Bottom line: The Nook and Amazon's Kindle are closely matched in ergonomics and price, and in offering readily available, easily downloadable free or for-sale e-books -- but not in performance. However, if you value the ability to use your e-reader in-store or to loan out your e-books, the Nook is the device you'll want.
At a Glance
Barnes & Noble
Price (review model): $149
Weight: 11.6 oz.
Device size: 4.9 x 7.7 x 0.5 in.
Display type: E Ink; color touch-screen LCD
Display specs: E Ink: 6 in., 800 x 600 pixels; LCD: 3.5-in., 320 x 240 pixels
Internal storage: 1.3GB
External storage: MicroSD card
Connections: USB, Wi-Fi (3G in other model)
Other models: $199 (3G + Wi-Fi)
Book services: Barnes & Noble
Is Pandigital's Novel a slightly oversized e-reader or a scaled-down iPad-like tablet? Or, perhaps, it's a smartphone without calling capability? The answer is yes -- it's a bit of all three.
This Android-powered device comes packed with classic tablet/smartphone features, like a bright high-resolution 7-in. color touch screen, Wi-Fi, multimedia and e-mail capability, the ability to run thousands of third-party apps, stereo speakers, and a Web browser. As an e-reader, it allows you to browse and buy wirelessly from Barnes & Noble, use B&N's 14-day lending library, read any ePub or PDF file, and expand the number of books in your library via optional memory cards. All this, and more, for the price of a Nook or a Kobo.
Overall, the Novel has a solid feeling of quality construction and attention to detail. The all-white, all-plastic device is wider and heavier than the dedicated e-readers we tested; it is also thicker than the iPad.
On its left side is a small, round port for the AC charger, surrounded by a squared-off bezel that allows the e-reader to stand on its side without tumbling over. On the bottom are twin stereo speakers and a small, round earphone port. (If you don't look too carefully and see the tiny embossed earphone icon, you could quite easily mistake it for the power port, since the AC adapter plugs in as if it were made for that purpose.)
On the left side is the volume control, and on top are the power switch, Micro USB port, SD memory card slot and reset button hole. Don't assume you can trickle-charge the Novel by connecting it to your computer's USB port -- that simply doesn't work.