The $249 Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet may look like its predecessor, Nook Color, but that's where the comparisons stop. When I picked it up the Nook Tablet it was clear that this tablet was leaps ahead of B&N's first-gen effort. That said, the Nook Tablet is not a full-featured tablet and lacks built-in Bluetooth, stereo speakers, GPS, and front- and rear-facing cameras.
Still, the Nook Tablet's low price will make it appealing to both e-reader and tablet shoppers. In fact, it is priced low enough to potentially sway consumers who might have been considering an iPad 2, which has a larger display, but also costs twice the price. With its competitive price and beefy specs, other so-called "value" tablet makers (that includes Amazon and it's Kindle Fire) should be running for the hills right about now.
For starters the beefed up horsepower in this tablet, compared to the Nook Color, really counts. The dual-core 1GHz Texas Instruments OMAP 4 CPU and 1GB of RAM made switching apps a breeze with no lag or stuttering. Movies played smoothly and stutter-free in Netflix, and the images looked gorgeous and crisp, with terrific contrast.
The display looked dazzling overall, as expected since it's the same as it was in Nook Color. Glare was minimal--a clear credit to Barnes & Noble's VividView laminated and bonded IPS display. It was a pleasure to not have a visible, annoying gap between the glass screen and the LCD beneath, as I've seen with literally the dozens of tablets I've tested before this one. I can't say glare is gone completely, but the difference is very clear when you have two devices side-by-side.
The tablet felt noticeably lighter than Nook Color, even though the difference on paper--1.7 ounces--doesn't seem like so much. Still, I could feel the difference when holding the tablet in one hand, which is how I often end up holding a tablet at some point or another.
Navigating the Nook Tablet
With Nook tablet, I liked how the Nook software evolved in keeping with the Nook Tablet's alignment into the more broad tablet universe. You can now access apps and Netflix viewing history and recommendations from the home screen, a move that's both convenient and a logical, given how Nook Tablet aims to embrace its full potential from the get-go this time. Nook Tablet is optimized around reading, something that's clear from the display, and clear from how you access your books and the visual presentation of periodicals.
The new Read and Record feature in children's books was especially compelling, and worked very well when I tried it. I could create my own audio track to accompany a book, a feature I could see as being appealing for families--especially those with a loved one who travels or is far away. I hope we'll see the mic incorporated into other applications. Sadly, one of those applications will not be video chat, since B&N didn't include a front-facing camera.
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