With the Nook HD and HD+, Barnes and Noble have perfected tablets to compete with Apple, Amazon and Google.
An ebook reader is designed primarily for reading. In this market, Amazon’s e-Ink Kindle range rule the roost, with revolutionary matte finish displays mimicking paper and boasting impressive battery lives.
Other tablets are designed to download apps, watch movies, play games, listen to music, and browse websites. Essentially, ultra portable laptops with touch screens replacing keyboards, category where Apple’s iPad has been revolutionary.
Until now, Apple’s main competitors were Google’s Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire, running the Android operating system. These devices have more computing power but both in style and execution, Apple’s range has provided the best end-user experience, however: whilst being able to run Kindle compatible apps, the low resolution, high glare screens mean that reading a novel on a tablet has never rivalled that of an e-Ink screen, at least until now.
The Nook HD is the first 7” tablet to include an HD screen. Competing directly against the iPad Mini, it boasts a 1440×900 display, higher resolution than many “HD compatible” televisions, and far more crisp and detailed than the Mini’s 1024×768. The HD+ boasts a 9” screen with 1920×1280 resolution, actually higher than most full HD television sets. The screens of the HD and HD+ far exceed expectations, with pixels virtually indistinguishable and superlative color and contrast ratios.
The iPad is still the nicest looking tablet – at least when it is turned off. The design of the Nook is functional but with a noticeably wider border, and more plastic than the luxurious glass of an iPad Mini. After powering it up however, the Nook has the noticeably better looking screen.
Under the hood the Nook HD and HD+ boast impressive power, coming from dual core processors running at 1.3 and 1.5 GHz respectively, and 1GB RAM. Operating on a custom Android 4, the Nooks are a joy to use, and navigating within books, buying apps and watching movies is intuitive and responsive. The only area where the iPad provides a significantly better experience is in purchasing, browsing and listening to music.
It would be tempting to say that if you only want to read books, then an e-Ink display is still superior. However it’s worth noting that e-Ink barely functions for reading comics, graphic novels, or children’s picture books. The Nook can display anything admirably, and once you’ve finished your novel, why wouldn’t you watch the latest movies in full HD, check your Facebook page, or play Angry Birds when you’re on the move?
The price is where the Nooks really shine. Starting at just $199 for the 16GB HD, and $269 for the HD+, the price simply cannot be beaten – the iPad and Mini cost $499 and $329 respectively. Unlike iPad, Nexus or Kindle, the Nooks take microSD cards: adding a further 32GB of storage costs around $10, compared to $100 on the iPad.
The Nook HD and HD+ are market leading devices at an excellent price point. An iPad Mini is a beautiful and functional device, that will catch admiring looks from strangers, but the superior display of the Nook might just turn your head – at least until iPad Mini 2 comes along.