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Barnes & Noble Nook HD Review - Screen and Interface

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams



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Barnes & Noble Nook HD - Screen

The one area that the Barnes & Noble Nook HD can comfortably claim to beat all the competition is its screen. It is seven inches across and uses IPS display technology, just like the Google Nexus 7. However, its screen resolution is significantly higher than any other tablet in its class.

The Nexus 7 has a 1,280 x 800 pixel screen, the iPad mini a lower 1,024 x 768 pixel display - both well below the 1,440 x 900 pixel 7-incher the Nook HD provides. Pixel density is 243dpi, which is excellent for a tablet this cheap. The key benefit of such a pixel-packed screen is that text looks very sharp. Nook HD 14

This comes in handy when using the Nook HD as an ereader, although if reading is your only aim, we still recommend getting an E-ink screen device like the Nook Simple Touch GlowLight or Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. Even a good-quality IPS screen can’t compete with the relaxing look of an E-ink display.

The Barnes & Noble Nook HD screen is far better at displaying rich content, such as videos or magazines, though. Colour reproduction is good, maximum brightness is respectable and contrast is decent.

There are just two niggling holes in its armour. The display's blacks turn blue-ish when the screen is tilted in certain directions and there's no ambient light sensor. This means the Nook HD can't adjust brightness automatically depending on the environment, forcing you to manually control brightness. In Barnes & Noble's defence, the brightness slider is only ever a screen tap away, within the quick-access Settings menu.

Barnes & Noble Nook HD - Interface

The positioning of all the Nook HD's controls are determined not by the Android Ice Cream Sandwich software that sits at the tablet's core but the Barnes & Noble user interface that sits on top. Just like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, the Nook HD features a custom-made skin that's quite far removed from the feel of vanilla Android.

Also like the Amazon tablet, it's intended to direct you towards using Barnes & Noble's content hubs. However, it feels less aggressive and is more accessible than Amazon's flawed effort.

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Crucially, it doesn't sideline any core tablet features too badly. At the bottom of the tablet's start screen is a row of up to five icons that take you to the web browser and email client, as well as your book/magazine library, your app collection and the Shop.

The Shop is where you get hold of all your multimedia goodies, from TV episodes and movies, through newspapers and magazines to apps and games. All these content types sit under this roof. We'll delve further into what's on offer later.

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Barnes & Noble is keen to reiterate that it knows that tablets tend to be used by more than one person, especially when used within the context of a family. The Nook HD is geared-up for this situation, letting you set a different user account for each person.

The main point behind these accounts is to give each user an area to make their own, where they can pick their own shortcuts and background image, but there is a child account option too, which lets parents limit kids' access to the browser, shop and apps collection. Passcodes can be used too, so you don't have to rely on children doing as they're told. Nook HD 15

Although the Nook HD interface feels quite different from vanilla Android, its approach to home screens is comparable. Once you've setup a user account, you're free to customise each of the five home screens as you wish. A long press on the touchscreen opens-up a toy box of shortcuts to apps, videos, bookmarks and books, each of which can be dumped onto the home screen as a little icon.

Compared to a full-blown Android tablet like the Google Nexus 7, the Nook HD keeps things simple, though. There's no Android widget support, so you can't dump calendars or clocks onto them. The limited functionality of home screens makes having five of the things feel like overkill, but we imagine that - like so many Android tablet users - a lot of Nook HD users will ignore all but one home screen.

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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