Barnes & Noble Nook HD
7 in 1,440x900 display, 315g, 1.3GHz TI OMAP4470, 1.00GB RAM, 8GB disk, Android 4.0 (customised)
Like the Kindle Fire, the Nook HD is an Android-based tablet designed for purchasing and consuming content - this time from the Barnes & Noble store rather than Amazon.
It's a compact 7in tablet made of soft-touch plastic, and the concave rear and grippy texture make it easy to hold. At 315g it's lighter than the Kindle Fire and only slightly heavier than the iPad mini, and is more comfortable to hold than either.
Around the edges you'll find the usual array of controls and ports: a volume rocker at the top right edge, a 3.5mm headphone socket, a power button, a proprietary socket for charging and transferring content and an n-shaped button below the screen to wake up the tablet or go back to the home screen.
Inside, there's 8GB of storage, a 1.3GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4470 processor, 1GB of RAM, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There's a 16GB model available for £189, although as the tablet has a microSD socket hidden under a flap on the bottom edge, you might as well stick with the cheaper 8GB version and buy memory cards to expand your storage.
The screen is the star of the show, though. It may be the same size as its rivals, but it outstrips them all for resolution with its 1,440x900 pixels. This gives a pixel density of 223ppi, which is the highest of any 7in tablet. It's an IPS panel, and quality is exceptional; the screen is extremely bright at 445cd/m2, has a high contrast ratio of 674:1, and films, photos and text all look superb. It's the best display we've seen yet on a budget tablet.
The screen is the best we've seen on a budget tablet
As with the Kindle Fire and Fire HD, the Nook HD runs a heavily-customised version of Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich, with the emphasis very much on content. Fire up the tablet and the first thing that greets your eyes is a 3D carousel view of recent books, movies and apps, below which is a customisable area where you can drop shortcuts to your favourite items. Swipe left and right from here and you'll reveal further homescreens.
At the bottom of the screen are shortcut buttons to the content library, apps, the web browser, the email client and the Barnes & Noble shop. At the top of the screen is a link to an area called Your Nook Today, which shows today's weather, plus a selection of recommended books and other items based on your recent reading activity.
A decent interface and one considerably less gloomy than Amazon's effort
In general, we like the way the Nook’s user interface software works. It isn't 100% glitch-free, but it's mostly smooth in operation. The tabbed web browser is responsive and has an excellent Article View mode that strips out surrounding ads and graphics to give you just the text and images. It's a great way of reading stories and reviews.