The HTC Flyer is an oddly hesitant step into the tablet world for HTC, considering its unusual stylus selling point. HTC has stuck with its normal design, and hasn't strayed far at all from the UI its been honing.
The Sense UI overlay and pen are what set the Flyer apart from the competition, but it's awfully reliant on them to stand out at all, and we're not convinced it's enough.
The Flyer is an undeniably well-made device, with a unibody aluminium construction that rivals the iPad 2 for build quality. The screen is also nice and vibrant, with excellent viewing angles.
HTC's attempts to make tablet-friendly apps is welcome, and Sense UI is still very impressive technically, even if it isn't totally suited to the larger screen.
The pen is definitely a plus overall, even if we don't think HTC has made quite enough of it with the lack of handwriting recognition. There are lots of caveats in HTC's implementation of the stylus, including its very rudimentary pressure sensitivity and the fact that only a few apps support it, but it offers something different, and does it with HTC's usual sense of polish.
Despite some impressive moments, and its unique selling point, the HTC Flyer sits at the back of the pack when it comes to being an actual tablet.
The battery life is really poor compared to what else is on offer, while the 1.5GHz processor is generally fast enough, it doesn't seem as snappy as the likes of the Nvidia Tegra 2 in the Motorola Xoom or the A5 chip in the iPad 2.
We've also become accustomed to 1080p video output from our tablets, and its exclusion here stands out, especially since being able to work with the pen on a larger screen would have been great.
HTC Sense just isn't a tablet UI. The same goes for Android 2.3, and HTC's attempts to make it one fall short. As we said above, it's put in a good effort to make its apps work better on a larger screen, but there's a lot of wasted space.
Finally, the HTC Flyer is simply too expensive. The 16GB Wi-Fi version is the same price as a 32GB Wi-Fi iPad 2. The 32GB Wi-Fi + 3G version is £20 more than its Apple equivalent. That latter of those doesn't seem so bad when you consider that the pen is included, but also remember that it's quite a bit smaller, so really comes across as a poor deal.
There are a couple of particular reasons why you might want to pick up the HTC Flyer, including the pen, but it simply isn't that good a tablet.
It's missing some media features we've come to expect, it's expensive, it has relatively poor battery life and it doesn't have software suited to a tablet. If this had come late last year, we'd probably be raving about it, but things have moved on, and we have to recommend an Android 3.0 tablet or the iPad 2 over it.