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Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ video review - 9in tablet with a stunning display

The Nook HD+ is a 9in tablet with a stunning full HD screen. It's thin and fairly light at just over 500g and, like Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets, it runs a heavily customised version of Google Android.

The Nook HD+ differs from the Barnes & Noble Nook HD by having a 9-inch rather than a 7-inch screen. The soft rubber back makes the tablet comfortable to hold either way round. The screen's Full HD 1920x1080 resolution is a joy to behold. Everything looks sharp and detailed, and as it's an IPS panel, viewing angles are excellent. Films and TV shows look great, and reading a book or magazine is just about the nicest experience short of the 'real' printed versions.

Nook HD+ video review: Software

Although the Nook's operating system looks nothing like Android, it's easy to use and lets you create separate user accounts which can be password-protected. There are good parental controls too, and you can choose exactly which books, apps, games and websites your kids can access.

When it originally launched, both Nook HD tablets were locked into Barnes & Noble's world, so if you wanted to install an app, buy a book or subscribe to a magazine or newspaper, it had to be from the Nook store.

However, Barnes & Noble has opened a gate in its walled garden and allowed the Google Play store in. That means you now have access to a huge range of apps and games, just as on any Android tablet. In Google Play you can also buy films, music and magazines.

Another change is that the old web browser has been replaced by Google Chrome. If you use Chrome on your PC, it means you can easily sync bookmarks, logins and more. Browsing is zippy enough but gone is support for Flash so you end up with the same issues as the iPad (although you could install a different browser from Google Play). You also get Gmail, YouTube Google Maps apps pre-loaded.

One thing that hasn't changed is the lack of an option to install apps from other sources, so there's no side-loading of apps from, say, Amazon's App Store.

Nook HD+ video review: design and build

Amazon's Kindle HD 8.9 is the Nook HD+'s closest rival but its dark interface looks cheerless by comparison. Both tablets lack a camera, so you can't use their big screens for Skype video calls. There's no GPS built in either, but Bluetooth means you can add wireless accessories such as keyboards and speakers.

The HD+ is designed to be used portrait, and has a volume rocker and headphone socket on the top edge. A sleep/wake button is on the right-hand side and you'll find a proprietary dock connector and a useful micro SD card slot on the bottom edge to add up to 32GB to the 16 or 32GB internal storage. You won't find a card slot on Amazon or Google tablets.

It's a shame there's not a standard micro USB port nor HDMI output. On the back is a mono speaker and the strange hole serves no purpose at all.

Nook HD+ video review: performance and battery life

With a fast dual-core processor, the HD+ should be as slick and fluid as the best tablets. Our benchmarks threw up no worrying results, but in use, the Nook was sometimes slow to respond, whether loading an app or just navigating through menus. Animations, such as the carousel of recent apps and content, also stutters from time to time.

Nook HD+ video review: verdict

Chances are, you're choosing between the Nook HD+, Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 and possibly an iPad mini. The iPad is perhaps the easiest to dismiss. It's more expensive, has a much lower resolution screen and a new version is surely on the cards in the not too distant future.

The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 starts at £229, but you can't add storage and you have to pay extra if you want a mains charger and don't want lock-screen adverts. You're also locked into Amazon's walled garden, with no access to Google Play. That leaves the Nook HD+ in pretty good shape especially since - at the time of review - the 16GB model cost a trifling £179, and doubling internal storage to 32GB would give you change from £200. The lack of cameras will be a turn off for some but despite this and the stuttery interface, the HD+ is easy to recommend.

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