This end of September, Barnes & Noble updated their tablet line. The introduction of their Nook HD and HD+ tablets this fall has provided a low-price alternative to the better-known Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7.
By offering a high quality reading experience and marketing toward families, Barnes & Noble is not just filling a niche; they are expanding it.
Look and Feel
The Nook HD features a stubby body with rounded corners. A beveled edge softens the feel and protects the screen from both damage and greasy fingerprints. The back gently curves outward with an indented soft-touch feel that provides traction and a natural place to rest the fingers while reading.
The tablet measures 7.7 x 5 x 0.43 inches and 11.1 ounces, making it a slim, lightweight competitor to the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD.
On the front, the home button consists of the Nook’s simple but elegant lowercase “n” logo; on the back, two speakers flank the Nook logo. The small microphone hold and headphone jack rest on the top edge while the bottom left edge holds buttons for volume and power.
Also on the bottom, the charging jack provides a fast charge time, and an adjacent light signals the battery level. A microSD slot enables external storage up to 32 GB. Unlike the competition, the Nook lacks even a basic camera, but this sacrifice is due to the low price tag.
Nook HD comes with 7-inch IPS LCD display with 1440×900 pixel resolution and 243 ppi and in this aspect beats Amazon Kindle HD 7 inch display with 1280 x 800 px and 216 ppi. The range of viewing angles and high-definition playback are very impressive, especially in such a low-price device.
A 1.3-GHz dual-core OMAP 4470 processor and 1 GB of internal memory power the Nook HD with the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android and Your Nook Today, a new software package that B&N introduced with this generation of tablets.
B&N is far more transparent with their software than Amazon, who restricts their software so much that their tablet functions as little more than a content delivery device. The Nook HD offers minimalist experience with the customary toolbar, notifications in the center of the screen, and easily accessible settings.
The interface is fairly customizable, and with downloadable apps, a web browser, an email app, and a Nook store, users will find plenty to play with. Each user can create a password-protected profile for added security.
Look and Feel
The Nook HD+ comes with pleasantly rounded corners and a smooth plastic back that lacks the characteristic indent of the HD. However, like the Nook HD, bezels separate the visual aesthetics from the competition. The HD+ looks and feels durable.
This tablet, measuring at 9.5 x 6.4 x 0.45 inches and weighting 1.14 lbs / 0.52 kg, is one of the thickest and lightest 9″ tablets available.
Like the HD, the Nook HD+ features a physical home button with the “n” logo and dual speakers under a single grill in the back. The top edge houses a headphone jack, microphone hole and volume rocker. The bottom edge contains a microSD card slot for up to 32 GB cards and a custom 30-pin charging connector that accommodates the included 30-pin-to-USB cable and AC adapter.
However, the HD+ has no camera, light sensor, micro-USB port or HDMI port, but B&N reportedly will release an HDMI adapter this winter. While this may be deal-breakers for some shoppers, these trade-offs are easy to digest with the low price tag.
The 9-inch IPS LCD display with 1920×1280 pixel resolution and 256 ppi shows off colors accurately with little backlight bleeding on dark screens. Glare is handled well, as are a wide range of viewing angles, but the screen is susceptible to oily fingerprints.
With a 1.5-Ghz dual-core OMAP 4470 processor, 1 GB of internal memory and Android Ice Cream Sandwich, the Nook HD+ features a simple, customizable interface with downloadable apps, a web browser, an email program, and instant video service — albeit limited — the HD+ offers a healthy selection. Multiple password-protected user profiles can be created.
Puting two models side by side, the Nook HD+ tablet could be considered a larger version of the HD. Compared to the HD, the HD+ boasts a slightly faster processor and a larger display with higher resolution and better pixels per inch rate, but when it is time to choose between the two devices, it may just come down to size and pricing.
With low price tags, low weight, multiple user profiles and quality displays, both versions make strong contenders in the tablet category. The limited availability of downloadable apps and multimedia may drive some users to other devices, but avid readers will appreciate the enjoyable reading experience offered by the HD and HD+.