Barnes & Noble opens fire at Amazon with new NOOK HD, NOOK HD+ tablets (hands-on)

BGR.com
Barnes & Noble opens fire at Amazon with new NOOK HD, NOOK HD+ tablets (hands-on)
.

View photo

Barnes & Noble opens fire at Amazon with new NOOK HD, NOOK HD+ tablets (hands-on)

The low-cost tablet space is heating up ahead of what many expect to be an October unveiling of Apple’s (AAPL) much rumored iPad mini, and two new entries into this competitive space have just been announced. Barnes & Noble (BKS) on Wednesday took the wraps off its all new NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ tablets, and they take aim squarely at the 7-inch and 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD slates Amazon announced earlier this month. These new NOOKs pick up right where Barnes & Noble’s previous-generation tablets left off, but they offer a number of notable improvements over their predecessors — and over the competition as well.

Barnes & Noble’s new NOOK HD tablet competes directly with Amazon’s (AMZN) 7-inch Kindle Fire HD and Google’s (GOOG) Nexus 7. It features a 7-inch 1440 x 900-pixel high-definition display with a pixel density of 243 ppi — topping both the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7, which are rated at 216 ppi — a dual-core TI OMAP4470 processor clocked at 1.3GHz, stereo speakers enhanced with SRS TruMedia audio (which sounded terrific and did not distort even at very high volumes) and a 4,050 mAh battery that manages to provide 10.5 hours of reading or 9 hours of HD video playback.

How does such a small battery last so long? Barnes & Noble executives were very proud of the company’s custom display technology, which took 9 months to develop. These panels aren’t found anywhere other than on the new NOOK HD tablets, and despite their power efficiency they are remarkably bright. Lined up next to a Kindle Fire HD and a Nexus 7, the NOOK HD’s display was in an entirely different class — the brightness and clarity are phenomenal, and the fully laminated display panel reduces glare and improves viewing angles.

At just 315 grams, the NOOK HD is also the lightest 7-inch tablet on the planet, but it doesn’t feel cheap at all. Quite the contrary, in fact. The weight seems perfect for prolonged reading and the soft-touch finish on the back of the device has a fantastic feel, just as it did on Barnes & Noble’s previous devices.

The NOOK HD+, also the lightest tablet in its class at 515 grams, sports a 9-inch display with better-than-1080p resolution. The 1920 x 1280-pixel panel features a pixel density of 256 ppi, which tops the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD and approaches Apple’s class leading 264-ppi Retina display on the iPad. Just like the NOOK HD, the display on the HD+ is very bright and remarkably vivid.

The hardware is also among the most solid I have seen on a 9-inch tablet. The soft-touch finish on the back of the slate is far more comfortable to hold than the aluminum on Apple’s iPad, and the tablet’s mid-frame and edges are made of magnesium. This adds a great look at feel, and it also makes the NOOK HD+ very sturdy, unlike cheap-feeling plastic tablets.

The same dual-core TI OMAP4470 processor that powers the 7-inch model is found in Barnes & Noble’s 9-inch tablet, but it’s clocked at a speedier 1.5GHz. Despite the faster clock speed and the larger full HD display, the NOOK HD+ is able to squeeze 10 hours of reading or 9 hours or high-definition video playback out of a 6,000 mAh battery.

Where hardware is concerned, Barnes & Noble’s new NOOK tablets are clear class leaders. With a massive 3 million-eBook library and ever-growing app, movie, TV show, newspaper and magazine catalogs, the content ecosystem is there as well. The big question mark here is software.

Barnes & Noble’s NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ tablets are based on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but they feature a completely customized user interface and software suite. The software present on the units I tested was not final, and this was very apparent.

While functions like page-turning (wait until you see the fantastic animation effect Barnes & Noble created for turning pages) were impressively smooth, the software was full of glitches and scrolling was jittery.  Barnes & Noble was very clear in stating that the software wasn’t final though, and I certainly hope the company smooths out its custom Android built ahead of launch.

There are plenty of great features baked into the NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ software though, including one that I personally have been waiting for years to see. Barnes & Noble’s new tablets include support for profiles that allow multiple users to share a single tablet using separate accounts. Home screen configurations and other data associated with each profile is hidden from other users, and profiles can be password protected. Adult users can also configure parental controls that prevent children from accessing certain content, and content or apps purchased with one user account can be made accessible across other accounts for no additional fee.

I am definitely impressed with what I have seen so far from the NOOK HD and NOOK HD+, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with the tablets closer to launch. If Barnes & Noble can manage to optimize the software experience so that it compliments the terrific hardware it managed to build, the new NOOKs may very well be the best eReader-tablet hybrids on the market.

Barnes & Noble’s NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ will both begin shipping in late October and in-store availability is slated for early November. The NOOK HD comes with either 8GB or 16GB of memory and costs $199 and $249, respectively, while the NOOK HD+ is available with 16GB of storage for $269 or 32GB of storage for $349. Both tablets also feature expandable memory slots for up to 64GB of additional storage per card. Barnes & Noble’s full press release follows below.

Barnes & Noble Launches NOOK® HD and NOOK HD+, Lightest and Highest-Resolution 7-Inch HD Tablet and World’s Lightest Full HD Tablet

Incredible Reading and Entertainment Like Never Seen Before on 7- and 9-Inch Tablets

Designed for Both Personal Use and the Whole Family to Share – Like Having Multiple Devices in One

NOOK HD Offers World’s Highest Resolution Display Ever on a 7-Inch Media Tablet
Starting at Only $199

NOOK HD+ is Lightest, Lowest-Priced Full HD Tablet Ever Starting at Only $269

Unbeatable Values for Top Quality Tablets and No Distracting Ads

Coming to the US and UK This Fall;
Pre-Order Starting Today at NOOK.com and Barnes & Noble Stores

New York, New York – September 26, 2012 –Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the leading retailer of content, digital media and educational products, today introduced NOOK HD and NOOK HD+, the lightest HD and full HD tablets. The super-fast and lightweight 7-inch NOOK HD and 9-inch NOOK HD+ feature must-see displays for superior reading and entertainment and an instantly personalized tablet experience for each family member. In fact, NOOK HD boasts the world’s highest- resolution ever on a 7-inch tablet and NOOK HD+ rivals the industry-leading tablet’s display. Starting at the low prices of $199 for NOOK HD and $269 for NOOK HD+, nearly half the cost of the leading large-format tablet, both products deliver an amazing value for customers, with no annoying ads. With more than three million books, a large selection of magazines and apps, and now with newly launched NOOK VideoTM and NOOK CatalogTM content, NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ offer virtually endless reading and entertainment at customers’ fingertips. Both are available for pre-order at www.nook.com and Barnes & Noble stores for customers to enjoy beginning in early November.

The fantastic new 7-inch NOOK HD and 9-inch NOOK HD+ are packed with favorite tablet features that the whole family will love:

A Personalized Tablet Experience for Both Individuals and Families

According to research by Barnes & Noble, more than 50 percent of tablet owners share their devices with others in their family every day. Half also say they would never let their child handle their device unattended. Not surprising, given that more than a third of tablet owners report having content on their devices they don’t want anyone else to see. NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ are designed precisely to provide a personalized experience for individuals and their family members, allowing children to freely enjoy all the content they love without happening upon all that mom and dad would rather they didn’t see. New NOOK ProfilesTM instantly transform the device in hand to any family member’s very own tablet. With a quick tap on a profile at the top of the screen, the entire experience magically changes into that family member’s personal tablet as their own content – and personalized recommendations – appear on the display. Now mom’s NOOK becomes Billy’s NOOK, becomes dad’s NOOK and so on. In a blink, one device is like four, five or six. Adults can use their personal passwords to easily access their books, magazines, videos, apps and more. Children can dive into their collection of digital picture books, learning apps and kid-friendly videos, while tweens and teens can access their chapter books, magazines, games and favorite TV shows. Enhanced controls with simple settings and password features empower parents to easily manage their children’s access to the Web, content and shopping.

Must-Have Tablet Features

The new NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ are optimized to deliver unparalleled experiences in the areas that company research showed NOOK tablet owners use most: reading, Web, video and email. The reading experience is unmatched, offering beautifully rendered text, magazines in spectacular HD and lightning fast page turns. Thanks to top-end processors, the newly designed Web browser in NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ is super-fast, making it simple and smooth to surf favorite sites with a tap, pinch and zoom. New to the Web, ArticleViewTM allows you to customize your online reading experience. Both NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ offer access to a collection of popular movies and TV shows through new NOOK Video. And an all-new built-in email app offers new features in an easy-to-use, clean format that supports a host of popular personal and work-related email services including Microsoft® Exchange ActiveSync.

NOOK HD – The Most Exceptional Reading and Entertainment Experience in a 7-Inch Tablet

Best 7-Inch Display: NOOK HD includes a newly invented, brilliant display that delivers the highest quality text, graphics and video experience in a 7-inch media tablet. Packed with pixels, every book read, every movie watched, every game played is rendered in a digital quality never before seen. NOOK HD offers the highest-resolution display ever on a 7-inch tablet at 1440 x 900, with an unprecedented 243 pixels per inch and HD video playback of up to 720p. It’s ultra-sharp with 25 percent more pixels than Kindle Fire HD for a better overall viewing experience. Building on the highly advanced laminated displays first seen in the 7-inch category on previous NOOK LCD products, NOOK HD features the most advanced IPS display coupled with world-class optical bonding technology with no air gap to deliver low- glare and a wide viewing angle for sharing.

Super-Light and a Joy to Hold: Weight matters, and no other leading 7-inch HD tablet is lighter than NOOK HD. By developing a breakthrough design that integrates the display into the device itself, Barnes & Noble eliminated many components to keep NOOK HD super-light, yet durable. At only 11.1 ounces (315 grams) and just 5-inches wide, it’s more than 20 percent lighter and nearly a half-inch narrower than Kindle Fire HD. So, it fits the hand beautifully and is finished with soft-touch paint that makes it comfortable for even a young child to hold. NOOK HD is ergonomically contoured for comfort and slips easily into a men’s suit coat, a woman’s handbag or a child’s backpack.

Lightning Fast: Armed with a dual-core 1.3GHz high-speed processor, NOOK HD is lightning fast, highly responsive and smooth. With its more powerful processor, it’s not surprising that NOOK HD is faster than Kindle Fire HD for a nimble overall experience and 80 percent faster when it comes to graphics processing for smoother, faster animations, renderings, apps experience and more. The 1GB of RAM allows customers to easily zip from one app to another and play movies.

More Choices: The world’s most exceptional 7-inch reading and entertainment tablet is now available for pre-order in two colors, “Snow” and “Smoke.” Starting at just $199 for an 8GB model and only $229 for a 16GB version – both featuring expandable microSD memory storage – customers can pre-order at www.nook.com and at Barnes & Noble stores.

NOOK HD+ – The Lightest and Lowest-Priced Full HD Tablet Ever

Spectacular Full HD Display: For those who want to enjoy reading and entertainment on a larger scale, NOOK HD+ offers a must-see full HD 9-inch display with resolution of 1920 x 1280 and 256 pixels per inch for up to 1080p for movies, magazines and more. The fully laminated display reduces glare and provides excellent viewing angles, perfect for personal or shared viewing. This amazing display rivals the “resolutionary” screen of the leading high-resolution large-format tablet, but is offered in a device that’s more than 20 percent less weight and nearly half the price.

Incredibly Light Yet Powerful: Weighing in at only 18.2 ounces (515 grams), NOOK HD+ is big on display, yet lightweight, easy to hold and take anywhere. It is the lightest full HD tablet ever invented. NOOK HD+ is power-packed by a 1.5GHz dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM for a fast, smooth customer experience, whether browsing the Web, reading books and magazines, watching videos, enjoying apps or checking email.

Best Price Ever for Full HD Tablet: The beautifully designed NOOK HD+, offered in the color “Slate,” features expandable memory for even more storage with options of 16GB for $269 and 32GB for $299 – two astoundingly low prices for a brilliant, super-light 9-inch reading and entertainment tablet.

Both NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ will ship in late October and be available in stores in early November.

“With the combination of the highest resolution screen, lightest weight and expansive access to content rendered in a digital quality never before seen, NOOK HD is the world’s best 7-inch media tablet,” said William J. Lynch, Chief Executive Officer of Barnes & Noble. “We designed our larger format tablet NOOK HD+ because we think there’s big demand from customers for a super-light, extremely high quality 9-inch tablet, at half the price of the iPad. Both our 7-inch NOOK HD and 9-inch NOOK HD+ deliver an exceptional customer experience and we enthusiastically encourage customers to go to nook.com and learn more about them.”

Announcing Even More NOOK Content and Services to Enjoy

As part of the launch of NOOK HD and NOOK HD+, Barnes & Noble also announced significant new additions and advancements to the NOOK content ecosystem:

A Growing and Diverse Digital Catalog: The NOOK StoreTM now offers more than 3 million books including bestselling books, new releases, classics and enhanced titles with special content; the world’s largest collection of nearly 3,500 best-loved English-language children’s interactive picture books; a growing collection of comic books and graphic novels; and picture-perfect art, photography, travel guides and cookbook titles.

New – NOOK Video: Launching concurrently with the shipment of the new products in late October, NOOK Video offers customers their favorite standard and HD movies and TV shows for streaming and download to enjoy in spectacular color and stunning definition on NOOK HD and NOOK HD+. From major studios, networks and companies like HBO®, STARZ, The Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers Entertainment, the NOOK Video catalog offers something for everyone in the family to enjoy. Customers will find TV favorites such as Game of Thrones®, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead to movie favorites like Disney-Pixar’s Brave, The Dark Knight and Harry Potter movies. Both devices are designed with an HDMI compatible port to allow customers to easily connect to their TVs to watch movies and shows in up to full 1080p. Videos streamed and downloaded from the NOOK Store are stored safely and securely in the NOOK CloudTM, so NOOK Video content can also be viewed on NOOK devices, TVs, smartphones and tablets via a suite of new free NOOK Video apps. Like free NOOK Reading apps, all-new NOOK Video apps automatically sync so customers can pick up watching right where they left off on the compatible device of their choosing.

UltraVioletTM Support: NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ are the first UltraViolet-enabled tablets, so right out of the box they seamlessly integrate a customer’s compatible physical DVD and Blu-ray DiscTM purchases and digital video collection across their devices. Customers will be able to easily link their UltraViolet accounts to the NOOK Cloud allowing them to view their previously and newly purchased UltraViolet-enabled movies and TV shows across NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ devices, NOOK Video apps and third-party applications. In addition to purchasing a digital version via NOOK Video, customers can shop for DVDs and Blu-ray Discs with the UltraViolet logo in Barnes & Noble and other retail stores, add them to their digital collection, and instantly watch compatible titles from the NOOK Cloud to enjoy wherever they go and however they choose.

Magazine 2.0: NOOK NewsstandTM has the largest digital collection of the top 100 bestselling magazines available for both digital subscriptions and single copy sale. With NOOK HD and NOOK HD+, the industry-leading magazine experience just got even better. A new visual table of contents lets customers view thumbnails of the entire magazine and simply tap the article they want to read first. Magazines feature a super-fast, 3D-like page turn and include built-in hot spots for readers to quickly jump to specific articles and go deeper on a subject or story through audio, video and Web linking. NOOK’s innovative ArticleView lets the reader focus only on the text, customized to their needs. The company also introduced a breakthrough NOOK ScrapbookTM, where magazine readers can virtually clip pages of interest and save them in customized digital scrapbooks.

All-New Newspaper Experience: Extra! Extra! NOOK Newspapers have an all-new design on NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ that make it even easier and more fun to read newspapers digitally. Customers can view and choose each of the paper’s sections on the left column to tap and read in a snap. The large selection of daily and weekly newspapers are available through subscription or single copies and are automatically downloaded via Wi-Fi® to the device when available for reading with morning coffee, on the commute home or anywhere in between.

New – NOOK Catalog: NOOK Catalog offers a convenient browsing and shopping experience through a selection of colorful, complimentary catalogs from leading retailers including Pottery Barn, L.L.Bean, Frontgate, Garnet Hill and Harry & David – with 100 top catalogs available this holiday. Customers’ catalogs are delivered magically to their devices when published so they can virtually flip through the pages to explore, tap on a product of interest for more information from the retailer’s Web site and make a purchase. The new NOOK Scrapbook feature can also be used to rip and save select pages in a personalized collection along with other chosen pages saved from catalogs and magazines.

Top Apps: The global developer community has quickly been innovating and adding to the catalog of high-quality NOOK AppsTM. The number of NOOK Apps has grown 10x in the last year and 100x since launching and includes all the most popular and bestselling top 100 app titles for tablets available anywhere. NOOK Apps features a wide range of titles for the whole family, including the hottest games, as well as lifestyle, productivity, news, entertainment and reading apps. In fact, only the NOOK Store provides helpful age recommendations for parents and lets customers browse by subject area to find the perfect app for their child among the broadest and the most curated app collection of kids’ educational apps on any Android store. With games and activities focused on language, math, puzzles, reading, art and more, NOOK provides families with hours of playful learning that helps kids make the most of their “screen time.”

Newly Revamped NOOK Store – A Better Way to Shop & Find Content: NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ bring a new level of personal shopping service to the device experience. Customers can tap on the Your NOOK TodayTM icon on the home screen to reveal fresh content and personalized recommendations each day. This includes their latest newsstand subscriptions delivered virtually, plus cool apps and new titles matched to their profile.

And just like a great bookshop, the revamped NOOK Store is a place of continuous discovery. The new store experience allows customers to easily shop by department or explore new NOOK ChannelsTM, a pioneering recommendation system that combines the unrivaled knowledge of Barnes & Noble booksellers with advanced algorithmic technology to create an unparalleled, curated browsing experience. Targeted by interest and sensibility, each NOOK Channel programs a rich stream of reading – and soon movies and apps – that includes the latest releases as well as backlist gems, bestsellers as well as offbeat treasures. Customers can browse and shop Channels that will expand their passions for the authors and subjects they love, from Paranormal Romance, War Stories, and Books to Talk About to Jane Austen & Heirs, The New Classics, History by Plot and Books Every Kid Should Know.

NOOK Cloud: All NOOK content is delivered via Wi-Fi and safely stored through NOOK Cloud, making NOOK Books, videos, apps and other content accessible across NOOK, personal computing and mobile devices using free NOOK Reading and NOOK Video apps.

Additional NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ Highlights

  • Battery Life that Lasts: Both devices feature extra-long battery life optimized for extended use. NOOK HD offers up to 10.5 hours of continuous reading and up to 9 hours of video watching, while NOOK HD+ boasts up to 10 hours and up to 9 hours for reading and video, respectively, all with Wi-Fi off.
  • Expandable Storage: In addition to generous onboard storage, NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ also feature expandable memory using a separate microSD card (up to 64GB) – another feature not offered on Amazon’s tablets. NOOK gives customers an economical and flexible way to carry their personal content, PDFs, music, videos and more anywhere.
  • A Better Value, Ad-Free: NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ offer brilliant displays so customers can enjoy their favorite content and personal photos, not annoying ads as with Amazon’s tablets. And with low prices starting at $199 and $269 respectively, always ad-free NOOK tablets are a better value than Amazon’s, which charges customers an additional $15 for freedom from advertising offers on their tablet home page.
  • Ready for Power: Barnes & Noble also knows that customers prefer to charge their tablets quickly with an AC adapter, every new NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ has one included at no extra cost. Amazon charges $20 for their tablets’ adapters sold separately.
  • Superb Sound: To deliver excellent audio, NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ are designed with customized speakers and utilize SRS TruMediaTM* to create a wide sound field, deep bass, clear vocals and strong midrange performance. Whether listening through the device’s speakers, a pair of headphones or on a Bluetooth-enabled speaker, customers will enjoy a rich audio experience watching videos, listening to music, reading children’s picture books or playing games.
  • A NOOK of One’s Own: Gallery has never been so personal with instant access to cherished memories from popular photo sharing and social networking sites. Customers can add even more photos to the Gallery from their computer or emails. NOOK becomes each family member’s very own when they pick a favorite photo for the home screen and screensaver for each individual profile – instead of annoying ads. NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ also make it easy to share photos via email or in person, by connecting NOOK to a TV.
  • Easy to Use New Interface: Both new tablets feature an all-new beautiful “paper-like” user interface that gets customers right into the content they want, and allows quick access into core applications: Home, Library, Shop and Web. The new experience is intended to make NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ the easiest tablets on the market to use, empowering customers to take advantage of its extensive functionality and enjoy a reading experience that far surpasses that of any other tablets.
  • Stay Connected More Easily: The all-new email app on NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ lets customers stay connected with what’s happening at the office through support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. Customers can check business email and sync calendar and contacts, too. NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ also support email, calendar and contacts syncing for popular services like Gmail, Hotmail and Outlook.com, as well other popular POP3/IMAP email services like Yahoo!, AOL and more.

Experience the entire NOOK family of products at www.nook.com or at the NOOK Digital Shops and displays in one of Barnes & Noble’s more than 700 bookstores and other leading retailers including Best Buy, Target and Walmart, which will soon take pre-orders, and many others. Barnes & Noble offers Always Free NOOK Support in all of its neighborhood bookstores, with more than 40,000 NOOKsellers across the country ready to assist customers with setting up their NOOK devices or choosing their next great read.

Pre-orders for NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ will begin next month for customers in the United Kingdom, as the products will be available there through leading retailers and www.nook.co.uk in late November.

Get more from BGR.com: Follow us on Twitter, Facebook

View Comments