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Barnes & Noble Nook HD review

Andrew Williams

By

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

User Score:

Pros

  • Lightweight, with good ergonomics
  • Good value
  • Great screen

Cons

  • Limited app selection, expensive apps
  • No movie rental in UK yet
  • Patchy performance
  • Poor app selection, expensive apps

Key Features

  • 7-inch 1,440 x 900 pixel IPS screen
  • 8/16GB internal memory
  • microSD memory card slot
  • Customised Android 4.0 software
  • 10-hour battery life
  • Manufacturer: Barnes & Noble
  • Review Price: £159.00

Introduction

In the US, Barnes & Noble and the Nook range of eReaders are well-known. But here in the UK, neither name holds much weight. Like Hershey's chocolate, they're around, but haven't yet woven themselves into the cultural fabric of the country.

However, the Barnes & Noble Nook HD is no limping entry to the tablet game. With a high-resolution 7-inch screen, dual-core 1.5GHz processor, aggressive £159 starting price and expandable memory, it wants to lure people away from the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7. And for at least a handful of people, it should do.

Nook HD 1

Like the Amazon tablet, it offers access to a handful of content portals, supplying games, apps, videos, books and magazines. It wants to be your ebook reader, as well as letting you perform tablet tasks like checking email, browsing the web and - naturally - playing Angry Birds.

Barnes & Noble Nook HD - Video Review

Barnes & Noble Nook HD - Design

One of the key taglines Barnes & Noble has stuck on the Nook HD tablet is that it's the lightest 7-inch tablet around. At 307g, it's lighter than the Google Nexus 7, 340g, and the Kindle Fire HD, which is a hefty 395g.

Being lightweight may be a design focus, but being desperately small and slim is not. Instead, Barnes & Noble has given ergonomics precedence. There's an inch-wide grey bezel around the sides of the screen surround, acting as a thumb rest intended to supply the most relaxed grip possible.

This generous bezel works in partnership with a soft-touch back that has a curved ridge that sits under your finger, making the Nook HD much more comfortable to hold than the Amazon Kindle Fire HD. However, like the Amazon tablet it's not quite a beauty.

Nook HD 2

The Barnes & Noble Nook HD's outer body is made up of four different parts. Its screen surround is glass and there are three grey plastic elements that form the front, the sides and the rear. The back and front bits are matt, but the sides are glossy and the unmistakeable seams that outline each betray the tablet's budget roots.

It is significantly more distinctive-looking than most cheap Android tablets, though, the contoured grey plastic front giving the curious impression of a device that's already in a case. There is a functional benefit the non-flat front - it helps to protect the screen when the tablet is laid down face-first.

Nook HD 11

There's another key hardware difference between the Nook HD and its key rivals too. It has a microSD memory card slot on its bottom edge, unlike the Google Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD, which make you stick to the 16GB or 32GB of internal memory. Expandable memory makes the relatively poor amount of integrated storage you get here easier to forgive.

The lower-end Nook HD model has just 8GB of internal memory, costing £159, and the 16GB edition tops off the range at £189. It's therefore slightly more expensive than both the Amazon and Google alternatives. They offer double the storage for roughly the same price, but being able to boost storage with an inexpensive microSD card will be a huge bonus for some. Cards up to 64GB capacity are supported, ramping up maximum capacity to 80GB. Nowadays, even ultra-high capacity cards like this aren't too pricey, available for around £40.

Nook HD 5

Barnes & Noble really wants you to use its own online stores to consume content like movies, TV episodes, books and apps, but you can also transfer files to the memory manually fairly easily. Plug the tablet in to a computer using the supplied cable and both the internal memory and any inserted memory card will show up as disk drives, ready to dump files onto.

Rather than using a standard microUSB connector, though, the Barnes & Noble Nook HD has a proprietary socket that's a dead spit of the old 30-pin Apple plug. This connection is also used to charge the internal battery - a power adapter that the cable plugs into is included as standard.

The only other socket on the Nook HD is a 3.5mm headphone jack, which sits up top. There's no video output, which does feature on the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, although you can buy a bespoke HDMI output cable that plugs into the tablet's main socket.

Nook HD 8

From a pure hardware design perspective, there's no clear winner in the sub-£200 7-inch tablet war yet. Ergonomically, the Nook HD is superior to the Kindle Fire HD, but both are a way off the Apple aesthetics of the iPad mini. And while not everyone will appreciate the ebook reader-like design of the Nook HD, it's roughly on-par with the Google Nexus 7 in build quality and aesthetics.

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.

AmazingIneptitude

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

oldgrumpyman

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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