We haven't seen a new Barnes & Noble Nook tablet in a couple of years—but today, at an event in New York City's Union Square Barnes & Noble store, Samsung and B&N unveiled a new co-branded tablet: the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook. Mike Huseby, CEO of Barnes & Noble, called it "the first full-featured Android tablet optimized for reading."
That optimization essentially takes the form of Barnes & Noble's Nook software, which is a skin over the conventional interface of a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4. (in our lab tests, that tablet had a longer battery life than most, and very good display quality). The 8GB, 7-inch device, which comes in black or white, features a "Nook Library" widget on the home screen that shows your recent or favorite content and a convenient shopping window. Three Nook app icons also show up on the home screen: Nook Shop, Nook Search, and Nook Today, for new-content discovery and purchase. A small book button in the lower left corner takes you to the e-book you're currently reading.
We took a quick look at a conventional Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 with the Nook app loaded, to compare that with the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook. The hardware looks identical, although the Nook tablet comes with a longer cord—convenient for those who don't want the battery to drain while they're reading. We thought that the integrated software on the new Nook provided a richer, more coherent experience than using the Nook app on the standard Tab 4. And the Nook version leaves nothing out of the standard Tab 4, save for Samsung's animated screen-savers and a kids'-mode app
For families: You can create up to six individual user profiles. Kids' profiles can be restricted as to which apps and content they can access and whether they can go online. (You need to create a screen lock, but kids can get to their own profiles without unlocking the screen.)
Both Samsung and B&N stressed their focus on customer service, which is available to buyers in stores for the life of their device. By contrast, Amazon offers Mayday—instant video connection with a customer service rep—on its Kindle Fire tablets.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook is on sale today in stores and online, for $200 (which drops to $180 after a $20 instant rebate). $200 worth of content comes with the tablet—e-books, including "Freakanomics"; single episodes of TV shows; and a load of magazines. You also get a $5 Nook store credit to kick off your virtual shopping spree.