At a Glance
Barnes & NoblePrice: Nook HD: $199 (8 GB), $229 (16 GB); Nook HD+: $269 (16 GB), $299 (32 GB)Pros: Smooth performance; streamlined software; excellent screen; fast Web browsing; multiple profiles on one deviceCons: No camera; limited video catalog
When I tried it out, the video selection was pretty limited. For example, there were only 64 films available in the comedy category and only 75 available in drama. Other categories had similarly paltry offerings. Barnes & Noble has inked deals to make more video content available, so over time the amount of video content should increase.
The Nook HD also includes support for the cloud-based third-party UltraViolet service, which lets you purchase and stream videos to a variety of devices.
The bottom line
First, keep in mind that, although Barnes & Noble likes to call the Nook HD a "full HD tablet," it's like its main competitor, the Kindle HD, in that you have to deal with a tweaked version of Android, and you don't get access to the full Google Play app store. If you want a small tablet with a full working version of Android, you're better off with something like Google's Nexus 7.
If you already own a Nook device, it's well worth considering an upgrade -- the new screen and faster processor, improved Web browsing and email, and better overall interface make it a significant improvement over its predecessors.
As for how it stacks up against the Kindle HD, that's a little tougher to call. The Nook HD's screen is superior and overall the device is a much better and smoother performer; it didn't suffer from the delays and glitches I found when using the Kindle HD. Web browsing is noticeably faster as well. The Nook HD's interface is also cleaner and simpler than the Kindle HD's -- and it doesn't include ads, as does the Kindle HD. (To eliminate the ads in the Kindle HD, you can pay an additional $15 fee.)
On the other hand, the Nook HD doesn't have a camera; the Kindle Fire HD does. And the Kindle Fire HD offers a superior video library -- at least, for now. So if these are important to you -- or if you're already invested in the Amazon ecosystem -- the Fire is probably a better bet.
For me, however, the Nook HD remains my favorite. Its better software, exceptional screen, faster Web browsing and much smoother performance make it the winner in my eyes.
Preston Gralla is a contributing editor for Computerworld.com and the author of more than 35 books, including How the Internet Works (Que, 2006).
Read more about tablets in Computerworld's Tablets Topic Center.