The 7″ (or sub 8”) tablet market has become more competitive with the introduction of devices like the Kindle Fire HD, iPad Mini and Nexus 7. More often than not, these three are the only ones people mention when talking about smaller slates. But there is actually another new 7” tablet that needs our attention: the Nook HD. In here we will highlight this e-reader/tablet hybrid from Barnes and Noble and see how it matches up with the most popular brands of today.
The Nook HD is the successor to B&N’s Nook Color. Nooks were devices used only for reading digital books, magazines and comics just like Amazon’s Kindle. Obviously, the Nook lineup is a direct competition to the Kindle line-up; both companies usually release products around the same time. The history of their match-up can be read here.
Despite having to compete with the Kindle Fire, the Nook stood its ground and B&N managed to become more than just a bookstore. The Nook HD is still primarily an e-reader but its dual core processor, high resolution screen and improved interface allows you to use it more than just reading books. But would you have it over other tablets?
Nook HD vs. Kindle Fire HD
Both have “HD” on their names, but the Nook HD has slightly more pixels than the Kindle Fire HD. This means that individual pixels are slightly more visible on the latter. Actually, the Nook HD sports the highest resolution for any 7-inch tablet yet – quite an accomplishment, I must say.
The Nook HD also has a better processor than the Kindle Fire HD. Amazon’s tablet is powered by a dual-core CPU from Texas Instruments with a speed of 1.2 GHz. This is bested by the 1.3 GHz dual-core chip inside the Nook HD. However, in real world testing the numbers advantage that the Nook HD had did not exist. Maybe we had a faulty unit but B&N’s slate respond slower than the Kindle Fire HD.
Internal storage for the cheapest Nook HD is 8GB but only 5GB is usable. For the Kindle Fire HD, that’s 12.6GB out of the 16GB advertised capacity. Each has different solutions to increase that capacity: the Kindle Fire HD connects you to Amazon’s cloud service while the Nook HD contains a microSD slot. For me, I prefer to have a microSD slot since I’m not always online. Also, I can always subscribe to Dropbox for free if ever I need extra cloud storage.
The 8GB Nook HD can be bought for $199 while its 16GB option is available for $229. For the Kindle Fire HD, your $199 gives you the 16GB model and adding $50 gives you the 32GB one. Like I mentioned, I could care less about the difference in internal storage since the Nook HD reads microSD cards. What I care about though is the extra things you can do with the Kindle Fire HD. Unlike the Nook, it has a camera, better speakers and of course, you could buy more things on the Amazon store than on the B&N hub. So while the Nook HD wins in specs, the Fire HD offers more.
Nook HD vs. Nexus 7
You can’t possibly confuse the Nook HD for the Nexus 7 because these two look very different from the other. The Nook HD is designed for reading – it has a wide bezel so that you wouldn’t cover the screen while holding it. It is also features a lot of curves both in front and on its back which is again very different from the flat finish of the Nexus 7. Both are very easy to hold though as they have the same soft plastic/rubber material on their backs.
Performance wise, there is no contest; the Nexus 7 is far more stable and faster than the Nook HD. That is through testing only and not mentioning that Google’s tablet has a quad-core processor. I am also not so sure on the Nook HD’s user interface. It has improved, yes, but it is not as engaging as the Jelly Bean UI on the Nexus 7.
The Nexus 7 managed to include a front camera unlike the Nook HD. Cameras are not as important in tablets as they are in phones but it still adds some extra points. But the Nook HD also scored a point because it has (again) a microSD slot and the Nexus 7 doesn’t have one. Speaking of storage, both 8GB models of these tablets are priced at $199. If you want to go more than 8GB, a 16GB Nexus 7 costs $250. That’s $20 more than the 16GB Nook HD.
But that extra twenty bucks really don’t matter if you understand what the Nexus 7 is capable of. That Tegra 3 processor inside it allows you to play premium games and run heavy Android apps without problems. You can’t expect the same from the Nook HD.
Nook HD vs. iPad Mini
One of the advantages of the iPad against other tablets was its Retina display. However, Apple decided to not include that so the iPad Mini only has a screen resolution of 768 x 1024 pixels. This means the Nook HD has a better display than the iPad Mini!
The internals of the iPad Mini is the same as the iPad 2: A5 processor clocked at 1 GHz with 512MB of RAM. Does this mean that the Nook HD also is faster than the iPad Mini because its CPU speed is 1.3 GHz and it has 1 GB of RAM? Not quite. Performance is not only defined by hardware but also of software. The iPad Mini’s iOS 6 runs so well with its hardware that you hardly experience lags or hiccups. As already mentioned above, the Nook HD suffers some glitches and delays even though it has the better internals in paper.
I’ll also give the iPad Mini the advantage in terms of design. Although its width presents problems to some people, it still is the thinner and the lighter one between the two. I also like that its screen eats most of its front unlike the bezel-heavy Nook HD.
Even though there is a reduction in size, the iPad Mini is still quite expensive compared to the Nook HD and other 7” inch tablets. But the iPad Mini will still sell despite its $329 price tag. Apple has ruled the tablet market so long and has millions of followers around the world. Also, you would rather pay an extra $130 for a much more stable and content-rich tablet than the Nook HD.
Despite being outmatched by the three tablets, the Nook HD is no fluke. It still has the best screen among slates for its size and its processor is good enough to run a lot of good apps and games. Maybe it’s a bit unfair to match the Nook HD with the Kindle Fire HD, Nexus 7 and iPad Mini since it’s primarily an e-reader. If you’re looking for a cheap tablet, the Nook HD might not be the best choice. But as an e-reader, it is one of the best in the market.