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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.

I found that the new Nook’s display provided only nominally better contrast than the one on Nook First Edition, and that the Amazon Kindle actually has the best contrast of the three, with blacker blacks, and a brighter gray background than on the new Nook. I had the three e-readers set to similar text passages, with closely matching if not identical fonts (at the least, I observed behavior with all e-readers set to nonserif fonts, and to serif fonts). However, the Kindle and the new Nook flipped places on the home-screen display: There, the Nook looked better than the Kindle. I chalk this up to the vagaries of the different fonts and text sizes, and to the fact that these differences cause the blacks to appear different on the different devices. They’re close, but by no means identical, in spite of using the same display technology.

In truth, I found the Nook’s text not as crisp or dark as on Amazon’s Kindle. I liked it better than original Nook, but preferred the Kindle’s text presentation the best.

Where B&N hits one out of the park: Its page refresh rates and speedy page turns. B&N says that on text pages, it has reduced the flashing between page turns by up to 80 percent. It does so by doing a full refresh only every sixth page, a move that minimizes the annoying page-flashing effect long associated with E-Ink. B&N does targeted refreshes on a page that has just graphics changing (for example, in the e-reader’s bookstore), and on areas that will have a heavy redraw. Page turn speed is up, too: If you hold and press the page forward and back buttons to scan by page, the pages will blow by with an impressive speed not seen before on an E-Ink e-reader.

 

Remodeled interface

Though touch makes the Nook easy to navigate, occasionally where you can swipe and where you can’t isn’t always clear. For example, you can swipe through some modules in the bookstore, down on some pages, but not on others. For the most part, this is stuff you’ll learn through trial and error.

You can turn pages by tapping on either the left or right side of the screen; or you can swipe left to right (and, on some screens, even vertically) to change pages, too. While reading, tap at the top of the screen to reveal a status bar—the bar will show battery status, a clock, and a tap-to-add bookmark; it will also reveal the same book navigation buttons you’d get if you tap in the center of the page. The buttons jump you to the table of contents, let you search for a word or passage within a book, go to a specific page within a book using a slider (and kudos to B&N for including here just how many pages are left in the chapter), or adjust text options (choose from six not-so-different fonts and seven very different font sizes). The “more” option was confusing, though: I’m already in the book, and reading it, so why would I want to go to the book’s profile from the Shop, showing editorial content, reviews, and related titles? I get the share and LendMe options as being appropriate while reading, but the rest of this menu option left me puzzled.

 

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