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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The Nook HD+ is an undoubtedly flawed device that, at launch, looked like a poor proposition relative to its rivals.

But Barnes & Nobel has since adapted its offering, to the point where the Nook HD+ is now seriously worthy of your consideration as a budget full-sized tablet.

At £229/US$269 for the 16GB version, its full price matches that of its closest competitor, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9, while offering the same performance, a slightly superior display, expandable storage and - crucially - access to the Google Play Store. Currently reduced to £179 in the UK Nook Shop, it's now cheaper too.

We liked

The Nook HD+ sports a truly excellent screen that brings high definition media content to life.

It's also extremely light for a full-size tablet, making it as easy on the arms as its crisp picture is easy on the eye. If you're after a cheap but high-quality media player for a long journey, these two factors alone make it a serious contender.

We also applaud B&N's belated inclusion of the Google Play store. While it might muddy the user experience ever so slightly, it more than makes up for it by massively expanding the range and quality of multimedia content available for the tablet.

There are also a couple of original features that we approve of, including the possibility of setting up multiple accounts. Tablets are often shared among multiple family members, and this thoughtful touch increases that feeling of ownership - not to mention security and parental control.

We disliked

Screen aside, the Nook HD+ isn't a particularly pretty tablet to look at. Its bulging bezel makes it look like a much sleeker tablet has been slipped into a cheap case.

For all the improvements that access to Google Play has brought, the Nook Shop is still at the core of the Nook HD+ experience, and it's sorely lacking. For apps and movies it's now practically redundant, and even its book offering has been compromised somewhat.

Beyond that, the Nook's custom UI continues to leave us cold. It's sluggish, sparse, and the potential for personalisation is severely limited compared to other Android tablets.

Ultimately, in general use it's bettered by any 'normal' Android tablet you care to mention.

Final verdict

We found the 7-inch Nook HD to be uncompetitive in a crowded field, but the Nook HD+ may well have carved out a niche for itself as an ultra-affordable full-sized tablet.

Its custom UI is clunky, its own media store is a bit of a write-off, and it won't win any awards for its looks. But for HD multimedia kicks on a budget, there aren't many better-value alternatives out there.

It's far from the best Android tablet experience available, but with its recent UK price cut, fine HD screen and all-new access to the Google Play Store, the Nook HD+ has somehow suddenly become worthy of consideration - certainly above the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9, at any rate.