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This 8-Bit Life | September 30, 2016

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HTC Flyer Review - This 8-Bit Life

Leland Flynn


I just picked up to new HTC Flyer 16GB tablet from Best Buy this week and thought I’d give my opinion on it.

Hardware Specs:

  • Android 2.3 OS(Gingerbread)
  • 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor
  • 7-inch capacitive multi-touch sensitive TFT screen with 1024 X 600 resolution
  • 1 GB of RAM , 16 GB of internal storage and Micro SD memory card support
  • 5 megapixel camera with auto focus on back side and front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera
  • Battery Capacity 4000 mAh Standby time up to 8 to 14 hours; Video Playback up to 4 hours
  • Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP for wireless stereo headsets,Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 b/g/n, 3.5 mm stereo audio jack, micro USB 2.0
  • Internal GPS antenna with navigation system
  • GPS Sensors, Ambient light sensor, G-Sensor Digital compass, Accelerometer
  • Dimensions (LxWxT): 195.4 x 122 x 13.2 mm
  • Weight: Around 415 grams with battery

Design:


The body of the Flyer is really, really sturdy thanks to an apple-esque aluminum unibody construction. Even the two plastic cover plates on the back of the tablet feel rigid and able to withstand a bit of a beating. It also has a Gorilla Glass touch screen. I’d be tempted to call this a ruggedized tablet but it seems more like it’s meant to be a bit of a business work horse, able to be tossed into a laptop bag, backpack or briefcase quickly with little fear of harming it. Of course being that the body of the tablet is one large piece of aluminum it has a certain heft to it, 415 g, but not enough to put any kind of strain on the hand you are holding it with. The face of the tablet is nice and minimalist with just a hint of a curled bezel on the top and bottom. The rear is emblazoned with the HTC logo in a shiny metal inlay. All in all I think the device is really good looking.

Screen:

I have to start by saying that I wish this was an IPS display, but then I wish everything was an IPS display. The Flyer’s 7-inch display has a resolution of 1024 X 600 and it looks great. I have definitely seen sharper in some higher end displays but this really does look nice, especially when it’s showing off the very nifty HTC weather widget animations (which I will get to later). Video playback is as you’d expect, the display gives rich color and run-of-the-mill blacks. I watched a few Revision 3 shows on it as well as an episode of the new season of Doctor Who and I was very happy with how everything looked. I look forward to using this as a media device. Gaming was also pretty good; I saw no real color issues with Angry Birds or Dungeon Defenders.

Sound:

The speakers on this little tablet could stand to be a bit better. It’s  two stereo speakers get plenty loud, I often had to keep the volume near 50% as even 80% was enough to make my dog Benny look at me in confusion and irritation. The high end is high and the low end is… mid, sadly. Any audio that has a deep bass to it ends up coming out watered down and washed out. I tested this with a bit of different music ranging from some Muddy Waters to La Roux and some Skrillex to really test the lows. Unfortunately Dubstep sounds just shy of awful on this tablet’s built-ins. Not much else to say other than I really wish it had a micro-sub woofer.

Camera(s):

And now we get to the cameras. I say this with a heavy heart, but the cameras on the Flyer are just plain terrible. They literally have no redeeming qualities. Even in high, soft light conditions the images I took with it were just sad. The rear camera, a 5 megapixel sensor takes grainy and highly artifacted images even in the best of conditions. The front facing 1.3 megapixel camera is a pretty standard video conferencing sensor but I really wish it had a higher light sensitivity and higher resolution. It works well enough when recording. Images aren’t overly jittery and I haven’t seen any image tearing but it just isn’t really very nice to look at. HTC really needs to step up their game on their cameras. It’s not a good thing to be known for having terrible cameras.


Software:

The Sense UI 3.0 here is really blowing me away, and I hate Android skins. I really do. But this looks absolutely gorgeous. The 3D animations of home screens, the HTC widgets (oh the weather widgets!), and the HTC software are pretty slick. When you turn on the screen you are greeted with a lock screen that is super customizable. At the bottom there is a silver ring which you can slide up to unlock or slide icons of your choosing into to unlock and directly launch that app. You can even have their gorgeous weather animations as a background to the unlock screen itself.

The home screen is pretty standard aside from a neat spinning animation that it will do if you swipe to another pane very quickly. And the app tray is not anything big to write home about. The real stars here are the tablets custom software. HTC is really well known for its widgets, particularly its weather widgets and their animations, with sweeping and soaring visuals of clouds, pouring rain and warm suns. The sounds of these widgets are just as nice the visuals. I’ll be sure to embed video for your viewing pleasure. I mean I was actually excited that it was raining last night because it meant I got to see the thunder storm animations.

The other custom software to note here is the Notes app which is deeply integrated with Evernote’s API. I am a huge proponent of Evernote, I use it on every device I own and it is a life-saver at work and school.  Typing up something on the on-screen keyboard is snappy and responsive though I do wish this cam stock with Swype, but that is easily remedied. You can even use the stylus (*sold separately) to draw up notes or designs and sync them to your Evernote account.


Stylus:

The stylus is something that has surprised me quite a bit even though it was a primary motivator for buying this tablet. I should mention now that it is sold separately, for $80!!! When I first started hearing about this tablet all I ever saw was it and the stylus, almost everyone I read was under the impression that this was going to be a pack in. It’s what generated so much buzz around this thing. And they go and sell it on its own!? For $80!? All this being said it is very much worth the price. The stylus feels nice and solid in the hand, its function buttons are clicky and responsive and it doesn’t feel the slightest bit cheap, which is good considering the damned price. It has, from what I can tell, 2 pressure levels which are nice when sketching something out. Using the stylus is fairly intuitive and there is a nice in-depth tutorial about how to use it and its companion software.

You can make a note on almost any screen on the device, the only thing I haven’t been able to do is draw over video. When you tap the screen with the stylus a screenshot is instantly taken and displayed. Tapping a capacitive button in the lower right of the bezel with the stylus brings up an on-screen menu for selecting different brush types ranging from paintbrush, to pen, to pencil and marker. You can set the thickness of your stroke but oddly not the opacity as far as I have seen. You have a pretty basic color palette which could definitely do with a color picker.

The sensitivity of this stylus is pretty great but not quite like what you would find on say a Cintiq display. I rarely notice my strokes being drawn after I make them and the lines follow very true to what I intend. You won’t be drawing your next web comic on here unless we get some good art software for it but it’s good enough to play with and make colorful, detailed designs.

The screen itself is a capacitive touch screen with a digitizer built on top for the stylus, this means that the stylus does not work in software that isn’t built to listen to the digitizer’s output. I hope that Autodesk will hook up with HTC to bring deep Flyer stylus integration to their Sketchbook software. That would really make this a killer tablet for artists and designers.

I really am happy with this stylus; it’s not frivolous at all and is a serious reason to consider this device. I just hate the damned price!


Other Accessories:

To be revisited once I find/acquire some.

Battery Life:

HTC claims about 14 hours of Standby time which sounds about right to me though I need to do more in-depth testing to confirm/deny this. I did see a solid 7 hours of life with constant use doing everything from making notes, playing games, browsing the web, listening to a few podcasts and playing a little bit of video. I need to really put this battery through its paces though to get an idea of its actual video playback life.

Overall Performance:

This is a really snappy little device. With a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon proc and 1 GB of RAM it’s pretty hard to slow this thing down. It never feels laggy or jittery, graphic intensive games like Dungeon Defenders load quickly and moving around inside the OS is comfortable. The stylus is very useful and functions mostly as you’d want it to. I don’t really have any unkind words for this little guy.

Pros/Cons:

Pros:

Stylish/Sturdy Construction

Highly polished UI

Useful Stylus

Around 7 hours of continuous battery life with use

 

Cons:

$80 stylus!!!!

Poor Audio Quality

No USB port

Terrible Camera quality

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