Barnes & Noble NOOK HD+ Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

So the Barnes & Noble NOOK HD isn’t enough of a tablet for you, huh? Well, you’re in luck because Barnes & Noble has a full-sized tablet offering in the NOOK HD+, which is expected to tangle against some of the big names in the category – like the Google Nexus 10, Apple iPad 4, and Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9. Recognized as being the lightest 9-inch tablet with a 1080p display on board, its other main attraction is no doubt the immaculate $270 price point attached to it. Based on that, it’s undeniable that it’ll turn heads everywhere, but as always, it’ll require a good balance between features and functionality to stay afloat as a respectable contender.

The package contains:

  • Proprietary USB cable
  • Wall Charger
  • Quick Start Guide

Design:

Strange to say, the NOOK HD+ looks more like the NOOK TABLET from last year than its 7-inch sibling in the NOOK HD. In fact, it’s employing some of the distinct design characteristics from last year’s model – such as the lanyard spot on the lower left corner. As much as it’s a unique characteristic that defines it as a NOOK, we find it rather impractical because its larger size doesn’t fit the mold of something we’d want to tether to us. Still, we’ll admit that it’s extremely light weight (1.13 lbs) and comfortable to hold on its side with a single hand. And just like its sibling, it’s utilizing an all-plastic construction, which is decent at best, but maintains a clean appearance thanks to the soft touch matte casing of its rear. Overall, there’s a bit more appeal with its design over the NOOK HD, but it’s nothing spectacular to tell you the truth over other things.



Yet again defining it as a NOOK, there’s a physical “n” button below the screen, which is responsive and gets you back to the homescreen when pressed.


On one hand, the power button is located in an ideal spot on the right edge of the tablet, but it’s a bit awkward to find the volume control located in close proximity on the top edge. Even though they’re springy in response, they’re rather indistinct to the touch due to their flat looks. Along the top trim as well, we spot its 3.5mm headset jack and microphone – while on the bottom edge, we locate the LED charging light, proprietary charging/data port, and microSD card slot that’s hidden behind a plastic flap.


In the rear, there’s a single speaker grill that’s located on the bottom left corner – with the giant sized “n” logo etched squarely in the middle. Unfortunately, there are no cameras whatsoever with this one too, which means it’s lacking video-chatting functionality at the very least that many of its closest rivals offer.



Display:

When NOOKs are known to be reading devices first and foremost, the NOOK HD+ surely lives up to that notion with its display. Specifically, it’s donning a 9-inch 1920 x 1280 IPS LCD display, which puts out a very respectable pixel density figure of 256 ppi – inching out the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9, but still not toppling the Nexus 10. Regardless of that, it’s undoubtedly detailed enough to visibly make out fine text from a good distance away. And of course, it works wonders with reading too, seeing it’s able to produce a good look at the lowest brightness setting, thus, reducing eye strain in low light conditions. Conversely, it’s still a marvel to look at in direct sunlight, as its warmer color reproduction and full lamination enables it to remain clear and visible in all viewing angles.







Interface and Functionality:

Well now, the NOOK HD+ is sporting the same heavily customized Android experience that’s seen on the 7-inch NOOK HD, which is based off Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. We won’t get into the specifics, since we covered it in our review of the NOOK HD, but as a whole, it feels more faithful to Android than what Amazon does with its Kindle Fire HD tablets. Although there’s a healthy selection of content for books, magazines, and newspapers with the NOOK ecosystem, its multimedia content offering and apps selection pale in comparison to what’s available with Amazon’s ecosystem – or for the matter, the usual Android experience.


Even with the added real estate, there’s no tweaking done with any of the core organizer apps – so they maintain their presentations from what we’ve seen on the NOOK HD already. Still, it’s not too bad considering that the email app utilizes that typical two-panel layout that’s become synonymous with tablets.
If there was something we were hoping to see desperately changed with this full-sized tablet, it has to be the landscape keyboard layout. Alas, nothing has been done to change its stretched out smartphone-like layout in landscape. Nonetheless, the portrait option seems a bit easier to handle – albeit, there’s still some stretching required by our digits to reach certain buttons.



Processor and Memory:

Despite being outfitted with a slightly higher clocked processor, it does nothing to improve the tablet’s performance. In fact, its dual-core 1.5GHz ARM-based TI OMAP 4470 processor with 1GB of RAM exhibits a lot of sluggishness with various operations. Specifically, it’s most evident as we switch to using a live wallpaper, as it exhibits extremely choppy movements that prove to be distracting. Who knows what the culprit is, whether it’s software related or simply the high resolution display, but it’s definitely flawed in this category. Other times, though, it seems to exude a responsive performance – so when it’s running fine, it’s not that bad.

With storage capacity, Barnes & Noble decided to increase the total with the NOOK HD+. Essentially, you can pick between a 16GB or 32GB model – with both having expandability thanks to their built-in microSD card slot.

Internet and Connectivity:

Unfortunately, the sluggish performance of the NOOK HD+ extends into the web browsing experience. Sure, it’s able to load up pages very quickly and render them properly, but it’s marred by some serious erratic movements with navigational controls. Ultimately, it’s a downer considering the high-resolution display is a nice touch for the experience.


Like its pint sized sibling, the NOOK HD+ is only available in Wi-Fi form at the moment – with no indication if we’ll see cellular connected variants at some point. Additionally, it features Bluetooth, but lacks other luxuries such as aGPS and NFC.



Camera:

Following suit, the NOOK HD+ is also lacking cameras, which is something that some people might not be bothered by – especially taking into account how obnoxious you can look trying to snap a shot with something so ginormous. On the other end of the spectrum, though, it’s certainly not helping the tablet’s overall feature set, as many full-sized tablets sport both front and rear cameras.

Multimedia:

Yet again, there’s nothing different with the NOOK HD+’s music player, which is rather dull and straightforward with its presentation. Luckily, the audio quality of its speaker resonates loudly at the loudest volume setting – with no evidence of distortion too. However, it comes off just a teeny bit sharp to the ear.


Indeed, it strains with certain tasks, but there’s no problem when it comes to playing high definition videos. Not only does it have support for a wide array of video codecs out of the box, but it’s also worth mentioning that you can link your UltraViolet account to stream, download, and purchase video content.





Battery:

Sticking with our normal routine, which primarily consists of surfing the web, sending emails, and listening to music, the NOOK HD+’s battery is able to provide us with a consistent day of juice – with a bit to spare for the next day. Still, it’s probably a wise idea to charge it up nightly to be at a good tally in the morning. Also, there’s no light sensor with this one, which means you’ll need to manually change the brightness setting of the display.

Conclusion:

Staring deeply at the $270 price of the 16GB base model of the NOOK HD+ ($300 for the 32GB version), there’s no arguing that their intent is to keep Amazon itching with anticipation. Rightfully so, they’re able to do just that, as the NOOK HD+ has the more detailed display of the two – while also being lighter as well. However, it’s missing out on several key features to make it an instant buy over other highly-prized full tablet offerings on the market. Therefore, if you’re all about the reading aspect, then you’ll undoubtedly take into agreement to what the NOOK HD+ has to offer with its ecosystem. Beyond that, the Google Nexus 10 still continues to offer the most balanced set of features and hardware to make it the more compelling tablet – and better long term investment as well.

Software version of the review unit: 2.0.4

Barnes&Noble NOOK HD+ Video Review:

Video Thumbnail




Pros

  • Super affordable price point
  • Very sharp looking display, great for reading

Cons

  • Sluggish overall performance
  • App selection is limited
  • No cameras

PhoneArena Rating:

7.0

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