The Nook HD Plus is Barnes & Noble's first entry in the large tablet market, and is designed to go beyond books and magazines for a full entertainment experience that includes apps, TV shows, movies, and much more. The device features a 9-inch HD display with virtual surround sound, a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, Wi-Fi wireless networking, and a microSD card slot.
It is currently available at BN.com and in Barnes & Noble stores for $270 for the 16GB version and $300 for the 32MB version.
Build and Design
The Nook HD Plus looks very similar to the Nook Color and Nook Tablet, with rounded edges and that distinctive corner cutout on the lower left side of the device. I'm not quite sure what the large hole is for; perhaps with the metal reinforcement some folks might want to add a wrist strap to guard against dropping the tablet.
The entire unit is dark slate gray, and while the front bezel is smooth, the back has been coated with a soft-touch material that helps to improve your hold on the tablet while at the same time making it more comfortable. Unfortunately, it's a true fingerprint magnet, so if you're a neat freak you'll find yourself constantly wiping down both the touchscreen display and the back panel.
In my testing, I found the Nook HD+ to be extremely solid and well built -- it oozes the feeling of quality, not cheap construction. Everything fits together nicely, with no loose spots around any of the seams, no creaks or flexing either. While I wouldn't consider it to be particularly rugged, I wouldn't have any trouble handing it to a reasonably responsible kid, though I might want a silicone skin of some sort to protect the corners from a fall.
The device is comfortable to use and hold for long periods of time, which is a must since it's designed for reading books and magazines. It is equally weighted throughout the whole body, and I found it most comfortable to hold it close to the bottom. While it's a little heavy to hold in one hand, it can be done, with my reading position defaulting to holding it with two hands.
The display on the Nook HD+ is lovely indeed, and worked beautifully for all of the types of entertainment I tried out -- reading books, watching movies and TV shows, and playing games. That isn't surprising, considering the specs -- the display has a resolution of 1920 x 1280, with 256 pixels per inch. The screen is fully laminated as well, which according to Barnes & Noble is supposed to reduce glare and improve viewing angles.
I found the viewing angles to be very good, as I didn't have to worry about holding the Nook HD+ in one particular position in order to get a good view of the screen. I could also lay it down on my desk if I wish, and still see the screen clearly, as long as it wasn't early morning or late afternoon, when the sun shines directly through the windows in my office. While I don't think that the Nook HD+ has any more of a glare problem than other comparable tablets, I personally would want an anti-glare screen protector to make the screen a little more matte.
Color reproduction is very good: everything is crisp and clear and looks as it should. Angry Birds, for example, looks the same on the Nook HD+ as it does on my iPod touch and iPad. The same is true of the logos and photos on my frequently-accessed web sites, and in the shows I watch on Hulu.
I also found the display to be quite responsive, so I was never frustrated when playing Angry Birds that I just couldn't get the right slingshot launch, for example, and I didn't have any problems turning pages in my ebooks.
The Nook HD+ is designed to a content consumption device, not a creation platform, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that the virtual keyboard doesn't have any terribly unique features. It works for its intended purpose, entering search terms in your books or typing URLs into the web browser, but there's nothing earth-shattering here.
Other Buttons and Controls
The Nook button on the front, underneath the screen, can either turn on the device or serve as a "home" button that takes you back to the main display. The only other controls are the volume buttons on the top right edge and the power button, which is on the upper right edge of the device.
I found the buttons to be too small to easily use, however, and the placement was somewhat awkward. Though I could get used to it over time, I felt that their positions were reversed, as I kept hitting the volume button when I was trying to activate the power button.
On the bottom edge of the tablet you'll find the charge/sync slot, the charging indicator light to the right, and the microSD slot cover on the left. I like the fact that the microSD slot is covered by a tethered door, but found it to be very difficult to actually open. That's not a big deal, since you probably won't be switching out memory cards too often, but if you don't have long fingernails you might need something to pry it open the first time.
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