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Barnes & Noble Nook HD review

 Review: December 2012  

Rating: 4 stars

In a nutshell: The Nook HD beats the Amazon Kindle HD in screen resolution, but we prefer Amazon's content to Barnes & Noble's at present.



We took a look. We saw a Nook. On his head he had a hook. On his hook he had a book ... sorry, what? Wrong kind of Nook? Are you sure?

We think Barnes & Noble probably were reading Dr Seuss when they chose the name for their Kindle-bashing tablet. That's no bad thing in our book. Except that Nook's can't read. Oh well, whatever. On with the review.

How the Nook looks

We have to say it, we don't really like the look of the Nook. What's with the extra wide asymmetric bezel? Is it to help grip the tablet? It definitely looks a bit weird, but we've seen uglier. Although not often. Nevertheless, the Nook HD is definitely very easy to grip, thanks to the wide side bezel and rubberised finish on the back. If you plan to share your tablet with the family, then the Nook is less likely than some to be dropped.

It's available in two colours - dark grey or white.

The Nook definitely lives up to its description as the "lightest 7 inch tablet", weighing just 315g, which is 20% less than the Kindle Fire HD. We must point out however that the iPad Mini weighs even less at just 308g, although technically that's a 7.9 inch tablet, i.e. even bigger.

Anyway, the Nook HD has a 7 inch screen, and it's a stunningly high-resolution display with 1440 x 900 pixels. That's the best in class, with an astonishing 243 ppi (pixels per inch). By comparison, the iPad Mini has just 163 ppi and even the Google Nexus 7 offers just 216 ppi. It's not just the raw pixel count that impresses. The fully laminated screen effectively reduces glare and provides extra-wide viewing angles, so even if the whole family are crowded around the Nook, everyone will be able to see the screen clearly.

So despite our poor first impressions, the Nook HD certainly fulfils its promise to be super lightweight, portable and have a stunning HD screen.

Processor & memory

The Nook has a dual-core 1.3GHz processor, which makes it at least as fast as its arch-rival, the Kindle HD, and one of the fastest 7 inch tablets available. The fast processor enables the user interface to respond very fluidly and there are very nice graphics, especially the page turning effect when reading books and magazines.

In terms of memory, it's available in 8GB and 16GB versions. There's also a microSD card slot, so you can easily and cheaply add an extra 32GB of memory, which should be plenty for everyone. Additionally, all of your purchases are stored for free in the Nook Cloud. You can access these from your TV, smartphone or PC where compatible.


Connectivity includes Wi-Fi, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a 30 pin port for charging and connecting to a computer. This is HDMI compatible, so you can connect it to a HD television. A USB cable is included in the sales package.

Apps & content

A tablet isn't just about hardware. It's just as much about apps and content. Now, like the Kindle Fire, the Nook HD runs the Android Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) operating system, but a heavily customised (restricted) version. Barnes & Noble is a book seller of course, so naturally they want to sell you ebooks and other content. But what exactly can you get for your Nook?

Currently you can choose from over 3 million books, magazines, newspapers and comics, of which 1 million are free to download. You can try any magazine or newspaper free for 14 days.

As well as books, there are also movies available for download or rent. These look good on the HD screen, with smooth video playback thanks to the fast processor.

Currently there's no music available for download, in contrast to iTunes or the Amazon store.

A nice feature is that if the Nook is shared by a family, you can create up to 6 user profiles, with private and shared libraries of content. Simple-to-use parental controls help create a "kid safe" experience.

There are other apps available, but via Barnes & Noble, not Google Play. You'll find popular apps, games and educational apps here, but why restrict yourself when you could choose another Android tablet and enjoy unrestricted downloads?

A web browser and email client are included in the pre-installed apps. However, there's no Chrome browser, and you won't get easy access to your Google account like you normally do on an Android device. Say goodbye to Google Maps too.

Conclusion - a viable competitor to the Kindle

The Nook HD is a very lightweight and compact tablet with a super high-definition display. It's powered by a fast processor, has expandable memory and good connectivity. It's got no camera, but we really aren't going to miss that feature on a tablet.

But it's heavily Barnes & Noble flavoured. The best content is reading material, especially books, magazines, newspapers, comics and graphic novels. There's a lot available for children, making this a good choice for a family tablet.

If you mainly read novels, we'd stick with a dedicated ereader like the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite with its superior black and white display. But if you enjoy colour, magazines, games and educational apps, a tablet like the Nook is a much better choice. Should you choose the Nook HD, the Kindle Fire HD or a native Android tablet like the Nexus 7? We'd say choose the Nook HD or Kindle Fire HD if you like the idea of easy-to-access books and magazines, or choose a native Android tab or an iPad Mini if you want the freedom and flexibility of being able to install a wider range of apps and third-party content.

As for the million dollar question - Nook or Kindle - we think that Barnes & Noble still have some catching up to do, at least in the UK, and we'd go with Amazon for now. But watch out - things change rapidly and no doubt a lot more content will become available during 2013, provided that sales volume in the UK meets with the company's expectations.

Barnes & Noble Nook HD features include:

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Barnes & Noble Nook HD user reviews

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Average rating from 3 reviews:

Reviewed by Alex from UK on 23rd Nov 2013
With access to all on Google Play and a brilliant screen, I can almost give this 100% score. Reading books on the Kindle app, using apps games and movies are flawless. One serious problem that is simple to work around, is the wifi is constantly looking about and checking for updates which murders the battery life while in standby. Now I make the point of putting the Nook into flight mode every time I've no need for online or switching it into standby, this way the battery life is excellent.
I've just gone to use my Nook at work to find I'd forgotten to do this and it's dead with the charger at home so no go.
However this is a small problem and for 79 it's the best tablet out there by miles.

Reviewed by Tris from UK on 24th Aug 2013
I paid 99 for the nook hd. This has to be a steal at this price. With the google update its outstanding value for money. The screen is the very best you can get for a 7 inch. The performance is not on par with nexus 7 but its more then enough for every day use. It has excellent build quality for the price that matches far more expensive tablet. By opening the nook up to google it has made this a beast. The only down fall is there are no cameras. If that doesn't bother you then this is probably the best tablet on the market right now. It blows the competition away and that includes anything Samsung or apple have to offer. What are you waiting for. At this price with these specs and access to content you would be an absolute fool!

Reply by Tris from UK on 27th Aug 2013
Put go launcher ex on it and see how it transforms it.

Reviewed by N1 from UK on 27th Apr 2013
From what I understand, buying a NOOK tablet might be a good idea, but has anyone tried to buy content from the NOOK site? Quite simply you can't unless you live in the US!

Barnes and Noble/NOOK requires you to have a US billing address even if you're buying an Ebook.

Can anyone confirm if i've got this wrong?

Reply by Bill from England on 28th Jul 2013
You must have an imported/US version. I have no trouble accessing the UK store.

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