I've been using nooks since the original split-screen device, and own all the nooks and use my nook several times a week. In each new device I see big strides on B&N's part and this new nook HD is no different. I've had some time with my new nook HD and wanted to give you my thoughts.
Packaging. I still remember the original nook shipped in this crazy Apple-like plastic case that was from Mars. It seemed really cool until you tried to get the device out and realized this was a very bad idea! The new nook HD packaging is like most other devices out there, nothing magic feeling - but nothing to get in your way to start using the device.
Display? For me the display is key - it's why I started with eInk devices for reading. For the first time B&N may have an eInk-killer. While the lack of backlight is important, eInk makes a big impression from it's text clarity. The Nook HD display is 1440 x 900 HD resolution and is 243 pixels per inch (ppi). The higher the PPI, the harder it is to see the pixels and distinguish computer fonts from printed paper. The resolution on the nook HD is near that of what Apple calls their "Retina Display" and the nook HD is far ahead of the iPad mini in this regard. The screen is bright, vibrant, and crisp - and the viewing angles are superb. This makes reading a breeze - and why I say it's an eInk killer. I had my family look at the Glow Light and Nook HD (with brightness all the way down) in a darker room and the Nook HD was the clear winner. The background color of a piece of paper is a nice touch and it performs wonderfully in low light (not too bright). To me with the brightness all the way down it almost reminded me of a Kindle paperwhite screen.
Updates? No surprise, the software is totally updated from the nook Tablet/Color series. It now supports multiple users through profiles and the user interface has many of the advantages of Android 4.0. The parental controls give parents some security about sharing the tablet with the kids too. The shop, apps view, library are all updated (but stll recognizable) and I was instantly impressed across the board. The scrapbook feature is pretty nice since it let's you save content and go back to it later. The connector has changed so they can support HDMI output (extra accessory) - I wish it hadn't changed :(
Build Quality & Size? Ok, the size is nearly identical to all the non simple touch devices - I'm still using the original nook 3G case I got and they all fit well. This is the thinest and lightest nook tablet to date, and it's the lightest 7" tablet in it's class. The build quality is ok, but not amazing. I'm a big Apple user and this is nowhere near the quality of an Apple. Little things like the plastic pieces not quite coming together is the little stuff that bugs me (see picture). The buttons and volume are cheap plastic and the SD card slot is hard to open and seems flimsy. On the plus side the back of the device has nice curves and is a very soft nice material to hold.
So... It's clear that Barnes & Noble invested a lot into the hardware and software for the device. If you've used the nook app on the iPad you'll really enjoy this experience so much more. The reader is much nicer and the shop experience is so nice compared to the B&N website. The screen is vibrant and crisp and the performance is really snappy. It's family friendly design and unique look (especially the snow edition) really make the product a stand out in the crowd. Ok, for $199 the NOOK HD is an awesome device and a top-notch reading experience. But is worth the price compared to the competition? At the same price point the Nexus 7 is a complete tablet with a full Android experience (good and bad). Oh, and let's not forget the iPad mini - a bit of a price premium but you get the full iOS experience and a huge media and App Store. In the end if you want a full tablet features with a lot of apps you would still be happier with the Nexus 7 or iPad mini. But for many of us seeking a tablet device mainly for reading, the Nook HD is a top choice. The design is geared for reading and the experience just feels smoother and book-like compared to the Kindle Fire IMHO.
Conclusion? So, if you've invested in B&N content and are looking to get a better night reader than the Nook touch glow light it's time to upgrade! The screen outside isn't dreamy but it kills my iPad. If you are looking for a tablet to do "some" reading on I think you might be better served with an iPad mini or Nexus 7.
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