Tablets

HTC Flyer teardown: A smartphone in tablet's clothing

The HTC Flyer has tablet features, but this 7-inch Android device is built like a smartphone and seems to have been rushed through the design process.

The HTC Flyer is the company’s first effort to grab a piece of the tablet market. This 7-inch Android device has several nice tablet features (a touchscreen that supports both a digital pen and your finger, a 1.5GHz processor, and 16GB of storage). But after cracking it open, the Flyer looks more like an over-sized smartphone than a built-from-the-ground-up tablet.

The Flyer is available for $499.99 (US) from Best Buy. The current versions only support Wi-Fi connectivity, but HTC plans to launch 3G models later this year. The Flyer weighs just under a pound (14.82 ounces) and measures 7.7" (H) x 4.8" (W) x 0.52" (D).

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the HTC Flyer

Cracking Open observations

  1. The case is easy to open and HTC used Torx T5 screws throughout the Flyer.
  2. Despite being relative easy to open, the Flyer is difficult to disassemble.
  3. You must disconnect several ribbon cables to replace the battery.
  4. You must loosen or remove the main PCB to remove the speaker and vibration motor assembly.
  5. The Flyer contains multiple PCBs that are connected via ribbon cables. This increases the potential failure points.
  6. The antenna wires are soldered to points on the display assembly.
  7. Compared to other tablets (Apple iPad 2, HP TouchPad, Motorola XOOM), the Flyer appears to have an inefficient internal design.

Internal hardware

Our HTC Flyer test unit had the following hardware components:

Smartphone in tablet's clothing

You can tell a lot about a company's roots and vision for the future by cracking open its products. For example, Apple's changes to the internal design of the iPad show a trend to produce disposable, rather than repairable, tablets. This is not surprising given the Cupertino company's history with the iPod and iPhone. On the other hand, HP's TouchPad is built more like a PC and straightforward to repair. This too seems appropriate given HP's history in the PC market.

I was therefore, not surprised by the internal design of the Flyer. The Taiwan-based manufacturer got its start building pocket computers and PDAs. But for the past decade, it focused almost exclusively on smartphones. HTC is one of the world's top five smartphone vendors. This smartphone know-how comes through in the Flyer.

On the inside, the Flyer looks more like an over-sized smartphone than a built-from-the-ground-up tablet. For example, parts are stacked on top of each other and removing one component often requires removing or loosening two or three others. The antenna wires are soldered to points on the front panel assembly. And, the display and digitizer are difficult, if not impossible, to separate without damaging them.

HTC fit a lot of tech into the Flyer's small case, but the device's internal layout appears far less efficient than the TouchPad, XOOM, or iPad 2.

Rushed design process?

Given the Flyer's jumbled hardware arrangement, one can't help wonder if the device's design process wasn't rushed. Leaning heavily on their experience building smartphones may have helped HTC bring the Flyer to market quickly, but designing a tablet from the ground up may have produced a better device.

Update 12/19/2011: This post originally appeared in our TR Dojo blog.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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