Barnes and Noble Nook HD + (image courtesy of barnesandnoble.com)
Before jumping straight into the review of Barnes and Noble’s new Nook HD +, I’m going to first tell you why I was looking into a tablet in the first place. Basically I only really needed an eReader, a gallery application that would display really nice images – for when I wanted to show people my portfolio of images, and occasionally some web browsing. The Nook HD + seemed to fit the bill nicely. I went for the 16GB version over the 32GB since this is one of the tablets that actually has a micro SD card slot for additional storage. Plus, at $269, this is one of the lesser-expensive tablets with a large screen (9″, as opposed to its little brother, the Nook HD’s 7″ screen).
For the techie-nerds out there, the screen resolution is 1920 x 1280, and the PPI is 256. It also has a 1.5 ghz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM. It also only weighs just over 18oz (515 grams)… it’s very easy to hold, and is only 11mm thick. The battery is rated to last up to 10 hours on a charge, and I can vouch that the battery life was indeed very impressive. All of that for $269 is a pretty good deal… especially when you consider that it’s SO easy to download a book, magazine, or catalog to the device and start reading in seconds (okay, that depends on your WiFi connection, but still).
Nook HD + Home screen (courtesy of Engadget)
The Reader application for reading books, magazines, etc, is phenomenal. Very quick, responsive, and a joy to use. Magazines look absolutely stellar on it. ArticleView lets you read all the text of an article in a vertical-scrolling manner, with minimal pictures. This is handy because magazines don’t always have long columns of text, sometimes there’s a picture taking up most of the page, and the text is just underneath it, and only four-lines high, spanning two full pages. Normally you’d have to pinch-to-zoom in on it, read a bit, scroll, read, scroll, etc. ArticleView was created to alleviate that, and it does so extremely well.
The display of the Nook HD + is outstanding as well. Though it doesn’t have the super-high resolution of an iPad or a Google Nexus 10, it’s still quite nice, and very sharp with high-contrast. This really helps for watching videos and movies, and of course, the text of books is tack-sharp.
Okay, so, now for the quirks. The browser was normally pretty snappy, and loaded pages just fine. However, it would randomly close and bring up a message stating “The browser has closed unexpectedly, we’re sorry for the inconvenience” or something to that effect. That happened about 10 times over the course of 7 days, so that’s not cool right there. And yes, my device was up to date software-wise.
Nook HD + (left) and the Nook HD. Image courtesy of PopSci.com
Second, the apps. Now, even though this device runs Android, it’s “Barnes and Noble” flavored, and it doesn’t taste much like “Jelly Beans”. The apps you can get for the device have to be downloaded from the B&N app store; you can’t just get apps from Google Play (like normal Android devices), called “sideloading”. The selection just isn’t there like it is in Google Play, and it shows. Not only that, but most of the decent apps at the B&N App Store cost money.
One of the apps I needed for this device was a good Gallery app for showing my photos. The stock gallery application on Nooks is notorious for being clunky, difficult to use, unresponsive, and just plain rubbish. People have apparently been asking for a decent gallery app for a long time, and I had heard that it’s much better in the Nook HD +. When I connected the Nook HD + to my PC and created folders on my SD card there, the stock gallery application wouldn’t recognize them, and that’s just not cool with me. So, better or not, it still sucks, and it left me looking for a better one. The best thing I found was Pixie Reef’s Fishbowl, and even that left a lot to be desired… especially after dropping $4 on it. The interface may let you do a lot, but it’s clunky as well, and not easy to navigate. Perhaps my patience was wearing thin, but if someone can’t make a $4 app user-friendly, they need to try again.
I also read a fair amount of eBooks in PDF format, and need the tablet to be able to display them well, and have navigation be pleasant. Well, that didn’t happen either. The default reader on the Nook HD + is great for books (and STELLAR for magazines), but is flat-out SUCKS for PDFs. So once again, I was forced to look for a 3rd-party application that could help me out with that. I found Unidocs ezPDF Reader which did an alright job, but the interface was difficult to use because it was SO small. It also seemed very laggy compared to the stock PDF reader on the device. Maybe it’s not optimized for the Nook HD +, I don’t know. But either way, that app didn’t suffice either; there goes another $3.
And now for probably the most frustrating issue I had, which was with the Nook Store. On the home screen there’s a “store” icon that you press to buy content from the Nook Store (which is the idea for having a device like this in the first place). I searched for a book called “Pitch Anything” by Oren Klaff. I know they have it, because doing a search on my computer’s browser yields the results, but for some reason the Nook Store application on my HD + couldn’t find it. Not only that, it couldn’t find the Author either. Now, my girlfriend has a Nook Color (that she absolutely loves and is great for what she needs), and she was sitting right next to me, same WiFi connection, “same app store”, and her device was able to find the book AND author. So I quickly checked my device to see if there was another system update that I need, and of course, there was nothing. I turned it off and then back on… and tried again, still nothing. I then decided to go to MyNook.com (on the device), login, and search for the book there. Boom; it found it. I purchased it, downloaded it to the device, and was able to read it. I decided to press the Store button again, and do the search again… still nothing. Talking with Barnes and Noble “support” didn’t do much of anything either. Their response was “We have thoroughly researched the technical problem you experienced while downloading your recent NOOK Book purchase. Despite our efforts, we are unable to find the source of the error.” That doesn’t make me feel all warm and tingly. Figure it out! That’s why I gave you $269, plus the purchase of the SD card from your store, the $13 for the book, etc.
Okay, so, there are some issues, but again, the things that it does well, it does VERY well. If you’re looking at the Nook to be your eReader, it will make you very happy (providing the Store app can find the book you want). Magazines and books look amazing on this thing, and that’s really what it’s meant for. If you’re looking for much beyond that though, it will be within your best interest to keep looking. I took my Nook HD + back to Barnes and Noble after 11 days and have a Google Nexus 10 arriving shortly.