Editor's update, Spring 2012: AT&T has lowed the non-contract price to $549, $399 with contract
HTC devotees have been waiting patiently for an HTC 10" Honeycomb tablet. They make some of the finest Android smartphones, but have been strangely absent from the tablet market. AT&T scored an exclusive for the HTC Jetstream, perhaps the best Android Honeycomb tablet currently on the market, but the price to entry is high. Whether greedy or misguided, AT&T's decsion to price the Jetstream a bit higher than even the iPad 2 at launch will doubtless limit sales of this high end tablet. For a quick price comparison of 10" 32 gig 3G and 4G tablets sold in the US, here's our table:
Yep, they're all expensive, and you could get a midrange laptop for the same price.
But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for, and HTC loaded the Jetstream with top quality components. Where we usually have to say that the tablet could have a better camera or better battery life or *insert high end feature here* if money were no object, the HTC Jetstream has the best of pretty much everything including a metal body, an amazing 1080p camera, a dual digitizer with pen plus capacitive touch, long battery life, Netflix support and fast 4G LTE with fallback to also fast HSPA+. It has a 1.5GHz dual core Snapdragon CPU with Adreno 220 graphics vs. the usual 1GHz dual core Tegra 2 CPU, a gig of RAM, 32 gigs of internal storage, a front video chat camera, a rear 8 megapixel autofocus camera with dual LED flash that takes the best mobile 1080p video we've ever seen (you'll see it in our video review), a GPS, dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth and 3G/4G with both HSPA+ and LTE. The 10.1" fingerprint-resistant display is top notch and it's a dual digitizer that's capacitive multi-touch plus an active digitizer that works with the HTC Scribe pen (included with the tablet during a promotional launch period, otherwise it costs $80). The display has haptic feedback, a rarity in 10" tablets because it's a power-hungry feature.
On the software side, HTC has customized the tablet with HTC Sense software and added useful applications like Polaris Office (a full MS Office compatible suite), HTC Watch for movie download and purchase, a custom version of Evernote that works with the HTC Scribe pen, a PDF viewer that allows for pen annotations and many, many widgets.
Design and Materials
The Jetstream rivals the iPad 2 for quality materials and attention to design. The brushed metal back cover and metal frame exude quality. No budget plastic backs here, and the chassis has zero flex. As with some of HTC's recent high end Android smartphones, the metal bezel has a lip that rises above the display to protect it should it do a face plant. The lip looks attractive and makes it easier to hold onto the tablet. The 1.56 lb. tablet isn't as light as the 1.34 lb. iPad 2 and 1.25 lb. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but it's lighter than the Motorola Zoom, Toshiba Thrive, Acer Iconia Tab A500 and the same as the venerable Asus Eee Pad Transformer. At 0.51", it's quite slim, though not as slim as the two thinnest tablets on the market, the iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1. We'll forgive that since the Jetstream has to pack a huge 7,300 mAh battery, a triband LTE radio, a metal casing and a large camera module into the package. It also feels balanced in the hand and it's not too thin to hold, making it less cumbersome than some tablets on the market.
The back has a plastic strip on the bottom and at the top over the antenna areas to avoid radio interference. The right section of the upper plastic section pops off to reveal the SIM card slot and microSD card slot. It's easy to remove and re-install, with none of the trickery required on some HTC phones.
There's a large speaker grille to the left, and that's the subwoofer (no kidding). Toward the bottom there are two smaller grilles for the stereo speakers. The tablet has SRS sound that increases spaciousness and boosts bass significantly, but I preferred sound with SRS turned off because the bass is a bit much. Sound is very loud and full; the HTC Jetstream can fill a room with sound. It may not be Beats audio, but it sounds better than the speakers on the Beats-equipped HP TouchPad. The Jetstream and Galaxy Tab 10.1 have the best Honeycomb tablet speakers on the market, and they put the mono iPad 2 to shame.
The tablet has a 3.5mm stereo jack and power button up top and large volume controls on the left side. There is no dedicated HDMI port; instead you'll have to use an MHL adapter (not included, for the price it should be).
Multi-Function Micro USB Port
You can use a standard micro USB cable (included) to copy files in mass storage mode, HTC Sync (PIM data), Media Sync, trickle charge or use the tablet as a high speed modem for a laptop. These are the same USB functions and profiles you'd see on an HTC phone, and are an improvement over the basic mass storage mode offered by Honeycomb. Sadly, a mobile hotspot feature is missing, so the tablet only works as a high speed wireless modem over USB, not WiFi.
The USB port is actually an HTC ExtUSB port. That means a standard micro USB cable fits, but the charger has an ExtUSB connector that won't fit into standard micro USB ports. Does the Jetstream support USB host when paired with an illusive micro USB to USB OTG host cable? We're still waiting for final word from HTC. The Storage applet has a section for USB storage devices (flash drives, hard drives, etc.) that we don't usually see on Honeycomb tablets, but our Motorola Xoom OTG cable didn't work.
4G LTE and 4G HSPA+
The Jetstream is AT&T's first 4G LTE tablet, and we are fortunate enough to be in one of the first 5 LTE markets. The network is virtually empty since AT&T just started offering two LTE data devices, and speeds are incredible. We got 26 megs down and 11 megs up with 1 out of 5 bars signal, 29 megs down and 11 megs up with 2 bars and 46 megs down with 16 megs up with a full 5 bar signal. Those are very impressive numbers, and we'll see how the network performs once more LTE devices are on the network. As a fallback, the tablet has both 3G and 4G HSPA+, with AT&T's HSPA+ network now well built-out. Even if you're on HSPA+, the numbers are very good with an average of 7.5Mbps down and 1.4Mbps up according to Speedtest.net. That will eventually give AT&T an edge over Verizon because Verizon's LTE falls back to a much slower EV-DO Rev. A 3G network with speeds that average 800k-1.4Mbps down. But for now, AT&T has only 5 metro regions blanketed with LTE, and they plan to add at least 15 more by the end of 2011 for an LTE network that would cover 70 million people.
AT&T doesn't charge extra for either flavor of 4G, and they offer the tablet with month-to-month no-contract plans of $15/month for 250 megs (that's a uselessly small amount of data) and $25 for 2 gigs/month. If you go over, you'll be billed $10 per additional gig of data. The Jetstream ships with AT&T's data counter widget, so you'll know where you stand for data consumption. AT&T's data plan pricing is roughly similar to Verizon's plans. If you opt for a contract with the Jetstream, you're required to get the 3 gigs for $35/month plan (additional data is billed at $10 per gig). As with Verizon, it looks like AT&T is charging a premium for 4G LTE devices rather than increasing data plan prices like Sprint for their 4G WiMAX network. If you buy the tablet without a contract, you can pay via monthly billing (you can add it to your existing bill if you're already an AT&T customer) or use a credit card for payment. AT&T stores require that you get at least one month of data if you wish to buy the tablet without a contract, but you can cancel the plan after the first month. There is no activation fee.
The SIM card and microSD card slots live under a cover.
HTC Jetstream Video Review
Here's our 30 minute video review where we compare the Jetstream to the iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, explore HTC Sense for tablets, and test out video playback, Netflix (available from the Android Market, no side-loading required), Adobe Flash and much more.
HTC Jetstream HDMI Video Demo
We didn't get HDMI-out working with our generic MHL adapter in time for our main video review. So we've got a short separate video below that shows the Jetstream mirroring to a 42" 1080p HD TV. We also play a 1080p high profile MPEG4 video as well as a 1080p video taken with the Jetstream's camcorder to the TV.
The Snapdragon MSM8260 shines when playing video, thanks to strong 2D acceleration in the Adreno 220. We were able to play 1080p high profile MPEG4 videos that choked our Motorola Xoom and Asus Eee Pad Transformer. We also noted very good performance in Adobe Flash 10.3 video playback, with Flash movie sites like crackle.com and Amazon Instant Video/Amazon Prime Video playing smoothly, with Flash controls working well. The tablet worked perfectly when we hooked up an MHL adapter to output video via HDMI to a 42" HD TV.
Though you miss out on Tegra 2 Zone games, the Jetstream is no slouch at gaming. Need for Speed is bundled, and as you can see in our video review, it plays fluidly. We'd love to see more compelling tier 1 3D games for Honeycomb, but the iPad 2 still has a huge advantage when it comes to high quality game selection.
When navigating the UI and launching apps the tablet feels very quick with no lag. The Jetstream has also been relatively more stable than other Honeycomb tablets with no crashes. That stability combined with the HTC Sense UI refinements and software additions make the tablet feel more friendly and immediately useful vs. vanilla Honeycomb tablets.
If you're a fan of HTC Sense on Android phones, you'll love what HTC did with the Jetstream. If Sense isn't to your taste or you prefer Samsung's TouchWiz, this might not be the tablet for you. HTC Sense 1.1 for Tablets (HTC uses different Sense version numbers for different product types such as tablets, phones and QWERTY phones) is roughly equivalent to HTC Sense 3.0 for Android smartphones. Sense 3.0 is on the HTC Sensation 4G and other recent HTC high end phones. Sense on the tablet isn't just a port though; HTC has customized their social networking app, Friend Stream, to make excellent use of the added screen real estate, and I find it as useful as some of my standby third party Twitter and Facebook apps. There are a large number of HTC widgets to choose from (don't worry, they're not all loaded from the factory, but you can press and hold a finger on the home screen to bring up the widget selector and peruse them). Widgets include various size widgets for Friend Stream, clocks, calculators, stocks, weather, music playback and more.
If you want to customize the tablet's look and feel, it's a tap away on the home screen, just as with HTC Android phones. You can change the theme, wallpaper, sounds for alarms and notifications. HTC Hub is a free service where you can download additional skins, wallpapers and sounds, and HTC has a "locate my tablet" service too. HTC handles contacts management and integration well, and the tablet can integrate and merge contacts from Google, Twitter, Facebook and more.
HTC bundles the Zinio magazine reader, Press Reader for newspapers, a task manager, Teeter (a Labyrinth game), Snapbooth (similar to Photo Booth on the Mac), Kindle, GameWorld (OpenFeint), HTC Footprints, HTC Connected Media for DLNA streaming, Kid Mode and HTC Weather (full screen HTC weather) in addition to the standard suite of Google apps such as the Webkit web browser with Adobe Flash 10.3, YouTube, Gmail, Gtalk with video chat, email, the Android Market, Google Maps and Navigation, Google Books and News. AT&T software is kept to a minimum: there's AT&T Navigator (you can use your AT&T cell phone account, no need to pay for a second Navigator account), AT&T Family Maps, AT&T Code Scanner (a QR square bar code scanner), AT&T Wi-Fi Hotspots (free AT&T WiFi is included with their data plans) and Featured Apps. There's also a Movies app powered by mSpot for movie rentals. HTC also includes a printing feature that works with networked Canon, HP and Epson printers.
HTC Scribe Stylus
We were a little disappointed with the HTC Flyer and HTC EVO View 4G running Android OS 2.3 Gingerbread with HTC Sense 1.0 for tablets. One could use the pen to annotate PDFs, write in Evernote and scribble on ebooks, but that was it. Using the Scribe stylus and the Jetstream's N-Trig active digitizer, we could use the stylus everywhere, from Polaris Office to take handwritten notes to Alias SketchBookX and SketchBook Pro for drawing. In fact, HTC's own Notes app (Evernote + Skitch) and Alias SketchBook Pro support pressure sensitivity, a feature usually only found on Windows slates. This is great news not just for artists who want to draw and paint with the more precise active digitizer pen, but for students and others who wish to take notes, write math equations or mark up digital forms.
The HTC Scribe stylus has 2 buttons: 1 for highlighting and one for for erasing.
An active digitizer is often used on Windows tablets, and it's great for more precise work vs. a capacitive stylus that has a wide footprint (typically 5 pixels or more). The HTC Scribe pen uses a single AAA battery that's included. It has a rubber tip that tapers to a point, and that tip is replaceable should it wear out.
So far, tablet cameras haven't impressed us. The iPad 2 has very low resolution cameras and though some Honeycomb tablets sport 5 megapixel rear and 2 megapixel front cameras that look good on paper, image and video quality haven't been good. The HTC Jetstream is the first tablet that made us want to wave around a 10" beast just to take photos and video. Photos are warm, sharp and natural and 1080p video is actually better than some Nokia N Series phones. Honestly, we never though we'd see the day that HTC produced a camera that could rival Espoo's best. Video quality is better than HTC's flagship 8MP smartphone shooter, the T-Mobile myTouch 4G Slide. Check out our samples below:
I never though that tablets were ideal for imaging, but now that I've used a very good camera, I find that it has strong appeal. Take a sharp photo and then view it on the equivalent of a 10" photo-frame: nice. Shoot video with a huge viewfinder so you can really see what's going on: also nice. It helps that the Jetstream's display is viewable outdoors.
Here's a video we put together of two short 1080p video samples. There's some degradation thanks to the YouTube upload and conversion, but it will give you a good idea of what the camera can do.
Here's a photo gallery of images taken using the HTC Jetstream. Click on the gallery to see larger versions of the photos.
The Jetstream has a 7300 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's sealed inside. That's just a bit more than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1's battery capacity, and it's enough to power this tablet through 10 hours of actual usage time. AT&T claims up to 12 hours of use and 37.5 days of standby. In our tests we had both WiFi and LTE on and brightness set to auto (the Jetstream is quite bright on the auto setting, brighter than most tablets). We played several MPEG4 movies stored on internal storage and a microSD card, streamed a 2 hour movie via Crackle and still had power left.
The Jetstream ships with a white 9 volt, 1.67 amp charger with an ExtUSB connector.
The HTC Jetstream Vs. Other Android Tablets
There are quite a few 10" Android Honeycomb tablets on the market, and there's plenty of variety in terms of features and price. There is no one best tablet, because folks have different needs. If you crave a super-thin and light tablet, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is for you. If you want lots of ports including a full size USB host port, the chunky but capable Toshiba Thrive and Acer Iconia A500 are for you (assuming you can live without built-in 3G/4G). If the convertible laptop-style design of the Asus Eee Pad Transformer with keyboard dock lights your fire, it's the Transformer for you. If you must have 3G/4G, the field narrows to the iPad 2, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the HTC Jetstream. In terms of UI customization, added software, build quality and materials, display quality and the digitizer pen, the HTC Jetstream looks very good vs. the competition. But the price needs to be more in line with the already expensive Galaxy Tab 10.1 LTE edition. It has quickly become my favorite 10" Honeycomb tablet, and if money is no object, I say go for it. But I still don't find it easy to part with $699- $849 for a tablet in this economy, and you might not either.
The HTC Jetstream is the "be all that you can" tablet, with a price tag to match. Several years ago, that was Sony's thing: make the best but make it expensive. Now Sony's is releasing an average quality 10" Honeycomb tablet at an average price ($499) and HTC's taking the high road. We still think that AT&T added too much elevation to that road, but if you can afford the best and want a top notch 3G/4G Android tablet, it's the HTC Jetstream.
The Jetstream has an excellent display that's warm, natural yet bright and sharp. It compares well to the excellent Galaxy Tab 10.1's display and the IPS Eee Pad Transformer's, and it supports the Scribe pen for digital note-taking and drawing that's more precise than capacitive styli. The tablet has fast 4G HSPA+ and insanely fast 4G LTE, though AT&T's LTE is currently available in only 5 markets with 15 more coming by the end of 2011. Photo and video quality are the best we've seen from a tablet, and the Jetstream makes an excellent photo frame for those snapshots, and you can show 1080p home movies on your HD TV (with an MHL adapter). The Jetstream is fast and we really like HTC's customizations that make Honeycomb feel more friendly and useful out of the box without adding bloatware. For the price, we'd really like to see that MHL adapter in the box. If the Jetstream + Scribe pen were priced the same as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1", we think it would get more traction. At the launch price, it's a tablet for technology aficionados and those who have plenty of cash.
Price: $699 with a 2 year contract that requires a $35/month data plan, $849 without contract. $$399 with contract, $549 without contract
Display:10.1" capacitive multi-touch
color LCD. Resolution:
1280 x 800 (150ppi), supports both portrait and landscape modes via accelerometer, has ambient light sensor. N-Trig display has an active digitizer that works with the HTC Scribe pen for drawing and note-taking. Active digitizer supports 99 levels of pressure sensitivity.
Ion rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable.
Performance:1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8260 CPU with 1 gig RAM and 32 gigs internal flash storage partitioned into two 16 gig areas (one for app installs, one for all other data).
Size:9.87 x 7.0 x 0.51 inches. Weight: 25 ounces/ 1.5 pounds.
3G/4G:Quad band GSM with EDGE 2G. 3G and 4G HSPA+ on the 850/1900/2100MHz bands for AT&T and abroad. 4G LTE on the 700Mhz band and on the AWS bands (T-Mobile bands, in case the AT&T-T-Mobile merger goes through).
Camera:8 megapixel autofocus rear camera with dual LED flash and 1.3 megapixel front video chat camera (works with Google Talk).
in stereo speakers plus subwoofer, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
WiFi 802.11b/g/n (dual band n 2.4 GHz/5 GHz) and Bluetooth 3.0.
Software:Android OS 3.1 Honeycomb with HTC Sense 1.1 for Honeycomb tablets. Google apps: search, voice search, Android Market, Maps, Navigation, Places, Gmail, Email, web browser, Gtalk with video chat, Books (Google ebook reader), Gallery, YouTube, Music, Clock, Calculator, Contacts, Calendar and Latitude. HTC Sense software: HTC widgets for weather, flip clock, Friendstream and many more. Printer drivers that works with networked HP, Epson and Canon printers. Notes (Evernote), HTC Watch movie and TV show rental/sales, Kid Mode (Zoodle), Polaris Office (MS Office editor and viewer), Movies (mSpot rentals), AT&T Navigator, AT&T Family Map and AT&T Code Scanner.
SDHC microSD card slot compatible with cards up to 32 gigs. MHL adapter required for HDMI video output (not included).
In the Box: HTC Jetstream, charger, USB cable and quick-start guide. HTC Scribe stylus packaged separately.