The Barnes & Noble Nook HD and HD+ Might Just Be the Media-Centric Tablets We've Been Waiting For

By Sam Gibbs on at

Following the American bookseller's store and ereader launch in the UK, we're also getting some brand new Android tablets out of Barnes & Noble too. Meet the impressive-looking Nook HD and HD+ -- two new cheap, but potentially great, tablets to give the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD, and maybe even the iPad a run for its money.

The two tablets are both based on a customised version of Android Ice Cream Sandwich, much like the Kindle Fire HD. The Nook HD is a 7-inch tablet, packing a colossal-for-that-size 1440x900 resolution on its gorgeous-looking IPS screen -- that's a retina-worthy 243 PPI density. It looks super sharp as well as really, really vivid with fantastic viewing angles. Backing that sweet-looking display is a 1.3GHz OMAP 4470 dual-core chip, with 1GB of RAM, and a choice of 8 or 16GB of storage, plus a microSD slot if you need more space. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a headphones port round out the connectivity, while the battery's rated for 10.5 hours of reading or nine of video. The Nook HD is just 11mm thick and weighs a svelte 315g, making it one of the lightest 7-inchers to date -- ideal for one-handing while you read or watch video.

If 9-inches is more your style, the Nook HD+ could be worth a look. Like its smaller brother it packs an OMAP 4470 dual-core chip, this time clocked at 1.5GHz, which is backed by 1GB of RAM and either 16 or 32GB of storage, plus that microSD slot for expansion again. The 9-inch screen packs a greater-than-1080p 1920x1280 resolution, putting it roughly in-line with the iPad's retina display at a pixel density of 256 PPI. The IPS screen looks incredibly sharp, vivid and bright, with really wide viewing angles, which should make books, magazines, and video a joy to view. The HD+ also packs Wi-Fi; Bluetooth; a headphones port, and a battery rated at 10 hours reading, 9 hours video, all within a 11mm-thin frame that weighs just 515g, making it the lightest tablet in its class -- you might even be able to one-hand this thing without biceps of steel too.

Both tablets are designed to pull all content from the B&N store, so they aren’t running the naked Android you get on the likes of the Nexus 7, but will have a load Android apps made available through B&N's curated store. Rest assured most of the top apps you're actually likely to want will be there, including the compulsory Angry Birds, just not everything. B&N has some 2.5 million ebooks in its catalogue too, while you can side-load any epub files you like. It's also launching a Netflix and LoveFilm competitor for video on the Nook tablets, as well its Android and iOS apps, plus magazines, graphic novels and comics aplenty. Some ebooks can be shared with friends, while B&N is pushing digital magazines and newspapers hard, with features like the ability to clip stories and articles into a virtual scrapbook -- perfect for planning your mate's bachelor party or something.

One of the most interesting aspects of the B&N tablet duo is the inclusion of full user profiles, meaning more than one person can actually use these beauties without having to wade through the clutter of everyone else's stuff. Finally, someone's twigged that we might want to share a tablet within a family, all while keep our email, browsing and media separate. Login with a password or just a drag-to-select your user account and boom, all your stuff is at your fingertips, minus everyone else's crap. A really great, simple idea; why Apple or Google haven't done it already, I have no idea.

The Nook tablets will be up for pre-order next month, shipping in November in the UK from B&N as well as Blackwell’s, Currys, Dixons, Foyles, John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. The 7-inch Nook HD will set you back £159 for the 8GB and £189 for the 16GB variants, making it Nexus-7-money. It comes in two colours, "snow" and "smoke", which are white and dark grey/black to you and I. Meanwhile, the bigger, 9-inch Nook HD+ starts at just £229 for 16GB and £269 for 32GB in "slate" grey, making it much, much cheaper than the iPad, and apparently cheaper than the 9-inch Kindle Fire HD too, not that we're actually getting Amazon's bigger one here in the UK anyway.

We'll have to see how the brand new Nook tablets fly once we get our hands on them for a thorough review, but in our brief play with pre-production units they felt solid, light and the screens looked really, really good. Neither tablets are designed as all-out communications devices though -- there are no cameras or microphones for Skype for instance -- but for consuming media they look spot-on. Not only do we have a great-looking 7-inch tablet competitor to give the Nexus 7 a run for its money, we might even have a cheap 9-incher that doesn't suck, and that would be a hell of a turn up for the books.