Jun 19, 2011

HTC Flyer - Digitizer Pen Input

Gear: HTC Flyer, HTC Flyer Digitizer Pen, Cases.

The only reason to get the HTC Flyer is because of pen input. It's the one thing that sets this tablet apart from all of the other tablets. But it is good enough to actually replace pen and paper?

Why I like the tablet:
  • One system that can do "everything"
  • Can carry tons of books and media
  • All important notes in one single device which replaces multiple notebooks

Regarding the pen
If you live in the USA you must pay an extra $80 to get the pen.  (dumb idea).  With that said the pen is an active digitizer via N-Trig.  This is an electronic device that uses a AAAA battery.  An active digitizer can do a lot more than the crappy styluses that you will see on older tablets and the "capacitive pens" on some devices like the iPad.  The pen can do "hover", pressure sensitivity, erase and highlight text.  You cannot do that with a "stylus".  The form factor is actually smaller than I thought it would be.

Why the digital book/note taking system is cool
Who likes carrying books, notebooks, and tons of paper based junk?  No one.  With digital you can carry everything in one device.  It's a genius idea.

Form factor
The Flyer is a 7 inch tablet and that means that it is big enough to actually let you write stuff (unlike cell phones) and it's not too big like the iPad.  Carrying any tablet in your pockets is just stupid, so you might need to get some kind of carrying case for it.

Digital note taking
When you write notes digitally you will have a tendency of writing text bigger than with classic pen and paper.  So... it's something to get used to and if you make deeply elaborate notes the Flyer might not be good enough.

Click to enlarge

Get a case
If you get a Flyer you will drop the system guaranteed.  The smooth surface can be slippery and your 7 inch tablet will be broken in record time.  I have dropped it 3 times already and I'm glad I have carpets.  I highly recommend getting a case.

Silent note takins
The pen + glass surface does make a bit of noise.  Even if you tried not to make noise you will do that.  It's one sure way of standing out in meetings.  When it comes to silent note taking you cannot beat pen and paper.

Palm rejection
If you get a system with touch + pen you will always have issues with accidental palm clicks.  It is important that you make sure the pen is closer to the screen first.  Once the tablet recognizes the pen it will begin rejecting your palm.

Continual drawing problem
The system sometimes continues to draw when it should "hovering".  I have seen this several times and it's super annoying.  To fix the problem you need to turn the system off and then turn it on.

Hand written text quality
Digital note taking cannot be as smooth as pen and paper.  N-Trig devices usually cannot beat Wacom based tablets.  The Flyer's N-Trig input shows it.  Also, when you rotate the screen from landscape to portrait, or vice-versa, the text is re-sized and it doesn't look that good.

Automatic sync to Evernote
Evernote is one of those programs that wants to work everywhere and with the Flyer it does.  It's neat that I can go in and write notes and automatically have the same note in my laptop and cell phone.  This is good stuff.

Social stuff
This tablet is full of it.  There's facebook, email, and twitter integration.  The Sense UI stuff works well with it.

Dream "search" feature
The problem with analog pen and paper is the shortfall and inability of search.  Digital note taking should fix this, but it doesn't with the Flyer.  Good ol text like this blog post typed with a keyboard is searchable.  Something like a "Ctrl+F" for handwritten digital notes would be sweet.  MS OneNote actually does allow you to search your handwritten notes.

HTC made a brave attempt by adding digital note taking on the Flyer.  The tablet by itself is good, but the pen input is not good enough.  The software is too "premature" and the overall system is not reliable enough and $580 is a bit too much.


  1. Hello Jesse,

    thanks a lot for this very nice report. This was, what I was looking for. Do you have maybe an (on many positions) annotated PDF-document? In all the reviews they just scribble on the PDFs, which is ridiculous. It would be nice to have an example with fine and small (in matter of text-size) annotations.

    Greetings from Germany

  2. Jakob,

    What you have seen is like writing ontop of screenshot. What you want is something more like PDF Annotator.


    I can't record any more Flyer videos because I returned the system.

  3. Hello Jesse,

    How do you compare the flyer note input to the EA800? Can the EA800 replace the notebooks?

  4. Neither can. The EA-800 is slow and The Flyer is unreliable. Something that would do better is a Windows tablet with Microsoft OneNote.

  5. The EA800 is slow, at writing? or changing pages? Could you show a video of the slowness?

    I am looking to buy the EA800 for note taking, and thats it.

  6. EA800 is slow at loading things. Many of my little videos have me waiting for things to occur. Check the PDF on.

    Note taking is good.

  7. Maybe you understand what I mean now, so for pure note taking is it a good paper replacement device?(I know about the light limitation)So if you had perfect light and had 2 min to setup before class.

    What would you grade it if paper was the bar to beat?

  8. Danny,
    You are gonna have to try it out and come up to your conclusions. I think digital note taking is not there yet, but it has been evolving.

    Once digital note taking becomes faster, the system keeps long battery life, and has the ability to turn your scribbles into text then we'll be there.

  9. Yea, Your right.

    I have googled this already and maybe you know, does PCHome International have a return policy?

    Thank you for the help!

  10. "Once digital note taking becomes faster, the system keeps long battery life, and has the ability to turn your scribbles into text then we'll be there."

    Windows tablet edition has been converting my handwriting (either on the fly or after "inking" and drawing a selection around it then asking it to convert it to text) on a TC1100 since the early 90's. I have the flyer (using it now) and it's the first tablet to catch my attention since my old TC1100 died a couple years ago. I used to use it for all my school notes and it was great. Printed the results out and people were surprised to know it was not written with a real pen.

    The HTC flyer works very well but not without getting used to it. Yes, I can annotate a PDF. My only disappointment with it is the current lack of other pen apps. However, HTC opened up the pen SDK. I only hope most of the misinformed reviews out there (yours was well done, btw) don't destroy it's success and hinder development on it. Sadly, many reviews for the Flyer on the net are ill-informed or have the details wrong.

  11. Hey, just realized your comment I quoted regarding converting your scribbles into text was aimed specifically at the Flyer. I agree, but I bought it anyway...I barely made use of that function on my TC1100 anyway. Not because it didn't work well, mind you, I just couldn't be bothered to. The battery, however, has performed well. It holds up several hours even when using wifi. As for faster digital note taking, the Flyer keeps up (but I'm already used to it), the note app can be called directly off the lock screen and it syncs to evernote in seconds (mine has 3g, paid 660 CAD after taxes complete with pen and case, btw).

  12. Thom,
    Great comments! I appreciate your input. The Flyer does have some great elements, but I feel the note taking can be improved on. Maybe wit a few firmware updates they can fix some of the issues I saw.

  13. what about thinkpad tablet
    for note taking ?

  14. @Ameer
    I have not used the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet. Personally I don't like Android, but with the software that comes with the ThinkPad Tablet does make it into an interesting note taking device.

    Lenovo didn't send me a review unit, so I'll have to save up a bit and buy one myself.