For the past three years my old tablet was an iPad 1. Suddenly I find tablets appearing out of thin air all around me. I already reviewed the Asus MeMO, and the Asus Nexus 7. Next up comes the Barnes & Noble NOOK HD Plus. I wasn’t expecting to get this, but my friend surprised my buddy and I with brand new Nooks.

Now, a Nook is hard to classify. It’s technically an Android tablet, but it’s sold as an e-reader. I decided it would make more sense to review it as an e-reader with the added bonus of being an Android tablet, so despite it being less powerful than a proper tablet I will go a lot easier on it than the MeMO.

The Screen

I have thought about picking up an e-reader from time to time, as I’ve often fancied the e-paper screens. The Nook HD Plus doesn’t have an e-paper screen, but I can’t complain – it was free! However, it does have an HD screen, which is comparable to a iPad retina display. It’s slightly less dense than a retina, but I can barely see the pixels if I look for them. And I really have to look. For all intents and purposes it may as well be retina, at least in my case.

I was worried that it would be difficult to read books from a back-lit LCD, but I was pleasantly surprised. I tried e-reading on the iPad 1 but it just wasn’t comfortable. On the NOOK Hd Plus, I had no problem reading an entire book. The HD screen really helps. Though it’s not e-ink, I give it my approval rating for readability.

The Interface

The stock interface has it’s pros and cons. One thing I really like is that the stock Android options menu was redone in a white / beige theme. I can’t stand the all-black / white text theme of most Android phones and tablets. I really like how the Nooks custom Android rom fixed the menu system to be white based and easy on the eye.

The home screen, and app navigator could use a little polish. I actually managed to crash the device twice while attempting to move an icon from one page to the next. What I do like about the app navigator though, is the built in buttons for common nook functions. Much nicer than using a regular ‘ol icon. The apps drawer can be viewed as a list or as a grid, and can be sorted by alphabet, category, or recently used. Not terribly configurable, but it does the job.

The good news is, the Nook HD Plus has full access to the Google Play store! I experimented with other launchers and had no problem setting them up. I decided to go with the Go Ex Launcher. Now my nook has the look and feel of an iPad, while still allowing me to use the native nook functions (e-reader, nook shop, etc).

The Play Store

Not only did I install a custom launcher, but I played around with some games and apps as well. The Nook doesn’t have a camera, so things like Instagram are out, but that’s okay. I wasn’t expecting it to be a tablet. Other apps ran fine for me, though some people report having a problem with the non-standard aspect ratio. I can’t complain. One thing that’s weird, is that some apps are missing from the App store, but can be found on the Nook store. I’m guessing there was some kind of licensing conflict? Or perhaps those apps were published on the Nook before Barnes & Noble decided to allow Play Store access, and the dev’s never moved them over.


Over all, I enjoy the Nook. I never thought I’d recommend a non-e-ink display for reading, but the HD screen does the trick. I’m not picky about build quality, but the device feels good in my hands, and is very light. Access to the Play Store really adds value to the machine. Perhaps someday I’ll pick up a kindle for comparison, but for now I’m happy with the Nook.

December 9, 2013 at 11:23 pm | Technology Reviews


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