I was pleasantly surprised by the box contents. Besides the usual AC charger, headphones and sync cable, there is a very smart leather pouch with a loop for the stylus and the stylus itself. It doesn't sound like a huge bundle, but this is the first mobile product I have used in a long time that gives you everything you need to get started. The pouch is white which does make it look rather feminine and the design is also responsible for that, but it affords a great deal of protection and strangely makes the Flyer look smaller than it already is. The stylus loop is a tight fit which of course is required to stop it coming loose and overall I have to say that I am impressed by the bundle.
This is hard to explain because the design is split into two halves, front and back, which look completely different. On the back you get the typically high-end HTC look with brushed metal dominating and two smaller white plastic panels at either end. It looks completely different to all other tablets and much more expensive. However, the front looks like almost every other Android tablet. The screen surround is black plastic with just a hint of metal and white plastic at the top and bottom. Each end is slightly raised, but not significantly and thus we end up with an industry standard front design.
The buttons are as you would expect; a power button top-right next to the 3.5mm headphone jack, volume buttons on the right hand side (presumably to stop you accidentally hitting them when using it in landscape) and the microUSB jack is at the bottom which could be handy for docking. There are also two speakers on the back with a large camera lens top left. The lens isn't protected, but the surround is just pronounced enough to stop it being scratched when laid flat.
I like the design of the Flyer overall, but the materials used do make it slippery in the hand. Metal and plastic look great together and add to the aesthetic appeal, but it is all too easy to drop when you are in a hurry.
The Magic Pen
I have spent a good amount of time with the Flyer so far and have been quite impressed with the set up here and the way the various features blend together. I am going to concentrate on the most talked about feature first which is the stylus.
Apple doesn't so styluses and it shows with the Heath Robinson selection of accessories and apps designed to make the iPad feel like a paper pad. None of them succeed in bringing true digital handwriting to iOS, in my opinion, and I have found the iPad to be poor in this area. HTC has taken another track and bundled a Magic Pen which is supposed to offer greater accuracy and a more realistic writing experience, and it does. It was the very first feature I tested and felt quite real to me. I'm not going to go into the technical detail here because that's not important. The Magic Pen and the Flyer feel good together, they really do.
I found myself writing longer written notes than I ever did with the iPad in the first few minutes and there are many extra tricks included to make your own notes and annotations stand out. First up there is a selection of pens, pencils and ink pens along with a range of colours and other options. This lets you highlights particular words or parts of a document and easily share them with others. The notes app makes excellent use of the pen and includes a direct link to Evernote so that you can keep everything you want backed and stored online for use elsewhere. Tapping the small icon below the screen brings up a menu at the bottom which lets you take a 'snap' of the current screen (in most apps). From here you can annotate the image and then share it in a variety of ways or send to Evernote.
There are some inconvenient aspects to using a pen like this. For example, when you have clicked the pen icon you then need to use your finger to selection an option. I can't see how HTC can get around this, but it takes some getting used to.
This is by far the best digital inking solution I have used to date and shows that a truly great solution should be possible in the future. It is likely that updates will be released for the Flyer that help the pen feature work even better, but for now I have to say that it works well enough for me to use it in meetings and for whenever I want to take notes. I have not been able to say that about any other tablet or smartphone.
I have done a lot more on day one such as testing the music and video functionality, using Flash in web and exploring various other aspects of the system, but those will wait for the next write up. Day one has been a revelation for me though and the Flyer has barely left my hand. I didn't expect it to get under my skin so quickly.