Not Quite the Nook of Time

I’m not one to keep up with trends or gadgets. I’ve still got a ‘dumb’ phone meaning a mobile or cell phone that provides roaming and minutes and 60 days for $15 a month. Thank you Net10. But for whatever reason, the tablets intrigued me. Now I’d love to have a iPad, but so far I have resisted and will continue to resist because of the cost. But when I started seeing the write ups in the paper about the tablets like Kindles, and the Nooks – I got even more interested.

Twelve days ago, I was coming back to Hong Kong Island from Kowloon via the Star Ferry, and after disembarking from the ferry, the elevated walkway towards the MTR station allowed me to see into the Apple Store in the IFC Tower. Seemed like a few hundred people were standing in line to buy the newest iPhone. But after I spent an hour or so in the Apple Store the next day the idea of a tablet was now firmly embedded upstairs with the Boss aka – my brain.

But, as I said, I’m not gadget crazy, I don’t need new toys all the time, I’m home most of the time, and I already have a Desktop PC and a Notebook PC. So a tablet is actually not something I needed nor did it fit the ‘must have’ category. Despite that, yesterday I intentionally drove over to the Barnes & Noble store on US-41 in Sarasota. I handled the gizmo known as the Nook Tablet, tried it out, asked a dozen or more questions. This brand new Nook Tablet is Barnes & Noble’s answer to the Amazon Kindle Fire, and is also a smaller and less expensive competitor for the Apple iPad.

The Nook is the next step up from B&N’s previous flagship tablet, the Nook Color which was an upgrade to their first tablet, the Nook E-Reader. The new tablet is retailing for $249 in the states or $224 if you are a Barnes & Noble member. It’s light in your hands, has a beautiful crystal clear image. You can read books, newspapers, watch movies, and even browse the web on the tablet. With the store’s floor sample, I connected to this, my own blog, and the web browser on the machine loaded it quite quickly. Great.

So after making the B&N rep work for a while, I said I’ll take it and what else do I need with it? Well it comes with a USB cable, and a plug adapter so you can charge the battery initially, and then when you need to do so. But the rep suggested a cover/case to keep it dry or free from the elements, and he also suggested the warranty/protection plan which allows you a FREE replacement Nook in case you drop yours or somehow break it.

Okay, the Nook was at $249 ($225 as a member), the case/cover was $30, the protection plan was $50, and the B&N Membership which gives you reduced prices on both goods and shipping was another $25, plus taxes on all of the above. Ka-ching: $350.22 – a nice credit to Barnes & Noble and a much bigger debit to my Mastercard account than I expected when I left the apartment.

I got it home, fired it up (there’s a simple On-Off button on the left side), and plugged in the charger. There’s not much at all in the way of printed instructions but it does come with an effective how-to video. Soon after I synched the Tablet to my router, registered the product, created my on-line B&N account,  and was all set.

There’s two realities with this Nook Tablet – one it pretty much does everything it promises to do. I started a Netflix movie via my already existing account, and the French film, The Princess of Montpensier, was soon playing on the screen with crisp colors, sharp and crystal clear images with no buffering lags (maybe this is because I have a top of the line router and the device comes with built-in Wi-Fi for cool connectivity. You can also download from your PC into the Nook via the USB cable but out of the 16 GB storage, only 1 GB is allotted for customer exterior downloads. The rest of the storage space is for stuff you acquire from B&N. The sound system is monaural and I didn’t have headphones for it, but for watching a movie in bed without headphones it will do..

For you techies – the Tablet has 16GB of storage plus will accept a SD card for additional 32 GB of storage and has 1 GB RAM so it is ahead of the Kindle Fire on both of those scores.

The Nook Tablet can be used for email, and anything you wish to type – like an email text, or a login in to a website – involves using a virtual keyboard which loads on the bottom of the screen. The screen requires a tap, and the tap must be pretty precise which means tap rather than pressing with your thumb. Of course there’s a back space key to delete the wrong letters. What I didn’t like was that you have to toggle between the alphabetic keyboard, and the numeric and symbol keyboard.

Finally web browsing was quick and easy only you run into size issues – to see more of the page, or all of the page, you’ve got to reduce the font size. When you make the text bigger you lose a portion of the page. However that is to be expected. You don’t need to type in a full URL either, so that saves you time. For example was all that I needed – no http, no www.

USB Cable to connect to a PC or to charge the battery

Okay, the negatives – not very many apps that I would use. The devices come pre-loaded with Netflix, Fandango, Napster, Rhapsody, Pandora, and Hulu which gives you movies. music and TV shows. But it didn’t come with HBOgo, or the MLB Baseball Network – which meant I couldn’t watch baseball next spring, or the Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, or Entourage on the device right now.

And that was the deal breaker. I returned the device and B&N sent a credit back upstream to my Mastercard account. I decided to keep the B&N membership so my tablet experience cost me just the $25 B&N membership. I’ll look into it next year when more apps have been added because right now I can’t justify a $350 purchase for games and music, and an occasional movie. But hey, that’s me – if you are out of the house all day, or running around between appointments – when you find a Wi-FI spot this might be just what you need because it is small and light, as well as fast and pretty.