When we first heard that Barnes & Noble was bringing its Nook eBook readers to the UK, in the guise of the Simple Touch and Simple Touch with GlowLight, we thought that would be it for now. The US bookseller would test the water with those two devices and, most likely, expand its range in 2013. How wrong we were.
Yes, B&N will be releasing the duo of E Ink readers first, but they will very quickly be followed by a couple of other, more surprising, launches; two high-definition tablets, one 7-inch and one 9-inch.
What's more, the Nook HD and Nook HD+, as they are respectively called, will be launched simultaneously in the UK and Barnes & Noble's homeland, the US.
The Nook HD is the diddier of the two, sporting a 7-inch 1440 x 900 HD LCD touchscreen and a remarkably svelte form factor. The screen is fully laminated, meaning that there is no air between the glass and the display underneath, benefiting saturation, clarity and glare reduction.
It's hard to see the pixels within its resolution (the highest in its category) as the Nook HD offers up 243ppi (pixels per inch), and there's no better test than the super sharp rendition of Toy Story 3 Pocket-lint saw running on the device when going hands-on with it at a London venue.
The tablet is also thin - not just in the genre's traditional depth, but when grasped by the hand. Thanks to a thinner bezel, even though the screen is still 7-inches, the width of the Nook HD is just 127mm. Barnes & Noble told us that one of the design mantras was to make a device that could comfortably be held in one hand by a woman, and this fulfills that criteria.
We're also impressed by the plastic surround. Not only does it give the tablet an air of Nokia Lumia-ness aesthetically - which is no bad thing - it prevents grubby fingers marks around the bezel. And, perhaps because of the surrounding material, the tablet weighs a very easy to hold 315g.
The tablet is no slouch when it counts either, it is a rapid little so-and-so. A 1.3GHz dual-core OMAP 4470 processor runs the show, while its graphics processing is capable of rendering video at 60fps. This means that movie footage is smooth as can be.
It plays back only 720p video, but with a device this small, you genuinely don't need more than that. The pixel density is so great, your naked eye would not tell the difference. Even standard-definition video would look more than reasonable.
The underlying software is Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but that's hardly noticed or relevant. The Nook HD is not designed to be a competitor to the iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab family, or even Google Nexus 7 (although we did see several examples of one running side-by-side for comparison, especially on video clips). Instead, Barnes & Noble's latest bite-sized slate is heavily customised, partly to ensure that purchases of its own content is number one on the agenda, and partly to make things simple for the user.
For example, there are plenty of proprietary features that set the Nook HD apart as a very family oriented device. There are six profiles that can be saved, allowing different family members to have their own experiences, homepages and specific content. And there are smaller, but no less intuitive modes, such as the ability to record your own voice reading a children's book so that the kiddies can hear you read it back, even if you're away.
For the adults, there's a scrapbook option, where you can virtually rip pages out of a magazine to store in a self-made digital edition. And many of the comic books that can be bought through the online store offer a zoom to panel mode, specific to Barnes & Noble.
That's not to say that you are bound to buy just B&N content. It's presented front of house, so that's the easiest option, especially with the company also launching its own Nook Video streaming and download service at the same time, but it's not essential. As with other tablets, you can put your own video, music and books on the device and they'll play just fine.
Apps is a closed system and there's no Google Play, but this is something shared by the Kindle Fire HD, so standard for the market.
Battery life is quoted at 10.5 hours for continuous reading and 9.5 hours for video playback, which is more than decent, and a microSD card slot is included to allow for the internal memory (8GB or 16GB) to be expanded by up to an extra 64GB. There's also HDMI out so that you can play 720p HD video on a bigger screen.
There are also plenty of other features we could explore here, but would rather wait until we get the UK version of the Nook HD for review so that we can play with them more extensively first.
The Barnes & Noble Nook HD will be available in two colours - snow (white) and smoke (grey) - and is coming out mid-November in the UK (and US) with pre-orders to start in October. It will be stocked in the same places as its eBook reader stablemates; John Lewis, Argos, Blackwell's, Foyles, Currys, Dixons, Sainsbury's and Waitrose.
The 8GB model with cost £159, while the 16GB version will retail for £189.