Thursday, September 27, 2012

Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ Coming out: Big-screen Tablet Priced at $269

During the meeting in San Francisco, two brand-new Barnes & Noble tablets are unveiled. Christened the Nook HD and Nook HD+, the tablets will go head-to-head with Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire HD 7 and $299 Kindle Fire HD 8.9 this fall. The Nook HD is a 7-inch tablet priced at $199 for 8GB and $229 for 16GB. The 9-inch Nook HD+ will retail at $269 for 16GB and $299 for 32GB.

Keep reading for the details of how they compare with the Kindle Fire HD. The tablets are available for preorder now from Barnes & Noble's Web site and will begin shipping around late October. The tablets are just the latest arrivals in what is shaping up to be a very crowded season.

One detail Barnes & Noble stressed during our meeting is how light each tablet is. The 7-inch Nook HD weighs only 0.69 pound, making it one of the lightest (if not the lightest) tablets around. The Nook HD+, with its 9-inch screen, hits 1.13 pounds. By comparison, the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD weighs 0.88 pound and the 2012 iPad comes in at a comparatively hefty 1.48 pounds. However, at 1.25 pounds, the upcoming 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD is a lot closer in weight.

The Fire HD's 5.4-inch spread is a bit too wide for a 7-inch-screen tablet and I felt the Nexus 7, at 4.7 inches, had a much more ideal width and felt more comfortable to hold as a result. The Nook HD is, thankfully, not as wide as the Fire HD, but at 5 inches wide it's not as narrow as the Nexus 7. Still, the Nook HD felt extremely light in my hands and its width wasn't a problem during my demo time.

Specs and more
Tablet screens are the most important and likely one of the more expensive components of a tablet. Barnes & Noble obviously realizes this and did not skimp. Each Nook HD tablet sports high resolutions with a high pixel-per-in (ppi) count. The Nook HD's 1,440x900-pixel resolution with its 243 ppi is the highest yet of any 7-inch tablet screen, higher than even the Kindle Fire HD's 1,280x800-pixel resolution. The 9-inch Nook HD+ houses a 1,920x1280 display and sports a 256ppi; slightly better than the Kindle Fire HD 8.9's 1,920x1,200 screen and 254ppi. The Nook's IPS display uses a bonding process similar to the one used in the Kindle Fire HD's screen and will purportedly decrease glare and allow for wider viewing angles. From my brief inspection, the Nook HD's viewing angle did at least seem on a par with the Fire HD's.

A new OS brings new features
The Nook HD's operating system uses Ice Cream Sandwich as its base, with a custom-designed skin that feels like an evolution of the original Nook Tablet's OS. The home screen shows Library, Apps, Web, and Shop options near the bottom with a search bar underneath. The top portion of the screen is taken up by app shortcuts. Also, if the opt-out-of-ads debacle for the Fire HD turned you off, you'll be pleased to know that Barnes & Noble has no such ads on its tablets.

The Nook app store is still heavily curated and won't offer the breadth of content found in the Google Play store, but according to Barnes & Noble offers a lot more apps than it did last year.

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