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Nook HD screen lives up to its high expectations

Nook HD screen lives up to its high expectations

The new Barnes & Noble Nook HD is the highest-resolution tablet of its size, and its 7-inch screen lived up to expectations in our preliminary tests, delivering image clarity that almost matched those from the Apple iPad Retina screens.

Display. The Nook HD will be available November 8, according to Barnes & Noble’s website, at $200 and up (we used a press sample for this review). It has a 1440×900 screen that displays 243 pixels per inch, which almost matches that of the 9.7-inch Retina screens on the third-generation and new fourth-generation iPads.

In our tests, those specs helped deliver text that was very sharp indeed, and almost as crisp as the iPad’s. Viewing angles were equivalent to the iPad’s, as was the ability to read in bright light. Colors were not quite up to the iPad standards, thanks to slightly yellow, less-saturated colors.

We just acquired the new iPad mini and will compare its display (actually lower-res with fewer ppi) soon to that of the Nook HD.

Size and weight. The Nook HD is among the lightest tablets, at 0.7 pounds, and is narrow enough to fit in one hand, so it almost feels as if all you’re holding is a magazine. It also features a rubberized back and sides that make for a secure, comfortable one-handed grip.

These features make the Nook HD a really good tablet for reading. And magazine reading in particular is improved in this version of the Nook, filling the screen instead of squeezing the text of an article into a narrow column. Scrolling is smooth, and magazine pages curl as you turn them.

Still, if you’re an avid magazine reader, you’ll probably prefer the larger Nook HD+, which also ships soon (we have not yet tested it). The HD+’s larger display, with a 3:2 aspect ratio, is more geared toward reading publications and fits an entire page with type readable enough without resorting to the less-attractive magazine view or clumsy zooming that requires you to scroll around the page as you read.

Multimedia and other uses. Streaming video looked quite good on the Nook HD, and sound was less tinny than you might expect on a device this size, though it’s not as loud as the iPad mini. Touch response was also fine, and games that require swiping were easy to play. But the taskbar and status bar intrude on the ability to view pictures in landscape mode because they leave black bars above and below photos.

The new Nooks have a number of features that distinguish them from other tablets, at least so far. One great touch is the ability—easily, we found—to set up as many as six personalized accounts on the same device for different users.

Turn the tablet on and select a user by dragging her or his icon to open up the profile. Each profile contains that user’s books, magazines, apps, and scrapbooks. You can set up special profiles for kids with some parental controls, too, restricting the child’s ability to shop, access files in the device’s library, and browse.

Scrapbooks are another useful feature. When you’re reading a magazine or catalog, for example, you can drag two fingers down the side of a page to clip the page and add it to a scrapbook. You can also use a scissor icon that appears when you touch the display below a page.

Bottom line. The Nook HD appears to be a fine choice at an excellent price if you’re looking for a small tablet. It’s highly portable, even compared with some other 7-inch tablets, with sharp text and a high-res display. While its selection of content and “curated” apps are more limited than on the iPad or even most other Android devices, it’s still ample for most people, including magazine readers who may be especially pleased with this device.

We are currently conducting battery tests; those results will be wrapped into our final evaluation of the Nook HD, when it joins our tablet Ratings.

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