- Decent battery life
- Proprietary charger
After Amazon successfully launched its Kindle Fire, the way was paved for eBook readers-cum-tablets to make a splash, and so the Nook tablet range was born.
Launching with the Nook Colour and the Nook Tablet, despite a slow launch here in the UK, the devices saw some charming UI elements and characteristic designs.
The second slew of Nook tablets, the Nook HD+ and its smaller sibling, the Nook HD continue the trend, this time adding Google Play Store compatibility to their arsenal.
While lacklustre sales have driven the price of the tablet through the floor, now could be a better time than any to pick up this well-specced, cost-effective eReader.
Nook HD+ review: Design & Screen
The larger size of the Nook HD+ is dictated by its 9-inch IPS LCD panel, which totes Full HD resolution (1920×1280).
The overall design of the brown outer casing is inoffensive and less enticing than the aesthetic employed by the 7-inch Nook HD, with a thick border around the display and an almost blank back, save for the Nook logo and an outlet grille for the tablet’s stereo speakers. Those familiar with the Nook’s earlier eReaders will recognise the angled bottom left-hand corner of the tab that features a characteristic eyelet, ideal for looping through a cord or lanyard.
Around the black edges are a number of slim plastic hardware controls: the power/lock key in the top right corner and a volume rocker on the top edge next to a standard headphone jack. Whether you buy the 16GB or 32GB model, there’s a flap on the lower left side of the HD+’s base which accommodates microSD cards up to an addition 32GBs and next to this, a proprietary charging port – perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the design.
The small chromed Nook logo positioned underneath the screen doubles as a hardware home button, whilst the high-resolution display itself offers excellent colour reproduction, viewing angles and brightness, making it the perfect choice for perusing comic books and magazines, offering up sharp pictures and crisp text.
Nook HD+ review: Operating system & Performance
For the full colour Nook HD and HD+ Barnes & Noble set to work developing a distinct user experience that could be used to easily manage the wealth of Nook-friendly black/white and colour content as well as offer up email support, a web browser and serve as a shop front for purchasing more B&N wares – and all on top of Android.
Much like the Amazon Kindle Fire (and Fire HD), at launch the Nook HD+ used a heavily modified version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich that only allowed Nook-optimised apps. Fortunately for the consumer, B&N has subsequently updated the Nook HD+’s operating system so that now users can also access the 700,000+ apps on offer from Google’s own Play Store and essentially install virtually any Android app out there. Should that not be enough, developer support for the HD+ is always growing, with alternative versions of Android like CyanogenMod 10.1 and even a stock image in the works for those who want to remove the Nook influences alltogether.
Thanks to the 1.5GHz dual-core processor and the 1GB of RAM, most apps are within the Nook HD+’s reach, including 3D games such as N.O.V.A. 3 as well as Full HD video playback to complement the tablet’s high resolution display.
This small change makes a big difference against its colour eReader rivals, who remain locked solely into their own proprietary app ecosystems. As such, the value of choosing the Nook HD+ based on its flexibility and functionality over rival devices from Amazon and Kobo is clear.
The Nook HD and HD+ were also some of the first Android-based devices to showcase multiple user accounts tied to their own apps, accounts and content, long before Jelly Beans multi-account feature for tablets appeared. As such, the Nook HD+ is a great tablet to have around the house, with no worry of one family member’s content being mixed with another’s unintentionally – not to mention parental controls to rest your mind at ease.
Nook HD+ review: Multimedia & Storage
By design the Nook HD+ is geared for content consumption. The homescreen offers up a mix of recently accessed apps, services and books while the ‘your Nook today’ sticker opens a specialised area full of recommendations from B&N’s Nook library based on your interests and activity.
With the vast array of both Nook and Android apps on offer plus services like Netflix and Spotify installed out-the-box, it’s easy to stream remote content and local files can be pushed on via USB or the microSD slot just like any other Android device. The hardware is also wholly capable of sporting high detail 3D games and Full HD video playback.
As well as the aforementioned 16GB and 32GB versions and the ability to bolster the storage further thanks to the SD card slot, Nook also offer cloud storage to back up every purchase tied to your account.
Nook HD+ review: Connections & Battery
The HD+ is best suited for home use or pairing with a mobile hotspot, with no 3G options available. Connectivity is limited to WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 as well as the proprietary USB connection already mentioned, whilst more phone-centric technologies like NFC have not been integrated into the tablet..
On the power front, the Nook HD+ charges impressively fast, with its 6000mAh cell going from 0% to 100% in just over an hour. As you’d expect the switch from an ePaper to colour display greatly affects battery life, putting it more in line with other Android tabs of a similar spec.
With the screen off, the Nook HD+ will last for over a week, though you should expect general use to see you through the quoted 10 hours, with things like 3D gaming upping the rate of drain somewhat.
Nook HD+ review: Conclusion
Originally hitting the UK back in September, 2012 at £269 for the 32GB model and £229 for the 16GB model, it was an interesting device certainly at launch, but it wasn’t an obvious recommendation, with the likes of the Google Nexus 10 on the scene.
Since the revised pricing announcements though, it’s fair to say that you’ll be hard pressed to find a Full HD Android tablet with as polished a user experience as the HD+’s, for anywhere near the £149 the 16GB model now costs.
The Nook user experience will take a little getting used to and if you want an affordable Android tablet this might not be a first choice simply because of that fact. But it’d be inadmissible to ignore how appealing this low-priced package now is.
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