That was the e-book reader I've been wanting since it was announced. And that's after I picked up my Sony Reader PRS-505 (Red).
Unfortunately all the reviews that I read when it first came out were kinda negative. Granted, the secondary touch/LCD screen was definitely an improvement on the keyboard of the Kindle, but it was laggy and slow. Apparently it took a very long time to load books and even had loading screens when reading a book. There were even issues with downloading books and actually reading them. So I went ahead and put off the buy.
But since the new v1.2 firmware was released this week and it's said to address a lot issues I went to my local BN to try out their demo unit, and compare it to my Sony Reader.
Now my Sony Reader is offline, so obviously all of the online features are great with the Nook. Wireless over WiFi or free 3G access when buying books. Books are priced ok, at about $9.99 depending on the book.
Typing and doing searches was actually pretty easy. However, if you've had an iPhone and are used to snappy response times, you'll be a little disappointed. Everything works, but has this lag to it. However, once you get into the tempo of just a slight lag with things, it's actually not so bad. Slight pauses are something you get used to with e-book readers because of the e-ink screens.
So after using the Nook just for a few minutes, I found a few things rather annoying. Most of these, no one else will notice if you haven't had another ebook reader before, so it's probably a moot point.
The screen is your typical e-ink display, so there's a bit of a delay when turning pages, I was expecting that. But the way it updated bugged me for some reason. My Sony Reader basically blanks the screen and draws the new image. But the Nook does this weird shadow thing, where you see ghost images of what blanking and then the new image appears. The final page is rendered with no ghosting at all, but the transition really bugs me for some reason. I don't know if it's something I can eventually get used to or not. But again, you probably won't even notice it if this is your first e-book reader. One great thing about the screen was that it was very contrasty compared to my Sony. The blacks were blacker and according to the specs, it can support 16 shades of gray. The Sony only supports 8 shades. So if you decide to put manga or black and white images on your eBook reader, the images should look much better.
So for navigation, my Sony has 10 buttons on the side, so when you want to select an option, it's usually one of those buttons. The Nook uses the LCD touch screen on the bottom to navigate. So if you're trying to select the 10th item on the screen, you have to tap the "down" arrow 10 times to get there. But since the screen is slow to update it gets kind of tedious. And oh yah, if you hit the down arrow too fast, you overshoot the selection.
Also on my Sony, those 10 buttons are also numbers, so if I want to go to page 263, I just press those numbers and enter. On the Nook it seems that I can only jump to a certain chapter, not an exact page. That seems really odd to me. It's possible that I missed that option somehow.
Oh another gripe, especially if you've used the iPhone or a Android smartphone, where the touch screen is fast and accurate. Even with the new firmware, the screen still lags especially when you're trying to scroll. For instance, I would flick the screen to scroll to the bottom of the options and tap on the option I want, but the page would just jump back up and it would register me pressing a different option! This happened several of times while I was using the Nook demo unit, so this wasn't a random one off issue.
The UI on the Nook when reading a book is pretty logical, there are left and right buttons on both the left and right side of the device that you can press to turn pages, you can also swipe the LCD screen left and right to turn the page. That's very cool, I have to admit. It's just like turning a page in a real book! Ok, here it comes, the gripe. For some reason the plastic buttons just don't feel right. For me it seems I have to press harder then I have to, to get it to register that I pressed something. I also found it annoying that the top button is the page back button, and the bottom button is the next page button. When I was holding the Nook, my thumb naturally rested on the "back" button and it didn't feel natural to move my thumb down to press the "next" button. Again, this is just my personal opinion.
And finally, the build of the Nook. It has a plastic front and a rubbery back panel. It just didn't compare to the all metal and (shiny!) red metal construction of my Sony Reader. But then again I'm a sucker for Sony's hardware designs. Again, it's a matter of taste though. I have to admit, on cold nights, picking up this slab of metal can be a little bracing. LOL
So in a nutshell, although I think the Nook is one of the better, online ebook readers out there, head and shoulders above the Kindle, I'm going to go ahead and stick with my Sony Reader PRS-505. I like (or at least am used to) the UI, I love the all metal construction of the Sony, and I don't mind side loading my content vs downloading it over the air, which I admit, is awesome.
Sadly, the PRS-505 is discontinued, and they now offer the Reader Pocket and the Reader Touch. The Pocket is nice, small and cheap. However, Sony's decided to go with a plastic construction on the body. And there's no memory expansion at all. You're stuck with the 512megs of built in storage. That's probably fine for most people and e-books are small, so you can still store tons of them. But, I put a lot of manga on my 4gig SD card. But if you don't mind the memory limitation, for $170 retail, it's actually not bad, especially if you can get them on sale. The special pink, Valentine's edition is $130 at Fry's.
The Reader Touch is nice, but because of the touch screen, the screen isn't as contrasty and actually glares easily and the whole point of the e-book reader is the screen, and for $270 retail, you should spend less and get the Nook.
And the Sony Reader Daily? For $400 (yikes) you're better off waiting for the Apple iPad for $500, which does WAY more then just being an online e-book reader.
However, if you don't mind buying used or refurbed, try to get the Sony PRS-505. They are going for about $130 on eBay and I think that's the best option. Great screen, expandable via SD and a great metal body.
Oh, one final note. Barns and Noble freakin' lied about the Nook! One of the few things we trust from tech companies is that their specs are accurate. However, BN KNEW that they weren't and only admitted it when they were caught red headed. I'm almost willing to boycott the device just on this fact alone! *NERD RAGE!*