Sunday, February 19, 2012

Nook Tablet – First Impressions

Yesterday I finally went out and purchased a Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet. I researched and compared the Nook, the Kindle Fire, and several other tablets over the last few months before finally settling on the Nook Tablet. I'll admit, I came quite close to just getting a seven inch Android Tablet instead, but frankly, when comparing reviews, and considering that I don't necessarily need a full blown tablet, I ultimately decided on the Nook. At $250 it's still cheaper than most other tablets on the market and at seven inches instead of ten, it's much more portable for my needs. I also chose the Nook over the Kindle due to the Kindle's apparent dependence on cloud based storage. Now, I dig cloud based storage (I have Dropbox account as well as a Skydrive account, and lately I've been making pretty heavy use of my Google Documents account as well), but I really liked that the Nook supports both on board and microSD storage and the ability to import ebooks I already own as a result. After all, neither of them have a 3G nor 4G radio and require access to WiFi to connect to the internet, so being dependent on the cloud to view my stuff isn't very helpful if I'm not near a WiFi hotspot for which I have access.

So, here's the Pros and Cons I've found with the Nook Tablet so far; bear in mind, I've had it less than twenty-four hours at this point, but I have been playing with my new toy pretty heavily since getting it home.

Pros:

  • On board storage of 16GB with support for up to 32GB of microSD storage
  • Size – very portable, although it is heavier than I was expecting it to be, but still lighter than carrying around a hardback book
  • Touchscreen – very responsive, very easy to read. It does smudge and show fingerprints pretty bad, but then again, so does every touchscreen I've ever used.
  • Nook Friends – I didn't think I'd find this to be a Pro or even something I'd necessarily use, but it's actually pretty cool that I can sync my Google and Facebook contacts with my Nook and view things that my friends have read and recommended.
  • USB transfer – plugged into my PC via a USB cable, transferring my existing ebooks, music, etc to the Nook is very very smooth. Essentially, it's no more difficult to do this than it is to use a thumb drive.
  • Reading – the built in Reader app can render both ePub and PDF formats. In fact, it does a better job of rendering PDF documents better than the built in PDF reader, which I find strange, but it's nice to have the option of using either one.
  • B&N Online – when connected to WiFi I can access Barnes & Nobles' online store and download books and media that they sell directly to the device. I also really like the fact that, if I'm in a B&N store, I get free access to WiFi and the ability to sample almost any book in their catalog for free for up to one hour before deciding if I want to buy it or not. I can also access and purchase comic books, magazines, and newspapers. And what I like about the magazine and newspaper option is that I can choose whether to buy a single issue, or pay a monthly subscription fee (rather than having to commit to a full 12-month subscription for print editions).
  • Speaking of WiFi, the setup for this was very smooth. I've connected to both the WiFi at my apartment and at my best friend's house with no problems or glitches. I haven't tried it at a B&N store yet, though.

Cons:

  • Charging – the Nook can only be charged using a wall outlet. It will not charge from a USB port, which is disappointing and also very odd to me considering that every other USB enabled device that I've ever owned will simultaneously charge while I'm transferring my files. It also takes 2-3 hours to get a full charge that lasts (according to online reports) for 8-9 hours. I've not pushed the limits on this just yet, but I did give it a full charge when I got it home and used it pretty heavily for about eight hours afterwards, and it was only down to about 40% when I decided to put it back on the charger this morning.
  • Apps – OK, I knew this going in, but the fact that I can only access apps available from the Barnes & Noble App Store is proving to be a bit more irritating than I thought it would be. Compared to the Android Market, there are far fewer apps to choose from, and fewer still that are free. I've found a few articles on ways around this limitation that I'm sure I'll play around with over the coming days.
  • Auto adding to the home screen – It's really rather annoying that, when I open up an app, that it automatically adds itself to the home screen. I'm hoping I can find a setting that will negate this. Granted, it doesn't hurt functionality, but I would much rather decide for myself which apps I want readily available on the home screen versus ones that I can access as needed from the full App menu.
  • Browser – I've never been impressed with the stock Safari browser that comes with Android devices (the Nook is the third Android OS based device I've owned, the first two both being cellphones). I've had the browser force close on me several times, most notably when trying to view notifications on Facebook. Thankfully, one of the few free apps in the B&N App Store is Dolphin Browser, which I've used before on my my cellphones and which I'll undoubtedly download soon. I've also attempted to play music through the browser using my Slacker Radio account (since the app for it isn't available in the B&N App Store) and I couldn't even get the page to fully load. So far, this is just an annoyance, not a Con, that I'm hoping can be overcome by getting a different browser app.

All in all, I really just wanted an eBook reader, but chose the Nook Tablet to be able to have, at least, some tablet functionality instead of just a reader. I'm pretty confident in my choice of the Nook Tablet. There are few irritations and quirks to get used to and overcome as it does function a little differently than a pure Android tablet. What I like the best, though, is that I can carry the equivalent of a stack of books and gaming manuals around with me without making my book bag weigh a ton.

~ JC
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