Review - Barnes & Noble Nook Firmware v1.5

by Aaron 18. December 2010 00:20

My conclusion on the recent (November 2010) Nook update: kick-ass!

I was pretty excited when I got the email saying that the update was available.  I didn't know what to expect.  Faster page turns.  How much faster?  Other stuff.  What other stuff?

The Good

There are several features that I think are great in this most recent update.  The first is faster page turns.  I decided to do a little timing to do a comparison.  The old firmware for Nook had page turns at 2 Mississippis.  It was consistently 2 Mississippis.  I updated the Nook.  After it booted up, I opened the book I was reading.  I turned the page...2 Mississippis.  I was pissed, but of course, you have to try things multiple times to get a real sampling.

The second page turn wasn't lightning fast, but it was fast.  It took half the time to change pages.  That's right, it was a single Mississippi.  Reading a book became a little difficult for a couple of nights because my habit was to press the button to change pages before I got to the end of the last sentence.  The page would change as I was finishing the sentence and I could shift my consuming gaze to the top of the page and continue on with little interruption.  Now though...I had to go BACK multiple times because I missed the last few words of the page.  Of course I've adjusted, and I love it.  Quick response.  Well done Barnes & Noble.

Also in the update, you can now organize your books with a virtual bookshelf.  I like this because now I can organize things in such a way that keep my professional books separated from my murder mystery novels which are also separated from my fantasy fiction novels.  I see that look on your face.  Don't judge me.

Finally, of the features that I've noticed and care about, there's an online sync for your books.  The one thing that I know about is syncing the page that you're on so when you go to another device, you can pick up where you left off.  I believe this is a feature that the Kindle has had for a while.  I don't know, but I hope that it syncs bookmarks and notes as well.  I'll look into whether or not those features sync if I ever use them.

To use the syncing capability, you have to have a network connection.  That means that if you typically use your Nook in airplane mode to conserve battery (like I do), then you have to enable wi-fi.  That leads me to the first thing I don't like.

The Bad

One of my gripes was that it's not easy to enable wi-fi.  I would like to do it from anywhere so that now I can sync my page number.  I don't want to go to the home screen, w-fi, then enable wi-fi.  I want to get to that wi-fi menu from anywhere.  I still can't, and it bugs the crap out of me.  Fortunately, one of the issues I always had is that it wouldn't enable wi-fi easily when going to the store.  It seems to connect to wi-fi more readily now.  But I still have to go through all the steps of putting it in airplane mode.  Not a fan of the number of steps here.

My second gripe is the on-screen keyboard.  It's still slow.  A handful of keys into typing, I see the letters start popping up, and I have to wait to make sure I didn't fat finger anything.

My third gripe is the web browser.  It's no longer beta (hurray?), but I still find it rather pointless.  Again, it chews through battery life, it's still black and white, and it's still slow.  I would be just as happy if it didn't exist on my Nook.


I already said it: kick-ass!  The Nook was already a worthy competitor to the Kindle.  Now with the most recent firmware update, it's a more worthy competitor.

It's not perfect, nor will it ever be.  I'm one of those people that nothing is ever perfect.  I'm not perfect either, so don't think I'm elevating myself to a higher plane of existence here.  Back to my point though, it's good enough.  Good enough for who?  Or is it "good enough for whom?"  Me.  And probably you.  And probably most people that are interested in an ebook reader.

So, if you're still wondering if you should get a Nook, go to Barnes & Noble, play with the Nook, listen to the sales pitch, and decide for yourself.

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Review - Barnes and Noble Nook

by Aaron 24. October 2010 07:46

This year for Sarah's 3rd 29th birthday (yes, I said that correctly), I bought her a Nook.  I got her the 3G version instead of just the wi-fi version.  While I have a rooted Android phone that I can use for a mi-fi, she doesn't and wouldn't know how to.  I wanted her to be able to connect and get a book wherever she was regardless of wi-fi.  Several weeks later I bought myself the wi-fi version.

We went all out getting the screen protectors and covers for them.  The screen protector seems kinda pointless now that I don't touch the reader screen anymore, but the cover is great.  If I had to do it again, I wouldn't bother with the screen protectors (about $20), but I definitely would want the cover still.

I've been using my Nook for several weeks now.  At first I had a "meh" attitude about it.  Now though, I think it's great.  Let me tell you about the things I like and those things that I don't like.

The Good

Let's start with the good.  I love the screen itself.  I tend to read in low-light situations so that I don't bother Sarah anymore than necessary with my light while I'm reading.  This screen is great in low light situations.  It's noticeably better than actual paper itself.

I like holding it versus a real book.  A real book, the pages sometimes slip from my finger causing a reading distraction.  There are no pages on this!  No distraction.  I also don't feel nervous about breaking the spine on it.  There is no spine!

I should follow that up with one of my obsessive issues: I do my best to keep my books looking new.  I don't dog-ear the pages, I don't bend the spine so much that it'll break it.  I try not to get water or dirt, or oil on the pages.  I wouldn't even write or highlight in my college textbooks.  I don't have any of these worries with the Nook.

The touch screen is nice.  It's small and not obtrusive.  It turns off after a few minutes so that I don't get the glare when I'm reading.  It's in color.

Getting new books is a breeze!  You can either do it from the comfort of your Nook, or you can buy it online and begin reading it on the Nook.  The phone apps integrate with your online library so you can use your phone to read your library too.

There's a lending feature available.  It's a bit limited, and only available for books that the publisher give the OK.  But, this feature allows you to check out books from the public library.  The library here in Columbus, OH allows members to download books and put them on their Nook.

The Bad

There are a few things that I don't care for with the Nook.  I'm going to preface this part with: there's an update coming that will improve some of the things I'm griping about.  More of that later.  First off, turning pages is a little slow.  I don't really notice it anymore, but I still try to time hitting the next page button a few words before the end of the current page so I can move to the top with very little "interruption".

The search feature sucks.  It's slow, and it's like Notepad: goes to each instance of the word as you find next or previous.  It doesn't give you a listing/summary of instances of the search terms found.  You also can only search in the current book, and not through the entire library.  I understand some of the issues that the developers might encounter with a library search, so I can live with this.

There's a web browser.  It's kinda cool, but really: why?  It's slow.  It renders black and white, except for the touch screen area.  It chews through the battery life quickly.  It serves very little purpose.

I would like to be able to turn airplane mode on and off more easily.  Right now, I have to go out to the main menu, into the Wifi menu, and then back out after toggling airplane mode.  I want airplane mode on except when I need to do something online (download or buy a book).  That's not very often because I'm a slow reader.

The on-screen keyboard is slow!  I can't emphasize that enough.  I'll type half a dozen characters, look at the screen, and I'll see them render one about every second or two.  That kind of thing makes me appreciate the physical keyboard on the Kindle and hate touchscreen keyboards more than I already do.

The Awesome

November is going to be an awesome month!  A new season of Burn Notice starting.  A new season of Psych is starting.  And the Nook is getting an update!

Like I mentioned, some of my complaints are being remedied.  Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of details on the improvements themselves, I just know that page turns will be faster, and the search will be improved.  Two things that I really want!  I hope the keyboard works better too.  We'll see though.


I don't want anybody to think that the Kindle is a bad choice.  I personally find the Kindle to be a nice device.  I don't like having a physical keyboard always around.  I would prefer if it slid out or something.  The screen and features are very comparable, and at least the search works on the Kindle in a manner that I find acceptable.

I made my decision based on two things: I didn't have to buy it online, and word of mouth.  People that I know that have both devices prefer their Nook.  At the time that we bought our Nooks, the Kindle wasn't available in local stores.  We were able to go to Barnes and Noble and play with the Nook.  We didn't have to go to a friend's house to check it out, or hope that the information online was enough to base our decision on.

Of course now the Kindle can be purchased at local stores, and you can check it out in person.  Too late!  We already made our choice, and we're both very happy.

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