Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ review: A fantastic tablet value

Thanks to its high-resolution screen, text in books is crisp and clean whether in Google Books or the Nook's own book app. On the Kindle Fire HD, reading options like X-Ray and immersion reading may give Amazon's tablet the slight edge here. For a pure reading experience on a large tablet, though, the Nook HD+ is the best current choice thanks to its lightweight and comfortable build.

Like pure Android tablets, the Nook HD does not have access to the Amazon Instant Video app. Right now, the app is only available on Kindle Fire tablets and iOS devices. Something to consider if, like myself, you're an Amazon Prime member with a heavy Amazon video streaming habit.

The Nook's magazine app is still the preferred way to view your favorite periodicals. It includes a smooth page-turning effect and the option to easily "cut" any page and include it in a virtual scrapbook. So, depending on your magazine(s) of choice, you could easily make a workout or recipes scrapbook, which is a lot less cumbersome than taking screenshots. Unfortunately, your clippings are only stored locally and (probably thanks to copyright laws) there's no way to share them online. You can, however, share them with other profiles on your Nook HD+.

James Martin/CNET

Catalog support is not something I ever thought I'd begin a sentence with in a tablet review, but here we are, and the Nook HD+ has it. Catalogs can be downloaded through the Nook store and function much in the same way that magazines do. However, certain items (predetermined by the catalog's publisher) will have a distinct visual cue next to them called a hot spot. Tapping on the hot spot takes you to a page with more information about that particular item, at which point you can add it to your scrapbook and be seamlessly directed to the company's Web page for that item. If thumbing through catalogs is your thing, it makes for a fairly convenient and entertaining way to shop.

James Martin/CNET

Hardware features
The Nook HD+ houses a 1.5GHz Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 CPU and a PowerVR SGX545 GPU. It comes in both 16GB and 32GB varieties and its microSD card slot supports up to 64GB cards. The tablet includes 1GB of RAM, and supports 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. There's no gyroscope, compass, or GPS inside the tablet, but there is an accelerometer.

Performance
The Nook HD+ features a 9-inch screen with a 1,920x1,280-pixel resolution. That's a slightly higher resolution than the Kindle Fire HD 8.9's, but when watching movies or playing games, there isn't a noticeable difference in clarity.

James Martin/CNET

The Nook HD+ displays more accurate color than the Kindle Fire HD 8.9, but thanks to the Fire HD's glossy screen coating, the colors pop from the screen much more vibrantly, especially when viewing the mostly black background of Amazon's Kindle Fire interface. The Nook HD+ displays less backlight bleeding on dark screens.

The Nook HD+ and Kindle Fire HD 8.9 deal with glare equally well, and viewing angles on each screen are wide. However, the Nook HD+'s screen is much more susceptible to moisture, so oily fingerprints tend to create a moire effect on the screen, blurring some things, especially text. Honestly, it can sometimes ruin the effect that having such a high-resolution screen can provide. Again, this is mostly a problem with text. Overall, I preferred the Nook HD+'s screen when viewing video, books, and magazines, thanks in large part to the HD+'s more accurate color. On the other hand, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9's glossy screen is much less susceptible to sullying by fingerprints.

Tested spec Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ Apple iPad (fourth-gen) Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 Google Nexus 10
Maximum brightness 496 cd/m2 398 cd/m2 413 cd/m2 368 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.48 cd/m2 0.49 cd/m2 0.45 cd/m2 0.44 cd/m2
Maximum contrast ratio 1,033:1 812:1 917:1 836:1

The Nook HD+'s speakers output at a decent volume for movies as well as with music. The sound isn't as full as what comes out of the Kindle Fire HD 8.9's powerful speakers, but it was good overall.

I used Riptide GP to test overall games performance. With the game running at its highest resolution, frame rates were not as high as the smooth 60-frames-per-second performance I saw on the Nook HD; however, it did match the Kindle Fire HD 8.9's performance. Not surprising, given that the tablets share the same 1.5GHz TI OMAP 4470 CPU. Also, the Nook HD+ obviously has to push more pixels around than its 7-inch brother, which led to its frame rate not being as high as the smaller tablet's.

In 3DMark, the Nook HD+ performs about as well as the Nexus 7, but it can't hold a candle to the Nexus 10. This means that overall gaming performance is smooth and playable, but not outstanding in any way. Check here for more information on how 3DMark determines its scores.

Device CPU GPU RAM OS tested
Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ 1.5GHz TI OMAP 4470 PowerVR SGX544 (single-core) 1GB Nook OS 2.1.0
Barnes & Noble Nook HD 1.3GHz TI OMAP 4470 PowerVR SGX544 (single-core) 1GB Nook OS 2.1.0
Google Nexus 7 1.2GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 ULP GeForce (12-core) 1GB Android 4.2.2
Google Nexus 10 1.7GHz Dual-core Samsung Exynos 5 Dual (5250) Mali-T604 (quad-core) 2GB Android 4.2.2

3DMark (Normal) (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Barnes & Noble Nook HD+
3,591

Graphics test 1,720p (GPU) (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Barnes & Noble Nook HD+
16.2

Graphics test 2,720p (GPU) (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Barnes & Noble Nook HD+
13

Physics test, 720p (CPU) (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Barnes & Noble Nook HD+
16.1

As yet, there's still no known way to sideload apps, but hopefully that will change soon.

Screen rotation is noticeably slower than on the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 and can't compare with how fast the iPad's screen rotates. Navigating the OS feels a bit sluggish as apps take their time to load. There's also a delay when bringing up recent apps, and the carousel has a framey, rough look when browsing through apps.

N.O.V.A. 3 Level 1 load time (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Barnes & Noble Nook HD+
44

Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

Video battery life (in hours)
Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ 9.5

Conclusion
The Nook HD+ is a well-built tablet with a sharp screen and a microSD slot. With the addition of Google Play and access to every app the service has to offer, including Gmail, Google Music, and movies, the Nook HD+ becomes one of the best large tablets available.

Also, thanks to their unique and effective implementation in the Nook OS, magazines and catalogs are done better here than on any other tablet. Starting at only $149, the Nook HD+ makes for a fantastic tablet deal.

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Where to Buy See all prices

Barnes & Noble Nook HD+

Part Number: BNTV600
MSRP: $269.00 Low Price: $179.00 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Wireless Connectivity IEEE 802.11b
    IEEE 802.11g
    IEEE 802.11n
  • Type Android 4.0.3
  • RAM 1 GB
  • Weight 1.13 lbs
  • Storage 16 GB integrated
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