First impressions: Nook HD+ 9-inch tablet
26th Sep 2012 | 05:00
Near iPad quality screen, at half the price
The Nook HD+ is the bigger, 9-inch brother of the Nook HD, both of which have been announced by American book-chain giant Barnes and Noble.
Both tablets will go on sale simultaneously in the US and the UK in November, with pre-orders opening up in early October.
The Nook HD+ sports a competitive price tag, with the 16GB version arriving at £229 ($269), and the 32GB going for £269 ($299).
Its closest rival, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 (which sports 4G LTE) is currently only available in US, and the 32GB model will set you back $499 (around £300), while the 16GB, Wi-Fi only iPad costs £399 ($499), with the 32GB version £479 ($599).
Now you may be wondering why we've mentioned the new iPad above, and the reason is the screen on the Nook HD+ is pretty impressive.
The 9-inch display offers up a full HD 1920 x 1280 resolution with 256ppi, and when you compare that to the 2048 x 1536, 264ppi screen on the new iPad, the Nook HD+ comes close to that famous Retina display level.
Inside the Nook HD+ is the same OMAP4470 processor found in the smaller Nook HD, but this one is clocked at a quicker 1.5GHz, and is coupled with the same 1GB of RAM as its little brother – which are tasked with running the heavily-modified Ice Cream Sandwich OS.
Barnes and Noble will look to upgrade the new Nook tablets with the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update at the beginning of next year, ensuring the devices stay competitive in the market.
As with the 7-inch tablet, Barnes and Noble has decided against sticking a camera to the front or back of the Nook HD+, but it has included a handy microSD card slot plus a sizable 6,000mAh battery – although that's no where near the 11,650mAh offering in the admittedly more power-hungry iPad.
There's also Wi-Fi b/g/n and Bluetooth inside the Nook HD+, but unlike its Apple and Amazon rivals, there's no 4G model available, which rules out data on the move.
Although the Nook HD+ doesn't mirror the design of the iPad and Kindle Fire as much, it's still a big, black chunk of a tablet.
The raised bezel around the screen, while protecting it when placed faced down, doesn't exude the premium feel or its rivals, giving it a cheaper appearance and reminding us of tablets from times gone by.
In the bottom left corner there's a sizeable hole meant for strapping a lanyard to, however we find it difficult to see an occasion where you'd have the Nook HD+ round your neck or hanging off your wrist.
That said, at 515g the Nook HD+ is a lot lighter than the 567g Kindle Fire HD 8.9 and the overweight new iPad which tips the scales at 652g.
Measuring 11.5mm in depth adds to the chunky nature of the Nook HD+, but its soft-touch back and 240.3 x 162.8 mm dimensions means it's still possible to hold relatively comfortably in one hand, and the reduced weight means it's not too much of a strain over short periods.
Overall the Nook HD+ isn't exactly a looker, but it does exude a rugged nature which may be great if you're considering a cheap tablet to keep the kids amused.
While we were able to hold the Nook HD+ for a couple of minutes, we were unable to really test out the heavily modified Android Ice Cream Sandwich interface.
Barnes and Noble has gone down the same route as Amazon on its Kindle Fire ranges, by totally rebuilding the Android platform to provide a more locked down, but ultimately more intuitive UI, perfect for those who are less tech-savvy or new to the whole tablet game.
You sacrifice Google Play for Barnes and Noble's own app store, which is a pared down version of the official Android offering, and there's less options to tweak and tinker with.
Gone are the homescreens and widgets and in is a new welcome screen showing up your favourite and recently read/used content in a carousel at the top of the screen – not too dissimilar to the one found in the old Android Market, and then menu options below.
Barnes and Noble are touting the Nook HD+ as a near-iPad quality screen at half the price – and while we're inclined to agree, it doesn't have the premium look and feel of its Apple rival.
The design isn't overly inspired, but the features and specifications are, and coupled with a suitably enticing price tag, the Nook HD+ is certainly going to raise a few eyebrows in the tablet world.