The Nook GlowLight comes to the UK TODAY – here’s our review!

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The name “Kindle” has become almost synonymous with e-book readers, but Amazon’s device isn’t the only game in town. Kobo has been around for some time now and now Barnes and Noble is back with its latest device: The Nook GlowLight. But does it deserve a glowing review? Read on to find out.

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The Hardware

The Glowlight is slightly shorter than a Kindle Paperwhite – coming in at 6.5”x5”x0.42” – and slightly lighter too at 175g (15% lighter, I’m told). The build quality feels good – though much like the Kindle Paperwhite, I wouldn’t want to bash it about.

Thanks to the E-Ink screen, the device is visible from plenty of angles – just a like a real book. Apparently it can display 16 different levels of grayscale – so despite the screen (literally) having one million times fewer colours than, say, the LG G3, images are still nicely visible and crucially, text is sharp. With the GlowLight on, the page really lights up so should be visible in pretty much all conditions.

Barnes and Noble is keen to point out that inside is 4GB of storage – twice the equivalent in Kindle. That’s apparently 2000 books.

B&N is also keen to point out the battery life – which is claimed to be eight weeks. Only when you read on do you discover that this is based on 30 minutes reading per day, with one page turn a minute. Still – it should keep you reading for some time without recharging.

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The Software

So what about the actual software? Apparently under the hood this thing is running Android 2.1 (Eclair) but you wouldn’t know it from using it – and don’t expect to be downloading all of the apps you use any time soon. As you might expect, the interface is instead geared around reading – and is functionally similar to Kindle.

Sadly the interface can be a bit fiddly. Swiping down the tray at the top with the settings was a little frustrating for my stubby fingers, and perhaps by its very nature, the screen isn’t quite as responsive as a real touchscreen. Swiping to turn pages and unlock the device works really well and feels (literally) smooth.

Apparently this latest iteration of an e-ink has done away with the need for the whole screen to refresh when interacting – it uses “regal waveform technology” to only refresh the parts of the screen that need it. This means the user experience is much nicer, and it feels more like using a full tablet screen – albeit one with the benefits of e-ink – rather than an old teletext TV.

Reading on the device is very nice – text is clear and sharp, with plenty of fonts, sizes, line spacing and margin options. Turning pages can be done with a swipe. As ever, the only potential weak point is in the quality of the ebook you’re reading – with some books being better converted to the format than others (but you can blame the publishers for this).

In terms of compatibility, the GlowLight supports a wide range of formats: epub, pdf, jpg, png, bmp and gif – and you can even set images as a personalised screensaver – much better than Amazon’s insistence that they know better by showing you the authors that you should be reading.

Price and Availability

The Nook GlowLight is available in the UK from today (6th August) – for only £89. That’s £20 cheaper than the Kindle Paperwhite if you’re keeping score.

The Verdict

So is the GlowLight worth it? It is certainly a competent device – and if you’re looking for an e-reader this is certainly a good choice.

The trouble is that there really isn’t much to differentiate it from Amazon’s offering – it is functionally identical. Whilst this is great news if you’re looking for an alternative to the Kindle (perhaps you’re not a fan of Amazon’s tax affairs?), it does ask the question “Why?” when Amazon offers a larger catalogue of books and is arguably better future-proofed: Being a much larger company Amazon are better placed to turn around newer devices and apps to ensure you can read your purchases in the future.

But hey – you can’t argue with the price, right?

James O’Malley