The just-released Nook HD and Nook HD+ are well-designed reading-and-entertainment Android tablets featuring beautiful, high-resolution screens, a significant rewrite of the Nook software and beefed-up video services.
In order to see how well the new tablets compare to their predecessors -- and how they fare against their main competitor, the Kindle Fire -- I worked with both, although I concentrated mainly on the Nook HD.
Barnes & Noble's Nook HD
The Nook HD sports a dual-core 1.3GHz TI processor with 1GB of RAM and a 7-in. display with 1440-x-900-pixel resolution. You can choose a device with either 8GB (for $199) or 16GB (for $229) of built-in memory; there is a micro SD slot for additional storage. It's a Wi-Fi-only device, and comes with Bluetooth connectivity. It weighs in at a very light 11.1 oz. and measures 7.6 x 5.0 x 0.4 in.
The larger 9-in. Nook HD+ has a dual-core 1.5Ghz processor, 1GB of RAM, 1920 x 1280 resolution and comes with 16GB (for $269) or 32GB (for $299) of memory. It weighs 18.2 oz. and measures 9.5 x 6.4 x 0.5 in.
Neither tablet has a camera. There's also no HDMI port, but you can buy an HDMI connector for $39.
Faster, brighter and better
The dual-core processors clearly do their job, because I found the Nook HD's operation to be exceedingly smooth, with no delays or glitches when opening or reading books, opening or running apps, or watching on-tablet video. At times, I experienced slight delays when streaming videos, but that was likely more the result of either a laggy Internet connection or problems with the streaming server, not the device itself.
This is enhanced by the fact that the screen is, simply, superb. Not only does it display video content beautifully, but color magazine photos pop, and cartoons and graphic novels are similarly pleasing to the eye. At 1440 x 900, the Nook HD offers higher resolution than the Kindle's 1280 x 800 -- and it shows.
The Nook software, built on top of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, has been thoroughly redone since the release of the original Nook Tablet. It's been simplified and new features have been added.
For starters, you can now create up to six different customizable profiles so that several people can use the device. There are specific children's profiles that are controlled by a parent, who can limit access to the Web, to apps, to files, and so on. Each profile has its own content library, home screen (containing recently viewed content) and preferences.
However, while you can have many profiles, you have to choose a single person to pay for all content on the Nook HD. Content from any profile can be shared with any other profile or all profiles.
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