Barnes & Noble Nook HD review
Full-sized tablets have fallen out of fashion – the compact market is where all the action is right now. First there was the Nexus 7, then Amazon came on board with the Kindle Fire HD, and even Apple has lumbered in with the iPad mini. Now, it’s the turn of US book-store giant, Barnes & Noble, to enter the fray with the Nook HD.
On paper this £159, 7in tablet looks to be right up there with the best of them. It certainly has the sharpest display, with a resolution of 1,440 x 900 and a pixel density of 243ppi. And it adds to that screen with a solid line-up of features and core hardware.
Inside the device is a 1.3GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4470 processor, one level up from the unit in the Kindle Fire HD, plus 1GB RAM, single-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There’s only 8GB of storage compared to the 16GB you get for the same price with its two main rivals, but there is a microSDHC slot so you can add up to 32GB more.
Design and display quality
A standout specifications sheet is entirely academic if the device isn’t attractive and usable, but the Nook HD is both. The chassis isn’t as slim and light as the iPad mini’s, but it isn’t far off. It weighs only 315g, and the soft touch chassis, scooped out at the rear, feels comfortable to hold. It’s a much more pleasant design than the angular Kindle Fire and rather lumpen Fire HD, and if you don’t like the white finish, it’s also available in black.
Switch it on and the display immediately impresses. It’s piercingly bright at its maximum setting – measured at 445cd/m2 – and although its contrast ratio isn’t as strong as its competitors at 674:1, it’s certainly bold enough to provide a sumptuous viewing experience.
Text looks crisp and sharp-edged, with little pixellation, while photos are gloriously detailed and bursting with rich colours. Sit it next to a Fire HD or an iPad mini and images look a touch warmer due to a slight emphasis on the yellows, but this isn’t a criticism. The glossy surface of the screen is also less reflective than its rivals.
Software and content
The Nook HD runs Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich), but it isn’t a “normal” Android tablet such as the Nexus 7. It runs a heavily modified version of Google’s mobile OS, which is tied in closely with Barnes & Noble’s various content offerings, and has no access to Google Play.
We like what Barnes & Noble has done with the user interface. The homescreen is clean and welcoming, with a carousel of recent items displayed at the top and shortcuts to favourite items below. A field to search the device is situated at the bottom of the screen, and above this are five buttons that take you to a full listing of all your content and apps, the tablet’s web browser, email client and shop.