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The HTC Flyer is the first tablet from the maker of some of our favourite phones. But it's joining a whirling dogfight of tablet aces that have already stolen our hearts with their big screens. We've seen the Flyer in flight, so let us act as your cabin crew as we demonstrate the safety features and oxygen masks of the Flyer versus the wing commander of the tablet revolution, the Apple iPad, and its 7-inch Android archrival, the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Be sure to check out the photo gallery above to see how the Flyer stacks up in terms of size, too.

HTC Flyer

The HTC Flyer (pictured middle in pic 1) isn't part of the new wave of tablets running on Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the version of Google's software that's been built specifically for tablets. Instead, HTC has slapped its own Sense user interface over Android 2.4 Gingerbread. 

We think Sense looks great on phones such as the HTC Desire S, and we like it even more on the big screen. HTC has tweaked all its apps to take advantage of the extra real estate -- so, for example, you can scroll through your albums on the left-hand side of the photo gallery while looking at individual photos on the right.

But although we like what HTC has done with Gingerbread, we're still looking forward to the Flyer's Honeycomb upgrade. That's because there's a possibility that if developers target their apps to Honeycomb, they won't be usable on the Flyer until it gets the update. Happily, there's still plenty to keep you occupied on the Flyer, including a movie-rental service and OnLive streaming games, although these are unlikely to be available in the UK at launch. 

From what we've seen, battery life could also be a challenge for the Flyer. We're used to chucking the iPad or Galaxy Tab in our bag without worrying about charging for days. Judging by our initial experience with the Flyer, its battery is far less impressive. The Flyer's official specs reckons you'll get 4 hours of video playback time, compared to the Tab's 7 hours and the iPad's 10 hours.

Good for: Good-looking user interface
Bad for: Battery life, Android apps designed for tablets

Apple iPad

Simplicity is the iPad's great strength -- a simple home screen of icons makes it child's play to use, but it's not very customisable. Unlike the Flyer, you can't choose to fill your home screens with widgets and shortcuts of your choice.

The iPad (pictured left in pic 1) has a 9.7-inch screen, and at 725g, it's too big and heavy to use in one hand for long. The huge screen and silky-smooth touch interface make it fantastic for browsing the Web, although we sorely miss having Flash on board, since it's used for so much of the Web's video, photos and navigation.

The iPad's iTunes shop makes it easy to buy music, movies and books for the iPad. Putting other types of files on to the iPad can be tricky, however, because you can't access its folders directly, as you can on the Flyer. 

Apps are where the iPad shines, however. The Apple App Store is stuffed with apps that specifically take advantage of the iPad's big screen. Some websites have also gotten in on the action, with a great iPad-specific site for Gmail, for example. You can even use iPhone apps on the iPad, although they don't look very good on a screen twice as big as the one for which they were designed.

Best for: Simplicity, apps
Worst for: Flexibility, Flash websites

Samsung Galaxy Tab

The Galaxy Tab (pictured right in pic 1) has a 7-inch screen, just like the Flyer, but its case lacks some of the Flyer's style. It feels thicker, and it's made of plastic rather than the Flyer's aluminium. Such a mighty chunk of metal is sure to add to the Flyer's price tag though.

The Galaxy Tab is still happily running Android 2.2 Froyo, and Samsung's customised apps aren't quite as elegant-looking as HTC's. But it still has plenty going for it, including support for Flash in the Web browser. The Tab can also make phone calls, although we challenge you to look cool with this giant phone against your ear. 

With the Flyer offering fresher software, a handsome user interface and the same portable size, what does the Galaxy Tab have to offer? There's the great battery life that we mentioned earlier, and hopefully, there's also the price. Although the Tab was expensive to start with, we expect it to drop like a rock with the passing of time. 

Best for: Price, battery life
Worst for: Looks, older version of Android

The Flyer and the Galaxy Tab.
The iPad and the Flyer.
Backsides.
Aluminium versus plastic.
Large and little.

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