Sep. 26, 2012 at 7:02 AM ET
"Game on," I whispered to no one in particular as I walked out of a New York City hotel a few days ago. Barnes & Noble's executives and marketing team just finished showing off the company's latest offerings — the Nook HD and the Nook HD+ — to members of the press. They made no attempts to disguise the fact that their new tablets make for solid response to Amazon's recently announced Kindle Fire HD devices.
In fact, throughout the hour-long presentation, I was handed both Barnes & Noble's new gadgets as well as Amazon's — along with a Google Nexus 7 tablet and an iPad — for comparison. I was asked to pay attention to the weight, the display quality, and the overall feel of the devices. I understood why quickly.
The Nook HD is a 7-inch tablet with what Barnes & Noble describes as the "highest resolution ever on a 7-inch tablet." The device has a 1440 x 900 display, which means it offers 243 pixels per inch (ppi). This makes for a pretty darn crisp screen. Thanks to the way the display components are put together, the glare on the screen seems to be reduced in comparison to the other tablets as well (though this is tough to confirm properly without trying the device out in a variety of environments for a prolonged amount of time).
The Nook HD+, on the other hand, is a 9-inch device with a 1920 x 1280 display (which means it offers 256ppi) with all the same strengths. It has a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor while its smaller sibling has a 1.3 GHz version.
Both devices are said to be capable of offering over ten hours of continuous reading time.
It was emphasized that the folks at Barnes & Noble put a lot of thought into the physical design of the new tablets and it shows. While holding both the Nook HD and the Nook HD+, I found that there was no shortage of comfortable ways to position the devices. They are both well-balanced, for lack of a better expression, and offer bezels which are just the right width to allow for a secure hold.
The devices also make their competitors feel a bit — and only a tiny bit — heftier in comparison. I'm very curious to see if this first impression lasts through long-term use.
According to research conducted by the folks at Barnes & Noble, "fifty percent of families use a tablet and share it with someone in the family." But that same research — and common sense — suggests that "most of us have content that we don't want to share with someone else in the family."
The solution to that problem? Personal profiles.
The Nook HD and Nook HD+ will allow you to set up individual profiles for family members so that you can make sure that mom's "50 Shades of Grey" trilogy doesn't wind up on a virtual shelf next to your son's digital copy of "The Hobbit." These personal profiles allow for parental controls, personalized recommendations, password protection, and so on. They are simple to set up, requiring you to do barely anything other than tap a couple of checkboxes.
Barnes & Noble is also including features called Nook Channels and My Nook Today, which offer curated and personalized recommendations. These tools are a bit like almost like a book version of Pandora's music recommendation engine and Sirius Radio's well-curated music channels.
The Nook HD will be available in 8GB and 16GB versions, which will be priced at $199 and $229, respectively. It will be available in two colors, snow (white) and smoke (grey). The Nook HD+ will come in 16GB and 32GB versions, which will be priced at $269 and $299, respectively. It will only be offered in one color, slate (a dark grey). Both tablets can be pre-ordered beginning on Wed. and are expected to start shipping in late Oct.
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