CNET First Look
Barnes & Noble NookThe Nook's extra features make it a worthy and enticing alternative to the Kindle, especially now that Barnes & Noble has worked out many of the device's early kinks with a series of firmware upgrades.
>>Hi, I'm David Carnoy Executive Editor for CNET.com and I'm going to give you a quick tour of the Barnes & Noble NOOK eReader. As you can see on the surface the NOOK has a lot in common with Amazon's Kindle, features the same 6-inch e-ink screen and has a free AT&T 3G wireless connection for downloading e-books to the device over the air from Barnes & Nobles e-book store. But the NOOK is different from the Kindle in a few small but important ways. First and foremost, the NOOK is an Android powered device and has a separate color capacitive touch screen that allows you to navigate content and use a virtual keyboard for typing searches and annotations. That touch screen is similar to the screen that's found on an iPhone or iPod Touch, though this one isn't quite as responsive. Using the touch screen navigation pad does take some getting used to particularly if you're used to using a touch screen phone unlike the iPhone. Like the Kindle the NOOK has 2GBs of built-in memory but it also has a microSD slot for adding up to an additional 16GBs of memory. You can literally store tens of thousands of books on this thing. It's also worth noting that the batteries removable and replaceable. On top of its free AT&T 3G wireless connection the NOOK also packs in Wi-Fi connectivity that allows you to tap into a home network or various hot spots including free Wi-Fi offered in Barnes & Noble's brick and mortar stores. When it first launched the NOOK has some problems with buggy software that helped earn it some negative reviews but since then Barnes & Nobles has upgraded the firmware several times and in the process eliminated many of the bugs, made the eReader easier to navigate and perform better with faster page turns. Some new features have also been added. One of the key features is the ability to browse the full-text of many e-books on your NOOK if you're in a Barnes & Noble store using the store's free Wi-Fi connection. Basic web browser has also been added and one has the same limitations as the Kindle's built-in browser using it via a higher speed Wi-Fi connection makes it more useable and it allows you to access secure hot spots that require log in via the browser. A few basic Android games have been added and if you're looking for other differentiating factors the NOOK also offers a unique though very restrictive e-book lending option. Like the Kindle the NOOK will playback MP3 files and display various image files as wallpapers or screensavers. There are two small speakers on the bottom of the device but you're better off listening to music through the headphone's jack. As for e-book performance the NOOK supports both ePub and PDB files as well as PDF files. However, curly doesn't read text files which is kind of a bummer. All-in all the NOOK has made some nice progress since it first launched. In terms of core features the NOOK isn't any better. Also, Amazon service is more battle tested. The Kindle's battery life is superior and it does offer text to speech audio but we do like the NOOK's extra features. When you weigh everything out the race between the NOOK and Kindle is now pretty much a toss up. We'll see who blinks first with a price cut. I'm David Carnoy and that's the Barnes & Noble NOOK eReader.