Barnes & Noble Nook HD Review
If you're a fan of apps, widgets, streaming content, or games, this is a tablet to skip.
Hot on the heels of Amazon's most recent tablets, Barnes & Noble have released their updated Nook tablets into the arena. The Nook HD in particular is interesting, but ultimately a bad option for prospective tablet buyers, as it offers very few advantages over other, higher-profile tablets at the same price.
Design & Usability
Standard design and limited usability, unless you only care about Barnes & Noble books.
Because the tablet is small and light, it's very easy to hold in one hand while you operate it with the other. Due to its somewhat small width, however, the tablet is a bit awkward to hold in a landscape format without accidental screen touches—if you have larger hands, be wary how you use this one.
As the Barnes & Noble Nook HD has a capacitive touchscreen and few buttons, virtually all of your interactions happens through the screen. Controlling the Barnes & Noble Nook HD isn't difficult, but it isn't all that easy, either. For example, depending on the app you use, you are forced to move the screen as it switches to a different orientation. Additionally, the layouts aren't all that intuitive, and there's very little you can do to customize your experience.
Much of this has to do with the fact that the Nook HD's operating system, like that of the Kindle Fire HD, is basically a re-skin of an older Android build, but with all the goodies of that OS ripped out and replaced by what the manufacturer wants. In this case, Barnes & Noble gutted Android of almost all its functionality outside of buying books and periodicals, and that's a problem.
As far as connectivity options go, the specs on the Barnes & Noble Nook HD aren't all that impressive, though there are a bunch of people out there who will like the expandable memory capability afforded by the microSD card slot. If you buy the cable through Barnes & Noble, you can get HDMI out, but we were unable to test this at the lab in time for publishing. Aside from the standard 802.11n wireless card in the device, there are no other wireless standards, so what you see here is what you get.
Very few features and very uninspiring performance
Cramming a 1440 x 900 resolution into a 6 x 3.75-inch screen, the Barnes & Noble Nook HD certainly lives up to its name, as it's capable of displaying content at or above 720p. Aside from pixel density, though, it's a rather poor performer in the other tests we subjected it to, namely in color accuracy. That's not to say that the very high peak brightness is anything to shake a stick at: It's very good for use in the outdoors.
The Barnes & Noble Nook HD 's high peak brightness allows it to be seen in a broader range of lighting conditions than most tablets, but as its reflectivity is also higher, you'll notice a very distracting and sharp reflection pattern even when you're not in direct sunlight. This tablet can be used outdoors fairly well, but see what you can do to get away from direct light sources.
If you're an app addict, widget wizard, or game glutton, this is not the tablet for you unless you plan on doing some seriously involved modding. Not only does the Nook HD have an app store that is devoid of most apps (though Netflix is present), but it is very difficult to install and run APKs acquired by other means as well. Most of the apps available to you are specifically geared towards consumption of Barnes & Noble's proprietary content like books and periodicals.
Fair hardware, but a cripplingly bad user experience
Android's open-source nature has led to many things, including the propensity for companies wanting to make a cheaper tablet to get in on the market. Barnes & Noble did just that with its newest line of Nook tablets by making a tightly-controlled and closed system with barely any content or apps. It would be one thing if they kept more of the original build of Android, or they came in at a lower price point than the offering from Google didn't, and there's very little reason at all to buy this tablet.
We're not going to tell you that it's universally bad, but it just doesn't fit into the market the way even the Amazon Kindle Fire HDs do, as even Amazon has a much larger content library and app store than Barnes & Noble. From a performance standpoint, there's no concrete step up that would justify paying the same amount of money for much less.
If you can find the Barnes & Noble Nook HD at a bargain bin or sale, it may be worth taking a look, just as long as you're aware of the many shortcomings you will experience while owning it. However, if you're a fan of apps, widgets, streaming content, or games, this is a tablet to skip.
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