Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet Review
The reader’s tablet is back. The new Nook Tablet delivers the very best color e-reading expertise offered, specially for magazines and for childrens’ books. It’s a much better e-reader than the Amazon Kindle Fire ($199, 4 stars), our Editors’ Option for tiny tablets. However the Nook does not quite match the Fire on music, video or apps, and also the Nook Color ($199, 4 stars) provides the same wonderful e-reading knowledge for less funds. Make no mistake, the Nook is actually a quite good little tablet, but the Fire delivers a better all-around tablet encounter, along with the Nook Color delivers far better value as a color e-reader.
Physical Design and User Interface
Feeling a little a lot more ‘book-like’ than the Amazon Kindle Fire, the Nook Tablet is significantly taller and slightly wider at 8.1 by 5.9 by 0.5 inches (HWD) thanks to its a lot bigger bezel, but it’s lighter at 14.1 ounces compared with Amazon’s 14.6. There is a common 3.5-mm headphone jack, as well as a curious small loop in the bottom left corner, which serves as each a handle plus a way to conceal the reader’s MicroSD card slot, just like on the Nook Color. In reality the Nook Tablet and the Nook Color are nearly identical save for a slightly lighter-color metallic finish. The Tablet has physical Power button and volume controls on the side panels too as a single, “N”-shaped home button in the bottom of the 7-inch, 1024-by-600 touch screen.
Much more Barnes & Noble has made a big deal out of how its IPS LCD screen is much less reflective than Amazon’s, but after using each screens for long periods taking several photographs of each, I found I had to squint to tell the difference. It is there, but it is by no means pronounced enough to be a dealmaker. Both displays are a lot much less readable in daylight than the e-ink screens on devices like the Amazon Kindle Touch ($149, four stars).
The Nook Tablet, like the Amazon Kindle Fire, runs an extremely highly customized version of Android 2.3 on a TI OMAP4, 1GHz dual-core processor. But the Nook’s user interface looks nothing like Amazon’s (or, for that matter, Android’s.)
Rather than shelves, here you have three free residence screens where you can plunk down large icons representing your favorite books, magazines, or apps. (No widgets; this isn’t common Android.) Along the bottom of the screen are your most recently used items in a scrollable list, along with some links to promotional screens plugging B&N’s various stores, and its favorite music and video related apps. (You can hide those links.)
Press the House button, and you’ll get seven main options: Residence, Library, Shop, Search, Apps, Web and Settings. Your Library contains, on separate panes, Books, Magazines, Newspapers, Apps, Kids, and My Stuff, a catch-all for any of your own music, video or document files you may store inside the Nook’s 1GB of user-accessible memory or on a MicroSD card up to 32GB. You can also create your own custom shelves within My Stuff to arrange books by topic, for instance.
Notice what’s missing: Unlike on the Kindle Fire, the Nook lumps music and video under the catch-all of “Apps,” and breaks out books, magazines, and newspapers more distinctly. That’s actually on purpose, and it shows one of the major differences between the two tablets.
Barnes & Noble Is actually a Bookstore
Nobody beats Barnes & Noble when it comes to books. If childrens’ books are going to be a big part of your tablet expertise, this is your tablet. Nook books for kids are full of animation and interactivity. They often offer read-along audio versions also as the ability to record your own voice, if you want to read a distant child a bedtime story. (Recording your own voice is exclusive to the Tablet; it isn’t on the Nook Color or the Kindle Fire.)
Nook magazines flip pages much more smoothly than the Kindle, and when you double-tap on articles in the magazine page view, the text pops out in an attractive scrolling column. Magazines and books-especially cookbooks, from what I saw-can also incorporate embedded audio and video.
Compared with these, the Kindle’s childrens’ books look like cheap flatbed scans, its cookbooks lack panache, and its magazines look awkward.
The Nook’s whole UI encourages you to keep reading. On the house page, the top status line lets you jump back to the most recent book you were in. A pop-down menu shows your most recently read books and magazines. An omnipresent small book icon at the bottom immediately reopens your book to where you left off.
Adult books are much better than on the Kindle too, mostly through an interface with fewer mysterious icons and a lot more clearly explained options. I also greatly prefer the Nook’s accounting of pages and chapters over the Kindle’s weird, disconnected “locations.”
Barnes & Noble enhances the reading experience with its 700 brick-and-mortar stores, letting you read anything you want for an hour on the in-store Wi-Fi network, letting you browse physical magazines and tomes before buying them electronically, and offering up its staff to suggest books. Amazon has nothing to compete with that.
The one area the Kindle triumphs is in comics. The Nook has a limited selection of comics, and you pinch to zoom. The Kindle will have Comixology as well as exclusive DC comics, double-tapping lets you flip through specific panels, and you can load a third-party comic reader if you have CBR-format comic files. That’s a significantly broader comics expertise.
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