£159 inc VAT • From www.argos.co.uk
Like the Kindle Fire , the Nook HD is an Android-based tablet that’s designed for buying and using books, movies and apps, but bought from Barnes & Noble rather than Amazon.
This compact 7in tablet is made of soft-touch plastic, and the concave rear and grippy texture make it easy to hold. At 315g, it’s lighter than the Kindle Fire and only slightly heavier than the iPad Mini, and it’s more comfortable to hold than either.
It has the usual array of controls and ports around the edges, such as a volume rocker, a 3.5mm headphone socket, a power button and a proprietary charging socket. There’s also a button for transferring content and a button beneath the screen to wake the tablet and return to the home screen.
Inside is 8GB of storage, a 1.3GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4470 processor, 1GB of RAM, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. A 16GB model is available for £189 including VAT, but you may as well buy the 8GB version and fit extra storage into its microSD slot.
The screen is the star of the show. It may be the same size as its rivals, but it outstrips them all for resolution with its 1,440×900 pixels. This gives a pixel density of 223ppi, which is the highest of any 7in tablet. It’s an IPS panel, and its quality is exceptional. The screen is extremely bright at 445cd/m2 and has a high contrast ratio of 674:1, which made films, photos and text all look superb. It’s the best display we’ve seen on a budget tablet yet.
Like the Kindle Fire and Fire HD, the Nook HD runs a heavily customised version of Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich, with the emphasis very much on content. Fire up the tablet and the first thing you see is a 3D carousel view of recent books, movies and apps, below which is a customisable area for shortcuts to your favourite items.
At the bottom of the screen is a set of shortcut buttons to the content library, apps, the web browser, the email client and the Barnes & Noble shop. At the top of the screen is a link to an area called Your Nook Today, which shows today’s weather and a selection of recommended books and other items based on your recent reading.
We like the Nook’s user interface. It isn’t completely glitch-free, but it generally works smoothly. The tabbed web browser is responsive and has an excellent Article View mode that strips out surrounding ads and graphics to give you just the text and images. It’s a great way of reading stories and reviews.
Another great feature is the ability to add multiple user profiles and tailor the content to each. You can create a profile for your kids, complete with parental controls that limit the movies it will display, and determine whether they can access the browser and the shop, all of which is protected by a password.
There’s plenty of content in the store, including a good selection of books and magazines, and buying them is a simple two-click process. The Nook HD supports Adobe Digital Editions, so you can also plug it into your PC or laptop and transfer eBooks from most other stores. You won’t be able to copy eBooks from Amazon, though, due to its proprietary format. At the time of writing, the Nook video store wasn’t yet up and running.
The store is great for books but less so for music, games and apps. Although it has a music player, there’s no integrated music service to match Amazon’s, and the selection of apps in the Barnes & Noble store is pitiful. We found a smattering of familiar titles, such as Angry Birds Star Wars, Fruit Ninja, Twitter, Spotify, Flipboard, Netflix and Plex, but gaping holes began to appear when we started to dig deeper. At the time of writing, we couldn’t find official apps for Facebook or BBC iPlayer, and the range of modern games was even thinner, with no Asphalt 7, Shadowgun or Dead Trigger.
All this makes the Nook HD tricky to assess. The quality of the hardware, with its amazing display, expandable memory and excellent build and design, puts the Nook HD at the front of the budget tablet pack, and even ahead of Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD. The interface is great, the tablet performs well and reading books and magazines on its high-density display is a joy. Sadly, until there’s a decent library of apps and games to download, its appeal will be limited.
CPU: 1.3GHz TI OMAP4470
DISPLAY: 7in widescreen IPS (1,440×900)
OPERATING SYSTEM: Nook 2.0.4 (based on Android 4)
DIMENSIONS: 195x127x11mm, 315g
WARRANTY: One-year RTB
PART CODE: Nook HD