The 7-inch HD tablet market is bursting at the seams, but for most users, the buying decision comes down to which ecosystem you prefer. I’ve looked at virtually all the major devices and find most admirable-to-excellent. The Barnes Noble Nook HD sits in the upper-range of that spectrum.
The book seller followed competitor Amazon into the e-reader market, but has quickly gotten up to speed on design and technology. Soon after Amazon unveiled its all HD lineup of tablets (the Kindle Fire HD 7-inch and Kindle Fire HD+ 8.9-inch), Barnes Noble followed with its own line of redesigned HD tablets. I spent a weekend with the 7-inch tablet.
Barnes Noble has come a long way since its first e-ink e-reader, which is almost the exact same size as the new 7-inch device. The newer and far more powerful LCD-based tablet is, at 11.1 ounces, actually lighter than the old e-reader.
At 7.7-inches x 5-inches x .43-inches the Nook HD is slightly wider than the Google Nexus 7 and considerably narrower that the Amazon Kindle Fire It’s also lighter than both competing devices. I have large hands and can comfortably hold any of these tablets in one hand. My wife, however, found the Kindle Fire HD unwieldy and the Nook HD just right. To be fair, the Kindle Fire HD devotes some of that extra space to a camera (the Nexus 7 has one, too). Barnes Noble chose to leave out the camera since taking photos and videos was not among the top four activities people conduct with their tablets. In my testing, I never missed the camera.
The rest of the body is about as clean and workable as competitive devices, though I do prefer the Nook HD’s more visible power and volume buttons to the Kindle Fire HD’s completely flush ones (always have trouble finding those). Plus, the Nook has a physical home button (like the iPad’s), a feature I wish every tablet had. The soft-touch back is where you’ll find the speakers, there’s also a micro-SD card slot along the bottom edge for storage expansion and an audio jack along the top edge. One funny side note: While Apple is busy trying to rid the world of 30-pin interfaces, Barnes Noble is giving them fresh support in the Nook HD.
Under the hood, the Nook HD is an admirably powerful 7-inch tablet, with a 1.3 GHz dual-core processor, a full GB of RAM and, at 1440 x900, a higher resolution screen than either the Kindle Fire HD or the Nexus 7, both of which feature 1280×800 resolution screens. Like many other manufacturers, Barnes Noble now laminates the screen, a process which removes air-gaps from between the LCD panel, touch technology and glass to reduce overall screen reflection. I did find the screen quality impressive. 720p videos, books, comic books, magazines and the new catalog content looked excellent, and every bit of text was crisp at even the smallest size. On the other hand, I have been similarly impressed with the image quality on the Nexus 7 and Fire HD.
One area where the Kindle Fire HD does have the Nook HD beat is in sound quality. Amazon stuffed a couple of Dolby speakers into the Fire HD chassis and they can delivery loud and sharp sound quality. The Nook HD has stereo SRS TruMedia Speakers that simply paled in comparison. If you plan on watching a movie or listening to music on the Nook HD, get out your ear buds (no, the device does not ship with a pair).
The Best Face
Barnes Noble’s Nook HD features my favorite interface of all the 7-inch tablets I’ve tested. Built on top of a thoroughly hidden Android 4.0, the user-centric interface is a complete do-over from the Nook Tablet and it’s completely effective and intuitive.
User profiles sit at the center of this redesign. When you hit the “N” or home button, all the user profiles are there. You simply drag your face to the lock and you’re inside your profile. All the content, email account settings browser bookmarks, parental controls (or lack of them) are keyed to each individual profile. The Nook HD tablet I tested came preloaded with three profiles: one for a man, one for a woman and one for a child. However, I found it easy to add additional ones: A tap on the welcome message at the top of the screen displays all the user profiles associated with the device and the option to create more. I added two more in a matter of moments.
Barnes Noble chose to add profiles because their research showed that users regularly pass along the tablet to multiple family members and the benefit is obvious. If you enable your child’s profile and then hand the device to them, they only have access to their books, movies and may be blocked from, say, shopping and browsing the web. While I like the profile controls, you’ll want to remember to enable password protection on your adult profiles. Without it, your child can easily switch between profiles and all of the content on the device and available online.
Each profile opens to a simple and intuitive home screen that offers a carousel (the latest interface metaphor craze) of recently viewed items (books, movies, games, apps, newspapers, magazines). Below that are links to your library of local content, apps, the Web browser, email and shopping. At the very top of the page is a welcome and a “your Nook Today” button. Tap it and you’ll see your local weather (brought to you by Accuweather), as well as books and magazine sections based on your interests and previous selections.
Both the e-mail and web browser interface are brand new and, like everything else on the Nook HD, they’re the picture of clarity. Amazon Kindle Fire HD’s email interface is plenty clear, too, but Barnes Noble made a very smart choice with its key apps: it gave Mail, Web, Apps, Shop and your Library a permanent, fixed place on the homepage. It’s true, you can find Shop, Apps and the Web in a scrollable text menu at the top of the Kindle Fire HD interface, but it’s not a prominent and also not entirely fixed. Overall, the Nook HD interface is simpler and better than what you’ll find on the Kindle Fire HD.
Where Amazon still outstrips the Nook is a comprehensive shopping and multimedia experience. Music is, at best, an afterthought on the Nook HD. There’s a Rhapsody App on the device, but I don’t need another music service. Amazon has its own MP3 library and also adds cloud services that make it easy to add your own tracks to the cloud and, by extension, the Fire HD tablet.
The Nook HD has almost pulled even in the video space, with a new, well stocked Nook Video service (under Shop) that features movies and TV shows you can rent and buy. Amazon offers the $75 a year Prime option which adds unlimited free streaming for movies in the Prime Library.
As a reading device, magazine and books look equally good on the Fire HD and Nook HD, but you’ll be happier holding the much lighter Nook HD for longer. Both make magazine content look amazing. You can switch between the standard magazine view, unadorned article view, and a bird’s eye view of dozens of pages with either device. The art of reading magazines on 7-inch devices has been all but perfected, and the choice in this area may come down to selection, though I noticed no major differences in reading options.
The App selection is as rich as you’ll find on any other Android device, but with an extra layer of security—Barnes Noble curates its entire App library.
As I write this, Google is unveiling a new Nexus 7 that is reportedly lighter and more powerful than the previous model. It includes 16 GB of storage and costs just $200. Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD is also $199 for a $16 GB model, but it includes sleep-state ads (which bother some, but not me) and does not include an AC adapter (which you can buy separately for $19.99). The Barnes Noble HD 7-inch is ad free and does include an AC adapter. The 8 GB model is $199. You’ll pay $229 for the 16 GB model. All of these devices are Wi-Fi only.
To put all this in perspective, the new mid-sized tablet in town, the Apple iPad mini costs $329 for the base, 16 GB model. For that reason alone I see it has a somewhat separate device and one that those seeking a sub $250 device may not consider. For those shopping in that range, however, the Barnes Noble Nook is an instant winner. It’s feature rich, fast, fluid, has an excellent interface and is well worth $200. It’s the obvious choice for previous Nook owners and deserves serious consideration for those in the other e-reader and mid-sized tablet camps who may be considering jumping ship.
Article source: http://feeds.mashable.com/~r/Mashable/~3/A-oBMaA8w5w/
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