Yesterday, I wrote about the Nook HD mostly from a stock OS perspective. But I know the question you really wanted to have answered was this: “Does it work as an Android tablet?”
After three days of using it, my answer is a cautious “yes.” Because I still don’t have a tablet case for it, I haven’t run it through a typical work day. However, from my use in the house over the weekend, I can tell you that it’s got potential.
Let’s start with what it can and can’t do.
Loading apps from Google Play is a breeze. When you install the update, it adds a bunch of Google apps to your Apps Library, including Google Play. You can open Google Play and install any apps you’ve previously purchased or purchase new apps, and they will download and appear in your Apps Library.
If you’ve downloaded the Nook version of a Google Play app, it will try to download the Play version, if it’s updated from the Nook version. Sometimes it does it automatically. Sometimes it pops up in Notifications and you have to update it manually. I haven’t found a pattern yet. Paid apps from the Nook store have so far been unaffected by this.
Let’s be clear about what the update does. It adds Google Play. It does not allow you to add apps from other sources. From what I read on other blogs, apparently there has been some confusion about this. So no side-loaded apps from APKs, including side-loading the Amazon App Store. If you have purchased lots of apps from Amazon, you’re not going to be able to load them on the Nook HD.
Not every Play app is compatible with the HD. My biggest disappointment so far has been Swype. It’s not HD-compatible. I’m testing Swiftkey as an alternative, but I find Swype much more intuitive and accurate for swipe entry. Swiftkey is excellent for tap entry, so we’ll see. Right now the biggest impediment to replacing my Nexus 7 with the HD is data entry.
Other than those shortcomings, the HD with Google Play is a serious Android tablet contender. It has most of the apps and features you’d want, including Bluetooth. I’ve never been successful at getting my keyboard paired with my Nexus 7, but it works fine with the HD. That just might allow me to live without Swype.
The HD is lacking a camera and GPS. Location services work through Wi-Fi, however, so you will get some location-based application, if that’s important to you. I’ve never used the camera on either my Nexus 7 or my iPad, so the lack of a camera doesn’t bother me at all.
I do miss my widgets, but if that becomes a problem, I can always install an alternate launcher. So far, I’m managing fine without them.
I have one more minor gripe. The screen of the HD is gorgeous to look at (I can see the difference from the Nexus 7), but it’s not as slick. I think it has some sort of anti-glare coating (not that I’ve noticed that), and a finger doesn’t slide as well over it as on my iPad or Nexus 7. A stylus, however, works just fine, and I’ve been tending to grab my stylus before doing much other than reading on it. I expect I’ll get used to it over time.
My conclusion? If you’ve been using something like a Nexus 7, and you’re used to certain things (like a camera or side-loading apps), you may find the HD a bit limiting. If the HD is your first tablet, you’ll never realize you’re missing anything.
If you’re primarily looking for a tablet as an entertainment device, it’s hard to go wrong with the HD, especially at the current sale price. If you have work functions that requite side-loading, true GPS, or some other feature the HD is missing, it’s not for you.
That said, I think the HD would satisfy at least 90 percent of people looking for a good budget tablet. Google Play access gives it more functionality than the Kindle Fire, and it’s easier to customize the Carousel to get rid of stuff you don’t want to see.
Here’s one last image. It is pretty cool to see the Amazon Kindle app in the Nook app library…
If you have any questions or anything you’d like me to try, feel free to let me know in the comments below. I’m delighted to have new things to play with or try out.