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HTC Flyer joins the tablet wars

The handset maker announces a flurry of devices at Mobile World Congress 2011, including its first tablet. Find out more about the HTC Flyer here.

HTC Flyer

BARCELONA, Spain--With Apple, Samsung, LG, and Motorola all entering the tablet space, you had to know HTC would join them sooner or later, so we can't say we were completely surprised when the Taiwanese handset manufacturer unveiled its first tablet today at Mobile World Congress 2011.

Everyone, meet the HTC Flyer. This Android 2.4 2.3-based tablet features a 7-inch Super LCD touch screen that's encased in an aluminum unibody design. This is a design that the company has used on a number of its smartphones, including the HTC Legend, and we've always been fond of HTC's craftsmanship, so we expect the same from the Flyer.

In all, the tablet measures 7.68 inches long by 4.92 inches wide by 0.51 inch thick and weighs just under a pound. HTC calls it a tablet that's both compact and powerful, the power coming from a 1.5GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon processor.

The tablet also has 1GB RAM and 32GB ROM, along with a 5-megapixel camera, a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera, HSPA+ support, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. However, it's not the hardware that makes the HTC Flyer distinctive, rather it's the user experience and services that make this tablet notable.

Like its smartphones, the Flyer will run the company's custom user interface, HTC Sense, but it has been optimized for tablet use and now includes a carousel of widgets, which you can swipe through and see the most important information to you. Obviously, with such functionality, touch interaction will play a big role, but HTC is taking it even further by integrating pen-based use.

The Flyer will feature HTC's Scribe and digital ink technology to give you the experience of using a pen to take notes, draw pictures, and more, right on the tablet. The device will actually come with built-in synchronization to the popular note-taking app Evernote, and also comes with something called Timemark. This lets you record audio during a meeting or event and syncs it up with your written notes. When you're ready to go back and review your notes, you can simply tap on a word and hear the recorded audio. It's very much like the Livescribe Echo pen but for a tablet.

Who wants to use a tablet just for taking notes, though? HTC certainly doesn't and it has loaded up the Flyer with some multimedia goodies. For one, there's the company's new video download service, HTC Watch. With it, you can get HD movies from major studios.

Recently, HTC invested in the cloud-gaming service OnLive and the companies wasted no time in partnership, as you'll be able to access OnLive's library of games and play them right on the tablet or on your TV over a broadband wireless connection.

So now that we've got you all excited about the Flyer, you're probably wondering about release dates and pricing. Unfortunately, the availability date was not released at press time, and you can pretty much bet that it will hit the European and Asian markets first. The HTC Flyer has an estimated retail price of 499 euros ($674). We'll be meeting with HTC later today, so we'll be sure to ask about U.S. availability and bring you some hands-on photos and video.

Update: CNET's full review of the HTC Flyer is now available.