Barnes & Noble has just launched their newest NOOK device, the third in the series. The latest, dubbed the NOOK Simple Touch Reader, or NOOK STR for short, has a 6-inch eInk touchscreen display, 2GB of on-board memory, with support for microSD cards up to 32GB in capacity, Wi-Fi wireless networking, and a much improved battery designed to last up to two months between charges. It is available online and in B&N retail stores for $139.
BUILD & DESIGN
The new NOOK STR is very small, slightly narrower and much shorter than the original NOOK device. That's expected, since this model doesn't have a secondary LCD underneath the eInk display. It's also incredibly thin, with a comfortably molded back that fits nicely in your hand. The device is very light, and won't add any weight at all to your bag or purse.
The exterior case is made of black plastic, and feels quite solid--there's no bending or creaking here, just a well-made device. I wouldn't toss it down on a concrete sidewalk, but it does seem sturdily built and, with reasonable care, should stand up to long use.
The eInk Pearl display is simply fantastic. The text is sharp and clear, no matter which font or font size I choose. There is no glare, and the screen is even more readable in sunlight than it is indoors; the brighter the ambient light, the better the display looks.
Of course, the tradeoff here is that you won't be able to read in low light or dark conditions unless you have either a clip-on backlight or a lighted case. If that's a major concern for you, you might consider either a NOOK Color or an iPod Touch, iPad, or other device with an LCD display.
Page turns are super fast, with no noticeable delay. That annoying flash that is the hallmark of current generation touchscreen displays has almost been eliminated. I only saw it very rarely, usually when I used a large font, so I was turning pages rather fast. When I used a smaller font and minimized page turns, I never saw that flash. Perhaps the NOOK STR is pre-loading pages in the background while I read? I'm not exactly sure how they did it, but it's a marked improvement over the original NOOK and even the current generation Kindle.
The touchscreen aspect of the display is extremely responsive, requiring just the lightest of touches. It makes the NOOK STR so much more fun to use, and faster to use as well, because you don't have to laboriously move from line to line using virtual arrow keys or five way navigator buttons.
Other Buttons & Controls
There are only a few buttons to be found on the NOOK STR. The power button is on the back, in the top center section. It seems like a strange placement, but it works well enough. There's a small n button on the front, just under the display. At first it looks like nothing more than a branding element, but it brings up the main menu when pressed.
The charge/sync port is at the bottom, and the microSD card slot is on the right side of the device. It's covered by a small flexible door. There are numbers printed just above the card slot; I suspect that's the serial number of the device.
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