Editor’s Update: This Nook review is of the first generation Nook. Barnes and Noble released their second generation Nook in June 2011. The prices for the first generation Nook shown in the following review have come down. You can now get the Wi-Fi only version and the Wi-Fi-3G version for $119 and $169 respectively.
This Barnes and Noble Nook review aims to serve as a guided tour of the Barnes & Noble’s ereading device which was first introduced to the public in December of 2009. It was the first ebook reader with the Android operating system and was Barnes and Noble’s answer to the Amazon Kindle. While it appeared to be an interesting alternative to the Kindle, it was lagging in many aspects at the time.
More than a year later and after a couple of firmware upgrades that Barnes and Noble promised would enhance the Nook’s performance and functionality, you may be interested to know just how the Nook compares to the Kindle today. For that, be sure to read our indepth Nook vs Kindle article.
Let’s take a closer look at the latest and greatest version of the Nook in this 2011 Nook review…
|Barnes & Noble Nook Specs:|
|Size||7.7" x 4.9" x 0.5"|
11.6 oz (Wi-Fi)
12.1 oz (Wi-Fi + 3G)
|Battery Life||10 days (wireless off)|
|Interface and Navigation||Color LCD touchscreen|
2GB internal memory for 1,500 books;
expandable memory up to 16GB (microSD)
|Content Selection||Over 2 million titles|
|Wireless Coverage||US only|
|File Formats Supported||EPUB, PDF, PDB, JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, MP3|
|Sync Across Devices||YES|
$199 (Wi-Fi + 3G)
Size and Design
Barnes and Noble has changed little with the Nook’s design since it was first unveiled. Its 7.7 x 4.9-inch white plastic bezel frame features a smooth, shiny finish except in the side areas where the Next and Previous buttons are found. The above dimensions coupled with its half-inch thickness and 12.1-oz weight don’t exactly make the Nook the most compact of gadgets. Still, those who have used this ebook reader have no complaints about it causing wrist fatigue or being unsuitable for long form reading.
On the top portion of the Nook is the Power/Sleep control button, while a headphone jack, a tiny USB port, and two speakers (one on each end) line the bottom area. The original back panel, which has a rubbery feel to it as opposed to the slick surface on the front, is colored white or gray to differentiate the Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi with 3G models respectively.
The Nook’s display area is actually made up of two sections: the 6-inch diagonal e-ink display for reading, and the 3.5 x 1-inch color LCD touch screen for navigation. We’ll delve more into the functionality of its touch display next but suffice it to say that at first glance, it does infuse some color into the device, providing an interesting contrast against that of the somewhat dull e-ink display.
But however uninteresting it may appear, the Nook’s e-ink screen which utilizes 16 shades of gray still is ideal for ebook reading as it reads like real paper – no glare even under bright sunlight. There are 6 different font sizes and 3 font types for the user to choose from: Amasis, Helvetica Neue, and Light Classic.
As mentioned, navigating around the Nook can be done using its 3.5-inch color touch screen located right below the e-ink display. In between the two screens, the Nook logo, a small stylized n, can be found and this serves as the Home button. In going to the Home screen, you’ll find nine icons to choose from: The Daily, My Library, Shop, Reading Now, Games, Wi-Fi, Audio, Web, and Settings. This means that whatever you want to do next on your Nook is practically just a tap away. The firmware upgrade to version 1.5 has also resulted in faster page turns for a generally better performance as far as the navigation is concerned.
But then again, having an LCD touch screen as the user interface isn’t all that great. For instance, confining your taps to the small screen and not on the e-ink display on top where some options may be found can take some getting used to especially if you’re familiar with using full touch screen smart phones or tablet PCs. Plus, the virtual onscreen keyboard is still quite slow, making it more difficult to do annotations or take notes.
The battery life of this ebook reading device is perhaps where it lags behind farthest from the Amazon Kindle. While the Nook’s 10 days on a single charge (with wireless turned off) is pretty decent, Kindle’s 30-day battery life is simply out of this world. On the upside, the Nook has a replaceable battery which is much more convenient than having to send the whole device back for a battery change as you do with the Kindle.
The Nook’s 2G internal memory can already allow storage of about 1,500 books and documents. This may sound a lot less than the Kindle’s capacity of 3,500 books but bear in mind that the Nook does provide a microSD slot capable of up to 16GB of additional memory and storage.
Thanks to the content powerhouse available in the Barnes & Noble bookstore, the Nook boasts of the largest selection of ebooks – over 2 million titles to date. Hundreds of thousands of these are free, while the rest are priced at $9.99 and below. Book chapters can be sampled, then downloaded wirelessly in seconds should you decide to buy.
Another thing that the Nook has got going for it when it comes to content variety is its support for EPUB, the open ebook standard. With EPUB compatibility (one thing the Kindle lacks), the Nook user will be able to read free Google books or loan ebooks from the local library. PDFs, graphic files (JPG, PNG, etc), and audio files (MP3) are also supported.
Aside from the staple features that the Barnes & Noble ereading device offers, it also some other nice extras up its sleeve, a few of them courtesy of its latest software version 1.5:
LendMe Technology – allows you to share your favorite books with friends who are also Nook owners, or use the Nook app in any of their devices. Using this feature, books can be lent for up to 14 days.
Stay in Sync – lets you to transfer from one Nook-enabled device to another without losing your place.
My Shelves – helps you organize your collection of ebooks however way you want it for easier and faster access.
Password Protection – prevents against unauthorized use. You may set the device to require a password when coming back from sleep mode or when purchasing books.
Yes, the Nook is a dedicated ebook reader. But it doesn’t mean one can’t have a little fun with it too. You can play games like Chess and Sudoku on it, listen to music, and while the experience may not be as pleasant as with a color LCD screen, internet browsing through the Nook is also possible.
Is the Nook a Worthy Buy?
This Nook review has taken a close look at what this ereader from Barnes & Noble now has to offer and without a doubt, the Nook has developed into a polished and high-performance device given its rocky start. That’s not to say the Nook is the perfect ebook reader, however (no such thing exists). There are still a few improvements that can be made such as a more intuitive user interface, a longer battery life, and international availability.
So should you include the Nook on your short list when considering ebook readers? As with any gadget purchase, it all boils down to the cost with respect to its features. Currently, the Nook retails at $149 for the Wi-Fi only and $199 for the Wi-Fi plus 3G edition – with US coverage only. Contrast that with the Amazon Kindle which has a Wi-Fi only model for $10 less ($139) and a Wi-Fi + 3G with international coverage also for $10 less ($189).
As you can easily conclude after reading this Barnes and Noble Nook review, the Nook may be a worthy buy for some. For me personally, I’m not convinced it offers any features or benefits over the Kindle that are worth paying $10 more for.