Tuesday, March 27, 2012
The primary purpose of the Nook Tablet is reading — or "consuming media," as B&N puts it. I've had my Nook Tablet for three months now, and I mostly love it, but it does have a few quirks. Remember, this is not an iPad replacement. So, here's what you need to know.
The main reason I, an avowed skeptic of ebooks, wanted a Nook Tablet was for magazines. And for reading magazines, the Nook Tablet is incredible — I read Time, Entertainment Weekly and The New Yorker on my Nook Tablet every week. Each includes everything (photos, sidebars, etc.) included in the print, but each also has features — like multimedia and links to current stories — you can't get with a print edition. I really think tablet versions are the future of magazines, so I figured it was high time to jump on the bandwagon. A really nice feature is that B&N offers a 14-day free trail of any magazine. Since some magazines are better than others (for instance, The Atlantic tablet version is still just a glorified .pdf. I subscribed, and then immediately unsubscribed, and then re-subscribed to the print edition), it's great to be able to check out the e-version before committing to subscribe. That said, you subscribe on a month-to-month basis (B&N automatically charges your credit card each month), which is really nice, too. If you get bored with a publication, you're not stuck with it until your subscription runs out.
One annoyance with reading magazines is that if you hit the "home" button to close out of a magazine to do something else, Nook Tablet doesn't remember your spot (like it does for ebooks). You have to re-open the magazine and navigate to where you were. I'm not sure whether this is a shortcoming of Nook Tablet or of the way the magazines are e-published (I actually suspect the latter).
The Nook Tablet is also great for reading books — and has turned me, an avowed skeptic of ebooks (wait, did I mention that already?) into a huge ebook fan. The backlit screen is sharp and bright, and the Nook Tablet's size (7") is comfortable to hold in one hand for long sittings. It wasn't until this weekend, when I read more than half of The Hunger Games in one sitting, that I can honestly say that long reading sessions don't tire your eyes. Of course, you can buy ebooks directly on the device from B&N, and you can sideload any other .epub or .pdf ebooks from Google Play or your library or wherever.
The Nook Tablet has all the standard e-reader features — allowing you to look up words, highlight text and write notes, bookmark your spot, etc. The one feature here that is irritating is the "Share." You can highlight text and share it on Facebook and Twitter, but the text shows up as just a quote, then a link to the book on B&N, and a #nook. There's no way to tinker with the tweet to add the author or anything else. I don't that use that feature — which is too bad, 'cause it could've been cool.
The first thing you need to do if you buy a Nook Tablet is download the free Dolphin Browser HD app. It's not that the native Nook Tablet web browser is awful — though it can be buggy and slow, and seems to crash more than a normal browser should. It's just that Dolphin is much, much better — it's faster and much more customizable (including the capability of setting up "gestures" to send you to bookmarked web pages. I may be easily amused, but I can't get over how awesome that is.) Nook Tablet has a built-in WiFi but no 3G or 4G. Not much more to say about web browsing — except that it's nice to be able to do this on an ereader.
The dearth of Nook apps is probably the Nook Tablet's biggest shortcoming. But, keep in mind, Nook Tablet is not an iPad. Many of the "standard" apps iPhone/iPad users are used to, like Words With Friends or Angry Birds, cost $2.99. As of just a few weeks ago, there's finally a dedicated Nook Twitter app, but still no Facebook app. (I've just bookmarked Facebook on the Dolphin Browser.) Also, the native Email app on Nook Tablet is AWFUL. It's not even not even worth using at all — it can't load Hotmail correctly, and is really clunky and slow. Again, I just have Hotmail and Gmail saved as bookmarks in Dolphin. Nook Tablet does come with Netflix and Hulu Plus apps, and I have watched a few episodes of TV series on my Nook Tablet. The screen is fantastic for viewing — really close to high-def.
If you want to listen to tunes on your Nook Tablet, you can, but bear in mind you're getting a bit far afield from Nook Tablet's reason for being. Don't expect much. The Nook Tablet comes with a Pandora app — but the sound quality using this app isn't good — it's scratchy and distorted; about half as clear as my iPhone Pandora app. You can sideload mp3s (see below for info about the memory) or other content onto your Nook Tablet via USB connection from your computer. The actual music player is bare bones — you can't make playlists or do a lot of the other things iTunes users might be used to. But, if you have no other options for tunage, Nook Tablet can oblige.
MEMORY / BATTERY LIFE
B&N just came out with an 8 GB version for $199 to make Nook Tablet even more competitive with Kindle Fire. The 16 GB version still sells for $249. The 16 GB does have 1 GB of RAM, whereas the 8 GB only has 512 MB. So if you're planning to, I don't know, play online games, the 16 GB may be better — but otherwise, 8 GBs is more than sufficient. Many of the early poor reviews about Nook Tablet were directly related to the fact that B&N only allowed 1 GB of the device's memory for your own content. Not sure why they did that, but this is really a non-issue, since the Nook Tablet has a MicroSD slot that can take up to a 32 GB MicroSD card. I bought a 16 GB card for like $20, and put thousands of songs on it, and it's still only half full. Memory won't be an issue.
B&N says the battery life for Nook Tablet is 11.5 hours of reading and 9 hours of video. I haven't come close to testing the limits of that, but it seems actually about right.
Despite it's few shortcomings, I love my Nook Tablet, and would heartily recommend it. I did a lot of research on Fire vs. Nook before I got mine (it was actually a Christmas gift from my girlfriend), and the majority of reviews seemed to favor Nook. The consensus was that it's bit more powerful, with more memory, better battery life, and better display. If you want an iPad, get an iPad — this isn't it. But as a budget tablet / ereader on 'roids, the Nook Tablet is fantastic.
Posted by Greg Zimmerman at 11:57 AM