When it comes to grip, HTC Flyer strikes the right chord — it is perfectly comfortable to hold in one hand, and use the virtual QWERTY keyboard without feeling the need to place it on any surface. The build of the tablet is quite solid and does not look or feel cheap or flimsy. However, if you are expecting a lightweight gadget, you are in for a disappointment; the aluminum back weigh down to the device, and the protruding bottom, also does not help in the weight department. The power button, and 3.5mm audio jack are located at the top of the tablet. The bottom hosts a USB port, while the right side has the volume rockers — which also serve as camera zoom in/out buttons — and a microphone. The back hosts the camera lens at the top left, and speaker grills far right. There are no hardware buttons on the tablet’s reasonably-sized bezel. The bezel has four touch-sensitive keys — home, menu, back and pen (activated only when it comes in contact with the pen’s nib). We were pleasantly surprised to find the four touch-sensitive keys also appearing on the left side of the bezel on rotating the screen; they are almost invisible otherwise.
Opening the flap to insert the SIM/microSD card is a test of one’s patience, technique and muscle. We practically wrestled with the back flap to pry it open. The trick? It grudgingly loosens just when you think it’s going to break. On the flip side, the flap is very sturdy and doesn’t break, so go ahead and give it a mighty push without any hesitation.
User interface and display
The seven-inch Super LCD screen of the Flyer gets full marks for our daylight visibility and viewing angle tests. For users who have not experienced Super AMOLED or AMOLED, the screen’s brightness will seem brilliantly sharp, crisp and vibrant, without appearing overwhelming. The Flyer incorporates HTC Sense (version 2.1), a graphical user interface by HTC. It is not possible to add/delete a home screen, however, options to add/remove shortcuts on the lockscreen, opening apps with a single click, or dragging an app to any preferred Nome screen are all very helpful. It is also possible to sort applications by date (oldest or newest). The veneer of HTC Sense Ul with Gingerbread does, to some extent, make up for the absence of the tablet-exclusive Honeycomb OS.
Camera and video playback
A tablet’s camera, unfortunately, cannot substitute for a point-and-shoot camera or even a camera-centric smartphone; and the HTC Flyer is no exception to this. It has a 5MP autofocus rear camera, and a 1.3MP front camera. The rear lens is strategically placed, the front camera’s lens placement, it seems that HTC wants users to use it in landscape mode. Videos can be shot at a maximum resolution of 1280×720 pixels (HD 720p). All we can say is that it makes a mockery of the tag ‘High Definition” as the graphics appear subdued, and the audio fuzzy.
HTC Flyer P510e Apps
The split view that some of the apps including Gallery, Calendar, News, Friend Stream, and the browser offer in landscape mode, is a feature unique to the this tablet. In Gallery, it was an absolute pleasure to sift through the albums on the right panel and click on the desired image on the left panel to view it. Similarly, the preview option in the browser (which we found to be slightly slow) is an intricately designed feature. The size of the preview windows is just right enough to get a fair idea of the content, without overshadowing the main window. Disappointingly, Gmail. which would have greatly benefited from a split-view feature, seems to be an expanded version of an app designed for smart phones.
The stock Reader app offers eight e-books — all renowned and acclaimed works of literature. It is also possible to download free e-books, or purchase them via Kobo. We found using the tablet as an e-reader quite pleasant — the screen is large and adequately bright, the font size can be customized to suit one’s liking, and the pages can be bookmarked. The lack of an inbuilt dictionary. however, is a major let-down. Also, there is a slight lag when you flip a page. On the other hand, a distinct advantage the Flyer has in the e-book department (over other tablets) is its option to make notes/annotations/ highlight using the tablet’s pen.
Entertainment and connectivity
First introduced in the HTC Sensation, Watch provides users a platform through which they can stream Hollywood movies and watch them on this seven-inch beauty. However, it can get pretty frustrating if you do not have a decent internet connection.
On the other hand, watching videos via YouTube was an absolute pleasure — the sound is crystal clear and the graphics superb. The music player offers excellent sound clarity, and the strategically-placed speaker grills do not hinder the sound in any way. Oh, and we just have to mention that Angry Birds looks absolutely divine on the HTC Flyer. Unfortunately, the absence of FM radio renders the HTC Flyer short of being the perfect entertainment device.
Apart from the basic connectivity features like transferring data via Bluetooth, it is also possible to share the Wi-Fi connection with your PC and other devices via the tablet’s Wi-Fi Hotspot feature. We found the data transfer rate to and from the PC quite fast and hassle-free.
Unlike Samsung Galaxy Tab, the HTC Flyer lacks the feature to make/attend calls. Messaging primarily works similar to most high-end smartphones — although we strongly recommend using the tablet as a tablet and not as an enlarged messaging phone.
Notes and Pen
Clearly a lot of planning has gone into executing this distinct feature of the HTC Flyer. HTC has cleverly limited most of the pen’s ingenious usage for the Notes application. The tablet’s Notes application was subjected to rigorous testing — scribbling away furiously, sketching out rough illustrations, inserting images, audio clips, etc. In most cases, the pen’s response was adequate. However, it requires a bit of practice to figure out the certain point on the pen’s nib that needs to be in contact with the touchscreen to enable writing. It is only after a while that one learns how to hold the pen intuitively in order to get optimal output. It is also possible to snap a screenshot of any screen, and scribble on it.
A number of formatting options are activated by touching the Pen option on the bezel with the pen nib. Notes scribbled using the pen can be erased either by selecting the eraser option from the menu, or by pressing the eraser button on the pen itself.
On the other hand, it is extremely easy to delete notes or parts of notes — too easy in fact. A long press on a note’s icon activates the option to either open the note or delete it. In its defense, it requests a confirmation before permanently deleting the note. However, while working in the app, a single press on the delete option erases all handwritten/pen-scribbled content from the note, without giving any sort of warning or asking for confirmation. Needless to say, we lost our very artistic doodles just by accidently touching the dreaded delete button.
Using the Notes app, to access heavily scribbled notes takes considerable time — which makes the app impractical for real world situations. On the other hand, the option to share notes via Bluetooth, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Google Docs and even Dropbox is very helpful. Also, while the option to record lectures is quite handy, the sound quality is not impressive.
Overall, the Notes application is a commendable feature, but it’s not something that the HTC Flyer can fall back on. Also, this is perhaps the only time when we wished for a bigger screen, as continuous scribbling on a less-then-seven inch area can be quite exhausting.
The HTC Flyer comes across as a “jack of all trades” device, rather than a “master of one or master of all”. Apart from a few minor issues, the HTC Flyer provides a decent user experience.