What to make of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook? It’s easy to see the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook as a rebranded version of the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 4. It sports the same specs and price as the Galaxy Tab 4, and even looks identical. There aren’t even any Barnes & Noble or Nook logos on the 7-inch Android tablet.
What it does have is a light Nook software touch over the Android 4.4 operating system, specifically a Nook twist on the familiar Samsung TouchWiz interface, as well as a bunch of Nook content like books, magazine trials, and television episodes. B&N reps claim there is more than $200 worth of free stuff, including best sellers like “Freakonomics” and episodes of “Orphan Black” and “Veep” preloaded on the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook, which combined are a considerable step up from the usual crapware that ships with mobile devices these days.
Tab 4 by any Other Name
So sans the free eBooks and content, what’s the difference between the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook and a Galaxy Tab 4 with the B&N reader app? Well, the latter can’t access specific reading software features that are installed on the former, such as B&N widgets and apps for accessing, searching, and sorting content, and an ever-present content launcher that appears as a small book icon in the tablet’s lower-left corner. One tap brings users right into whatever they were last reading.
All of that and five free virtual dollars to spend on B&N’s expansive library of books, magazines, TV shows, and movies boost the Galaxy Tab Nook above the Galaxy Tab 4, all things being equal. The B&N software additions seem generally useful to even casual readers, and with both B&N and Samsung tinkering with Android, the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook is thankfully free of homescreen clutter and bloatware.
The tablet itself is a decent piece of hardware. It looks great and feels solid, with a no frills design that forgoes Samsung faux leather backing for textured plastic. Its quad-core, 1.2 GHz Marvell PXA 1088 processor is a peg below what’s found in the latest flagship Android tablets, as is the 1280 x 800 display resolution and 216 pixel per inch count. But the processor is all right for the price, and we had nice things to say about its performance in our Galaxy Tab 4 review.
Being a Galaxy Tab, it has access to all of Google’s services, as well as Google’s music, eBooks, magazines, movies, and TV episodes. Being a Nook, it has access to free 1-hour book browsing at Barnes & Noble stores, as well as in-store customer support with no appointment needed.
That last feature makes The Galaxy Tab Nook an attractive option for casual and less tech-savvy users. Those who serve as their parents’ personal IT department might consider the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook an excellent gift – think of it as outsourcing IT to the Barnes & Noble store staff.
This or the Fire?
Is the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook better than the Amazon Kindle Fire? After a quick glance, yes.
Comparing 7-inch models, the hardware is a wash. The Kindle Fire HDX has a better spec sheet, but starts at $230. Meanwhile the Fire HD is less expensive at $140, but is a weaker tablet. It all comes down to services, and the question is whether the combined services of B&N and Google exceed Amazon’s, which has an advantage in terms of content, but the partners can almost match it. When it comes to apps and various cloud services (notes, photo access and backup, productivity and collaboration), the Galaxy Tab Nook beats the Kindle Fire by miles.
Of course, we’ll have to put the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook through the review ringer before we draw a definitive conclusion.