HTC Jetstream Android Tablet Nimble Despite Fat Form Factor

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-10-17

HTC Jetstream Android Tablet Nimble Despite Fat Form Factor

If someone were to walk into a retail store and play with AT&T's (NYSE:T) HTC Jetstream 4G LTE/HSPA+ tablet only a flat surface without being allowed to pick it up, they will be impressed by the slate's speed and processing power.

The tablet, which runs Google's Android 3.1 Honeycomb operating system with a 10.1-inch touch screen at 1280-by-800 resolution, employs a third-generation, Qualcomm dual-core 1.5 GHz processor. 

After playing with this unit for the past several days, I can safely say it facilitates applications and other data faster than my own Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 device, which uses Nvidia's Tegra 2 1GHz dual-core chip.

Moreover, the tablet is fitted with HTC's Sense user interface for tablets, which makes customizing widgets and moving them around with press and hold gestures facile and fun.

I zipped around from Gmail to Facebook to Twitter, Angry Birds and YouTube, all without any hiccups. Google Books is also preloaded on the tablet, along with the Amazon Kindle application. There is no shortage of media options of the Jetstream.

I got a little surprise when I tapped the "Internet" icon on the main homscreen when I discovered it too took me to a My Yahoo homepage, which is no doubt part of AT&T and Yahoo's long-running content services bundle agreements.

I realized that, just as with the Yahoo widgets on my AT&T U-Verse home entertainment system, I'm never far from that Ma Bell and Yahoo coziness. But don't worry; Google is still the default search engine on this Honeycomb gadget. The search bar lives in the upper left hand corner of the touch screen.

The tablet also has a special treat in that it is fitted with HTC's Scribe digital pen input software, which allows users to take notes and save them to Evernote's cloud, doodle on the screen, and do other things. More on the Scribe later. I have to address why I can't recommend the Jetstream on balance.

The Jetstream's form factor is tragic. The Jetstream is .51 inches thick, compared to about .33 inches for my Tab, and weighs an unbelievable 25 ounces. That is, 1 pound, 9 ounces.

To my mind, it doubles as a media consumption device and a lethal weapon. Moreover, because the device, like most of HTC's tablets and smartphones is contoured, it feels unbalanced when held in one hand. And one can't hold it in one hand for long before tiring.

HTC Jetstream Honeycomb Tablet Speedy, Heavy

To top it off, the Jetstream costs $699 with a two-year deal from AT&T. Why would anyone purchase a Jetstream at that sum when they can buy a Tab 10.1 for under $500 and an iPad 2 for $500? And with the Amazon Kindle Fire coming down the pipe Nov. 15, that will clearly be the Android tablet to beat this holiday season.

Somewhat assuaging is that AT&T offers a new postpaid tablet option to let users subscribe to a $35, 3 GB monthly data plan option with a two-year contract. Moreover, customers who do not choose a long-term commitment may elect to use postpaid for $14.99 for 250 MB or $25 for 2 GB.

Still, as the Jetstream stands,  I can only conclude that HTC endeavored to build and sell a premium tablet through AT&T. It's got 32GB of memory, 1GB of RAM and no ports save the micro USB charging port and 3.5mm headphone jack. The screen is a crisp, gorgeous 16m color, WXGA HD display that reacts quite nimbly under the fingers.

The camera might be the best I've ever experienced on a tablet. 8 megapixels certainly provides for cleaner, brighter shots than the 5MP shutters of most tablets, and there was so little lag time I felt as though I had a high-end digital camera that just bangs out photos by the second. The video recording in 1080p sparkled, too, and I used the 1.3MP front camera to take self portraits and test video chats with minimal effort.  

Battery life was for this 7300 mAh charger lasted me a respectable full day, even after viewing three hours worth of movies via the Jetstream's preinstalled mSpot movie application.

I was most excited to test the Jetstream because it afforded me the opportunity to use the Scribe digital pen and input software that I grew to love on the 7-inch display of the Evo View 4G on larger real estate. And boy did that deliver. Scribe is truly a gem of a hardware software combo from HTC. I wrote in 5 different pen strokes, from pen to marker to paintbrush, and erased and highlighted using the buttons on the pen.

I also took several pictures and handwrote captions on them, sent them to friends and saved them. I found that pretty empowering, especially for someone without a lot of artistic talent. I felt as though I had capabilities other tablet owners don't. That was nice.

The HTC Scribe digital pen is free for Jetstream buyers early on as a promotion, an $80 discount off of the pen's retail price when it's purchased alone. Scribe also integrates with the Evernote note-taking application to let users store annotated documents in the cloud, which makes for a nifty little business use case for the Jetstream/Scribe combo.

Despite the Scribe delight, I don't think the Jetstream is a good option because of the chunky hardware, which is cumbersome to handle. If HTC put this software in a thinner, lighter form factor, they just might have a hit on their hands.



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