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 six-inch eInk touchscreen display, Wi-Fi wireless networking, and a much-improved battery from the last generation NOOK designed to last up to two months between charges.
It was expected to be available on June 10, but preordered units were shipped out early. I received mine yesterday and wanted to share my first impressions, since the device should be available in stores this weekend. It sells for $139.
BUILD & DESIGN
The new NOOK STR is very small, slightly narrower and much shorter than the original nook device. It’s also very light–when I first took it out of the box I honestly looked around for the battery–I figured that it couldn’t possibly already be installed in the device.
It’s also quite streamlined; aside from the power button on the top edge of the back, and the small “n” button on the front that brings up the reading menu, there are no other obvious buttons. There are page forward and back buttons on each side of the screen, but you’ll probably never use them. The charge/sync port is on the bottom, and the SD card slot is under a little door on the right side of the device.
The touchscreen is remarkably responsive, and works like a dream. Just tap to change a page, or swipe if you prefer. Either way, you don’t need to exert much pressure at all, just the lightest touch. The contrast is really quite impressive, the darker tones are well defined, and the background is much clearer and lighter than the display on the original nook. Page turns are also much faster. Even better, that annoying dark flash when changing pages has been virtually eliminated. I saw it a couple of times during my first few hours with the device, but it is much less troublesome than before. I don’t know how they did it, but it’s a huge improvement.
The latest NOOK is called the “Simple Touch Reader” for a reason — it’s dead simple to use, and even without the brief tutorial I can’t imagine anyone not being able to figure out how everything works in less than three minutes. The home screen shows your current book, lists some of your other recent titles in case you’re in the mood to switch, and the bottom highlights some of the most popular books currently available in the B&N NOOK store.
While reading a book you can highlight passages, look up words, and set bookmarks with a single touch. There are several fonts and font sizes to choose from, so you can adjust the type to meet your needs. You can also search for a specific word or phrase using the virtual onscreen keyboard or use a convenient slider to quickly navigate to a different part of the book.
The overall experience has been simplified, so it’s important to note here that the latest NOOK does not include a web browser or music player — this device is for those who are only interested in reading books, magazines, and newspapers. It still works with library books and the B&N More In Store program that allows you to read just about every eBook B&N sells for free, up to an hour each day when you take your NOOK to your local B&N store.
My first impressions of the NOOK STR are overwhelmingly favorable — it’s so small and so light you may not even remember it’s in your bag, and it’s comfortable to hold during long reading sessions. The screen is really sharp and clear, much better than the original. Only time will tell whether the battery life is as good as B&N claims, and whether or not I’ll miss the web browser, music player and some of the other more advanced features on the original
I will be directly comparing it to the latest Kindle for the full review.