2 Minute Review of the Barnes and Noble Nook

So I wandered in to Barnes and Noble on Saturday as I do on most weekends.  They had some good stuff on sale and I treated myself to paperbacks of “Built to Last” by Jim Collins, “The People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn, and “Dirt” (a biography of Motley Crue).  Should make for some good summer reading.

Anyway, I had posted last week about how other “tablet” manufacturers could beat the iPad.  In short, my thought was to be a lot less expensive and slightly less feature rich.  So while at B&N I played with a Nook for a few minutes.  Here are my impressions….

1. It’s REALLY slow.  Like, so slow I found myself having a hard time trying to examine the features because I didn’t have the patience to wait for them to load.  In an age where cell phones have 1G processors, the Nook’s Arm processor is criminally underpowered.  Going from one menu screen to the next has a noticeable delay.  I’m sure turning pages is fine, but the rest of the experience was as slow as a glacier.

2. The display is excellent.  E-Ink makes a great product and its on full display in the Nook.  However, the shifting from one screen or page to another is a little bizarre as the display looks like a damaged Etch-a-Sketch for a few moments before loading your next image.  Once again, I’m sure its fine for books and newspaper reading but its a little “off” for everything else.

3. The navigation is interesting.  The nook has a small area at the bottom of the device that is about 1.5″ x 4″.  This area is a touchscreen and allows you to navigate through features and surf the web and find books, etc.  It’s actually fairly clever except for the fact that, owing to the processor, its painfully slow trying to get anything done.

4. Web Browsing – the integration of a browser is actually pretty cool.  Since the machine does’t have a full touch-screen and the touch-pad area is limited in size, the Nook devs have made the browser feature as easy to use as it could be.  Once you launch a web page, the touchpad becomes a “frame” for the full page which is displayed on the main screen.  Using the touchpad, you can navigate around the page and do most everything you could do on a regular browser short of video, flash, etc.  I wouldn’t suggest the browser for Facebook or updating your blog, but if you’re on the beach reading a book and need to check your email real quick, it would work great……except that it’s REALLY slow.  Even moving the frame around to examine other parts of a web page is slow and does not move smoothly.

5. Reading and books – excellent experience on par with the Kindle.  The screen is about the size of a paperback and the E-Ink display makes reading simple.  Plus, the E-ink works great in bright light, which is a big deal if you’re going to sit at a park or on a beach and read.  PLus you can mess with the font size, so the reading is great.

This device clearly isn’t aimed at the same audience as the iPad, nor should it be.  I’d call the Nook a great e-Reader with some other features baked in that are convenient but far from necessary considering what the device is SUPPOSED to be used for.  And frankly, I can’t imagine that the target audience of bookies is going to obsess about the processor speed like a gadget nerd (me) would.  Frankly, it’s a great e-Reader at a very appealing price point.  It doesn’t do games or videos or pictures, which is fine.   I haven’t played with a new Kindle yet but these two devices seem a little different, although I’m not sure how to explain it.  The Nook seems to be positioned as a much simpler, much more basic device – “an electronic paperback of whatever you want to read”.  The Kindle is doing video now and a variety of other things.  It will be interesting to see what the sales-future holds for both.


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