Last year, when Barnes & Noble announced that Google Play would be available on the Nook HD and HD+, I ran out to buy an HD. I’d loved the form factor and screen resolution, but the lack of a proper app store had been a problem. Almost a year later, especially after upgrading my Nexus 7 to KitKat, I’ve realized how long in the tooth is Ice Cream Sandwich. I had toyed with flashing my HD to run KitKat, but I hesitated to lose the stock reader. Then I saw that N2A supported KitKat.

I’d had an N2A card on my old Nook Color and had liked the concept, but I hadn’t liked Gingerbread (which was all the cards supported at the time). However, I knew the product was solid, and I was willing to give it a try. Yes, I know I could have made my own dual boot card, but I’m willing to spend a bit of money to avoid hassle. I went for the 16GB version to make sure I had plenty of storage.

They’ve upped their professionalism since the early days. My first N2A card came in, if I remember correctly, a tiny plastic bag. This presentation is lots better.

n2a card for kitkat on nook hd

Setting it up is simple. In fact, the hardest part of the process is opening the micro SD slot on the device. You turn off your Nook, open the slot, insert the card and turn on the tablet. The first boot takes a while as it configures everything, but it gets lots faster after that. When it’s finished configuring, log on to your wireless network, activate your Google account, and you’re in business.

Mostly. Have you ever restored an Android device after, say, a factory reset, and waited while all the apps reloaded and updated? It takes a while, and, in my experience, doesn’t go smoothly. Some app will get stuck, and I have to stop and start all over again. Annoying! That’s pretty much what happened when I booted the N2A card for the first time. It took about an hour, but I finally got everything sorted and the apps I wanted loaded. If you’re fairly new to Google Play, this won’t be a problem.

What loads up is a clean version of KitKat, which I like. I’ll probably never buy a Samsung device because of all the extra stuff they load it down with. Here’s my current home screen, not too cluttered.

The clock and weather widget was pre-loaded, and I like it so far. However, it is big, and I’ll delete it if gets on my nerves.

Switching back and forth between stock and KitKat is easy. Just reboot the tablet and hold down the “n” button at the bottom of the device. Fair warning. You need to react quickly. The boot loader doesn’t give you much time after they prompt you. And when they say “hold,” they mean it. You’ll need to hold it longer than you think, but if you do it right, you’ll get a menu where you can select N2A or Nook. If you don’t press the button in time, the device will default to N2A.

One interesting note. I’ve noticed that KitKat takes longer to boot on my Nexus 7 than Jelly Bean did. I wasn’t sure if it was the OS or the device. Now I know. It’s the OS. My Nook takes just as long, and that is annoying, but I’m used to it.

I’ve had the card for about a day now, and so far I think it was worth it. It’s not as fast as my Nexus 7, but I wouldn’t expect it to be. It’s not quite as responsive as stock Nook, but I don’t generally run high-performance apps. It’s locked up on me once, and I had to reboot, twice, to get it to work again. (The first boot went straight to Nook, but it worked the second time.) My Nexus 7 and iPad both crash occasionally too, so one crash doesn’t worry me. My early suspicion is that the battery drain is worse than my Nexus 7 (which makes it lots worse than Nook stock), but it could just be that I’m using it lots as I’m setting it up. I’ll fiddle with settings to see if I can improve that.

My next test is to use it as my sole Android device for a week. I’d say sole tablet, but there are things I need my iPad for. I’ll use the Nook for as much as I can to give it a fair test. So look for an update in about a week.

If there’s anything you want me to try or test, leave it in the comments, and I’ll do my best.