Nook HD as an Android Tablet Contender: Part 2 — Nook HD vs. Nexus 7

Yesterday, I wrote about the Nook HD mostly from a stock OS perspective. But I know the question you really wanted to have answered was this: “Does it work as an Android tablet?”

After three days of using it, my answer is a cautious “yes.” Because I still don’t have a tablet case for it, I haven’t run it through a typical work day. However, from my use in the house over the weekend, I can tell you that it’s got potential.

Let’s start with what it can and can’t do.

Loading apps from Google Play is a breeze. When you install the update, it adds a bunch of Google apps to your Apps Library, including Google Play. You can open Google Play and install any apps you’ve previously purchased or purchase new apps, and they will download and appear in your Apps Library.

If you’ve downloaded the Nook version of a Google Play app, it will try to download the Play version, if it’s updated from the Nook version. Sometimes it does it automatically. Sometimes it pops up in Notifications and you have to update it manually. I haven’t found a pattern yet. Paid apps from the Nook store have so far been unaffected by this.

Let’s be clear about what the update does. It adds Google Play. It does not allow you to add apps from other sources. From what I read on other blogs, apparently there has been some confusion about this. So no side-loaded apps from APKs, including side-loading the Amazon App Store. If you have purchased lots of apps from Amazon, you’re not going to be able to load them on the Nook HD.

Not every Play app is compatible with the HD. My biggest disappointment so far has been Swype. It’s not HD-compatible. I’m testing Swiftkey as an alternative, but I find Swype much more intuitive and accurate for swipe entry. Swiftkey is excellent for tap entry, so we’ll see. Right now the biggest impediment to replacing my Nexus 7 with the HD is data entry.

Other than those shortcomings, the HD with Google Play is a serious Android tablet contender. It has most of the apps and features you’d want, including Bluetooth. I’ve never been successful at getting my keyboard paired with my Nexus 7, but it works fine with the HD. That just might allow me to live without Swype.

The HD is lacking a camera and GPS. Location services work through Wi-Fi, however, so you will get some location-based application, if that’s important to you. I’ve never used the camera on either my Nexus 7 or my iPad, so the lack of a camera doesn’t bother me at all.

I do miss my widgets, but if that becomes a problem, I can always install an alternate launcher. So far, I’m managing fine without them.

I have one more minor gripe. The screen of the HD is gorgeous to look at (I can see the difference from the Nexus 7), but it’s not as slick. I think it has some sort of anti-glare coating (not that I’ve noticed that), and a finger doesn’t slide as well over it as on my iPad or Nexus 7. A stylus, however, works just fine, and I’ve been tending to grab my stylus before doing much other than reading on it. I expect I’ll get used to it over time.

My conclusion? If you’ve been using something like a Nexus 7, and you’re used to certain things (like a camera or side-loading apps), you may find the HD a bit limiting. If the HD is your first tablet, you’ll never realize you’re missing anything.

If you’re primarily looking for a tablet as an entertainment device, it’s hard to go wrong with the HD, especially at the current sale price. If you have work functions that requite side-loading, true GPS, or some other feature the HD is missing, it’s not for you.

That said, I think the HD would satisfy at least 90 percent of people looking for a good budget tablet. Google Play access gives it more functionality than the Kindle Fire, and it’s easier to customize the Carousel to get rid of stuff you don’t want to see.

Here’s one last image. It is pretty cool to see the Amazon Kindle app in the Nook app library…

If you have any questions or anything you’d like me to try, feel free to let me know in the comments below. I’m delighted to have new things to play with or try out.

 

11 Comments on Nook HD as an Android Tablet Contender: Part 2 — Nook HD vs. Nexus 7

  1. Undeniably, the Nook HD is a very elegant looking piece of hardware, wouldn’t mind one of these from the wife for my birthday, I hope she gets the hint! :)

  2. My Nook Color is still working fine. Just can’t justify even the reduced price… but I hope a lot of people have been waiting. Good for B&N to suck it up and realize that they’ve got to take steps to stay competitive in this market.

  3. Juli Monroe // May 7, 2013 at 4:04 pm //

    @Thomas, sending mental hints your wife’s way! Hoping you have a nice birthday present waiting. :)

  4. I have been looking at this but will have to stick with the Fire if you can’t side-load aps. The Fire lets you side-load (without rooting!) and you can load up Go Launcher EX on it so in my book…the Fire wins. Amazon Ap store has almost everything I use… and the rest can be side-loaded.

  5. Juli Monroe // May 10, 2013 at 8:41 am //

    @Annie, that makes perfect sense for you. If you have a lot invested in the Amazon app store, it doesn’t make sense to switch. I personally don’t like buying apps from Amazon because they are often one or two upgrades behind. I’m picky. If I paid for it, I want the latest and greatest. Google Play meets my needs better, and I’ve never owned a Fire, so I’ve bought very few Amazon apps.

  6. Can you run Google’s calendar on it?

  7. @David, Yes. It shows in the Play store as being compatible with my Nook HD. I haven’t installed it because I use a different calendar app, but it should run just fine.

  8. Joe Chandler // July 4, 2013 at 2:59 pm //

    Hey! So I’ve been doing a bit of reading and I want to grab myself a tablet, but aside from being able to read at night (The Kindle Touch doesn’t cut it) I’d like to be able to doss around on games from the play store as well. So my question is this – How does the hardware match up to the likes of my S3? Given that it’s a relatively recent phone and fairly powerful (or it was anyway) is it worth buying a Nook HD? No point buying another device if it doesn’t run games as well as the S3 does for me personally.

    Thanks in advance :)

  9. The thing to remember when considering any Android Tablet that’s not a Nexus is, how important are updates to you? Most Android tablet manufacturers are going to be fairly blase about updating; after all, they’ve already got your money, why go to the extra trouble? Google, on the other hand, is more interested in keeping you using its services, and they want you to have the latest and greatest that you possibly can. And since they’re the ones who make Android and oversee the tablet, you know for a fact it’s going to work.

    This goes double for the Nook, which 1) uses a proprietarily-crippled version of Android, and 2) is being discontinued.

    If you want a cheap Android tablet to play with, get an $80 Zeepad, or one of the other Chinese cheap-o tabs that you can find on eBay these days–you know you’re getting crap, but you’re not paying a premium price for it. If you want a real Android tablet, get a Nexus. Don’t mess with mister in-between.

  10. Juli Monroe // July 4, 2013 at 7:54 pm //

    @Joe, I’m going to disagree somewhat with Chris. If you’re looking for a device to function as a reader in addition to a game machine, the Nook HD is worth looking at. It’s my first choice for reading device, hands-down. I tried reading a bit on my Kindle Touch recently, and I went right back to my HD. The gorgeous HD screen really does make a difference.

    I miss Jelly Bean a bit, but not much. It would be nice to sideload apps, but you’ve got an S3 for that.

    I’d advise against a cheap Android tablet. I’ve had a couple clients try that route, and they always regretted it. If you want a gaming machine, the Nexus devices are the way to go.

  11. For GPS, one can also install the TetherGPS client app from the play store, and TetherGPS server app on their android phone. Then you would just pair the two devices via Bluetooth and could tether your phone’s GPS to the tablet. The only drawbacks then would be the lack of being able to sideload (not an issue if you root and install Cyanogenmod), and the lack of a camera — I’d imagine that someone could, in theory, write a “tether camera” app. The only other feature I would personally miss from owning this if I didn’t have a tablet already would be the NFC features that are becoming popular.

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