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Nook HD review: A faster, brighter and better e-reader/tablet

Preston Gralla | Nov. 19, 2012
Barnes & Noble's new Nook HD and Nook HD+ ereader/tablets have great displays, improved software and a new video service -- worthy competitors for Amazon's Kindle Fire.

The overall interface has been improved, primarily by cleaning up the clutter. In the previous version, the Home screen had multiple layers of content and navigation on it, making it somewhat busy. In the new interface, there are fewer navigation buttons and content layers, with notifications moved to the top of the screen. Overall, I found it easier to find and use content.

There's another nice touch as well: You can jump to a new Nook Today screen from the main screen with the tap of a button. Nook Today shows local weather as well as book recommendations based on your most recent buying and reading activity. Jump back to the main screen by tapping the button again.

One of the Nook HD's primary purposes, of course, is for reading books, magazines and newspapers -- and it does an excellent job. The basic reading capabilities are essentially unchanged from the previous version, which is a good thing, because they're well designed. One new feature is a nifty Scrapbook that lets you save and retrieve magazine pages by swiping down with two fingers.

On the other hand, app availability is relatively limited on the Nook HD compared to a pure Android tablet. You can only download apps through the Nook Store, and what's there is an insignificant fraction of the 700,000 apps available in the Google Play store. And although you'll find popular free apps such as Twitter, Evernote and Pulse News, the focus in the store is on for-pay apps. For example, if you're looking for the latest iteration of Angry Birds, you'll find it here, but for $2.99 rather than for free as you can get in Google Play.

Web browsing and email

In general, I found Web browsing to be speedy, with pages loading extremely fast. The Nook's Web browser is far superior to the previous version, and allows for multi-tabbed browsing, something its predecessor couldn't do. You can now easily save Web pages in addition to bookmarks.

There's also a new ArticleView feature that displays a Web page in an article-like view rather than as a Web page. The view strips out ads, navigation and other Web elements, and displays only text itself in a scrolling document. You switch between the views by tapping either the ArticleView button or Browser View button that replaces it at the bottom of the screen. This feature mirrors a similar ArticleView capability for viewing magazines that was introduced in the Nook Tablet.

There's another nice addition to the browser: Tap a small icon at the bottom of the screen and an email message is automatically created -- using your default email account -- which includes the URL of the page you're currently visiting, and drops the title of the Web page in as the subject line. Enter the name of the person to which you want to send the message, add text if you want, and send it on its way.

 

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