The Nook has long lived in the shadow of its Kindle rival, but now Barnes & Noble is taking a new approach.
Since Barnes & Noble no longer makes its own Nooks, it has teamed up with the biggest Android mobile device makers in the world to create the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook — a full Android tablet that also comes with Barnes & Noble’s Nook app store and software.
If you’re already familiar with Samsung’s tablets, the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook will be a natural fit for you. The tablet barely looks or feels and different than Samsung’s standard Galaxy Tab 4, but avid readers will benefit from the inclusion of the Nook Shop. The hardware isn’t quite as nice as what you would get with the more expensive Amazon Kindle Fire HDX, but for its $179 price tag, the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook is more than sufficient.
What You’re Getting
The Galaxy Tab 4 Nook is an Android tablet, which means it also comes with the Google's own Play Store in addition to the Nook Shop. This is the killer advantage Samsung’s new Nook tablet has over the Amazon Kindle Fire line. Amazon’s tablets only come with Amazon's own app store, which means your choice will be more limited.
Amazon’s app store has 240,000 apps compared to the more than 1 million apps available in Google’s Play Store. The sheer number of apps doesn’t necessarily dictate whether one app store is better than another — the Google Play Store, like Apple’s App Store and others, are riddled with multiple apps that do the same thing. Still, it’s nice to have the option of using Google apps like Google Maps, Gmail, or Google Drive while also getting access the Nook Shop.
The ne w Nook runs on Samsung’s modified version of Android, which means if you have a Samsung Android phone, the software will be very similar. This also means you’ll be able to use Samsung’s specific Android features such as the ability to run more than one app at the same time on the home screen.
In fact, Barnes & Noble’s branding is almost completely absent from the tablet. A giant widget showing your Nook Library sits on the home screen, with shortcuts to the Nook Shop, Nook Search, and Nook Today underneath, but everything else looks just like Samsung’s version of Android.
In short, you're just getting a regular Samsung Android tablet at a very cheap price.
The Galaxy Tab 4 Nook comes with the same faux-leather back you’ll find on Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 smartphone and features a 1280 x 800 resolution 7-inch display. You’ll get 8GB of storage space, which seems a little low for a device made for downloading books, movies, and TV shows, but it comes with a microSD card slot that offers up to 32GB of additional space.
As a bonus, Barnes & Noble also throws in $200 in free goodies from its Nook Shop, which include an episode of the HBO show "Veep," books like “I Am Number Four” and “Freakonomics” among other apps and games.
What It’s Like To Use It
Barnes & Noble is billing the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook as a family device that’s meant to be shared. You can create multiple user profiles that house apps, games, and books of your choosing, which is a nice perk for those who share their tablets with kids or younger siblings.
The owner of the tablet has a master profile that allows for access to all apps and data stored on the device. User profiles can be more restrictive, however. Each user profile is essentially its own ecosystem, so you’ll only have access to apps you’ve downloaded within that profile.
The Galaxy Tab 4 Nook’s screen isn’t as sharp as some competing products, but it’s certainly clear and bright enough for easy viewing. When I read “I Am Number Four” on my commute home, text appeared crisp against the clean white background. For the price you’re paying the screen is perfectly fine, but I did notice that it picks up a noticeable amount of glare.
My biggest problem with the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook, however, is that it seemed a bit slow. There were a few occasions where I noticed a delayed response after pressing the home button. The screen also appeared to be too sensitive at times. If I tilted the tablet slightly while shuffling in my seat on the train, the screen would change or scroll. This isn’t a major issue, but it could cause you to lose your place while reading.
You won’t have to worry about sticking near an outlet when using the Galaxy Tab Nook 4. After nearly two days of light to medium usage with the screen at its brightest, the battery dwindled down to 15%.
Granted, this is subject to change depending on how you use the tablet. If you spend an hour tearing through an entire novel with the screen brightness turned up high, the battery will obviously burn out more quickly. But if you’re more of a casual reader and occasionally use your tablet to play games and watch TV shows, you’ll probably get about 1.5-2 days out of it.
If you need an affordable tablet to entertain the kids and get some light reading done, the $179 Galaxy Tab 4 Nook won’t disappoint. The ability to create multiple user profiles makes it easy to share, and access to both the Google Play Store and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Shop is a definite plus.
But it’s far from being the best tablet you can buy. Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX tablets, which are also pretty affordable starting at $229, come with a much sharper display, a design that’s just more premium and polished overall, and access to Amazon’s Mayday support feature (Barnes & Noble offers on-site tech support) and other goodies. But you don’t get access to the Google Play Store, which is one area where the Nook excels.
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