These days, the holiday season is a great time to get all the newest gadgets at a price you can afford. Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the inevitable sales that follow bring costs down, while developers and manufacturers hurry to get their new toys on the shelf before the new year has time to sneak up on them. However, just because the winter holidays make this the season for a great deal of new tech releases doesn’t mean that you won’t find great new tech released earlier in the year.
One of these solid little gadgets is Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK, released in August as a joint venture with Barnes & Noble. Upon initial release, the tablet reader hybrid received mixed reviews: CNet’s Nate Ralph called the device “perfectly decent,” noting mild appreciation for the fact that, unlike previous NOOK devices, this one comes with all the standard tablet features. However, running Android 4.4 and the ability to access Google Play on an eReader weren’t enough to completely win over most reviewers. It’s been a few months now, and the strengths of the device have really started to show through; while this might not be a showstopper, it is definitely a gadget worth checking out this holiday season, if only for a few specific reasons.
1. NOOK Specific Apps
The Tab 4 NOOK comes with a handful of NOOK apps that make using it feel much more like an eReader than a tablet, while still allowing access to other Android tablet features.
There are seven NOOK apps included: Library, Shop, Search, Today, Highlights, Settings, and Apps.
While the majority of these apps are fairly self-explanatory, NOOK today is worth checking out in detail. This app keeps track of the books you buy and read in order to make more appropriate suggestions to add to your library, allowing you to settle into your favorite niche genre more easily. Since it updates daily, you don’t have to worry about seeing the same recommended item in your queue for weeks.
2. Goodies from Barnes & Noble
On top of the NOOK apps, the Tab 4 NOOK also comes pre-loaded with about $200 in goodies. That includes copies of popular books like YA hit The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, episodes of top-rated TV shows like NBC’s Hannibal, and full one-year trial subscriptions to magazines like National Geographic. On that note, PCmag.com reported a new “article view” feature when reading magazines that removes pictures and colorful headlines, allowing readers to focus on the article content, which could be considered a goodie all to itself for anyone who has ever struggled with layout and scaling in eReader magazine rendering.
3. Size and Strength
With a 7-inch screen, this is a smaller tablet, meaning it’s absolutely going to weigh less and take up less space in your purse, briefcase or laptop bag than the larger competitors. However, the Tab 4 NOOK doesn’t sacrifice much at the smaller size. Engadget’s tech review reports that even with the backlight turned down to 50 percent brightness to conserve battery power, there shouldn’t be a problem using this device in direct light. The 216ppi screen density isn’t exactly stellar, but the display is still fairly crisp and sized well at a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels.
4. Battery Life
According to LaptopMag.com, the Tab 4 NOOK’s battery life is more than two hours greater than the average for eReaders and tablets of its size, clocking in just under 11 hours where the average barely breaks eight and a half; in fact, it has more than three hours more battery life than its closest competitor, Amazon’s power-guzzling HD Fire 7, which came in dead last with barely seven and a half hours’ worth of power. A couple hours may not seem like a huge difference at first, but for anyone who travels—especially during the holidays—two hours could mean the difference between a comfortable 10 hour ride home and suffering two or three hours of grueling road-induced torture at the end.
5. Affordability and Application
At first glance competing devices do seem to run lower in initial cost, but these devices can’t boast the same high battery life, convenient size and other features of the Tab 4 NOOK. Features like these make this a great device for the price. Since the Tab 4 NOOK runs a fully intact Android OS, this eReader also allows users to utilize it for more than just reading—and because it’s a Samsung device, it can run two apps side by side on the same screen. The ability to read a book on one side and take notes on the other could make this the perfect gift for college students who don’t want to carry around a larger tablet or laptop between classes.
Make Your List
While your choice of new eReader is entirely up to you, these features make the Tab 4 NOOK hard to beat when it comes to gift-worthy gadgets this holiday season. Establishing what you or a loved one needs from a tablet or eReader before making the purchase is the best place to start; if you really need that super-crisp HD display then this isn’t the one for you, but most users find that this is one device that both meets and exceeds their electronic needs. Keep an eye out for dropping prices as the holidays creep closer, and find the device that works best for you.