I was looking forward to HTC’s first 10-inch tablet, the Jetstream, since it first leaked over the summer as the elusive “Puccini.”
Then came the official announcement. The Puccini, renamed the HTC Jetstream, looked great on paper, but cost a whopping $700 with a two-year data contract from AT&T.
It’s as if HTC learned absolutely nothing from the Xoom’s failure to sell at such a high price.
Still, I wanted to get my hands on one to see if this LTE-powered tablet could live up to its price tag. Keep reading to find out if it did.
Honeycomb’s New Look
HTC is the master at creating skins for Android. Sense is already my favourite skin for smartphones, and now the company has pulled off something equally as impressive on top of Honeycomb for tablets.
Overall, it’s a lot more functional and eye-catching than Samsung’s TouchWiz skin for Honeycomb. Right off the bat, you get several different configurations to choose from: Social, Life, Travel, and HTC. Each one has its own app and widget configuration for your home screens that make getting things done a breeze. (Of course you can manually tweak each of these “scenes” to fine tune them to your needs.)
You can also choose a few of your favourite apps to live on your lock screen so you can access them as soon as you turn the Jetstream on. Those of you who have used recent HTC Android phones should be familiar with this.
HTC greatly improved Honeycomb’s bottom task bar. The function Back, Home, and Multitasking buttons are redesigned and easier to discern what each one does. One of my biggest gripes with stock Honeycomb has always been that the home buttons look way too technical and confusing to figure out what they’re supposed to do. HTC made it easy. The home button looks like a house. The back button looks like a back arrow. You get the idea.
I also enjoyed that with one swipe horizontally across the screen, you can access all five of your home screens. (With a nifty animation too.)
Finally, the notifications menu in the bottom right corner has a better look to it than stock Honeycomb, giving you access to a few basic settings like Wi-Fi, brightness, aeroplane mode, etc.
But it looks like HTC ran into the same glitch Samsung did with its Honeycomb skin. Every time a new notification pops up, that corner of the task bar reverts to the old navy-ish Honeycomb colour for a brief second. It looks ugly. We get the feeling Honeycomb isn’t as easily skinned as smartphone versions of Android are.
Overall, Sense makes Honeycomb easier to use than any other Honeycomb tablet I’ve tried. The downside is it’ll be out of date as soon as Ice Cream Sandwich goes live next month. I hope HTC steps on the gas adapting the new OS to the Jetstream.
On the outside, the Jetstream would’ve been really impressive a little over a year ago. But in this era of thin, light tablets (iPad 2, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1), the Jetstream feels like a tank.
The Jetstream does feel solid, definitely less creaky and plasticky than the flimsy Galaxy Tab. It’s still all plastic, but like HTC’s recent smartphones, it’s durable as hell. Unfortunately, that also makes it heavy as hell. I own the original iPad, and even that feels light in comparison to the Jetstream.
Just like its little brother the HTC Flyer, the Jetstream works with an optional stylus. There’s a neat note-taking tool pre-loaded on the Jetstream that syncs with your Evernote account. Still, I’m not sold on using styluses with tablets. It’s just an extra thing you have to carry around, and writing simply doesn’t feel natural yet. It’s just like trying to sign your name on one of those electronic credit card readers at the super market.
Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider
The Jetstream is also the first tablet to run on AT&T’s new LTE network. But AT&T only supports LTE in five U.S. cities right now. Everyone else is stuck with HSPA+, which in my speed tests in NYC weren’t much faster than 3G. In fact, it was about the same speed as 3G most of the time. That’s hardly worth the two-year data plan agreement.
Since I don’t live in one of AT&T’s LTE markets, I didn’t get a chance to test it out. But from what I’ve read, those speeds are about on par with Verizon’s LTE network. If you live in in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, or San Antonio, it may be worth a shot if you can stomach the Jetstream’s $700 price tag.
LTE is supposed to come to 10 more U.S. markets by the end of the year, but AT&T hasn’t said when or where.
Should You Buy It?
I can’t think of one reason to drop $700 on a tablet. And that’s the price if you lock yourself into a two-year data plan agreement with AT&T. If you want the Jetstream contract-free you have to shell out $850.
Let’s forget the iPad even exists for a moment and take a look at the competition. You can get Samsung’s LTE-powered Galaxy Tab 10.1 for $530 from Verizon. Plus, Verizon has LTE in more than 100 U.S. markets now, compared to AT&T’s five. No contest.
It’s unfortunate, but the price is really the only thing holding me back from recommending the Jetstream. I really do enjoy the tablet, but with 10-inch iPads and Galaxy Tabs starting at $499 and the upcoming Kindle Fire selling for $199, the Jetstream doesn’t seem to stand a chance.