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Barnes & Noble Nook Review

Highs

  • Large readable E Ink display
  • Lower color LCD touch display looks great
  • Expandable storage
  • Large book catalog

Rating

Our Score 7
User Score 0

Lows

  • Touch Display is hard to use at times
  • Slow refresh on E Ink display
  • Lacking blog and magazine content
  • Questionable durability
  • Unintuitive menu system
  • Lag between two displays
There’s no doubt that the Nook is a cool product – but the device feels a little rushed at this point which makes us question if it can truly give the Kindle a run for its money.

Data transfer

Music and data transfer feels very slow via the USB cable, and when the Nook is plugged into the PC/Mac it cannot be used simultaneously which is a bummer.

MP3 Player

We love that the Nook has a built-in speaker and, as expected, it sounds mediocre at best for music playback. We would have preferred it be located on the side rather than the bottom too, but it’s not a big deal. We did notice that the E Ink screen would flash occasionally when you switched songs and that there was an audible pop in a couple of instances too. Skipping ahead in a song causes it to stutter a little bit sometimes as well. Of paramount importance for audiophiles to note, though: Sound quality is very basic, so do not expect deep bass or even an equalizer – this is a book first and foremost. What’s more, the Nook only supports MP3 format. So if you are a big Zune or iPod user, make sure you convert your music accordingly.

Battery Life

Barnes & Noble claims that you can read the Nook for up to ten days before charging, and these claims are pretty close. In our tests, we were able to get around eight days, which isn’t bad for the category. Note that we did have to put the Nook into airplane mode (turns off the WiFi/3G) to achieve these results. The battery is removable, which is nice, while charging took a pain-inducing 3.5 hours to return the Nook to full power. This is pretty ridiculous, as the gizmo takes longer to charge than most laptops.

Barnes & Noble Nook

Wireless

Barnes & Noble has teamed up with AT&T to offer a free wireless Internet connection so you can download content virtually anywhere. You do not have to sign into a special account, or even have an account with AT&T. Just turn the Nook on and it connects anonymously. If you are near a hotspot or WiFi connection, you can opt to connect that way too if you get a better signal.

Book Search

With a touted catalog of over one million books, the Nook’s digital library is definitely a force to be reckoned with. And with so much selection to choose from, naturally you would expect the search function of the Nook to be intuitive and easy to use. So consider us duly surprised to find that there is only a single field for entering the book information that you are looking for. There are no options for genre, book type, or even fields for inserting the author’s name. Odd, but not a total deal breaker, we thought. So we decided to browse the library, go to the genre we wanted, and then do a search from within that genre hoping it would show results specific to the genre of books you are currently browsing. Nope – it showed results from every genre again.

Magazines/Blogs

There are few magazines to choose from at this point with Amazon’s collection dwarfing the Nooks. We expect this to change as more deals are done and users buy the Nook, but it’s a clear indication that this product was rushed to market. The Amazon Kindle currently has more than 100 magazines and newspapers and 7,000+ blogs available to read.

Books

As mentioned above, Barnes & Noble touts that there are more than one million digital books available for the Nook – more than twice that of Amazon’s 389,000-strong catalogue. Dig a little deeper and you will find that, while true, most of the books available for the Nook are provided through Google (for free) or are unpopular titles that are currently out of print. That said, both the Nook and the Kindle offer the top-selling books based on ratings and user popularity

Durability

We decided not to put the Nook in its own protective case intentionally to see what would wear down on the device. The second touch display definitely showed fingerprint smudges after a while, but that’s no big deal. In fact, we carried the Nook in a messenger bag that gets thrown into the backseat of a car everyday and it seemed to be fine. However, on one occasion we accidently dropped the Nook from about 4 feet off the ground and it broke the E Ink display. The screen was not cracked or anything, but the ink was not being displayed correctly, as something inside had gone haywire. While we can’t say that all eReaders are this sensitive, it’s safe to say that you should probably buy a protective case for your Nook.

Conclusion

The Barnes & Noble Nook is fairly impressive for a first-generation product. The problem though is that Amazon is already too far ahead in the game and currently on its second-edition outing, which offers superior performance.

Bear in mind: Whenever a company is able to get a product out into the marketplace and then improve upon it before a competitor even gets their feet in the water, the market is already defined by that first player. And unless you are able to offer something considerably better in terms of user experience or features with a new piece of hardware, you will be playing catch-up for the rest of your existence.

While we don’t think that will be the case with the Nook, considering how many orders it’s already had, Barnes & Noble is certainly cutting it close. The company needs to spend a lot of time refining this product to fix the bugs we encountered and ultimately making the interface that much better. So if someone should happen to ask you if it’s worth adding to their wish list, or picking up in 2010? Answer truthfully: Yes, as there’s no doubt that the Nook is a cool product – but they might also consider looking at other options before diving in, as the device feels too rushed at this point to truly recommend it over the Amazon Kindle.

Highs:

  • Large readable E Ink display
  • Lower color LCD touch display looks great
  • Expandable storage
  • Large book catalog

Lows:

  • Touch Display is hard to use at times
  • Slow refresh on E Ink display
  • Lacking blog and magazine content
  • Questionable durability
  • Unintuitive menu system
  • Lag between two displays

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