Nook Simple Touch With GlowLight Review

Barnes and Noble’s new Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight isn’t an all-new, completely re-designed eReader, but it doesn’t need to be. The original Nook Touch remains one of the best eReaders on the market thanks to the comfortable design, simple interface, and speedy performance.

Now the bookseller is adding a new feature: GlowLight. This built-in booklight is meant to make the Nook the best eReading choice whether you’re out in the sun or in a dark bedroom trying to get through the last few chapters of The Hunger Games before bed.

Does this addition make the new Nook a better choice than the original? Read our full review to find out.

Pros

  • GlowLight is adjustable, lights up screen evenly
  • Light doesn’t drain too much battery
  • Responsive touchscreen
  • Speedy performance
Cons

  • eInk display contrast not as good as original Nook
  • Doesn’t support documents other than PDF
  • Lacks robust search options in Shop

Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight

$139 Nook Simple Touch With GlowLight

Nook With GlowLight Review Guide
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GlowLight

The Nook Simple Touch’s GlowLight function differs from traditional backlighting, though the effect is somewhat the same. In literal terms, GlowLight isn’t a back light at all since the light isn’t located behind the display.

Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight - Light On

Cover Image: Fair Coin

The soft white/blue lights are situated around the edges, aimed down instead of up. When turned on, the GlowLight bounces off of the display similar to the way natural sunlight bounces up to your eyes. The light itself is less jarring on the eyes than light from an LCD on a tablet or computer.

Though not a backlight, the GlowLight hits the display pretty evenly, similar to a tablet. The light is a bit brighter at the edges if you’re really looking.

Since the brightness is adjustable, the GlowLight works in any situation where you’d normally use a booklight. Obviously it works well for rooms with little or no light, such as your bedroom at night. I also found myself using it where light is dim, such as on an overnight flight or sitting in a cozy cafe with intimate lighting.

Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight On

GlowLight in Low Light

Most of the time I didn’t need to turn it up past 25%. The darker the room, the more effective the light at lower settings.

In a bedroom setting, the GlowLight is much less disruptive than leaving a lamp on and lights up the display better than a booklight or lighted cover. Still, the light is visible to other people in the room, even at lower settings. If your bed partner isn’t bothered by a small amount of light that doesn’t travel too far or give off a harsh glow, then you’ll both be able to co-exist peacefully while you read. If even the slightest light is a problem, the GlowLight isn’t a solution.

Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight On

Battery life on the Nook remains good even with the GlowLight. Barnes and Noble estimates 1 month if readers use the GlowLight every day and 2 months with it off. Based on my experience with the original Simple Touch, the 2 month estimate isn’t that far off, even if you’re a heavy reader. So far the battery shows ample longevity with several hours of reading over five days with the GlowLight on.

Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight - Glow Controls

Tap the n button to access the GlowLight control menu

Display and Reading Experience

In order for the light to spread out evenly over the surface of the eInk display Barnes and Noble had to add an anti-glare coating as a standard feature. The company says this is the same as the anti-glare screen protector available as an accessory for the original Nook Simple Touch. Unfortunately, the anti-glare has the side effect of lowering the contrast on the display.

Nook GlowLight and Simple Touch - Main Screen

Nook with Glowlight on the Right, Simple Touch on the Left

Both the Nook Simple Touch and the Touch with GlowLight have an ePaper display with 16 levels of grayscale and a 600 x 800 resolution. If you place them side by side, you can tell that the GlowLight version is a shade or two lighter. Same with the Kindle Touch. Even without the comparison, I noticed that the new Nook’s text isn’t as dark as I’m used to. The lighter contrast isn’t as noticeable with the GlowLight on.

It looks like Barnes and Noble made a choice to sacrifice the level of contrast in order for the best performance with GlowLight. They also claim that the anti-glare screen protector is a best-selling accessory, so many Nook users already experience this. The resulting quality isn’t a dealbreaker, but will be a consideration for buyers.

Nook GlowLight and Simple Touch - inside a book

Nook with Glowlight on the Right, Simple Touch on the Left

Other than the issue above, using and reading eBooks on the Nook with GlowLight is unchanged from the experience with the previous version. This is not a bad thing.

Over the past year Barnes and Noble has improved the speed and performance of the Nook Simple Touch to the point where the lag that comes from having a low-refresh eInk screen is pretty short. Inside books the Nook’s speed is most apparent when turning pages. Gone are the days when the entire screen flashed and it took up to three seconds to turn. Now it’s effectively instant, with a full screen flash happening every six pages or so. And even then you may not notice, it happens so fast.

The infrared touch technology is fast and responsive. Owners can use a fingernail, the pad of their finger, or a soft tip stylus.

Due to the speedy performance, touch sensitivity, and being able to turn pages any way you prefer — hardware buttons, screen tapping, swiping — it’s easy to immerse into your book without thinking much about the hardware.

Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight - Reading Settings

The Nook offers seven text sizes and six font faces (half serif, half sans-serif), three line spacing choices and three margin spacing choices. This allows readers to customize their reading experience to the most comfortable. I prefer as much text on the screen as possible, but others need a lot of space in order to focus properly. The Nook has all of those options.

In addition to basic reading there are Notes, Highlights, and Bookmarks. These will sync across Nook devices and Nook apps, but curiously not to the Nook for PC program. Typing notes on the Nook is feasible thanks to an on-screen keyboard that responds well to taps. Since the display is eInk the text lags a bit behind fast typing, but otherwise is similar to a smartphone or tablet.

Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight - Notes and Highlights

When connected to the Internet, owners can share quotes or how far they are in a book with lit lovers on Twitter, Facebook, or NookFriends, the Barnes and Noble social network.

Design

Other than adding the GlowLight and the anti-glare screen, Barnes and Noble didn’t change the Nook’s internals and made only one small change to the design. This is a good thing since the Simple Touch is one of the best designed eReaders available.

Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight

Cover Image: Throne of the Crescent Moon

The Nook with GlowLight has a 6.5 x 5.0 x 0.47 inch footprint and 6.95 ounce weight that makes it easy to fit into small bags/pockets and hold in one hand. The soft-touch, contoured back makes it comfortable to hold whether you do so with two hands or just one.

Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight - Back

Just as before, page turn buttons flank the eInk display. They sit comfortably under the thumbs and can be customized based on your hand size or preference. By default, the top buttons Page Forward and the bottom Page Backward. Readers can reverse this in the settings.

Or, you can skip the buttons and either tap the edges or swipe on the display itself to turn.

The n beneath the display now does double duty as a menu button and the GlowLight on/off switch. A wider button flush with the curved back of the device turns it off. As before, a door covers the microSD slot on the right (takes up to 32GB cards) and integrates smoothly into the curve once closed. Other than that, the only port is the microUSB on the bottom.

Nook Simple Touch and Nook with Glowlight

GlowLight on the Left

The hard plastic strip that rings the edge of the device is now a light gray instead of a black that matches the rest of the Nook. This will help distinguish the GlowLight version from the original in households where both exist.

Buying and Loading eBooks

As before, the Nook is Wi-Fi capable and easily connects to available wireless networks and hotspots. No 3G option as with the Kindle. Readers won’t be able to connect to the online storefront from just anywhere, though they will get free access in any B&N location plus any AT&T hotspot.

Barnes and Noble boasts over a million titles available in their Nook catalog, though many of those are free, public domain books. Nook owners have access to several hundred thousand more recent eBooks and over 90% of the current New York Times’ best sellers. Plus, there are ePeriodicals on offer.

Barnes and Noble bookstore

Searching for anything other than books in the Shop is difficult since the search engine isn’t very robust. Good thing you can search via your computer’s browser and send the titles you buy to the Nook wirelessly.

Otherwise, the ability to search for, buy and begin reading within a few minutes will satisfy most literary junkies.

Aside from Nook books, Readers can also load ePub eBooks from other sources as well. As long as they use Adobe’s DRM or have no DRM at all. This includes public libraries that offer digital lending.

Users can also load documents to the Nook for reading. Unfortunately, only PDF files are compatible.

Is the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight Worth $139?

Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight - hero 5 with books

People who often find themselves wishing they could use their eReader in any lighting, including dark rooms, will find the GlowLight functionality worth the extra $40 over the original Nook Simple Touch. Those who anticipate needing a booklight will find the GlowLight a superior experience and potentially less than buying one in addition to an eReader.

Users who don’t usually need a light or don’t have issues with their current lighting situation don’t necessarily need to upgrade to the Nook with GlowLight.

While the ePaper display’s contrast issue isn’t a major drawback, if you’re concerned you should see for yourself before making a decision. Good thing you can see the device in person at any Barnes and Noble location or in electronics stores at the beginning of May.

It comes down to which is more important: the darkest text or the lighted screen? If the latter is a bigger deal, then the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight is for you.

Gallery

 

Specs

Size 6.5 x 5.0 x 0.47 inches
Weight 6.95 ounces
Display (size/res) 6 inches; 600 x 800
Touchscreen Yes
Internal Storage 2GB
Expansion microSD (up to 32GB)
Ports microUSB
Wireless Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
eBook Formats ePub (Adobe DRM, no DRM), PDF
Image Formats JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP
  

Comments

  1. Nancy says

    I think you have your labels backwards. The new Nook is the one with the light gray band around the perimeter…yet in photos above you are identifying that one as the plain Nook Simple Touch, and the one with the regular black band around the perimeter as the Glowlight version.

  2. Margo says

    Nancy is right.

    The contrast is worse with the Glowlight model, and it is seen in the pictures where the Glowlight model is the one with the light band on the edge.
    It is a shame that the model labels are switched in those pictures; it give the wrong impression.

  3. Christine says

    Thank you for the review, however the previous comments are correct, you either do not know your right from your left, or you don’t know the difference between a Simple Touch and a Simple Touch GlowLight. In the two side-by-side pictures under the heading “Display and Reading Experience”, the GlowLight is on the left, and the original Simple Touch is on the right.

  4. sushant says

    I LOVED the review,it’s very good and detailed.I am an Indian in a Bomaby city ! it’s a song,but how can I buy it from India in the exactly same price?

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