The all-new Nook (aka the Nook Touch) is Barnes & Noble’s follow-up to their successful e-reader of the same name, which for months served as the Kindle’s primary competitor. BN, of course, also has the Nook Color, an intriguing e-reader/tablet hybrid running Android that is pretty much universally accepted as the most affordable way to get yourself and Android tablet. As such, the newly released Nook Touch should be seen as a competitor to the original Nook, not the Nook Color as it’s designed to perform one function really well: to serve as an e-reader.
It runs Android, sure. But will you get a diminutive Android tablet experience on it? Read on.
One of the differences you’ll notice immediately with the new Nook Touch is how small it is, particularly when compared to the original or to the Kindle. The original Kindle and Nook boast 7-inch screens and have long been considered to be almost ideal for holding in one hand. I would question that notion after testing the new Nook Touch. The screen size is 6 inches diagonally, but the Nook Touch is smaller, thinner and a lot lighter. That is because they decided to get rid of everything but the screen and implement a touchscreen interface with the popular e-ink technology (more on that later). Other hardware features include the forward/back buttons on the front of the device as well as the Nook button, which is used to wake it from sleep mode and access the main five options. There is a micro-USB port to charge the device and an SD card slot.
Pretty simple stuff, actually.
One of the most important aspects of the new Nook is its combination of e-ink technology with a touchscreen interface. This is made possible by an infrared sensor rather than a capacitive touchscreen. I was anticipating having issues with it, such as unresponsiveness and inconsistency. However, I have been very pleased with it thus far. It has been very responsive and has provided a very smooth experience.
The Nook Touch, like its predecessor, also runs Android. Android 2.1 Eclair, to be exact. Though you might not even notice it because of the customization Barnes & Noble has implemented. They want a device that excels at e-reading first and foremost; the Nook Touch certainly does that. However, because it does run Android, it is very capable of being hacked and already has been by a variety of sources. In one instance, Angry Birds was ported to it, though it’s admittedly going to run slow due to the slower processor and black and white e-ink screen.
When you’re navigating around your Nook Touch, there is a main menu that can always be accessed when pressing the Nook button on the bottom front of the device. This will give you five options:
- Home: The Home screen provides shortcuts to commonly used services. It will show you what book your currently reading, other books in your library and recommendations from Barnes & Noble for more books
- Library: Much like it sounds, the Library button will give you an overview of everything currently in your library, downloaded and not downloaded
- Shop: Shop brings you to the Barnes & Noble store, where you can purchase for content for your device
- Search: Search allows you to search both your device and the Barnes & Noble Shop together for titles
- Settings: Gives you the opportunity to customize your Nook Touch how you wish. One of the options allows you to change which buttons are the forward/back buttons on the device.
E-Reader performance and content
As an e-reader, the Nook Touch excels because Barnes & Noble chose to focus on doing one thing really well. The Nook Color, while a fantastic device, is not the best e-reader in my opinion because it tries to do too many other things. As an affordable tablet, it is tough to beat, but as a dedicated e-reader it underperforms, in my view. The Nook Touch is light, has very impressive battery life, works incredible well in sunlight and has a workable touchscreen. All of these factors in my opinion, combine to create an extremely pleasurable user experience.
Content for the Nook Touch can be bought from the Barnes & Noble Nook Store, which boasts more than 2 million eBook titles. In addition, the device supports the file types: ePub, PDF, JPG, PNG, GIF and BMP. Many of the content on Google Books is in the open ePub format, so you’ll be able to transfer to the Nook Touch seamlessly. Finally, the Nook Touch also has an impressive feature that some of its competitors don’t: the ability to borrow books from the public library. The library books are available nationwide and users will have to register with their public library. Once they do so, they can borrow books for free, again in the ePub format.
Aside from being a dedicated e-reader, Barnes & Noble has tried to add some social features to improve the experience. While it is a valiant effort, I have had a rather clunky experience trying to add contacts. The entire premise of the social effort is to share books or recommendations with Facebook, Twitter, or Google contacts. In order to link your accounts, there is an option in Settings. I added my Google Contacts but never really felt compelled to share from the Nook Touch. If I enjoy a book on the Touch, I’m much more likely to share on Google+ or Twitter from a different device just because it’s a lot easier. I want my e-reader to do one thing and one thing well: perform as an e-reader.
One of the reasons the Nook Color gained so much popularity throughout the Android community was because it was so easy to hack. The Nook Touch has already been rooted and was even spotted running Angry Birds. Now the experience on a device with a slower processor and black and white e-ink is going to be a lot different than a dedicated tablet, but it’s cool nonetheless.
A Quick Comparison:
So how does it compare to its biggest competition and previous iterations? I know that there are other e-readers out there, but I’m going to compare it to Amazon’s Kindle because that and the Nook are winning the market at the moment. The Nook Touch is the smallest, thinnest and lightest reader to hit shelves thus far. The Amazon Kindle WiFi 6-inch is set at the same price point but is larger than the Nook Touch because of the physical keyboard. It should be said as well that Amazon’s two Kindle versions discussed here can be had for $114 for the Wifi-only and $164 for the 3G if you don’t mind it being ad supported. The Nook Color, also a Barnes & Noble product, is the best selling e-reader, but is also a different form factor. It boasts a 7-inch color touchscreen and a more tablet-like experience than the rest. It performs as not only an e-reader, but a portable, hackable Android tablet. The biggest question then, if you’re deciding between the Nook Color and the Nook Touch, is if e-ink is important to you or not. Some folks can read perfectly well for hours on an LCD screen while others prefer the more paper-like e-ink.
The wrap up
After using the Nook Touch from Barnes & Noble, I would highly recommend it for someone looking for a device that is asked to do one thing: perform as an e-reader. Taking in how compact it is and the fact that it is just $139 is very compelling. Like the similarly priced Kindle, it only has WiFi, so be sure to download the content that you want before you take off for a place that doesn’t offer it. That fact isn’t as important for me because I’m perfectly fine with downloading a number of books prior to a trip. 3G is a nice thing to have, but is not a deal breaker, particularly because I am always carrying a device that is capable of wireless tethering. If you're looking for a lightweight, portable and effective e-reader, I'd definitely consider the Nook Touch. Please find more pictures after the break.
If you're interested in purchasing a Nook Touch, they can be bought from Barnes & Noble for $139
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