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Hands on: Barnes & Noble's 'all-new' Nook

updated 01:10 pm EDT, Tue May 24, 2011

New reader aimed directly at the Kindle 3

As expected, Barnes & Noble has unveiled its third-generation e-book reader, the "All-New Nook," which was showcased at a special event in New York City. The new offering is smaller, lighter and cheaper than its Color counterpart. Electronista had a chance to take a closer look at the retailer's latest attempt to upstage Amazon's popular Kindle readers.

The original Nook -- Barnes & Noble's foray into the reader market -- was designed to overcome the Kindle's e-ink limitations by supplementing the monochrome panel with a smaller touchscreen LCD. The Nook Color completely diverged from e-ink altogether, essentially serving as an Android tablet with reader-centric customizations. The new Nook appears to represent a shifting strategy, embracing the difference between tablets and readers rather than attempting to fill both roles.

The new Nook reverts to the six-inch display of the first-generation model, but without the additional LCD at the bottom. Despite the squarish shape, text presentation seems to be comparable to the Kindle or other Nooks. We expect the compact build and 7.5-ounce weight to improve comfort when reading for long durations.

Moving from button input to a touch-based interface was a logical direction; the UI, though simple, does not feel as archaic as that of the Kindle. The retailer is marketing the new Nook as the reader that everyone can use, without having to learn tricky click-through menus.

Without a color display, the third-generation Nook is not geared for many activities beyond simple reading. The company did work to overcome one of the primary complaints surrounding e-ink technology: the long refresh time when the screen needs to change between pages or UI elements. The screen is now extremely quick, enabling users to scroll through text rather than flipping through single pages.

Like other readers that take advantage of e-ink displays, the new Nook is claimed to have impressive battery life. The company suggests users can achieve two months of 30-minute-per-day reading between charges, as long as the Wi-Fi is disabled.

Overall, we believe Barnes & Noble's new Nook is going in the right direction for dedicated e-book readers. The touchscreen experience is straightforward and eliminates the need for a hardware QWERTY keyboard, while the e-ink display remains a great choice for text presentation. Users can still access social-networking features, a dictionary, and a digital storefront -- all features that complement the reading experience -- without sacrificing light weight, sunlight readability, battery life or affordability.

The new Nook is scheduled to arrive on or around June 10 for $139.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. Arne_Saknussemm

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Apr 2011


    At that price...

    ...and with WiFi, it will sell like crazy

  1. Inkling

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Jul 2006


    Now for Amazon's response

    When the iPad came out, I'd hope Apple would provide Amazon with some much needed competition. That doesn't seem to be happening, but B&N is certainly doing a good job. Amazon's going to have to come up with an answer to this new model and hopefully that'll include tossing .mobi into the dustbin and going with ePub. Dueling standards for ebooks makes as little sense having two totally different alphabets for the same language.

    I'm delighted by my Kindle 3, but I do find myself frustrated by the tiny keyboard and wanting a touch screen like my iPhone. I do wonder, however, if a ePaper screen will work as well as a touch keyboard. The iPhone keyboard works because the instant you touch a key, you get a larger version of what'll be entered. An ePaper screen can't respond that quickly. There's likely to be not enough feedback.

    A better solution would be to recognize that a built-in keyboard in a device this small can't work very well for the extensive note taking many book readers would like and include support for Bluetooth keyboards.

  1. Arne_Saknussemm

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Apr 2011


    Pixel Qi?

    Maybe Amazon will respond to the new challenge with the new display. It sits midways between the retro illuminated LCD and the reflective eInk, the eInk display looks better under bright lights, but the color rendition and fast response of the LCD makes up for the slightly lesser contrast of LCDs

    Would not mind paying a bit more for getting the color & response.

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