HTC Flyer vs Apple iPad

With such an astounding pedigree in the smartphone space over the last few years, the gadget-loving world has been waiting with bated breath to see what HTC would come up with in the way of a tablet. So, now that the HTC Flyer has arrived, what better way to welcome it than to tear apart the spec sheet and see how what that pile of paper looks like when we’re done.

We could match it up against another Android tablet - hell, we probably will very soon - but for now we’re going to compare it to a benchmark that everyone understands. It’s the HTC Flyer vs Apple iPad.

Dimensions

1st: HTC Flyer
195.4 x 122 x 13.2mm, 415g

2nd: Apple iPad
242.8 x 189.7 x 13.4mm, 680g/730g Wi-Fi/3G


One of the obvious advantages of a 7-inch tablet over a 10-inch one is that it’s going to be easier to carry around and there’s not much the iPad - or iPad 2 when it comes out - can do about that. The HTC Flyer is two-thirds of the mass but interestingly just 0.2mm thinner. All the same, thinner, lighter and more portable it is, so first blood to HTC.

Display

1st: HTC Flyer
7-inch, 1024 x 600, 170ppi

2nd: Apple iPad
9.7", 1024 x 768, 132ppi


This category turned out a bit of a surprise for us. We were there and ready to hand it over to the iPad for having a bigger screen but the trouble is that, in terms of pixel density, and therefore clarity and punch of what you get, it’s second best. Yes, there’s more real estate for video on the Apple tablet but then you can always hold the HTC Flyer a bit close to your eyes if it bothers you. What you can’t do is improve the detail on the iPad. What’s more, the aspect ratio is much closer to a more widescreen video friendly 16:9 on the Flyer. So, all in all, it’s the HTC tablet with the superior display.

Engine Room

1st: HTC Flyer
Qualcomm 1.5GHz CPU, 1GB

2nd: Apple iPad
Cortex A8 1.0GHz CPU with PowerVR SGX535, 256MB


This is where the Apple iPad is really showing its age. It’s powered by the Apple A4 system on a chip consisting of all the separate components listed above. While the Flyer’s CPU is still a single core unit, like that of the Cortex A8, it is significantly faster. What’s more, knowing Apple, there’s a very good chance that the A4’s CPU is underclocked anyway. The iPad is clearly behind in the RAM department with one quarter of the memory power of the Flyer, and even though we don’t know which GPU is embedded in the HTC tablet’s system, it’ll be at least the level of the Adreno 205 which is already better than the PowerVR SGX535 of the iPad. Expect to see some updates here when the iPad 2 hits but, for now, it’s the HTC Flyer all the way.

Storage

Tie: Apple iPad
16GB, 32GB, or 64GB flash

Tie: HTC Flyer
32GB + microSD


It’s honours even on the storage front even if these two tablets have a different way of doing things. Some might prefer the limitless option of being able to swap in and out as many microSD cards as you can carry about without accidentally inhaling them while others might be more comfortable with the idea of a no nonsense flash-only system. Either way, the bottom line is that, while SD cards only go up to 32GB, the maximum storage on both tablets is identical. Here endeth the lesson.

Imaging

1st: HTC Flyer
5MP rear, AF, 1.3MP webcam

2nd: Apple iPad
Er...


Let’s face it, the HTC Flyer could have stuck a rice crispy on the chassis where a camera should go and it would have won this category without a hitch. As it happens, it’s got two rice crispies - one to the rear which will take 5MP stills and shoot video at 720p and the other looking right back up at the used in the form of a 1.3MP webcam for all your Skype or other visual VoIP calls. There is no phone function on the Flyer that you get with the Samsung Galaxy Tab but who really needs that anyway?

Battery

1st: Apple iPad
10 hours video playback

2nd: HTC Flyer
4 hrs video playback


At last, the Apple iPad quite rightly and really quite importantly picks up a gong here for best battery life. As it goes, four hours of video playback is a bit of a worry and a real reason to consider staying away from the Flyer. One of the best uses for a tablet is on long journeys and if it’s not even going to get you beyond a couple of feature films, then it’s perhaps not doing the job that you might want or need it to. Seeing as HTC has pitched its tablet as a mobile, rather than a home, solution, one might have expected more in this department.

Software

1st: Apple iPad
iOS 4.2

2nd: HTC Flyer
Android 2.4 Gingerbread + HTC Sense


Another bit of a turn up is that the HTC Flyer is stuck on Android 2.3 rather than the brand spanking Honeycomb that all of the 10-inch Android tab competition is using. HTC has said that it’s working on an upgrade to the 3.0 version of the software but there’s no guarantee with these things and we all know how long updates can take to arrive. One of the reasons for the delay is bound to be the fact that HTC has chosen to stick with its, admittedly good, Sense UI on top of Android. However, the serious downside of all that is that whether or not one believes that iOS is better than Android, the fact is that in 4.2, the iPad is running a made-for-tablet OS whereas the Flyer is not.

Connectivity

1st: HTC Flyer
Wi-Fi/3G/Bluetooth 3.0, some DLNA, USB

2nd: Apple iPad
Wi-Fi/3G/Bluetooth 2.1


Apple’s connectivity selection is perfectly respectable with Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth 2.1 all representing and even the lack of USB port is forgivable seeing as the proprietary dock connector is pretty much as ubiquitous these days. All the same, the HTC Flyer still maintains a more modern edge. Its Bluetooth is of the 3.0 variety, which should speed up and simplify pairing devices, and it also has a degree of DLNA ability thanks to the embedded HTC Watch app which can stream both games to your device as well as video from tablet to TV.

Features & Usability

Tie: Apple iPad
AirPrint, AirPlay, great apps support

Tie: HTC Flyer
HTC Watch, OnLive, Scribe


Apart from the inclusion of a stylus - yeah, we’re not quite sure what that’s all about either - the features on each of the tablets aren’t actually all that different. OnLive allows user of the Flyer to play cloud based games streamed via their tablets and onto TV screens. Apple on the other hand has a gaming twist of its own in terms of the Game Center which allows online multiplay match ups. HTC Watch is online video streaming service and not too dissimilar compared to the combination of iTunes and AirPlay, so long as you’re hooked up into the Apple ecosystem.

Price

1st: Apple iPad
Wi-Fi: £429/£499/£599, 3G: £529/£599/£699

2nd: HTC Flyer
More than the iPad


It’s odd but Apple is working out to be one of the most reasonably priced manufacturers when it comes to the tablet world. One after the other we receive warnings from the likes of Motorola, Samsung, HP and now HTC as well that their hardware isn’t going to come cheap when all the while you can pick up an iPad for the price of a smartphone. Is it any wonder why it’s such a success?

Conclusions

Winner: HTC Flyer

Loser: Apple iPad


Nearly an entire year older than its adversary, one would expect the Apple iPad to get beaten here but, as it turns out, it’s a very close run thing. In fact, it was probably only the missing webcam and lack of Flash browsing that made it come up short.

Yes, the Flyer has a better screen and more powerful hardware and it’s even more convenient for carrying around but the battery life is short of what most people would be after and the software isn’t going to be up to the same big screen heights as either iOS 4.2 or Honeycomb. Throw Apple’s Game Center and very reasonable price tag into the iPad’s corner and we’re nearly changing our minds as we write this. Give it a few months and the launch of an iPad 2 and the Flyer might not be so lucky.

Will you be running out to buy a Flyer or has HTC let you down? Let us know in the comments.

You can check out more of our Mobile World Congress coverage on our MWC2011 homepage.



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