Barnes & Noble’s new Nook-branded Android tablet is an off-the-shelf budget Lenovo model preloaded with the Nook reading app. It’s well built and designed for use as an ereader—including compatibility with every reading app available in the Google Play store—and its 10.1-inch color screen is a little grainy but still great for comics, picture books, and PDFs. Just don’t try to push it too hard, as its sluggish processor has a hard time doing more than turning pages.
Reading in Color, With Trade-Offs
E Ink ereaders are great for black-and-white content, but if you intend to read in color, you’ll want a color tablet. E Ink’s Kaleido Plus screen technology isn’t ready for mass adoption yet; the ereaders that use it have page refresh and ghosting problems. Barnes & Noble used to make its own tablets, but for a while now it’s repurposed relatively generic Android devices to deliver color content.
This year’s model comes from Lenovo, a well-known maker of high-quality tablets. Specifically, it’s a Lenovo Tab M10 HD. Barnes & Noble isn’t trying to hide this; it comes in a Lenovo Tab M10 HD box with a Nook sticker slapped onto the front. What Barnes & Noble provides—at the same cost as the Tab M10 HD’s retail price—is some preloaded Nook software and in-store customer service. There’s no guarantee that a bookstore clerk will be able to fix your tablet problems, but you at least have a place to bring the tablet when you have a problem.
Despite the low price, it doesn’t feel like a cheap tablet. It’s beautifully built, with a flat, smooth, and cool gray back adorned with small Nook and Lenovo logos. On the side, there’s a textured power button, a volume button, and a microSD card slot. There’s a single USB-C port on the bottom. Interestingly, there’s a pop-port for a dock along the other side. Barnes & Noble had a keyboard case and a charging dock for the previous Nook Tablet 10.1″, and some may be in the works for this model as well.
The back is a cool, soothing matte gray.
The tablet measures 9.51 by 5.88 by 0.21 inches and weighs 14.8 ounces. That’s less than the Amazon Fire HD 10 (17.8 ounces) and the base-model iPad (17.1 ounces), but more than 8-inch tablets or ereaders. When you turn it on, you’ll see there’s some bezel around the 10.1-inch screen, though not much. There’s no physical home button or fingerprint scanner. There is, however, a 5-megapixel front-facing camera peeking out above the display when it’s held up in portrait mode.
The 1,280-by-800-pixel display is bright and even-colored but noticeably grainy. The resolution of just 149ppi is lower than those of the Amazon Fire HD 8 (189ppi), the Fire HD 10 (224ppi), and most other competitors. The diagonal lines on letters often look jagged; very tiny text can be fuzzy. Everything’s perfectly readable, but if you’ve been spoiled by recent iPads or the 300ppi displays on current high-end ereaders, you’ll notice the difference.
Audio aficionados will appreciate that the tablet has both a headphone jack and very loud dual speakers. (If you plug in headphones, you get a rudimentary FM radio option, too.) The speakers clocked 103dB at six inches in testing, which is blaring. They’re quite tinny, but for listening to audiobooks, they do absolutely fine.
The reading app is quite basic.
The OS is stock Android 10, but it asks you for a Nook login at setup. That’s because the default home screen is loaded up with the Nook app, a “currently reading” widget, a library widget, a shopping widget, and more. You can move, remove, or uninstall the widgets at will; they’re installed as courtesy, not coercion.
Barnes & Noble’s reading app is still very basic, without most of the extra content and frills Amazon has added to the Kindle app over the years. You can buy books, sort them, and read them, with options to alter the font or skip to another chapter. Nook Readouts is a collection of sample chapters from various books it wants you to buy, but there’s nothing like Amazon’s X-Ray to index content within books, or Amazon’s synchronized audiobooks, or Amazon’s library of free Prime Reading content. Of course, you can also load a Kindle app on this tablet and then confuse the poor Barnes & Noble staffers when you take it in for tech support.
Just Enough Power for Books
The slow Mediatek P22T processor here isn’t helped by a mere 2GB of RAM. There’s 22.96GB of available storage, plus a slot for a microSD card (up to 256GB).
Our Geekbench benchmarks crashed multiple times, apparently running out of memory; Basemark Web stalled for the same reason. The official Geekbench browser shows no results for the Lenovo Tab M10 HD, so I bet the benchmarks just don’t run on this device. The Geekbench scores for this chip what you’d expect for the low price: 223 single-core and 1004 multi-core, worse than the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite and Galaxy Tab A 8.4.
Fortunately, reading apps don’t need much processing power, and since the tablet supports the full Google Play store, any reading app you want can be installed. We tested Nook, Kindle, Audible, VIZ Manga, Astonishing Comics Reader, and Marvel Unlimited apps and they all worked just fine, displaying books clearly in any format. The page turns in Marvel Unlimited were just a tad slower than I’d prefer, but that’s a minor gripe. You can add books using the microSD card slot, a USB-C cable, or any cloud service. As long as you aren’t too put off by the low-res screen, the world of reading is absolutely at your fingertips here.
The slow processor definitely affects performance in other apps. Screen transitions throughout the UI are slow and often jerky. When we tried to play the relatively low-intensity game Alto’s Odyssey, we saw pauses, stutters and dropped frames. Even scrolling web pages had noticeable issues with text blurring. The occasional pauses, stuck transitions, and keyboard lag mean this is not a good device for document editing or markup.
The processor also affects the 5MP front camera and 8MP main camera. It’s very easy to take out-of-focus shots with the main camera if you aren’t patient, because it takes more than a second to lock in focus. (Neither camera is worth talking more about; they’re both slow and produce poor photos.)
Comics look bright and beautiful.
The tablet has dual-band, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, along with Bluetooth 5.0. Speeds are limited by the slow processor; using a 500Mbps source connection that showed 500Mbps down on faster devices, I couldn’t get more than 313Mbps down on this tablet. It also didn’t do as well as an iPad Air in a weak-signal location, dropping out well before the iPad did. But in middling Wi-Fi locations downloading relatively small files, it was just fine.
We got 6 hours 20 minutes of continuous video playback with the screen brightness at 100%. That’s par for the course with 10-inch tablets. It took three hours to recharge with its 10-watt charger.
For Reading and Only Reading
Don’t push the Nook Tablet too far, and it’ll be a fine reading companion. It’s a well-built but bottom-rung Android tablet capable of showing books, playing videos, and not much else. It’s nowhere near as capable as a base-model iPad ($329) or a more powerful Android tablet such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite ($349.99), but it costs half as much. The Amazon Fire HD 8 is even less expensive than the Nook tablet, but it really forces Amazon content on you; that’s fine if what you want is Amazon content, but only if that’s what you want. If you’re looking for a basic color tablet for books from multiple sources, music, and Netflix, you can certainly do worse than to get this one and enjoy the novelty of in-person customer support at Barnes & Noble’s remaining stores.
Barnes & Noble Nook 10″ HD Tablet Designed With Lenovo
The Bottom Line
Barnes & Noble’s 10-inch Nook-branded Lenovo tablet is a flexible reading device, but don’t try to play games or do schoolwork on it.