The new Nook comes in smaller and lighter than the previous Nook and features a touch screen using IR sensors – similar to those found in the Sony Readers and Kobo. This means it doesn’t have a touch layer on top of the screen. Again it uses the popular Pearl e-Ink technology and is on a par with the Kindle in that respect.
It’s slightly wider than the Kindle and other eReaders, but it does fit nicely in the hand. It has a rubberised finish back and front and is fairly durable. It features a large Power Button on the back and a micro USB slot on the bottom. Along the side is an expansion port to upgrade the memory (32 GB max) from the standard 2 GB. The front of the device features 2 long page turn buttons on each side which blend in well with the device. You can configure the top to be page forward or back and the same on the bottom of the button. Also along the front is the only other button – the Nook button. This brings up a menu of 5 items along the button where you can access everything from.
As mentioned earlier the screen uses Pearl eInk technology and IR technology for the touch screen. As with all eInk technology there is still that kind of photo negative look when turning pages (but this only happens when it refreshes every 6 pages), it is less noticeable on this device as the page turns are faster than on other eReaders including the new Kindles. Again the advantage of this technology is battery life and the fact you can read it in direct sunlight. Reading indoors you will need additional lighting if the room is dark and at night.
The Nook Simple Touch runs on Android 2.1, but you can’t download apps. It looks quite similar to it’s bigger brother, the Nook Color, but doesn’t have quite as many features. The Nook button brings up a horizontal menu along the button which features the options: Home, Library, Shop, Search and Settings. The home screen features your most recent book, new books you have just added and recommendations. You can access your recent book from here by touching the book symbol and you can also share it with your Google contacts, Facebook and Twitter friends. You can also lend your book to your Barnes & Noble friends list also.
The Library option uses a file system which lists your Books, Newsstand, LendMe etc as well as a My Docs folder. You can also create your own lists and put your books in there. You can choose to list your books as graphical book covers or by a list view. To scroll up and down there is an Up Arrow and Down Arrow at the buttom of the page. There is also a refresh button if you have just downloaded a book so it can then show up. The Archive option is if you have just downloaded a sample chapter and don’t want it showing in your library. You can’t actually delete a book from here without connecting it to your computer to do so.
To turn pages you can either use the 2 buttons on either side of the screen or your your finger to swipe. Like the Nook Color if you click in the middle of the screen when reading you bring up a menu along the bottom so you can interact with the book more fully. You have: table of Contents, Find, Go to, Text and More options. The text option is particularly good in that it features a number of fonts and sizes as well as options for spacing and margins. Changing text is very quick and this is due to the fast CPU the Nook has. To access the Dictionary just hold down on the word, you can also highlight the word or a note at this point. Adding a note brings up a keyboard that’s very nice to use and there’s no ghosting or refreshing when typing either.
Using the shop function takes you to the Barnes and Noble shop where you have just about the largest bookstore in the World. As well as using Barnes and Noble’s bookstore you can also use Sony’s and Kobo’s as well getting free public books and borrowing books from Libraries. The front page of the Shop features a Browse options for books, magazines and newspapers, Popular Lists eg. B & N Top 100 and NY Times Bestsellers and at the bottom of the page any Current Deals. Clicking on a book gives you the option to Buy, Download a free sample, Read an overview, Read reviews, see Related Titles or Share. One good feature is if you have subscribed to a magazine or periodical and then cancel you can still download back issues which were available before the cancellation date, this is not something you can do with Amazon
The Search option is to search on the device and it is also where you can launch the web browser from by typing in the URL. Not sure why it is kind of hidden, but it’s not something Barnes and Noble talks about and to be honest it is only something I’d use for very basic surfing. There’s no functions like Landscape and it isn’t that easy to navigate around the page or zoom. Sometimes it will zoom and other times it won’t.
The pdf reader on here isn’t great especially when compared to the Nook Color. There is no zoom and changing text size can ruin the format. You also can’t put it into Landscape mode. It is OK for reading books in pdf format (although not as good as in EPUB format), but for technical books with illustrations or textbooks it doesn’t quite cut it.
The main omission is any audio functions. That means you won’t be able to read audio books on here or download and listen to music. There’s no video player or games on here either.
Battery & Memory
Barnes & Noble quote a similar battery life to that of the Kindle of 2 months. This however assumes that Wi-Fi is turned off and you only use the device for reading 30 minutes per day. In real life use we found that the battery lasted around 3 – 4 weeks, which is still good and on a par with the Kindle. Charging is a bit quicker coming in at 3.5 hours for a full charge compared to 4.5 hours for the Kindle. You can charge from your computer via the USB cable or from the power supply (not supplied).
The Nook Touch has 2GB as standard and this can be upgraded via a micro SD slot up to an additional 32GB.
Like the Nook Color, the Simple touch is a Wi-Fi only device. It is still very fast though and web surfing and downloading books especially is quick. It seemed to be quickest out of all eReaders I have tested. Again there is free Wi-Fi at all Barnes & Noble bookstores.
Prompted no doubt by the introduction of new cheaper Kindles, Barnes & Noble have very recently cut the price of the Nook Simple Touch to a very reasonable $99.00 bringing it head to head with the Kindle.
UPDATE: Amazon now offer the Nook for $85.24 which is almost $14 cheaper than Barnes & Noble.
The recent price cut makes this eReader one that everyone should have on their radar. While overall I marginally prefer the Kindle Touch, this comes a very close second. The lack of audio is the only glaring omission, but the user interface and speed make it a pleasure to use and as an eReader it is right up there.