriguing new features.
I am particularly excited by the innovative active stylus and its potential, and being a gamer, the OnLive features also sound interesting. But I do have some reservations including the use of a single-core CPU with dual-core chips now becoming standard on new tablets, and the use of Android 2.4 Gingerbread rather than Android 3.0 Honeycomb. These two related issues are probably linked to the fact that HTC wants to get the Flyer on market quickly, with the company also stating it’s not launching with Honeycomb due to insufficient time to develop and integrate the Sense UI.
While Sense UI is popular and a welcome addition, on balance I think most would agree that it would be preferable for the Flyer to ship with Honeycomb. I also have a slight concern over battery life, with the 4 hours of continuous video sounding a bit short. Here’s hoping the time for other scenarios and web browsing is longer.
Nevertheless, I think this first tablet is a very promising debut from HTC and keeping in mind that this is likely the first of more to follow with rumors of two larger tablets launching later this year, HTC is staking a strong claim in the tablet market. Check out the official promo video and a great hands-on look by JKK of jkkmobile below and share your thoughts on the HTC Flyer in the comments.