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Barnes & Noble's Nook (starting at $99, Amazon) has stood in the Kindle's shadow since the first Nook was released. Nook reviews have long been positive, but the experts almost always seemed to prefer the Kindle a little more. The current "all new" second generation Nook has had a perceptible effect on reviewers' hearts and minds. It earned the Editors' Choice award from PC Mag, whose June 2011 review says this is the ereader to buy. A review on CNET is similarly enthusiastic and considers it a big step up from the original. In particular, Nook reviews rave about the excellent E Ink Pearl touchscreen, which they describe as responsive and fast. Moreover, the display looks crisp and bright and is easily readable in broad daylight. Experts laud the intuitive navigation -- tap here, swipe there -- along with the effortless and pleasurable reading experience. The refresh rate is about every five pages, according to Nook reviews, so there's minimal flashing; in between, pages seem to fade out and in when turned. Reviewers also appreciate the access to more than two million titles (e-versions of books, magazines, and newspapers) available at the Barnes & Noble digital bookstore, the ability to purchase and download via Wi-Fi in well under a minute, and the social networking apps that let users share lists and recommendations through Twitter and Facebook, and also lend some titles for a limited period.
Nitpicks are few. There's no 3G or audio, for example, and PC World laments the omission of support for a Web browser and email.
The Nook uses a six-inch touchscreen that incorporates the highly-regarded E Ink Pearl display. Users can choose among seven font sizes, set margins and line spacing, and load an image of their choosing to serve as a screen saver. It features 2GB of onboard storage plus a microSD card slot for expanded memory. The device weighs 7.5 ounces and is small and slim enough to fit into some pockets while also fitting comfortably in the hand. The Nook offers seven font sizes and supports the popular EPUB, PDF, Adobe DRM formats and JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP files; if your library participates, you can download ebooks directly. Battery life is rated at two months if Wi-Fi is turned off and three weeks when it's on.
The latest Nook is perhaps the first ebook reader to give the Kindle a serious run for its money. Reviewers assert it hangs with the Amazon competition and in some ways even surpasses it. The Nook's support of the widely popular EPUB format is the biggest advantage, and the touchscreen functionality beats out the current line of Kindles' button-driven design. This is a device that won't disappoint.