Review: Barnes & Noble’s GlowLight Nook Leaves Kindle Playing Catch-Up

The biggest complaint about eReaders since Day 1 has been the fact that you can’t read them in the dark.  Now, normally I’m the first to call out such complaints as poorly informed since they tend to involve comparisons between E Ink Kindles and LCD alternatives.  Apparently that will no longer be an important distinction soon.  The Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight has begun shipping ahead of schedule and should already be in the hands of many of the earliest preorder customers.

Now that there are actual devices available for review it is possible to make a more informed comparison.  We can start with the Nook Simple Touch that we already know and love.  The differences between the two models are minimal.  The new incarnation has a gray border around the outer edge of the device, but it is otherwise hard to tell them apart.  It apparently has an screen protector to reduce glare laminated to the display, but this does not reduce clarity in any significant way even in side by side comparisons.  There is no essential loss involved in the addition of the new technology.

What you gain by going with the GlowLight version of the Nook Simple Touch is fairly impressive.  Any other additions aside, the lighting feature is the important part.  It is not, as some have claimed, an example of back-lit E Ink.  The new Nook uses a type of LED-lit front-lighting to spread the illumination evenly without causing any significant increase in eye strain.  Unlike the situation for many reading on something like the Nook Tablet or Kindle Fire, there will be no noticeable discomfort due to the light even after hours of extended use.  It also does not drain the battery in a shocking fashion.  While I have not had a chance to map out the exact side by side comparisons in battery life with the original Nook Simple Touch, the drain from the GlowLight feature seems to pale in comparison to the WiFi connectivity that comes standard in every device.

There are downsides, as always, but in this case they are minimal.  The extra forty dollars added to a $99 eReader is a fairly big jump, but the expanded number of potential use environments will likely more than make up for that in the eyes of many.  There is currently no option to get this model with 3G connectivity or integrated audio.

The Kindle has a lot of catching up to do.  While they still have what is arguably the best eBook selection on the net, this development puts Amazon way behind in terms of hardware features.  Nothing that has happened since the release of E Ink Pearl has been more important to the development of the eReader as a product and we can only hope that Amazon gets their front-lit Kindle in production and ready for sale as soon as possible.  In the meantime, the Kindle might honestly not be the best option for new users regardless of how much nicer the integrated store is than the Nook’s.

3 thoughts on “Review: Barnes & Noble’s GlowLight Nook Leaves Kindle Playing Catch-Up”

  1. John Bonus,

    It sure seems that way for the moment. I make no secret of the fact that I like the Kindle, but when somebody else is doing the job better then they have my endorsement. Right now, Amazon is months behind on their eReader hardware.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. Here are my thoughts after a week with the device:

    This is the ereader fans of e-ink have been waiting for. Barnes & Noble has quietly been ahead of Amazon in both reader and tablet products for the past year or more, and the Nook Simple Touch GlowLight furthers that lead.

    The Nook in this form factor was released some 9 months before Amazon delivered the underwhelming Kindle Touch. An e-ink reader which fit your hand, contained hard page turn buttons, the same resolution screen as the Kindle but provided more font choices.

    Just last month Amazon announced they were trying to add a self-lit screen to their Kindle Touch. While Amazon is still in the R & D phase, Barnes & Noble has put a brilliant product in my hands. Kudos.

    The reason I held onto my Kindle 3 was because of the snazzy lit case, which was powered by a clever hinge off of the unit– no batteries! Amazon actually did worse with the Kindle touch, because the Kindle Touch is firmly snapped into the case, and it’s not easy to remove. Plus the shade in front of the lamp doesn’t extend enough, so you get blasted in the eyes if the Kindle isn’t angled properly with your eyes. The light the Nook Simple Touch– was even WORSE! You had to clip on a light, which required a battery! Double Boo!

    I pre-ordered the Kindle Touch the day it was announced. When it delivered in November 2011, I was anxious to see how Amazon countered the beautiful Simple Touch. I’d harbored severe gear envy for about a year– so Amazon surely wouldn’t let me down, right?

    Wrong. The Kindle Touch was– and is– a complete step backward for Amazon. Uninspired design cues– the asymmetric bezel looked awkward. The silver color of the bezel did little to make the screen pop. The screen itself was inset inexplicably 3/8 of an inch below the device surface. What gives? The bezel was sharp on the edge, causing your finger to get raw during extended reading sessions. The unit had a propensity to double turn pages, too. Plus, no additional fonts or software overhaul. I sent it back, hung on to my Kindle 3 and ordered the SimpleTouch when it went on sale for $79 dollars.

    Still I found myself back on my old Kindle 3 most of the time because of its thin profile and lit case. I still think it’s a better e-reader than the Kindle Touch.

    But the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight is a game-changer. The GlowLight is slick, but not distracting. It perfectly illuminates the page, without getting in the way or taking away from the material you’re reading. It’s everything you could want in an ereader. The only thing missing is 3G Wireless. I didn’t use it all that much on the Kindle– I use Calibre to load my Kindle and Nook. There’s a pleasant more intense glow along the top bezel, which sort of says, “Hey! The light is on!” but the illumination is even throughout the page.

    The rest of the device is just like the non-GlowLight Simple Touch, but with a bit faster performance. It’s an ergonomic wonder with its rubber coating and contoured back. It’s lightweight, and the battery lasts pretty much forever, just like the Kindle, even with the light on. B & N has hit a home run with this device. It’s perfect.

    I have a passion for e-readers because I love to read. This one device solves a long-standing problem with e-ink technology. Great in the daylight– out of luck in the dark. Those days are officially over.

    If you like e-ink as much as I do for reading– this is the device you’ve been waiting for.

    I don’t want to sound like a B&N shill, and this sorta does– But rest assured– if Amazon goes one better with its next release, I’ll be all over it, I promise. The reality is– for now– the best eReader just got a whole lot better.

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.