The NOOK Tablet is the second Android tablet from Barnes & Noble, but it’s the first one that the company calls a tablet. That’s because while the first model was positioned as an eBook reader that could also run some apps, Barnes & Noble improved the processor, increased the RAM and storage space, and expanded the app store for its second model.
In other words, while the NOOK Tablet is designed first and foremost to provide an excellent reading experience, it’s the company’s first true media tablet, with decent support for videos, music, games, and many other applications.
Last year Barnes & Noble released a 7 inch color eBook reader called the NOOK Color. While the company didn’t position the NOOK Color as an all-purpose tablet, its operating system was based on Google Android and the NOOK Color wound up becoming one of the best-selling Android tablets of the year due to a great design, a low price tag, and at least in part because of lowered expectations: If you’re buying a $249 eBook reader you don’t expect it to be able to do everything a $500 iPad can do.
The NOOK Color also became very popular with hackers who quickly figured out how to install a full version of Android on an SD card so that you could dual-boot the tablet, choosing between a full Android experience or Barnes & Noble’s software at boot.
Barnes & Noble continues to offer the NOOK Color for $199, but if you pay $50 more for the NOOK Tablet you get a faster device which also happens to be a little lighter — even though the two tablets look almost identical.
But Barnes & Noble’s two tablets aren’t just competing against one another. Last year the NOOK Color was one of the only tablets on the market that cost less than $300. Now they’re up against the Lenovo IdeaPad A1, a number of budget devices from Archos, Arnova, Coby, and Velocity Micro — and first and foremost the Amazon Kindle Fire.
Amazon’s new tablet sells for $199, just like the NOOK Color. But it has the same dual core processor as the NOOK Tablet as well as tight integration with Amazon’s music, movie, book, and app stores.
But while there’s no doubt Amazon’s tablet offers a great value, there are at least a few good reasons to consider the more expensive NOOK Tablet.
The NOOK tablet has a 7 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel IPS display. It’s pretty much the same display found on the NOOK Color, and nearly identical to the Kindle Fire’s display, but it has slightly better viewing angles.
Here’s what you need to know about the screen: it looks sharp, and it’s easy to view from almost any angle. You can place the tablet flat on a table and read an eBook, magazine or web page quite easily while you’re enjoying a cup of tea.
The colors don’t wash out when you view the tablet from a nearly 90 degree angle, which means you can view pictures or watch movies with a friend and not have to worry that the person sitting next to you is viewing something that looks like a photo negative.
There is a glossy finish on the screen, but it doesn’t reflect as much photo above would suggest. I turned the backlight all the way down to take that photo, but when the screen is brighter it looks pretty good even when used in a bright, sunny room. I’d still prefer an E Ink display for reading outdoors, but the NOOK Color screen is pretty good indoors.
The NOOK Tablet’s wide viewing angles alone are almost enough to make you forget about other tablets in the $250 range from budget Android tablet makers.
Other premium features include a 1 GHz TI OMAP4 dual core processor, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage. That may be the same processor as the one in the Kindle Fire, but the NOOK Tablet has twice as much RAM and twice as much storage space as Amazon’s tablet.
Unfortunately Barnes & Noble only provides you with 1GB of space for your own files. That’s not a lot of room if you want to carry your music or video collection around on the tablet.
Of the 16GB of built-in storage, B&N reserves about 3GB for the operating system and another 12GB for content download from Barnes & Noble, including apps, books, and media. The last 1GB is all yours.
The good news is that unlike the Kindle Fire, the NOOK Tablet has a miroSD card slot, which means you can add as much as 32GB of storage for your own files.
If you plan to spend most of your time surfing the web, reading books, or streaming online music or video, the small amount of storage space isn’t really a problem at all. But if you do need the extra space for your own files it’s nice to be able to add it yourself for the price of a microSD card.
The NOOK Tablet measures 8.1″ x 5″ x 0.48″ and weighs about 14.1 ounces. That makes it a little bigger than the Kindle Fire, but a little lighter than Amazon’s tablet.
But here’s the most important thing you need to know about the NOOK Tablet’s extra girth: It feels much better in your hand than the Kindle Fire or most other 7 inch tablets.
Yes, the NOOK Tablet has a larger bezel around the screen than many tablets, but there’s a very good reason for that. It gives you something to hold onto.
Plenty of companies have been touting “edge-to-edge” displays as a feature. But when you have a solid piece of glass covering the front of a tablet, it means there’s nothing to hold onto except glass.
Barnes & Noble instead gives you a soft piece of plastic which covers the NOOK Tablet and gives you enough space to easily hold the tablet from almost any angle without worrying that your fingers will accidentally tap the screen when you’re trying to read.
The NOOK Tablet is well designed for long reading sessions. I spent a few hours reading a book on the tablet the other day and my hand didn’t get tired, and I didn’t feel like I had to hold the device with two hands to prevent it from slipping out of my grasp.
If there’s one thing that bugs me about the bezel though, it’s the fact that it feels like it was slapped on after the rest of the tablet was completed. I don’t know if this is a widespread problem or if I picked up a defective unit, but I’ve noticed that when you view the tablet from the left side you can see a little light leaking through under the screen bezel.
On the left side of the tablet you’ll find a power button, and on the right there are volume buttons. They blend into the gray plastic case so that you almost wouldn’t even notice the buttons if you weren’t looking for them.
It’s easy to wrap your hand all the way around the tablet so that your thumb touches the power button and your fingers touch the volume buttons — and for that reason I’ve accidentally found myself hitting the volume buttons from time to time when trying to turn the screen on or off.
It would be nice if the buttons weren’t directly across from each other, but this is hardly a deal-breaker.
Below the screen there’s a single N button for bringing up the NOOK menu. This is in stark contrast to most older Android tablets which have buttons for Home, Menu, and Back functions, or newer Android tablets which have none of those buttons at all.
I’ll talk a little more about that button in the software section.
The back of the tablet features a NOOK logo, a speaker, and the microSD card slot. You have to lift the little gray flap to access the memory card slot.
At the bottom of the device you’ll find a micro USB port. You can use the supplied cable to charge your tablet or to connect to a computer to transfer files to and from the NOOK Tablet.
For some reason Barnes & Noble uses cable with an extra-long micro USB tip though. If you try to charge the tablet with a standard microUSB cable it will work, but it will take much longer. That means that if you want to get a replacement cable you can use any microUSB cable, but you’re probably going to want to spend a few extra bucks to get one designed specifically for the NOOK Tablet (or NOOK Color).
There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top of the tablet as well as a tiny built-in microphone. The mic is designed for use with the custom Read and Record feature which lets parents read a book aloud and save a recording for their child to listen to. I suspect we’ll find other apps taking advantage of the microphone in time, but for right now that’s about it.
While the NOOK Tablet runs Google Android 2.3 you’d never know it when you first turn on the tablet. Instead you’re greeted with a custom user interface that’s reasonably well thought out and reasonably easy to use.
The home screen looks a little chaotic at first. It’s divided into five different sections:
- A toolbar at the top of the screen tells you which book you’re currently reading and provides a “More” box which you can tap to view recently accessed books, periodicals, movies, and other content.
- There’s a sort of desktop space where you can arrange shortcuts to your favorite apps, books, or other content. You have three desktop spaces to fill up any way you like, and you can switch between them by swiping your finger to the left or right.
- Below this spot you’ll find a carousel showing recent apps and media. You can drag icons from here to your desktop to save them as favorites, or you can tap-and-hold them to view details or remove them from the home screen.
- Under the carousel is a list of shortcuts for books, newsstand, movies, music, and apps. These bring up a list of content from your library as well as a few links to related content from the Barnes & Noble Shop.
- The taskbar at the bottom of the screen shows the time, battery meter, and other notifications. This taskbar stays with you when you’re reading books or running most apps, and Back, and Menu buttons will show up here when running some apps that require these functions. You can also trigger a “back” action from most screens by swiping from right to left along the taskbar.
I’ll be honest though — I don’t find myself actually visiting the home screen all that often. That’s because you can tap the Nook button below the display to bring up another menu which I find much more useful.
From any screen, you can use the N button to bring up shortcuts to Home, Library, Shop, Search, Apps, Web, and Settings. This kind of make the shortcuts mentioned in position four above feel kind of redundant, but at least they don’t take up too much space.
If you do want to use the home screen, this is a little annoying, since it means you have to click the button and then press home to get to the home screen. Most mobile devices take you straight to the home screen with the click of a single button, so this might be disconcerting if you’re coming from an iPad or a traditional Android phone or tablet.
The Library is basically a virtual book shelf that shows all of your books, magazines, newspapers, apps, and other files. You can launch apps, books, or other content by tapping on their icons. You can also tap-and-hold to view additional options allowing you to add an item to your favorites, add it to a custom “shelf,” delete content, or make other changes.
There’s also a search box at the bottom of the library that lets you quickly find apps or media stored on your library.
The My Stuff tab lets you view custom shelves, archived content, or the LendMe section which allows you to loan your eBooks to other NOOK users. There’s also a file browser tucked away under the My Files section, which you can use to locate eBooks and other files that you’ve downloaded from the internet or transferred from a computer.
You can visit the Shop to search for books, magazines, newsapers, and apps. There’s also a section for kids books and music and video apps.
Barnes & Noble doesn’t offer its own digital music or movie stories, but the NOOK Tablet comes with Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora apps preloaded, and users can also download several other streaming media applications including Grooveshark, Rhapsody, MOG, and TuneIn Radio.
The book store includes a number of lists such as B&N Top 100 and New York Times Bestsellers to make browsing easy. You can also search the shop by title or author.
There are hundreds of newspapers and magazines to choose from, but the list is far from complete. It’s also worth noting that the search box that shows up on every page of the B&N shop searches the whole shop. So if you search, for instance, for “Wired” you won’t get a listing for Wired Magazine, but you will get a list of a thousand books with the word “wired” in the title.
I was very underwhelmed by the magazine reading experience. The NOOK Tablet displays a full reproduction of a printed magazine, full-page advertisements and all.
The problem is that these magazines weren’t designed for 7 inch displays, so the text is nearly unreadable until you zoom in. Then you have to scroll up and down, left and right to read an article and you lose any benefit from seeing the full page design.
You can click an “Article View” option to see just the text and a brief header image, but this shows up in a small pop-up window that makes poor use of the screen real estate and fails to display most of the pictures, which again defeats the purpose of offering a digital reproduction of the full magazine.
For some reason when you press the NOOK button from a Magazine, it also fails to bring up the NOOK menu. Instead it takes you back to your Library.
The Apps section of the B&N Shop features about a thousand games and other applications, and Barnes & Noble is constantly adding additional games. But the selection pales in comparison to the half million or so apps available from the official Android Market or even the 20,000 apps in the Amazon Appstore.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some great apps here, and some of those apps have been redesigned for the NOOK Tablet.
The Pandora internet radio app, for instance, features quick links at the bottom of the screen for My Stations, Add Station, and Sign Out — functions that you’d normally have to push a menu button to access on a phone that actually has a menu button. When you tap these buttons, an attractive menu will pop up which looks little like the full-screen menus you get with most Android devices.
I grabbed a few other third party apps from the B&N Shop including the Seesmic and Goodreads. The first is a client for Facebook and Twitter, which comes in handy because the B&N Shop doesn’t offer official apps for either social network. Goodreads is a sort of social network for readers, and the NOOK version of the app makes it easy to keep track of your books, share reviews, and read updates from your contacts.
The apps serve their purpose, although I’d prefer the actual Facebook and Twitter apps for Android. Barnes & Noble also throws in free chess, soduku, and crossword apps.
There’s also a built-in email client which worked reasonably well when linked with my Gmail account, but I found I preferred to just fire up Gmail in the web browser since that allowed me to archive messages instead of just deleting them or marking them as read.
But if you’re looking for some of the top apps from the Android Market, you may not find them in the B&N Shop — and if you do find them, you may not find the version you’re looking for. For instance, while NOOK Tablet owners can buy Scrabble or Angry Birds games for $2.99, there are no free, ad-supported versions of these games available in the B&N Shop like there are in the Android Market.
If the NOOK Tablet is your first Android device, this may not be a problem at all. But if you’re expecting it to do everything that you can do with an Android tablet from Samsung, HTC, or Lenovo, you may have to scratch a little below the surface — because you can get the tablet to run apps that aren’t available from the B&N Shop.
It just takes a little more work, and the user experience for these apps might not be as good. For more details, scroll down to the section below on hacking the NOOK Tablet.
For now, I want to talk a little bit about the experience of using the NOOK Tablet as Barnes & Noble intended, because that’s what I imagine most people will be doing.
Performance as a media tablet
Arguably the most important app on the NOOK Tablet is the eBook reader. If you start reading a book and then switch to another app you’ll always see a little book icon in the taskbar allowing you to get back to the book with a single tap.
In other words, there’s no question that this tablet was made by a bookseller. While it does many other things well, the NOOK Tablet displays eBooks very well.
The eBook app can display text in a variety of sizes and fonts. You can also adjust line spacing or margins as well as color schemes.
You can move forward or back by swiping left or right on the screen, and you can bring up menus by tapping the display. This lets you tap an icon to add a bookmark, jump to a page, or view your progress.
You can also use the Find option to search for text, adjust the screen brightness, or view the book Contents.
The app also lets you tap-and-hold any word to add a highlight or note, look it up, or perform other actions. You can also expand the text area to include a phrase or sentence.
Overall I found the experience of reading on the NOOK Tablet to be quite pleasant. Page turns are quite speedy, text looks reasonably sharp on the 7 inch display, and you have a pretty wide range of brightness settings which makes the NOOK Tabletlook good in a brightly lit room or a dark bedroom. The night mode which displays white text on a dark background also makes reading at night a little more comfortable.
The NOOK Tablet also excels at streaming media. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Netflix video look quite as sharp as it does on the NOOK Tablet’s 7 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel screen.
You can also really take advantage of the wide viewing angles when watching videos.
The tablet has enough processing and graphics power to handle 1080p HD video playback even though it doesn’t have a 1080p screen. This allows you to manually copy your movies to a microSD card and watch them on the tablet without transcoding them first. But it also means that the tablet has absolutely no problem streaming high quality video over the internet.
If you plan to spend a lot of time watching video or listening to music on the tablet though, you might want to invest in a good pair of headphones. While the speaker built into the back of the device sounds reasonably good in a quiet room, it’s not very loud.
The Netflix and Hulu apps sort of turn the NOOK Tablet into an extra TV that you can tote around the house for watching TV shows or movies. But since there’s no 3G or 4G on the tablet, you probably won’t be using those apps to watch movies on the train during your commute to work.
If you already have a nice big TV that can stream internet video, the appeal of a WiFi-only device that can do the same thing might be rather limited. But as a bonus feature for an eReader, it’s pretty nice.
The tablet’s built-in web browser is accessible by tapping the “Web” option from the NOOK menu. It’s provides a decent mobile browsing experience, but it would be nice if it supported browser tabs.
You can open multiple browser “windows” at once, but in order to do that you have to tap the menu button and hit “New Window.” Then to switch between windows you have to tap menu, then Windows, and then select your window.
In other words, it takes three taps to switch windows, while it should take just one. It takes just as many taps to to get to the download manager, and one more to get to the browser settings.
For the most part the built-in browser seems pretty zippy, if not as fast as a desktop computer web browser or some of the browsers on higher priced Android phones and tablets.
The on-screen keyboard is one of the better ones I’ve used on an Android device. It takes advantage of the 7 inch screen to provide a lot of space in between each key, which makes it easier to tap the key you’re looking for without accidentally hitting the wrong button.
Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be any sort of auto-correct to speak of. While I know people love to complain about over-aggressive autocorrect features, sometimes it’s nice to be able to type doesnt and know that your device will automatically add the apostrophe.
There’s a notification area in the bottom left corner of the display which lets you know when a new email message or other alert arrives. It will also show you whether you have a microSD card inserted, or if Pandora or another music app is currently running.
While the selection of third party apps is limited, the ability to play games, surf the web, and send email makes the NOOK Tablet much more than just a color eReader.
There are a few quirks though. First, there’s no real task switcher to speak of. If you’re listening to music while reading a book you can tap the notification icon to return to the music app and pause playback or skip songs. But if you were playing a game, then switched to the web browser for a moment and want to get back to the game you’ll have to hit the N button, tap the Apps menu and then go find the app you were playing again.
Another thing that I found a little troublesome was that you don’t always know what’s going to happen when you adjust the volume with the volume buttons on the side of the tablet. For instance, from the home screen I turned the volume all the way down, but when I fired up the Pandora or Netflix apps I could still hear them.
That’s because I had apparently turned down the system/notification volumes, but not the media volume. To do that you need to turn down the volume while a media player is going.
To be fair, this is true of most Android devices — but since Barnes & Noble covers up Android with a skin it’s pretty easy to forget this is an Android device.
You can also set the volume manually by going into the Settings>Sounds section and choosing to adjust media or notification volumes separately.
The last thing that bugged me a bit was the taskbar at the bottom of the device. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time you want that little reminder with the time, battery life, and notifications. It comes in handy when you’re surfing the web or reading the newspaper.
But it kind of gets in the way when you’re reading a book. The last thing I really want to know when I’m reading a novel is that another email just came in. It would be nice if there was a way to use the eBook app in full-screen mode so that the taskbar went away. The best solution I’ve come up with so far is to simply turn off the WiFi when I want to sit down for a distraction-free reading session.
The taskbar does disappear when you’re watching videos or looking at pictures.
It’s difficult to test battery life extensively on a device like the NOOK Tablet since there are so many different ways to use it. But Barnes & Noble claims you should be able to get up to 11.5 hours of reading time. Based on my usage that seems possible, but you’d probably have to disable WiFi and use the screen at its dimmest setting.
I used the tablet for about four hours straight at one point, mostly reading a book, but also checking email and doing light web surfing and the battery dipped to about 60 percent, so I’d say that under normal conditions it seems likely that you could get around 9 or 10 hours of run time. The battery will probably run down a little faster if you’re watching videos.
Minor annoyanaces aside, the NOOK Tablet provides a pretty great reading experience and the app that are available for the tablet generally work pretty well. But what if you want to get more out of the $249 tablet?
Hacking the NOOK Tablet
The original NOOK Color has proven very popular with hackers because it’s easy to root and you can load a full version of Android on a microSD card.
Rooting an Android device allows users to access files and settings that are usually hidden and protected. It opens the door to installing apps that aren’t normally supported and even replacing the default software with something different.
Update 11/21/2011: You can now root the NOOK Tablet and install the Google Android Market.
The bad news is that the new NOOK Tablet is proving more difficult to root… at least so far. I know a number of people had expected the NOOK Tablet to be easier to hack than the Kindle Fire since the Barnes & Noble tablet has a microSD card slot. But the Kindle Fire was rooted almost immediately, and the NOOK Tablet which was released at nearly the same time still remains locked.
The good news is that you can do an awful lot with the NOOK Tablet even without rooting it. While custom ROMs might not be available anytime soon, you can install apps that don’t come from the B&N Shop — and that even includes the Amazon Appstore.
We’ve posted step-by-step instructions for installing apps that don’t come from the B&N Shop. It’s remarkably easy. Basically you just have to download one app form the internet, and when you try to install it check a setting that allows you to install apps from unknown sources. Normally this menu is hidden from view, but it appears when trying to install some apps.
Once that’s done you should be able to install almost any Android APK file designed for Android 2.3 and earlier — including alternate app stores such as GetJar or the Amazon Appstore.
It might seem strange to install Amazon’s app marketplace on its competitors’ tablet, but the Amazon Appstore provides one of the best ways to download and install apps on a device that can’t access the official Android Market. It includes a large list of apps, user reviews and screenshots for each app, and alerts letting you know when app updates are available.
Somewhat ironically, it’s already possible to install the Android Market on a rooted Kindle Fire. That means that while the Amazon Appstore provides one of the best ways to download and install apps on the NOOK Tablet, it’s not necessarily the best option available for Kindle Fire users.
When you add apps that didn’t come from the B&N shop they won’t show up on your Library shelves, and you can’t add them to your home screen. But you can find them by hitting the N button on your NOOK Tablet and using the Search function to search for the app by name.
If you only want to install one app, say the Amazon Kindle eBook Reader, this might work for you. But if you want to be able to view the full list of apps available you might want to try installing a third party app launcher. GO Launcher EX is a pretty good choice, and it’s available for free from the Amazon Appstore.
Now you can fire up the GO Launcher by pressing the N button, hitting Search, and typing “GO” or “Launcher” or something similar to bring up the launcher.
GO Launcher looks much more like a standard Android app launcher and allows you to arrange app shortcuts in a grid on the home screen or view a list of all apps installed on your device from the app drawer.
This includes the B&N apps including the Library, email, browser, and other apps as well as any additional applicatiosn you install such as alternate web browsers, file managers, app stores, or other utilities.
There’s currently no good way to replace the NOOK Tablet home screen with GO Launcher EX or another launcher app, but it’s fairly easy to toggle back and forth between views. I’m also not sure I’d want to replace the standard home screen and library. I just wish I could view all of my apps in the standard view.
One major problem with running Android apps that haven’t been approved by Barnes & Noble is that they may not all behave properly. Bear in mind, most Android apps expect you to have home, back, and menu buttons. The NOOK Tablet just has a NOOK button.
Most apps that require a back or menu button will display little software versions in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. You can also swipe from right-to-left to trigger a back action.
But sometimes one or more of these buttons fails to appear. And in some apps, pressing this will bring up the NOOK menu. But when running other apps, pressing the NOOK button triggers a back motion.
Even without rooting, the NOOK Tablet turns out to be a pretty decent all-purpose Android tablet. The same soft plastic bezel that makes it a pleasure to hold while reading makes the tablet comfortable to hold while surfing the web, playing games, or performing other activities.
Once you step outside of the limited Barnes & Noble ecosystem there are thousands of great apps that can run on the tablet. You can find many using a third party app store, but if you know what you’re looking for you can often find apps simply by searching the web for APK files.
I’ve been running GO Launcher EX, Dolphin Browser HD (with tabbed web browsing), ES File Explorer, and a few other apps on my NOOK Tablet for the last few days, and they make the device feel much more powerful than it did on day one when it was primarily an eBook reader that could play music and movies.
If you can get your hands on the Google Services Framework app you can also run some official Google apps including the Gmail app and Google Maps — but the Android Market doesn’t work yet.
If you’re willing to put up with an inconsistent user experience you can get a lot more out of the tablet — but there’s no guarantee that Barnes & Noble won’t just disable support for third party apps from “unknown sources” with a future software update. On the other hand, while the NOOK Tablet bootloader appears to be locked down, there’s still a chance someone will figure out how to unlock it in the future and open the possibility of customizing the tablet even further.
On paper the Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet looks like a tough sell. It costs $50 more than a Kindle Fire, offers access to fewer apps, and doesn’t include its own music or movie stores.
But the NOOK Tablet is a great little tablet in its own right and it also feels better in your hands, has a microSD card slot for expansion, and twice the RAM. It feels better than the Kindle Fire. I chalk part of that up to the additional RAM, and part of it to software.
For instance, the Netflix app is stunning on the NOOK Tablet. On the Kindle Fire, video from the same app doesn’t look as sharp, and at times the audio and video go out of sync.
From time to time there’s also a surprising delay when trying to turn pages in an eBook on the Kindle Fire. That never occurred with the NOOK Tablet. I think the Kindle app is to blame though — I tried extracting the app to run on a different tablet and realized that it takes up 50MB of disk space and simply refuses to run on anything but the Kindle Fire. This is clearly a new version of the Kindle app which is more resource-intensive than the version available for other Android devices.
If you’re already tied into Amazon’s music, movie and eBook services, the Kindle Fire might be the better tablet for you. It ties those elements together nicely in one neat package. But if you’re not scared of installing officially unsupported apps on the NOOK Tablet, you can install the Amazon Appstore, Amazon Kindle app, and Amazon MP3 store. You also get a better reading experience.
You can also install the Amazon Instant Video app, but it doesn’t work as well on the NOOK Tablet as the Kindle Fire. Fortunately Amazon Instant Video uses Adobe Flash, so all you have to do is visit the Amazon website in your browser to stream video to a NOOK Tablet. You can’t download videos for offline playback using the website though.
It’s hard to go wrong with either tablet, but I think the NOOK Tablet is worth the extra $50.
On the other hand… you also have to ask yourself what you’re going to use either tablet for. If it’s primarily for reading eBooks you could probably save $100 or more by purchasing an eReader with an E Ink display. If you want to be able to surf the web or check your email from anywhere, a smartphone will probably serve you better.
But if you’re looking for a media consumption device for use around the house or other spots with WiFi access, the NOOK Tablet may be the best piece of hardware you can buy for $249 right now.
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