Barnes & Noble 7″ Nook HD: A review

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How on earth do you pick a tablet these days? The market is SO crowded so what sets one apart from the others?
We were sent a 7″ Nook HD to try out – a device from US bookseller Barnes & Noble, that’s super light, really stylish looking and has made reading books and magazines a delight – and that’s not something I ever thought you’d hear me say!
The Nook runs on Android and is a book reader at heart but with so so much more packed under the bonnet.

Barnes & Noble have given a great deal of thought on how to compete with the likes of the iPad Mini and the Kindle Fire.
The design is excellent, it’s easy to hold but the kicker is it’s high resolution screen, which for movie watching and reading the likes of magazines or comics is simply stunning.

I confess we loved it.
The resolution really is quite stunning – I love me a movie magazine and thought I’d hate reading it on a tablet. I mean, a picture of Spider-Man’s costume just isn’t going to cut it on an e-reader, right?
Well wrong actually, as the quality of magazines is fabulous. The colours pop and the quality of the print is crisp and easy to read.
Movies are stunning to watch on there too. We watched Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows and the clarity is spot on and the sound really good.

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Nook HD+ piano app

Your homepage is populated with whatever you’ve been using on a carousel-like widget, that you can customise – so you can add the books, magazines, apps you use regularly and want easy access to.
And best of all for parents, it’s so so easy to set the children up with their own password-protected profiles, complete with the parental controls you want.
You set their age, decide what age-appropriate settings you want to allow them and they have an entirely different profile to you. So there’s no resetting parental controls when you want to use the device.

Nook HD+

Things I love
The packaging is spot on. You feel like you’ve bought something classy when you open up the box and the device is ‘offered up’ to you on a little platform (it’s the little things!)
The HD display is rich and impressive.
You can link up your emails and internet browsing is slick and easy to use.
It’s really easy to use and navigate and I really like that everyone in the family gets their own profile, so I don’t have the children’s apps and books clogging up my homescreen.
It looks and feel great, and is really easy to use and carry around (it only weighs something like 515 grams). I read Life of Pi on it and for someone who adores books (the feel, the smell, the just because) I really enjoyed it.
It’s very much aimed at families. Everyone can have their own profile on the device which means the kids can’t fiddle with my Words With Friends ap (!) BUT I can share a book I’ve loved with my husband, or Dan and husband can share a subscription to Rugby World or whatever it is they read together. It basically means you have complete control over any accounts for children on there.
The reading experience is excellent.

Things I don’t love
Yes you can get many of the apps you know and love, but you can’t get everything.  You only have access to the Nook store and Nook apps, which they say is vast, but even so that still means it’s limited to what they choose. They say that they have basically sorted the good stuff out from the huge mass of apps out there, but that means you can’t gain access to Android stuff by signing into your Google account.
Once you do start downloading apps, you notice just how many you can’t get. Nothing from the BBC to keep up to date with news, no decent Facebook app, no (gasp) Candy Crush, no Ebay. And actually, very few free apps.
Yes, you can access many of these through your browser, but in this day and age, we all expect an app to be there in place.
Another disappointment was that some of the books I looked up were WAY more expensive on the Barnes & Noble site (when compared with Amazon). I really do think this is something they need to address if they want the Nook to be a real contender.

UPDATE May 2013: You can now access Google Play on the Nook which has made a HUGE difference to the usability. 

So is it for you?
We actually really like this device. It’s easy to use, looks stunning and if reading is your thing, then it hands-down beats other tablets in it’s class.
If having a camera on your tablet is important to you then don’t buy a Nook as there isn’t one – it seems to be the price you pay for keeping the cost low. To be honest it’s never been something I wanted on a tablet as using my phone is SO much easier.
The screen resolution is a big seller; it’s 1440 x 900 compared with say the iPod Mini which is 1024 x 768.
And at £129 for the 8GB and £159 for 16GB (both of which feature expandable microSD storage) it’s a very affordable piece of kit.

I think Barnes & Noble have a way to go yet to make it really desirable – as the mother of two kids, having the apps they know and love is a biggie and having ones you can try for free is also an essential because I’m not paying £1.50 after £1.50 for something they end up playing with twice.
Hopefully these are things they will look into for the future. But in terms of looks and usability they really are on to a winner.

NOTE: I have spoken to the PR team about the availability of apps on the Nook, and they tell me that Barnes & Noble are constantly adding new ones to the store and that “the US team are working on this and are viewing it as a matter of priority”. So watch this space!

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5 Responses to Barnes & Noble 7″ Nook HD: A review

  1. HonieBuk (HonieMummy) says:

    Thanks for the review. We use iPad, but HD has gone all Samsung happy lately. It frustrates him that the apps he bought in the App Store aren’t transferable and less are free. But I’m guessing clarity and cost will eventually give the ‘other’ manufacturers as big a place in the market & they will probably respond with freebies & incentives to keep themselves there

  2. I was interested in what comes packaged up in this. Interesting that it doesn’t seem come with any anti-virus software built in and you have to buy an app to do that. I find that a major disappointment, android virus’ seem to be the elephant in the corner of the room at the moment. I’ll be watching where it goes.

  3. I've got the kindle fire hd and absolutely love it AND the bois don't seem to be THAT interested in it. Yay all around. but this is definitely one to remember about come next birthday or christmas when i have a feeling that my eldest will be wanting a table of some sort of his own.
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