Undercutting the competition on price and one-upping them on resolution, Barnes & Noble has taken the wraps off of a pair of new tablets, the 9-inch Nook HD+ and the 7-inch Nook HD. We got a sneak peek at both new devices, which will support the new Nook Video service, as well as a few new features such as Nook Scrapbooks and MyNook Profiles with new parental controls for a family of up to six.
Pre-orders start today for both devices at at www.nook.com, and should begin shipping in late October.
Barnes & Noble Nook HD+
The 16GB Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ will cost $269, and the 32GB Nook HD+ version will be $299. Both will include a microSD card slot for up to 64GB of added storage. To power the HD+, you get a 1.5-GHz dual-core OMAP 4470 CPU, 1GB of RAM and a 6000 mAh battery that should last for up to 9 hours of video playback or 10 hours of reading. The 1920 x 1280-pixel screen features 256 ppi and supports 1080p video playback in a 3:2 aspect ratio, which will come in handy while reading magazines and watching movies and TV shows through the Nook Video service. While this 9.5 x 6.4 x 0.5-inch device weighs just 18.2 ounces, it still includes two speakers with SRS TruMedia.
By comparison the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch features a 1920 x 1200 (224 ppi) and will cost $299 for 16GB. It also weighs 20 ounces. We didn't have much hands-on time with the Nook HD+, but we liked how its soft-touch back felt, as we found it less slippery than the iPad.
Barnes & Noble Nook HD
When it comes to the 7-inch field, Barnes & Noble's new Nook HD offers the unprecedented resolution of 1400 x 900 and comes in at $199 for 8GB of on-board storage. While that's less than the Kindle Fire HD's 16GB base model, the Amazon tablet doesn't offer the microSD card slot found on the Nook HD and sports a lower-res 1280 x 800 screen. The insides of the Barnes & Noble tablet are powered by a 1.3-GHz dual core OMAP 4470 CPU and 1GB of RAM. The outside of the white or grey device measures 7.7 x 5 x 0.4 inches and weighs in at 11.1 ounces, which is more than 2 ounces lighter than the new Fire.
In a side-by-side comparison of the two screens running the same "Tangled" trailer, we found the Nook display brighter and crisper. We also liked the rounded edges, but missed the bookmark nook in the corner.
Accessories and 1080p Output
Along with the new Nooks, Barnes & Noble will be releasing a raft of new accessories, including new covers and a 1080p output dongle that attaches to the docking port on the bottom of the tablet and connects to your TV via HDMI. We had a chance to see a brief demo of the Nook's TV output in person and can confirm that the output was sharp and colorful. Clearly, if users are going to buy or rent videos from Barnes & Noble's new video service, many will want to output them to a larger screen.
New Barnes & Noble Nook Services
In addition to hardware advancements and a new Nook Video service, Barnes & Noble is adding some features to their tablet software, including MyNook Profiles, Nook Scrapbooks and Nook Channels. The company is also introducing Nook Catalog, offering 100 augmented e-book versions of holiday catalogs.
Nook owners will still enjoy the huge library of content they expect from Barnes & Noble, including 3 million e-books (3,500 of which are interactive children's books), 800 magazines and newspapers and thousands of Android apps. To aid in discovery, the company is introducing Channels, which are curated lists of new and older content on a particular subject.
The idea is to duplicate the personal recommendations you might get from an in-store sales rep at a bookstore. There will be 100 channels at launch, including fun names like Wise Gals, Wild Journeys and International Intrigue. The redesigned Nook Today home screen will also make daily recommendations as well.
Using the Nook Scrapbook feature, users can virtually tear out pages from magazines and catalogs to create their own Pinterest-like scrapbook of ideas or shopping lists. When you tap on a scrapbooked page it then takes you back to that original publication.
Taking on the burgeoning category of kid-friendly Android tablets and Amazon's FreeTime feature, Barnes & Noble is also unveiling its own parental controls. The MyNook Profiles allow parents to set up six separate users, each with personalized passwords and various restrictions on access to the Nook Store, books, apps, videos and Web.
As a result of the impending release of these two new tablets, the Nook Tablet and Nook Color will no longer be sold by Barnes & Noble. While saying goodbye is never easy, we are psyched to get our grubby little fingers on these two new slates. Stay tuned for full reviews.