Barnes & Noble waving white flag in tablet war
It’s a sad day for fans of Nook tablets — Barnes & Noble has announced it will cease manufacturing color tablets because the company is losing a lot of money on them.
It’s no secret that Barnes & Noble has been getting its teeth kicked in by the Amazon Kindle Fire since the Nook Tablet was released in 2011. How badly has Barnes & Noble fared in the tablet market? The company posted a loss of $222 million for fiscal 2013 as its current lineup of tablets — the Nook HD and Nook HD+ — sat on the shelves as people ran to grab low-priced offerings such as the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, the Apple iPad Mini and the Google Nexus 7.
Barnes & Noble will keep manufacturing its black and white Nook readers, but it appears the company will outsource the development of color tablets to third party manufacturers.
While that’s not exactly good news for either Barnes & Noble or those of us who are fans of Nook tablets, there’s a silver lining here — Barnes & Noble is severely discounting both the Nook HD and the HD+ through the holidays and that means you can pick up a great, Android-based tablet for cheap.
How cheap? The Nook Website is advertising the 7″ Nook HD starting at $129 and the 9″ Nook HD+ starting at $149. Those prices are for the 8GB HD and the 16GB HD+ and you’ll pay a bit more for higher capacity models — $149 for an HD and $179 for a Nook HD+. Bear in mind the HD originally retailed starting at $199 and the HD+ started at $269. If you buy one of those tablets online, Barnes & Noble will throw in free shipping. Again, the link is here — click it fast because you’ll want one of these. Heck, go with the lowest price models because both the HD and the HD+ come with SD card slots so you can add more memory.
Why would you want a tablet that’s on the verge of being discontinued? For one thing, there’s the price — a 7″ Kindle Fire HD costs $199 while the 8.9″ Kindle Fire HD 8.9 costs $269.
Second, you’re simply not going to find a tablet with the specs the Nook ones do for such low prices. The HD comes with 1 GB of RAM, a screen resolution of 1440×900 @ 243ppi (points per inch) and a dual core CPU cruising along at 1.3 GHz. The HD+ has a dual core CPU running at 1.5 GHz and a screen resolution is 1920×1280 at 257ppi. Both the HD and HD+ come with a heavily customized version of Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich).
Third, the Barnes & Noble app store has always been terrible, but the company granted access to the Google Play store — and its 700,000 apps and games — back in May. Add access to that store with the fact that Barnes & Noble has a great selection of books and such available for the Nook and you’ve got an outstanding combination. Even if Barnes & Noble was to stop supporting Nook tablets in any shape, form or fashion, users would still be able to get all the content they wanted through Google Play.
So, you’ve got low prices, hardware specs that are outstanding and a tablet that can take advantage of plenty of Android apps.
Of course, what you don’t get are any cameras on the Nooks, but that might not be a big deal for most people (it’s not for me — I’ve got a smartphone and it’s infinitely more portable than my 9″ Nook HD+). You also don’t get the latest version of Android — 4.2, or Jelly Bean.
For those who want the latest and greatest version of Android, there are ways to get it. AndroidForNook.com, for example, sells an SD card for $19.99 that will allow you to “dual boot” your Nook — you can run the tablet stock or choose to run Jelly Bean. There are also ways out there to root the tablets and replace their stock ROMs entirely with Android 4.2 and you can find instructions on how to start that process here. We’re talking about the CM10.1 from XDA-Developers — a group that’s known for ways to root Android tablets that work well. Here’s a word of caution, however — fooling around with rooting a tablet could result in a tablet that doesn’t work. If you go that route, make sure to backup your stock ROM entirely in case you have to restore it later. Frankly, I’m happy with Ice Cream Sandwich and the Google Play store, but some people will want to get the latest version of Google Android on their Nooks. Still, be careful and do some research before replacing your stock ROM or you may regret it.
Frankly, I’ve been happy with my 32GB Nook HD+ since I picked it up in December for around $300. I don’t regret the purchase a bit. Why? The hardware is fantastic and the 9″ screen is one of the best out there. I stream Netflix to it, read books on it, watch movies I’ve ripped to my SD card with it and, yes, play a game or two. The fact the HD+ can be had for half of what I paid for mine amounts to a heck of a deal for anyone wanting a great tablet that doesn’t cost much.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.