Remember how I wrote back in May that if B&N released an amazing ereader it could have revitalized the Nook platform?
Apparently that idea didn't occur to B&N, because on Wednesday they are releasing a new Nook Glow that features a few anemic improvements but is lacking much of the hardware details that set it apart from the pack.
The new Nook Glow has an improved frontlight, a higher resolution 6" Pearl E-ink screen (1024 x 758), twice as much storage (4GB, with 2GB reserved for B&N content and 1.5GB taken up by software), and somewhat improved software. It's about an ounce lighter and it has the Regal screen refresh tech found on the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kobo Aura. B&N also talked up the improved fonts and tweaked reading app.
All in all, this would not have been a bad ereader - if B&N had released it last year. In fact, a release last Fall would have made up for all the hardware features that the new Nook Glow doesn't have.
The new Nook Glow is still running Android 2.1 and it has an 800 MHz CPU, which is underpowered in comparison to the 1GHz CPU found in the Aura, Aura HD, and the new Paperwhite. And to make matters worse, the new Nook Glowlight is missing the card slot and page turn buttons found on last year's model.
Oh, and it has a white shell which will attract fingerprints while making the E-ink screen look gray. This is the exact opposite of Amazon and Kobo, both of which went with a gray and then black shell because black makes the E-ink screen look whiter (this is ereader design 101).
Yes, Barnes & Noble has basically thrown away everything that made the Nook Glow special and better than its competition while at the same time releasing a device that is on par with what Amazon and Kobo released last year.
Folks, I know that some might say that it is unreasonable for me to expect a 6.8" Nook, but wouldn't that have been cool? Wouldn't it have been more exciting than this Nook Glow retread?
This isn't a device from a serious competitor; what we are looking at here is an example of B&N treading water. Stick a fork in B&N; they're done.
Update: I finally got my hands on the new Nook Glowlight.
Barnes & Noble launched their latest and meh-est ereader this morning, but I wasn't able to get my hands on it until this evening. I'm still not impressed, but I can say that I am no longer quite so as underwhelmed as I was before.
I caught up with the new Nook Glowlight in my local B&N store in Manassas VA. The staff didn't seem to give a damn about selling any ereaders, but at least they did have the new Nook Glowlight on display. Of course, they also had the wrong pamphlet and they had neglected to configure one of the display units, but at least the hardware was there.
I spent a good 20 plus minutes playing with the new device, and here's what I noticed. First, it readily passed the drop test. As you might recall the previous model had a fragile frontlight, but B&N has fixed the problem. The NGL2 also has a much more even frontlight, just like the press release said.
I then pulled out my KPW2 and compared the 2 devices. After comparing them from several angles I concluded that the KPW2 has a dimmer frontlight than the NGL2. I also noticed that the KPW2 was faster at turning the page - most of the time. There were times that the NGL2 was nearly as fast, but I could not see a pattern t explain why the difference was so inconsistent.
After that I went noodling around in the menus to see what I could do about the screen refresh. A number of commenters have called me out for dismissing the media claims that "B&N has axed full-page flashing in the new Nook", so I wanted to see just how true that was.
First, there's no way to alter the screen refresh settings on the NGL2 that I saw in my local store.
I didn't see any full page flash while reading (or any ghosting for that matter), but I did see it in the menus. While that does agree with what B&N said in the press release, it is a far cry from what the media is saying. It's also completely different from what B&N's defenders have written in the comments below.
Based on what I have seen, I think B&N is using the same Regal waveform tech found in the new Aura and the KPW2, only B&N has decided to take it to an extreme. Rather than minimize the full page flash, they disabled it when you are reading. Some people are going to like that, but I prefer the flash because it guarantees me a whiter screen.