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HTC flyer

HTC hasn't exactly left its comfort zone in the design of the Flyer. It's very close to the HTC Desire S, offering a similar design and unibody construction, but scaled up.

The front is black glass, with an HTC logo at the top (if you hold it portrait) and the front-facing camera along the right-hand bezel (and so is designed to be used in landscape mainly) with touch-sensitive buttons along the bottom for Home, Menu and Back. There's also a green button that activates the pen mode.

HTC flyer

Around the edge of the glass is a lip, which curves forward at the top and bottom, making the device easier to hold in landscape mode. When you do turn the device on its side, the four buttons along the bottom also rotate, so they'll always be below the screen.

Unfortunately, this means there are definite right and wrong ways to hold the Flyer, unlike the iPad. It only works in portrait with the HTC logo at the top, and in landscape with the camera at the top. It's not a huge drawback, but it's a bit of a shame.

HTC flyer

Along the right edge is a volume rocker, while the top houses the Lock key, a notification light, and the headphone jack. On the bottom is the micro-USB port.

The back is mostly metal from than unibody construction. There are two gaps for the loudspeakers, and the camera lens sits in the white plastic panel at the top.

HTC flyer

To get to the SIM and microSD card slots, you need to pop this top panel off.

Weighing just 420g, the Flyer feels fairly light and comfortable in the hand, but with excellent build quality. It's one of the few tablets that can really stand up to the iPad 2 when it comes to feeling like a premium product. It's thicker than the iPad 2, but the curved back means it's not all that noticeable.

HTC flyer

The 1024x600 panel is vibrant and is even fairly easy to see in sunlight (well, as much as these things can be). Videos in particular look crisp and smooth, with natural-looking colour.

Of course, the really interesting thing about interacting with the display is HTC's tablet pen. The pen itself is about 115mm long and about 9mm across. It's all aluminium, save for the tip and the two buttons, which enable you to highlight and erase, respectively.

The pen is quite comfortable to hold, though it's awfully easy to press one of the buttons accidentally, which can interrupt any drawing you're doing.

HTC flyer

Support for the pen is built into Sense. You can use the pen directly in certain apps, while in others tapping the pen on the screen will take a screengrab, which you can then annotate or draw on and save to the Notes app.

One of the new features on offer is HTC Watch, which allows you to stream movies.

Other media support comes in the form of music playback, and the Flyer is compatible with all the usual flavours including AAC, AMR, OGG, M4A, MID, MP3, WAV and WMA files, while videos are recognised in 3GP, MP4, AVI, WMV and XVID formats.

As is usual with HTC devices, the five-megapixel camera comes with effects, but no scene modes. In fact, to have some fun with the front-facing camera, there's an app called Snapbooth, which allows to browse through the photo effects and watch their effect live in a manner NOT AT ALL like Apple's Photo Booth app on the iPad 2.

HTC has managed to get Google on board for its implementation of Android 2.3, which means access to Google's apps, including the updated version of Google Maps and the Android Market.

Unfortunately, HTC's decision not to run Android 3.0 means that the new tablet-friendly version of apps such as Gmail aren't available, and that you'll also be limited to phone apps on the Market – you won't be able to grab Google Body for instance.

However, HTC has updated its own apps to work slightly better on tablets, as we'll explain in the next section.