HTC Flyer review

The HTC Flyer packs a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, 1GB RAM and 32GB of storage space that’s expandable by another 32GB via microSD. It has a 7″ screen capable of 1024×600 resolution and front- and rear-facing cameras at 1.3 and 5.0 megapixels respectively.

It comes with WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, a 3.5mm audio jack, a microUSB port and the 3G unit supports HSPA on 900/1700/2100 MHz bands. Along with all of this it has a 4000 mAh battery and everything fits into a package that weighs 420g.

It runs Android 2.3.3 (Gingerbread) with HTC Sense.

Design and build quality

The rear is dominated by a single piece of aluminium inlaid with the HTC logo, and only two relatively small pieces of white plastic at the top and bottom. The rear-facing camera is situated at the top.

It’s a good looking design and it certainly feels sturdy and strong. The only bad thing about the body is that it’s extremely cold on a winter morning.

The top piece of plastic was a little loose and it did creak if wiggled. That’s because it’s supposed to be able to come off to provide access to the sim- and microSD slots. Removing it requires a strange technique, but at least you know that it won’t come off at the first mention of a bump.

Along the right side of the Flyer are the volume buttons, while the left side is empty. The top has the power button and headphone jack and the bottom holds the microUSB port for charging and connecting to a PC.

The power and volume buttons are almost flush with the Flyer and can be quite tricky to find if you can’t see them.

Up front is the screen, with space made only for the capacitive buttons at the bottom and left-side – the latter being for landscape use – and the camera on the right.

The top and bottom are angled forward slightly, which helps keep the screen off of hard surfaces.

HTC Flyer
HTC Flyer

Screen and responsiveness

The screen displayed crisp and clear images and video with excellent viewing angles. Reading books, articles on the web and even electronic versions of newspapers was a joy on the Flyer. However, like with most backlit displays, it becomes almost unusable in direct sunlight.

Browsing the Internet was quick and easy with the pinch-to-zoom and Flash-capable browser. Fun was had by many thanks to Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja and both handled superbly.

Even part of this review was written on the Flyer itself.

Cameras

The cameras are a little disappointing to say the least.

The rear camera doesn’t have a flash. In a world where the Desire HD and Sensation both have dual LED flashes, we can’t figure out why HTC couldn’t grace the Flyer with just one.

The image and video quality is also not particularly great and definitely not up to scratch with what you’d expect from a 5 megapixel sensor.

The front camera is about what you would expect from a 1.3 megapixel and should be fine for video calls.

Audio quality

The Flyer may not have the ability to make phone calls, but it is intended to to play movies and music.

Sound quality through the bundled earphones was good – providing a good listening experience even in some very windy conditions.

The speakers in the back were of similar good quality.

HTC Flyer movies
HTC Flyer movies

Battery Life

Battery life was, in a nutshell, excellent. After a morning of meetings where the Flyer was used to take some notes (which we’ll get to in a bit), some light afternoon browsing, and an evening of lectures, it still managed to make it through a second day of reading and browsing. At this point it was sitting at just above 10% battery life.

Note taking

One of the features that’s being touted with the Flyer, is its note taking capabilities. The Flyer comes with a digital pen and there’s an aptly named “Notes” application pre-loaded on it.

The digital pen unlocks HTC’s Scribe technology and allows you to annotate any screen. The Flyer takes a snapshot of the screen as soon as the pen touches and you can then scribble on it as you please. When you’re done you can share it via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or various other means.

There’s a special button on the Flyer for the pen that activates its options menu, allowing you to change the pen type, colour and tip size. The pen also has two buttons on it that allow you to highlight text and erase annotations easily.

In the “Notes” application, the pen works slightly differently. There you can make handwritten notes alongside typed notes. You can also record audio, snap a picture or add an attachment to your current note and it all gets stored together. On top of all this it also integrates with your calendar, so it knows when you’re in a meeting and you can tell it to link a note with that particular meeting.

Evernote integration is available from the start and all your notes synchronise seamlessly once it has been activated.

The only real gripe we can think of, is that the pen is powered by a AAAA battery (that’s right, four A’s).

HTC Sense

HTC has, naturally, gone and customised the interface of the Flyer with their very own HTC Sense interface.

The lock screen is no longer a swipe-down-to-unlock, but instead a ring that needs to be pulled up from the bottom. Four shortcuts can also be added to the lock screen and these can be dragged into the ring to unlock the Flyer and immediately enter the application. It’s a nice touch, but it was sometimes difficult to quickly swipe the ring up to unlock.

Home screen widgets are mostly the same, though they have obviously been given some higher resolution love. They have been optimised for landscape use and turning the Flyer from portrait to landscape and vice versa now displays a neat transition animation.

The home screen now has a 3-D transition effect and if you swipe fast enough, your different screens spin with a carousel effect. This is mostly just eye-candy, but it does, in a way, make the Flyer more fun to use.

The notification bar as well as many of the bundled applications have also been given some extra attention to allow for better use of landscape real estate. These now transition from a single column view to a double column view, allowing you to see much more and have less menus to dig through.

HTC has done some great work tailoring Sense to the bigger form factor, though that’s not to say that more can’t be done. Many of the widgets take up more space than necessary, for instance.

Conclusion

The HTC Flyer is a great gadget, but it’s not something everyone needs.

If you often find yourself in meetings or classes and need something to make and synchronise notes, or if you need a good browser/reader on the go, or perhaps all of the above, then consider the HTC Flyer.

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HTC Flyer review