Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet Review: Better than the Kindle Fire?

by Jen Edwards Reads (37,558)
Editor's Rating
7.00

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Software & Support
    • 7
    • Upgrade Capabilities
    • 7
    • Usability
    • 7
    • Performance
    • 7
    • Features
    • 7
    • Price/Value Rating
    • 7
    • Total Score:
    • 7.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • Good specs for the price
    • B&N in-store support
    • MicroSD card slot for memory expansion
    • Excellent screen
    • Netflix and Hulu Plus support
  • Cons

    • A little bulky next to Kindle Fire
    • Underpowered mono speaker
    • Limited app selection
    • Onboard user storage capped at 1GB(!) on a 16GB device

Quick Take

It's more powerful than the Kindle Fire, but more expensive too. That said, the NOOK Tablet is a great device whether you're new to the eReader game, upgrading from an eInk model, or just looking for an inexpensive Android tablet.


The NOOK Tablet from Barnes & Noble is the latest addition to their line of eReader devices. It’s a customized Android tablet with a 7-inch IPS display, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a 1GHz dual core processor. It can handle all of your entertainment needs, from eBooks, magazines, and kid’s books from Barnes & Noble, as well as music, movies and TV from Hulu and Netflix, and selected Android apps available from Barnes & Noble’s app store. It is currently available for $249.

BUILD & DESIGN

If you think the NOOK Tablet looks like last year’s NOOK Color, you’d be right — they’re twins, at least as far as the exterior hardware is concerned. The only difference is that the new NOOK Tablet is a platinum silver in color, while the older NOOK Color is a dark graphite gray. If you’re upgrading, you’ll be happy to know that whatever cases or screen protectors you used with the NOOK Color will work with your new NOOK Tablet. That includes the precision designed Otterbox Commuter Series case, which fits perfectly.

If you’re not upgrading, here’s a quick tour…

The front of the NOOK Tablet is dominated by the large 7-inch touchscreen display. There’s a small “n” logo button underneath the display that serves as the home button for the device. The power button is on the left side, near the top, and the volume up/down buttons are on the right.
NOOK Tablet

NOOK TabletThe headphone jack is on the top right side, and the microUSB charge/sync port is on the bottom edge. The speakers are on the back, and the microSD expansion card slot is located underneath the flap on the bottom left corner of the device. The NOOK Tablet comes equipped with 16GB of storage, the vast majority of which is reserved for B&N content, and it supports microSD cards of up to 32GB in capacity.

The tablet feels solid and well-made; there aren’t any gaps or obvious flaws in the casing of the device. The power and volume buttons are flush-mounted with the case and operate smoothly. While you may want a cover to personalize the NOOK Tablet, you won’t feel like you need one to baby a too-delicate device. The NOOK Tablet wouldn’t survive being thrown with great force to the ground, but it has a feeling of durability and substance that makes me feel that it can handle the everyday grind.

The NOOK Tablet measures 8.1-inches tall, 5-inches wide, and is slightly less than half an inch thick; it weighs 14.1 ounces. It’s definitely heavier than an eInk reading device, but it isn’t too heavy to hold for an extended reading session. The weight is distributed evenly throughout the tablet. And the bezel is relatively narrow so that you can easily use your thumb to advance the page no matter which hand you’re using to hold the device.

Screen and Speakers
The screen is definitely the star of the show, and the new NOOK Tablet doesn’t disappoint. It’s equipped with a 7-inch VividView color touchscreen that is capable of displaying up to 16 million colors. It has a resolution of 1024 x 600, with 169 pixels per inch. It uses IPS technology to make it more readable under just about every condition. 

NOOK Tablet

Brightness controls allow you to make the screen comfortably dim for nighttime reading or extremely bright for use outdoors in bright sunlight. While no color LCD is going to offer text as sharp and clear as eInk screens outside in the sun, the NOOK Color screen at the highest brightness setting is still eminently readable.

Depending on your lighting situation, you may seem some glare or reflectivity that can easily be remedied by changing the tilt or angle of the screen. There are also anti-glare screen protectors available that cut down on the problem and add an extra layer of protection against scratches.

The touchscreen controls are extremely responsive,  whether you’re swiping up and down to scroll through your library, left and right to change your page, or tapping on a single word to look it up in the dictionary.

The built in speaker located on the back of the tablet is mono, not stereo. It gets the job done for games and even for watching video with Hulu and Netflix, but you’ll definitely want to plug in earphones for the best sound quality and volume. At maximum volume the external speaker is just barely loud enough to hear TV show dialogue in a quiet room, but I wish it were louder. That bothers me more than the lack of stereo sound.

The Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet has the following specs:

  • Android Gingerbread (2.3) with custom UI
  • 7-inch diagonal widescreen (1024 x 600, 169 PPI) capactive touchscreen
  • 1GHz TI OMAP Dual-Core CPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16GB internal memory
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • microUSB 2.0, 3.5mm stereo audio jack, microSD
  • 8.1 x 5 x .48 inches
  • .88 lbs
  • Ships with microUSB cable, power adapter
  • Price at Launch: $249


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