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Barnes and Noble Nook Wi-Fi (second generation)

Melissa J. Perenson, PCWorld | June 1, 2011
The latest-generation Nook offers a dramatically improved design, interface, and reading experience on a monochrome E-Ink screen.

 

Design

The Nook has a power button on the back top that feels well-matched to a fingertip, but the button is surprisingly noisy, and borderline chintzy, when I pressed on it. This button doubles as another way to wake the e-reader, and can power down the unit entirely. Good thing you can, because this was the only way to fix a snafu I ran into with the on-board Shop: After some use, the Shop would no longer connect to the server, in spite of the Wi-Fi connection working fine. To rectify this, I had to power off the device and reboot it. B&N is looking into the problem, but didn’t have an answer for me as to why it happened in the first place.

My biggest gripe with the Nook’s design happens to be with its physical navigation buttons. The easy-to-depress, outward-facing buttons on Nook First Edition have been replaced by cheap-feeling, raised rubber strips that run along the left and right bezel. The buttons are stiff and require a very precise and deep press to activate; and even though your finger can bleed a bit towards the edge of the e-reader and still manage to activate the button action, ultimately the experience is nothing like the buttons on Nook First Edition and on Kindle, which are both easier to depress and can work with your whole finger, not just your fingertip. If you’re wedded to the use of buttons for changing pages, I’d actually steer you away from this Nook—that’s how poorly implemented I consider these buttons. And that’s a disappointment, since the new Nook gets so much else right.

Now, if you’re comfortable with the idea of swipes and on-screen touches, then Nook is a great choice. The fully redesigned interface is finger-friendly, and makes it easy to navigate and perform operations with the touch of a finger. And I found the touchscreen highly responsive; the on-screen keyboard even kept up with my speedy touch-typing. (See “Remodeled Interface” below for more on the touchscreen navigation.)

The case is now charcoal gray, as opposed to white, a move that helps enhance readability. But that wasn’t the only step B&N took to boost the readability of the display.

The significant remaining addition to the Nook is its new E-Ink Pearl display. E-Ink Pearl brings Nook up to speed with the other monochrome e-readers on the market today. The new Nook uses the same 6-inch, 800-by-600-pixel Pearl display that Amazon and Sony integrated in their e-readers last summer and fall, respectively, and the same display as in Kobo’s eReader Touch Edition. The Pearl display is known for providing better contrast than earlier-generation E-Ink displays, but oddly, in my hands-on tests with the three e-readers side-by-side, I observed different results.

 

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