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Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook

The Galaxy Tab 4 Nook looks and works exactly like the original Tab 4 because it’s the exact same device – just with Nook branding, a few Barnes & Noble features, and a slightly slimmer design.

As readers continue to turn to tablets and ebook readers instead of paperbacks, old-fashioned booksellers like Barnes & Noble have struggled to keep up with the changing tide. The company’s Nook ebook readers failed to compete against Amazon’s Kindle, especially after Amazon added full tablet functionality to its line of ebook readers.

Not that long ago, Barnes & Noble announced that it will no longer make its own Nooks, but will partner with Samsung instead to bring its books to the masses. The bookseller and Samsung introduced the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook on Wednesday during an event in New York City.

Related: Dear B&N, we’ll miss your originality now that Nook is just another tab

At the event we got up close and personal with the new, Samsung-branded Nook. Here are our first impressions.

It looks like a Samsung tablet, and it acts like one too

The Galaxy Tab 4 Nook looks and works exactly like the original Tab 4 because it’s the exact same device – just with Nook branding, a few Barnes & Noble features, and a slightly slimmer design.

The Tab 4 Nook weighs just 9.74 ounces and is 0.35 inches thick, making it much thinner and lighter than previous Nook tablets. It’s slightly lighter than the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7, but the two ebook-centric tablets are equally thin. The Tab 4 Nook is slightly thicker than the iPad Mini, but significantly lighter, owing to the smaller screen and plastic construction.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook

We found the Tab 4 Nook to be extremely comfortable to hold and operate one handed. It’s slim and light, so you’ll be able to read ebooks for hours with no problem. The tablet also has a faux leather back with a nice texture that is easy to grip.

Since it’s still a Samsung tablet, the Tab 4 Nook has a customized version of Android onboard and full access to the Google Play Store. You can download TV shows, movies, apps, and other content from the Play Store.

This is one of the main attractions of the Samsung Nook that the Amazon Kindle doesn’t have. It could be motivation enough for Kindle customers to switch to Nook, but then again, it might just motivate would-be buyers to get a regular tablet.

Same specs as original Galaxy Tab 4 7.0

Even though this particular Galaxy Tab 4 has Nook branding, it still has the same specs as the Samsung original. The Samsung Nook has the same 7-inch, 1280 x 720 pixel resolution screen and is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, alongside 1.5GB of RAM. Samsung also kept the 3-megapixel back camera and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera onboard, making it the first Nook with the ability to take photos.

In all respects, the Samsung Nook is a full- fledged tablet with all the power you’d expect from a low-end Samsung tablet. During our brief hands on test, we found the tablet quick and responsive, even on the crowded Wi-Fi. We didn’t get to stream any videos, though.

Nook features put the focus on reading

So what is the difference between the Tab 4 Nook and the original tablet? Barnes & Noble added a few book-centric features to the tablet, including, of course the Nook store and newsstand for magazine readers.

The bookseller also added a dedicated onscreen button that, when tapped, leads you directly into the book you were just reading an hour ago. The tablet’s home screen features the Nook store and newsstand apps prominently. It also includes a widget with recommended reading.

However, perhaps the coolest new feature is Nook Today, an app that gives you book recommendations every day. Barnes & Noble tells us that this app uses an algorithm to determine what you might want to read next, which are then filtered through by actual booksellers and the B&N editorial staff.

B&N tells us that the human touch really makes the recommendations more personal and accurate, so you know what to read next. It’s almost like going into an actual book store and shooting the breeze with a bookseller about the amazing book you just read.

Priced lower than the Kindle Fire HDX, but will it be enough?

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook is available today for $180 (same price as a standard Tab 4) with a $20 rebate discount and $200 of free content from its store. If you buy the new Nook, you’ll get ebook bestsellers FreakonomicsThe Wanderer, and I Am Number Four, an episode of VeepHannibal, and Orphan Black, and your choice of four 14-day free trial subscriptions to CosmopolitanSports IllustratedUS Weekly, and nine other major magazines. B&N is also offering a $5 Nook store credit.

Related: Read our full Kindle Fire HDX review

Of course, once the promotional glitter settles, you’re left with a fully functional Android tablet from Samsung for $50 less than the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7.

Highs

  • Full Android experience
  • Nook features focus on books
  • Easy to hold in one hand

Lows

  • Not a full HD screen
  • Heavier than standard ebook readers