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Barnes & Noble Nook HD Review - Apps, Games and Web Browser

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams



Our Score:


Barnes & Noble Nook HD - Apps and Games

No tablet can live without a healthy app selection, and this is one area where the Barnes & Noble Nook HD struggles at present. Where other Android tablets use the Google Play app store as their main app source, this tab has the Barnes & Noble Shop.

Apps need to pass through an approvals process designed to make sure they work properly on the Nook HD before they're allowed in. Barnes & Noble says that this results in a carefully curated selection, but from our searches it would also be accurate to say it's quite small and has many notable omissions.

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Several of the most obvious apps and games are present, including Spotify (which comes pre-installed), Angry Birds Star Wars and Netflix, but the games selection in particular is poor. There are just 1,810 games in total - it may sound like a lot, but is a tiny fraction of what Google Play offers.

If Barnes & Noble had just cut out the trash we'd be relatively happy, but the vast majority of our usual favourites aren't here. Real Racing 2, Dead Trigger and Infinity Blade are all handy games for testing the power of a low-cost tablet like this, but none are available from the Nook Store.

The Nook HD doesn't support manual installs of APK Android files either. Try to run one and the tablet will tell you that apps not downloaded from the Nook Store are blocked for security reasons.

The Nook HD features a fairly powerful 1.5GHz Dual Core Ti OMAP 4470 chip with a POWERVR SGX544 graphics chip. This is exactly the same setup used in the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9, and should provide enough grunt to get the 3D games the tablet doesn't yet have flying.

However, performance isn't perfect. Navigating around the OS feels more sluggish than it does with the Google Nexus 7. There are pauses between menus and upon launching apps, and as these pauses are a little inconsistent, making them all the more frustrating.

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It's disappointing, but this is likely to be improved with upcoming firmware updates, and the Nook HD is already faster than the Kindle Fire HD. In the Sunspider java browser benchmark, the Nook HD scored 1259ms, significantly quicker than the Kindle Fire HD's result of 1878ms.

We should note that we didn't experience the show-stopping slowdown and frequent crashes that were reported in the US during the earliest days of the Nook HD's existence.

Barnes & Noble Nook HD - Web Browsing

The Barnes & Noble Nook HD makes an excellent casual web surfer for reasons other than its nippy browser. Its high resolution screen keeps small text legible, the width of the tablet makes two-thumbed perfectly natural and the 7-inch screen offers a versatile compromise between size and portability.

It's large enough to display desktop sites rather than mobile sites - and its resolution is actually greater than most 15.6-inch laptops. For sofa surfing or reading articles on the train, there are few devices we'd rather use. However, as there's no 3G option you're limited to saved or cached online content if you're out of range of a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Lon Bailey

November 26, 2012, 2:00 pm

Why would a proprietary tablet like the B&N nook be more attractive than a conventional tablet? Maybe it is because you cannot get the B&N app easily as Android Play says the app is not valid for the UK. B&N books are about the same price as amazon, though. I will stick to my Transformer Prime.


December 18, 2012, 12:35 am

NOOK HD is not compatible with B&N's "PagePerfect" ebooks (graphically enhanced) - which, if you do a search, are most of the ebooks you'd want to read on a color tablet!!

They don't tell you this when you purchase a NOOK HD - which is the updated version of the Nook Color, which "PagePerfect" books were created for... to exploit the fact that you could have full color photos and pictures.

So Barnes and Noble's newest reader gets fewer compatible books, and none with enhanced graphics! Nice.

No wonder they aren't talking about it. (and see how many reviews you can find online that point this out)

Brian Linens

May 11, 2013, 8:13 pm

Full android tablet now after new software upgrade. BIG IMPROVEMENT


May 16, 2013, 8:44 pm

UPDATE The review needs updating to include that Google Play is now officially licensed on the Nook HD/HD+ which makes it an entirely different value proposition. It was brought in with a B&N update. This also means that you can easily install Amazon Apps and Amazon Kindle reader as additional resources to Google Play. All movie rental services in UK appear to be available.

For the UK user this means that BBC iPlayer (and its UK & US equivalents) can be easily installed as an official app, and if your ISP connection speed is up to it, the video is superb, because the HD screen is full 720p capable.

Another newer development is that Firefox for Android tablets is now available, and you can install Adobe Flash, so that all Flash content on the Interwebs is accessible, as well as helpful add-ons such as AdBlock. This means that you can either watch BBC programmes in the browser or the BBC iPlayer (you might want to make a recording, that has limited life done in the proprietary players such as iPlayer, but is a permanent recording when made with a browser app - you need this facility for off-line watching of programmes that do not appear in iPlayer, such as football programmes ).

Finally there is a new way of hybrid rooting (details at XDA) that installs ClockworkMod, gives root access, but preserves the native Nook interface. I wouldn't recommend many proprietary interfaces, because ICS and Jelly Bean are simply good without embellishments, but I'm happy with the Nook loader.

£40 64GB SDXC cards are available - and the current price promotion is £129 (less in Asda and Currys) during May 2013.

Probably deserves 10 stars rating now - if lack of camera does not bother buyer.

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