Nook Tablet review

A worthy budget device, or simply outclassed by the competition?

Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet

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Battery life on the Nook Tablet comes in at 11.5 hours of reading and 9 hours of video, which actually puts it ahead of the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 in its size category, and the official estimates held up in our testing.

For those who want a small tablet primarily for reading, Barnes & Noble's device does offer a bit more uptime in that regard.

Having a 16GB version of the Nook Tablet for $50 more gives it a leg up over the Kindle Fire, which is still sold strictly as an 8GB version, though the Nexus 7 matched Barnes & Noble's dual-model approach. And the amount of space you actually have to work with for your own files is much smaller than assumed.

Nook Tablet Review

With the 16GB model we reviewed, the Nook website claims the Tablet allows just 1GB of space for personal files, with 12GB reserved for Nook Store content. But didn't bear out in testing, as we were able to utilize 8GB for personal files, while nearly 6GB was reserved for the Nook Store.

Meanwhile, the Nook website says that the 8GB Tablet model has 4GB available for personal files, which sounds more in line with reality, though we didn't have a chance to test that.

Still, those who want to put a fair amount of content on even the 16GB tablet will need an external microSD card to do so.

But as noted before, that's one of the big perks of the Nook Tablet over the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 – expandable memory.

Nook Tablet

The Nook supports a wide array of video and audio formats, and can read myriad types of documents, so for those reliant on their own stored-up media libraries, it's arguably the standout feature.

Apps and games

A quick glance at the Nook Store reveals a familiar array of apps: everything from Pandora, Twitter, and Flipboard to Angry Birds Space and Words With Friends. But beyond a small handful of headline options, the offers fall dramatically flat of what you'll find on most other tablets.

And that's just one of the issues with the media ecosystem.

Nook Tablet Review

The standard Android Market might pale in comparison to the iOS App Store, but at least it hosts a wide array of options. Amazon's marketplace, by comparison, is even leaner, but it's catching up – and has the benefit of video streaming through Amazon Prime. The Nook Store, by comparison, feels like it's being largely ignored by a wide array of developers and media producers.

You won't even find an official Facebook app here, and browsing through the listings reveals a lot of half-hearted games and knock-offs of popular experiences from other platforms, seemingly to fill the gaps left by the oddly MIA real titles. And as noted earlier, the storefront is unintuitive and not well designed, with no option to see best-selling or popular apps, and no special features or graphics. It's sadly utilitarian.

Perhaps worse yet, the Nook Store doesn't offer movie, TV, or music downloads; clicking either of those options from the home screen simply points you towards movie and TV streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus, or music equivalents like Pandora and Rhapsody.

Nook Tablet Review

Books, magazines, and newspapers are plentiful, but that just seems to echo the Nook Tablet's real intent.

Nook Tablet Review

It's a reading device with some basic tablet features, not a fully functional and connected media device.

For some users, that's fine – especially for those who have considerable Nook reading libraries.

But it feels stuck in the past compared to the options available on Kindle Fire, Nexus 7, and most other devices.