Nook HD+ review

Significantly lighter and cheaper than an iPad, but is that enough?

Nook HD+ review
The Nook HD+ has a great screen

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As we've already mentioned, the Nook HD+ now comes with access to the Google Play Store for apps - and it's a good thing too, given how poor the default Nook Shop is.

Nook HD+ review

It's still presented front and centre here, but we predict that you'll swiftly forget about it (or at least attempt to) in favour of the vastly superior Google alternative.

Where the stripped back Nook Shop interface works reasonably well for books and movies, here, with a series of already basic app icons, it comes across as inefficient, unfinished and unappealing.

Navigation feels curiously cumbersome, with excessive horizontal and vertical scrolling for seemingly too few visible apps.

Speaking of too few apps, the selection in the Nook Shop is woeful. Off the top of our heads we can state that there's no Facebook, no Pocket, and no Feedly - and there are plenty more major omissions besides.

Even more inexplicable is the decision to unify the Nook Shop search function, so that seeking out the above three apps returned loads of unrelated books and magazines as well as apps.

You have to select apps from the additional drop-down Refine menu in order to narrow the field down, which is ridiculously clunky.

Nook HD+ review

Thank goodness for Google Play, then. While you might find a couple of apps that don't run on the Nook, as we noted in our Nook HD review, most of the big hitters are present and accounted for.

This means around 700,000 apps are at your fingertips, many of which won't cost you a penny.

Google Play has really come into its own in recent years, and the latest redesign is a thing of stylish-but-functional beauty. It certainly puts Apple's App Store to shame for speed, intuitiveness and functionality - if not quite yet for range.

One tiny issue that the late addition of the Google Play Store has created is a split between official Nook apps and those from the main Android app store. This has been handled reasonably - if not exactly elegantly - by adding an 'n' to the icons of any apps downloaded from the Nook Shop.

On the plus side, the Google Play Store will recognise that you have a different version of its apps installed and offer you the ability to upgrade them, so there's really no compatibility issue here - just a spot of untidiness.


Nook HD+ review

The games situation on the Nook HD+ reads much like the wider apps situation - a woeful default provision dramatically bolstered by the belated introduction of the Google Play Store.

Suffice to say, if you thought the range of general apps was poor on the Nook Shop, you won't believe the meagre games offering.

There's no dedicated section for games on the Shop, only a sub-category in the main apps menu.

We won't mention all of the major titles that are missing here (there are fewer than 2,000 titles on there in total), suffice to say that we hadn't even heard of nine out of the 11 games highlighted in the meagre Must Have Games selection under the Apps category - and we're avid tablet gamers.

So let's move swiftly on to the Google Play games offering. As with apps, the Android gaming scene has improved immeasurably in recent years, thanks to the platform's sky-rocketing popularity and Google's improved support.

Nook HD+ review

The result is a selection of games that's still notably inferior to Apple's, but is comfortably the second best mobile games offering out there.

Thanks to the capable dual-core TI OMAP CPU and PowerVR SGX544 GPU at the tablet's core - the same as can be found in the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 - the Nook HD+ will run the vast majority of games on the Google Play Store, and run them well at that.

You might think it would suffer for the lack of a modern quad-core CPU, but the truth is few if any games really take advantage of such a multi-core setup.

We tried one of our favourite games for testing out a device's gaming chops, FireMonkey's 3D arcade racing extravaganza Need For Speed Most Wanted, and found that it played well, with just the odd stutter here and there.

Nook HD+ review

Considering the game has to push out some highly detailed 3D models to the Nook's HD display - which means a large hike in pixels to be rendered - that's pretty impressive.

Naturally your 69p ($0.99) casual wonders such as Angry Birds and Cut The Rope will play like a dream.