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Live HTC Flyer Review: First Impact



As you may have already seen, I am now evaluating the HTC Flyer, a 7″ Android tablet with a twist – active pen input. That makes it of special interest to me, Sumocat, The Father of Ink Blogging, and I’ve wasted no time spilling ink on this thing with realtime reporting. Let me tell you how it’s going down in this first part of my ongoing report.

[Click here for Part 2 of my live review “Inking Experience”, here for Part 3 “Video on the Go”, and here for my ongoing ink note-taking in Evernote.]

In case you missed all our previous coverage on the Flyer, let me recap by explaining it’s a small tablet running Android 2.3 with the HTC Sense 2.1 UI for tablets. What sets it apart from the crowd is a focus on pen input via an active digitizer from N-Trig and dedicated pen features, like a button for screen markup and note system designed for handwriting. For a pen tablet veteran like me, this attention to pen input has been delightful.

Further sweetening the pot is that the built-in note system is integrated with one I already use: Evernote. Since I already publish thoughts via a public Evernote folder, it was only natural that I blog about this thing in realtime. I’m creating ink, photo, and (eventually) voice notes on an ongoing basis, posting them with every Evernote sync to provide live examples of the Flyer’s performance (also on my Twitter feed). I will put those together in summaries here at GBM.

Trial by Fire

As it happens, the timing of my evaluation overlaps with an event for work. I will be performing press and PR functions at the Society of Nuclear Medicine (SNM) Annual Meeting in San Antonio from June 4 to 8. Video and social media interaction will be major parts of that, and the Flyer will be my go-to device for that. No better test than doing.

Our videos for the event will be posted on YouTube. While the subject matter will be of little to no interest to anyone here, I will share a few here as examples of the camera’s performance. If any company is showing off tablet apps at their booth, I’ll do my best to grab that.

Note-taking so far

Too soon for me to pass judgment on the Flyer yet, but I am really enjoying it so far. The Evernote integration and dedicated pen features make note-taking almost too easy. A bezel button works specifically with the pen to change up pen options, like tip style, thickness, and color. HTC put a button for notes right in their custom dock. Pressing the pen to the screen outside apps designed for pen enables screen markup. It’s a truly pen-centric experience.

That experience is in stark contrast to the add-on treatment of the pen itself. It does not ship in the same box as the Flyer. There’s no place to dock it in or tether it to the tablet. I heard a commercial on the radio promoting it as a free bonus accessory. The dichotomy here is pretty strange.

For me, carrying the pen separately from the tablet hasn’t been a problem. I used to carry a second pen for my Tablet PC as my primary, leaving the stock pen in the garage as backup. I even fitted the pen with a cap from a marker to add a clip to it. Finally putting those years of pen experience to good use.

So that’s how things are shaking down with this review. I’m forming opinions (and solutions) on portability (Not pocketable? Get a bigger pocket.), ink smoothness (it’s not all about the digitizer), and mobility (Wi-Fi is not enough for the form factor). I’ll hit those points as the review goes along.



  1. Anonymous

    06/05/2011 at 1:51 am

    Nice report. I have been playing with the HTC Flyer at BestBuy since it came out. I can’t help but compare this device with my Toshiba M205 and Motion Computing LE1700. And it just does not quite make it. Close but …
    When I insert a picture it goes to the upper left corner ( as you are holding the pen) and there it sits, can’t be moved, can’t change its size.
    One thing I liked is the fact the one can have a web page open and start writing on top of it right away. I needed this a couple of weeks ago while looking at a Sears web page and talking to a salesperson on the phone.

    The inking did not seem as smooth as either of the two Tablets mentioned above.
    Looking forward to more reports on your inking experience.

  2. Zeuxidamas

    06/05/2011 at 7:31 pm

    Sumo, just a question on one of your ink comments: why does palm reject matter on an active digitizer? Is the Flyer working differently than I would normally think of a TabletPC paradigm?

    • Sumocat

      06/05/2011 at 9:19 pm

      It uses a dual digitizer, pen + touch. If you’re touching the screen and lift the pen too far, touch gets triggered. I’ll be hitting that point in more detail next.

  3. Dale Strauss

    06/06/2011 at 1:01 pm

    I tried the Flyer out over the weekend and was very impressed with the overall integration of the software (calendar with notes; Exchange services far superior to iPad et al) – BUT – couldn’t test the pen because Worst Buy had no pens! Still, I really enjoyed the Sense UI (little things, like a tiny live widget that appears on the calendar with current weather info – sometimes its the little things that count). It was also very snappy overall – much more so than the Galaxy Tab or HP Slate 500, despite single core processor. In fact, the browser experience is as “iPad-like” as you can get – text always reformatted to current screen when enlarged – no more scrolling.

    All that said, I think I’ll wait to see tthe Sprint Evo version – like the all black design (white plastic just puts me off), plus rumor is they will have a $35/month data plan for 3gb 3g, and UNLIMITED 4g, text, and media messaging. Now that would be worth it since even little old Midland Tx has been graced with Sprint 4g service – some kind of test market thing.

    Overall, this is the first tablet to turn my head from iPad – and that’s saying a lot!

  4. PharmerWun

    07/10/2011 at 7:46 am

    Mr. Sumocat, what brand of marker did you get the cap from?

    • Sumocat

      07/10/2011 at 2:46 pm

      Wish I could tell you. I dug through the supply drawer at work and found it on a generic marker. It’s definitely not a Sharpie. Pen had a flat bottom and is thicker than a standard pen. If you don’t have access to a big drawer of old pens, my advice is to take the HTC Flyer pen to Staples or another supply store and match the thickness. That’s how I found a clip for the Wacom pen I used to carry in my pocket.

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