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Barnes & Noble Nook HD Review - Video, Music, Battery Life and Verdict

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams


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Review Price £159.00

Barnes & Noble Nook HD - Books, Music and Video

Predictably, given Barnes & Noble main bookselling business, the selection of magazines and books is much better than the app selection. You can subscribe to hundreds of magazines, or a handful of newspapers. The only UK-centric newspapers available from the Store at the time of review were the London Evening Standard and Independent, although we expect the roster will fill up fairly quickly with others.

The screen makes magazine content look great - the main limitation on this front is that not that many magazines are properly optimised for the tablet experience and the additional potential it unlocks.

Barnes & Noble promises movies and TV episodes within the Nook Store too, but at present the video service hasn't launched in the UK. It's not a streaming service, but rather one that lets you rent or buy movies, like iTunes. Streaming fans will be pleased to hear that a Netflix app is available from the Nook Store, although a LoveFilm app is not - no great surprise given that LoveFilm is owned by Amazon, which produces the Nook HD's arch rival.

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If you want to play your own video files, the Nook HD is surprisingly good. It played out 1080p MKV test files at full speed, contrary to Barnes & Noble's own media specs for the device. High quality DivX and Xvid files played at full speed too. However, there are some improvements to be made here.

We found the video player a little buggy - at times it would refuse to play videos for no apparent reason - and it doesn't cope at all well with lower-quality material. Where some media players attempt to smooth out the rough-edges of SD-or-worse quality content, it can look quite raw on the Nook HD's screen. Textures and any detailed objects in motion in particular can look ropey on the unforgiving display. Stick to top-quality HD videos, of course, and they'll look fantastic.

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Music doesn't get a look in at the Nook Store. You can't buy or stream tracks. However, there is an inbuilt music player and codec support is reasonable, incorporating OGG and WAV as well the usual suspects AAC and MP3.

The Nook HD's music player app is a simple and classy affair, with a bit of an Apple flavour to it. Although tablets don't make great music players unless you're using them as a wireless music controller, the memory card slot makes this better than most.

If you simply want to play a few casual tunes and no separate speakers to hand, the Barnes & Noble Nook HD has a pair of speakers on its rear, towards the bottom of the tablet.

They are crammed into one edge rather than at each end of the tablet, so can't hope to produce much of a stereo image. However, within the confines of what we can expect from a 1cm-thick tablet, sound quality is fairly good, with some warmth that removes it from the tinny fizz that some low-cost tablets produce. It's not quite up there with the iPad's output in quality terms, though, and doesn't go as loud as the Amazon Kindle Fire HD.

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Used with a pair of headphones, the Nook HD outputs clean and clear sound, and goes loud enough to accommodate full-size headphones.

Barnes & Noble Nook HD - Battery Life

With a 4,050mAh battery, the Barnes & Noble Nook HD provides pretty convincing all-day use. Set to light tasks with the brightness dimmed to half-way, you'll get the full claimed 10.5 hours out of the tablet. At near-maximum brightness, we got a full day's fairly intense usage out of it, including gaming, web browsing and a spot of video. However, max out the brightness and set the Nook HD playing a looped video and stamina will be closer to the 6-7 hour mark.

Barnes & Noble Nook HD - Connectivity and Missing Features

The Barnes & Noble Nook HD can transmit audio to wireless speakers using its integrated Bluetooth connectivity. However, aside from Wi-Fi this is the only additional wireless connection the tablet has. Most importantly, there's no GPS, which means the device can't be used as a mapping tool while you're out and about. The Google Nexus 7 does offer this feature.

Other missing bits include 3G mobile internet, the wireless payments standard NFC, media streaming standard DLNA, and any sort of camera. For some, not having a user-facing camera may be a deal-breaker as it rules-out being able to video chat. There is an integrated microphone, however, that sits on the bottom edge of the Nook HD. Barnes & Noble says this is there to let you record your own narration of books, for your kids.

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Barnes & Noble Nook HD - Value

Since the Google Nexus 7 and the original Amazon Kindle Fire arrived, expectations of what a budget Android-based tablet should offer have skyrocketed. Poor-quality screens and weakling processors just won't cut it anymore. Unlike ebook-focused rival Kobo and its disappointing Kobo Vox, Barnes & Noble hasn't dropped the ball here.

There are holes in its feature list, but they are ones that don't show up too badly within the context of the "walled garden" of the Nook HD interface. The issue here is that the Barnes & Noble content infrastructure is pretty new here in the UK, and the apps, movies, games and TV offering just can't match up with what you get from a Google tablet or Amazon's Kindle Fire HD.


In terms of hardware alone, the Barnes & Noble Nook HD is an excellent tablet-ereader combo. It's lighter than the competition, and clever ergonomics make it the comfiest 7-inch tablet to hold one-handed. The screen is excellent too, with more pixels on show than any rival. Its issues are all in the software. The custom Barnes & Noble interface is easy to use, but it could be quicker. And at present the Nook Store doesn't offer enough content, with a limited apps and games roster and no movies, yet. It's remains excellent value for the amount of hardware you get, but compared to the Google Nexus 7, techies may find its limitations frustrating.

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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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