To make a Android tablet stand out from the crowd, device manufacturers have to offer users something more than just a standard Android experience. Enter the HTC Jetstream by AT&T, a 10-inch tablet that is the first to ride the carrier's 4G LTE network and has optional digital pen input. It's like the HTC Flyer/EVO View 4G but with a bigger screen. Add to that a slick design and you've got the makings of a compelling slate. But are all of those goodies worth the Jetstream's steep price of $699 with a two-year AT&T contract? Read on to find out.
The Jetstream has a handsome and distinct look. The majority of the rear of the tablet is a silver brushed-metal surface with an inlaid HTC logo at its center. The back also features two swooping rubberized surfaces, one at the top and one at the bottom (in landscape orientation) that run the length of the device. The top rubber portion provides a nice home for the Jetstream's 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and microphone. It also serves as a removable cover for the tablet's SIM and microSD card slots.
The tablet's 10.1-inch display is bordered by a black bezel that, when held in landscape mode, displays the HTC logo on the left side and the AT&T logo on the right side. A silver metallic border rings the edges of the Jetstream and curls up into slight lips at each of its corners, another shoutout to HTC's familiar design theme.
At 9.9 x 7 x 0.5 inches and 1.5 pounds, the Jetstream is more akin in size and weight to the original iPad, and is much larger than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (10.1 x 6.9 x 0.3 inches, 1.3 pounds). However, it's still svelter than the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet (10.3 x 7.2 x 0.6 inches and 1.6 pounds).
On the left side of the Jetstream is a volume rocker, the size and location of which resulted in frequent accidental inputs while holding the tablet in landscape orientation. A proprietary microUSB port on the bottom of the tablet is the only other connector port you'll find on the Jetstream. Conspicuously absent? A dock for the HTC Scribe digital pen.
Display and Audio
The Jetstream's 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 Super LCD display is one of the best we've seen. An HD trailer for Marvel's The Avengers looked spectacular. The red, white, and blue of Captain America's shield gleamed, and the subtle folds in Nick Fury's black trench coat were easily distinguishable. Viewing angles for the Jetstream were nice and wide; we could view The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trailer at a roughly 45-degree angle without the image washing out.
When placed side by side with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and iPad 2, however, colors displayed on the Jetstream looked colder, with more of a blue hue. The Galaxy Tab had significantly brighter colors, with reds looking far deeper than those shown on the Jetstream. The iPad 2, meanwhile, fell between the two, with colors looking decidedly warmer than on the Jetstream, but not quite as vibrant as on the Galaxy Tab.
The Jetstream's stereo speakers could easily fill a small room. They blasted T.I.'s bass-heavy "Bring Em Out" with ease, while still being able to make Johnny Cash's guitar sing sonorously in "Hurt." Unfortunately, the speakers are located where most people would place their hands while holding the Jetstream in landscape orientation, which muffles the sound.
Software and Interface
The Jetstream marks the debut of HTC's Sense for Tablet, a skinned version of Google's Android 3.1 Honeycomb. Overall, Sense for Tablet gives Android a warmer, more inviting feel than the standard Honeycomb interface. Brighter backgrounds are used throughout, and more colorful icons populate the app menus, as well as the tablet's five home screens.
Because the Jetstream features the HTC Scribe digital pen input, a new pen icon joins the standard Back, Home, and Layer icons in the bottom-left corner of the toolbar.
HTC Sense also gives the Jetstream's lock screen a much-needed refresh, featuring four customizable shortcuts to your favorite apps. Drag one of the shortcuts into the circle and you'll automatically launch it from the lock screen. You can also set the screen to display the current weather conditions in your location or nothing but the lock.
Long-pressing on an empty section of the screen reveals a paint brush and pallet icon in the top right of the screen. This takes you to a menu where you can change the wallpaper, switch skins, change your lock screen, or set your alarm clock and notification sounds. Customizing your home screen widgets and app shortcuts does still require you to tap and hold an empty part of the home screen.
For those who like to take notes with their tablet, the Jetstream supports digital pen input. The pen is only included when you purchase the Jetstream on a two-year contract for $699 or, for a limited time, with the $849 unlocked version. You can always purchase the pen separately for an additional $79. That's a lot of money to spend on an optional device that doesn't work all that well.
To use this feature, you to tap on the pen icon in the status bar with the stylus. From here, you are given the option to take a screenshot (a helpful tool), create a new note, or change your pen settings. The notes feature allows you to record notes using the Jetstream's microphone and creates time stamps each time you jot down a new item. Very useful.
You can also attach notes to your Gmail calendar; share notes through e-mail or Facebook and Twitter; and attach pictures, documents, and audio files to notes. The Jetstream lets you change the size and color of the pen stroke and switch between a pen, pencil, paintbrush, crayon, or quill. The Jetstream's PDF viewer also allows you to annotate your PDF files using pen input. We especially like Evernote support for syncing your notes with the cloud.
The problem with the pen feature is that it just doesn't work well. Palm rejection is virtually nonexistent. When we leaned our hand on the screen while writing notes, for example, the virtual keyboard popped up and blocked off half the screen. The usefulness of the audio recording feature is negated by the fact that the Jetstream's microphone picks up each pen tap you make while writing on the screen. Listening to any recorded note becomes an exercise in trying to block out the maddeningly incessant tapping.
We also wish HTC had included the type of functionality Lenovo offers with its ThinkPad Tablet, such as the ability to convert handwritten notes to text, a lined notepad, or at the very least a pen dock.
In addition to the standard Android Honeycomb keyboard, the Jetstream offers users the option to include a number pad on either the left or right side of the keyboard. It's a simple but nice touch that makes entering numbers much easier. HTC also included a Swype-like Trace keyboard for fast typing. Like the ThinkPad Tablet, the Jetstream offers haptic feedback that vibrates whenever you tap the keyboard or any of the icons in the main system toolbar.
Overall, the keyboard proved very responsive. The Trace Keyboard also worked very well, although the predictive text feature sometimes delivered undesired results. For instance, swiping the word "bit" repeatedly registered as "DIY."
The Jetstream comes loaded with a host of apps from both HTC and AT&T. The HTC Hub app gives you access to updated skins, wallpapers, scenes, and sounds for the Jetstream, while the HTC Likes app serves as a sort of staff picks section of the Android Market. HTC's Footprints app allows you to geotag your location to create a travel diary, complete with pictures of all the places you've been.
In addition to the host of standard Android apps, the Jetstream includes FriendStream, which lets users aggregate and monitor all of their social media networks from one location. The included Movies and Watch apps let users download and save movies to their tablet. Included games range from the now-ubiquitous Need for Speed Shift to Let's Golf 2 and Teeter. If you tire of those, you can always check out the selection available through AT&T's GameWorld or the Android Market.
Like the HTC Flyer, the Jetstream includes a Kids Mode that automatically launches the kid-friendly Zoodles app. With the Jetstream, users gain access to HTCSense.com, a web portal where you can make your Jetstream ring if you misplace it, or lock it, and--in extreme cases--wipe it clean if you believe it's lost or stolen.
AT&T's apps include an AT&T Code Scanner app for scanning barcodes; the AT&T FamilyMap app, which helps family members keep track of each others' locations on a map of the U.S.; as well as the AT&T Navigator app and AT&T Wi-Fi Hot Spots. Annoyingly, you must have an AT&T phone number to use the navigation app.
If keeping up with the news is more your cup of tea, the Jetstream also comes loaded with Press Reader and Zinio. The later gives you access to the latest editions of newspapers from across the globe, while the former offers users the ability to purchase and read the last issue of their favorite magazine. On the productivity side of things, the Jetstream features Polaris Office for editing text documents, PowerPoint presentations, and spreadsheets. A PDF Viewer app lets you do just that, view and annotate PDF files from your tablet.
The Jetstream also features DLNA support, so you can stream your videos or music to any network connected television, stereo, or other media device.
The Jetsteam's 8-MP rear-facing camera captured crisp, colorful images outdoors. When we tested the camera inside, we didn't get nearly the same results. Images seesawed from looking clear, to having an overwhelming red tint to them, depending on the lighting in the room.
We experienced the same results while using the video camera to shoot a video outside of our offices in Manhattan and inside under fluorescent lighting. The tablet's 1.3-MP front-facing camera didn't suffer from the same tinting issues, but images did look pixelated and grainy.
The Jetstream's 1.5-GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8260 processor and 1GB provided mixed benchmark results. On Linpack, the Jetstream pulled past the competition, scoring a 77.7 in multi-thread mode. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, both of which have Nvidia Tegra 2 processors, scored 63.3 and 53.7, respectively.
When we ran the Android Benchmark CPU test, though, the Jetstream fell far behind the pack, scoring a relatively low 2,460. That's just below the category average of 2,708, but far lower than the 3,057 scored by the Galaxy Tab and the ThinkPad Tablet's 3,089.
The Jetstream performed slightly better in the An3DBench test with a score of 7,241. And while that's higher than the category average of 7,036, it's far from the 7,616 and 7,703 scored by the Galaxy Tab and ThinkPad Tablet, respectively.
But benchmarks are only synthetic tests. During our everyday use, the Jetstream performed very well. We didn't notice any slowdown while scrolling through menus or home screens and rarely noticed lag while multitasking. When we played the included Need for Speed Shift, our car zoomed around the track without a single hiccup.
Web Surfing and 4G LTE Data
To test the 4G LTE capability of the Jetstream we ran some tests in Chicago, one of five locations where AT&T carrier currently offers these speeds. When we used the SpeedTest.net app to gauge the Jetstream's download and upload speeds, the tablet averaged 4.9 Mbps down and just 680 Kbps up. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 running on Verizon's 4G LTE network, on the other hand, averaged a lighting quick 13.5 Mbps down and 2.6 Mbps up. It should be noted that the Galaxy Tab tests were conducted in New York.
This HTC tablet fared better when surfing the web. It took the Jetstream 9.9 seconds to load ESPN.com and 10.4 seconds to load NYTimes.com. That's actually quicker than the 11 seconds it took the 4G Galaxy Tab to load ESPN's site and 9.7 seconds to load The New York Times' page. The Jetstream also managed to load the Laptopmag.com homepage in 11.1 seconds. The Galaxy Tab, meanwhile, took 14 seconds.
During the LAPTOP Magazine Battery Test, which includes continually surfing the web via HSPA+, the Jetstream lasted an outstanding 8 hours and 30 minutes. That crushes the category average of 6 hours and 56 minutes, and blows past the Galaxy Tab's time of 6 hours and 3 minutes by more than two hours. We'll update this review with battery life results over 4G LTE.
To purchase the Jetstream for $699, you'll need to sign up for a two-year data plan with AT&T. The only plan currently available gives you 3GB of data for $35 per month. That adds up to a total cost of $1,539 over the course of two years when you include the cost of the tablet. Not into the long-term commitment thing? You can also sign up for a post-paid monthly plan with 250MB of data for $14.99 a month or 2GB for $25 a month. Sign up for either of these plans, though, and you'll have to fork over the $849 off-contract price for the tablet.
Regardless of what plan you sign up for, cross that data limit and AT&T will hit you with a $10 charge for every 1GB of data you use, or $10 for every 250GB if you sign up for the least expensive plan.
The HTC Jetstream is a sleek Android tablet with a friendly interface. Unfortunately, its main draw, the HTC Scribe pen, doesn't work as well as advertised. But our biggest issue is the Jetstream's price. For $699 you get the tablet, as well as a two-year 4G data plan with AT&T. That's $70 more than a similarly equipped Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 for Verizon, which is lighter and offers faster 4G speeds. And it's also $70 more than a 3G iPad 2 on AT&T, which has more compelling apps. If AT&T decides to drop the price on the Jetstream, it might be worth picking one up. For now, though, it's just not worth the premium.