The budget tablet has evolved. 2010's Nook Color was a pioneering product, with Barnes & Noble using digital sales to subsidize the device. Last year, Amazon's Kindle Fire brought that same formula to a much wider audience. In 2012, though, Google and Asus upped the ante. The Nexus 7 has better hardware – and much better software – than we've seen in a cheap tablet.
Now old meets new. Barnes & Noble's tablets have improved each year, but they're still following the same formula. This holiday, it battles the Nexus 7: the first device of its kind that runs "real" Android. How does the Nook HD compare to the Nexus 7? Read on.
There aren't any dramatic differences here. The Nook HD is a bit shorter, wider, and thicker than the Nexus 7.
Neither tablet is heavy, but the Nook HD is 25 g lighter. This could come into play for lengthy one-handed use.
The Nook HD has a terrific display. Its 243 pixels per inch (PPI) aren't far from the 264 PPI in the iPad 3 and 4. Expect razor-sharp text and crisp images.
Performance won't be an issue on either tablet, but the Nook HD may have the slight advantage.
Both tablets sport 1 GB of random-access memory (RAM).
The base model of the Nook HD has less storage, but it can be expanded with a microSD card. The Nexus 7 can't.
If you want mobile data, the Nexus 7 is your only option.
Take these manufacturers' estimates with grains of salt, but the Nexus 7 should have the advantage. The Nook's lower-capacity battery is powering a display with over 270,000 more pixels.
Neither tablet has a rear camera, but the Nexus 7's front-facing shooter opens the door to video chat.
You can read all the specs that you want, but purchases often come down to those hard-to-define intangibles. Here the Nexus 7 has the clear advantage.
The Nook HD technically runs Android, but you wouldn't know it. It's buried beneath a Barnes & Noble storefront. It lets you buy Nook content, stream video from Netflix and Hulu Plus, and download third-party apps. That app library, though, is limited.
The Nexus 7, meanwhile, runs Android in its purest form. It ships with the latest version, 4.2 Jellybean. It will also receive future updates immediately.
The Nexus 7's Play Store is still light on dedicated tablet apps, but stretched-out phone apps are useable on a 7-inch display. Though it's imperfect, it's much more than you'll get from the Nook HD's app library.
Summing upThe Nook HD has an excellent display, but there's less to do with it. If you're content with B&N's limited app selection, you might appreciate those extra pixels. Readers will love it.
For anyone else, though, it's hard to recommend the Nook HD over the Nexus 7. For the same starting price, Google and Asus give you comparable hardware and much better software.
To see more options, you can check out our 2012 Tablet Comparison Guide.