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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 email client has also been improved. It's now much easier to navigate among your mail folders (Inbox, Drafts, Sent and so on). Reading messages is visually more appealing because of a cleaner layout, although the basic functionality remains the same.

Media capabilities

The Nook's media capabilities are something of a mixed bag. On the plus side is the exceptionally clear, crisp, high-definition screen that displays HD content beautifully.

But the device's speakers still suffer from a problem that bedeviled the original Nook Tablet -- they simply aren't loud enough. Unlike the original Nook Tablet, the Nook HD's speakers are stereo, which is a step forward. But they're still not loud enough for movies and TV shows -- you may need to use headphones or external speakers to get adequate volume. I did find the speakers all right for playing music; it was only for TV and video that the volume was a problem.

Barnes & Noble offers a new video service called Nook Video, which doesn't run as a separate app, but is accessed directly from the Nook Store.

Nook Video allows you to buy or rent movies and TV shows on an individual pay-and-play basis. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a plan like Amazon Prime for the Kindle in which you can download unlimited video for an annual fee of $79. Another minor complaint: You have to watch a rented video within 24 hours; Amazon gives you 48 hours. Finally, Nook HD doesn't have a music catalog or cloud music player like the Kindle does.

At a Glance

Nook HD and Nook HD+

Barnes & NoblePrice: Nook HD: $199 (8 GB), $229 (16 GB); Nook HD+: $269 (16 GB), $299 (32 GB)Pros: Smooth performance; streamlined software; excellent screen; fast Web browsing; multiple profiles on one deviceCons: No camera; limited video catalog

When I tried it out, the video selection was pretty limited. For example, there were only 64 films available in the comedy category and only 75 available in drama. Other categories had similarly paltry offerings. Barnes & Noble has inked deals to make more video content available, so over time the amount of video content should increase.

The Nook HD also includes support for the cloud-based third-party UltraViolet service, which lets you purchase and stream videos to a variety of devices.

The bottom line

First, keep in mind that, although Barnes & Noble likes to call the Nook HD a "full HD tablet," it's like its main competitor, the Kindle HD, in that you have to deal with a tweaked version of Android, and you don't get access to the full Google Play app store. If you want a small tablet with a full working version of Android, you're better off with something like Google's Nexus 7.


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