Hands-on: Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight review

US bookseller Barnes & Noble has finally entered the UK eBook reader market by bringing Nook devices to these shores - and from the playtime we've had with them so far, we're mightily glad.

Two products will hit the UK in October, the Nook Simple Touch and Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, and although they are nigh-on identical in many features and functionality, it is the latter's strip of LED lights at the top of the display that has caught our eye.

Barnes & Noble was the first of the big two eBook specialists to add lighting to a digital reader, when it introduced the GlowLight in the US earlier this year. Since then, Amazon has entered the fray, with its "Paperwhite" Kindle - a direct response.

But B&N's Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight will be the first such device with built-in lighting to hit the UK: a wise move by the American company as it seeks to get a foothold on a market dominated by its close rival. Amazon's failure to release its Kindle Paperwhite simultaneously across regions will surely work in Barnes & Noble's favour.

Even without the light, the Nook Simple Touch is a fine eBook reader. It's touch-enabled (obviously) and rapid in response. The screen is a 6-inch E Ink display and is sharp and clear. And the device itself is shorter than its closest UK rival, the Kindle Touch, albeit a little wider. This doesn't equate to weight gain, however, as it comes in at 197g (16g lighter than the Kindle Touch and 15g lighter, even, than the regular Simple Touch).

There are some tasty ergonomics going on too, with a slightly rubberised back and grooves that fit your finger positions nicely. And for those who don't like flicking through pages using the touchscreen, there are traditional style forwards and backwards buttons on both sides of the front bezel.

On-board storage capacity is 2GB, with 1GB of that accessible for your content - around 1,000 Nook books. If you're a very heavy reader, a microSD card slot hides behind a flap on the side for adding up to an extra 32GB.

The user interface runs on a heavily modded version of Android 2.1, but that doesn't really mean anything in the long run, save for the fact that menus look friendly and easy to navigate. Plus, thumbnails are shown for books, to give the Nook a more library-esque aura.

There's a wireless connectivity - no 3G model at all - and downloaded books are stored as EPUB files, so are pretty universal. The Nook Simple Touch range can also view PDF, JPG, PNG, BMP and GIF files.

But the most important tech lies in that simple strip of LED lighting. While it is naturally brighter at the top than the bottom of the screen, considering its source, the light covers the entire reading area capably. And depending on the ambient light in your bedroom (or other dark place), you can get away with having the GlowLight set at only a fraction of its maximum brightness to be able to read comfortably.

Barnes & Noble told us that most people use it at 17 per cent of capacity, and having tested it briefly in the dark, we reckon that's about right.

Certainly, using it at about that brightness will increase battery charge longevity, but as B&N quotes a charge-span of one month even with the GlowLight used continuously, we reckon you'll not have many issues in that department.

Of course, one massively important aspect will be content and the access to UK-centric magazines and digital books, but at present, we've only had a play on a US model in advance of the launch, so we'll revisit that particular area when the UK version turns up for a full Pocket-lint review.

From what we've seen so far, however, this particular eBook reader is going to give the Kindle a fine run for its money this Christmas.

The Barnes & Noble Simple Touch with GlowLight is now available for pre-order and will be hitting John Lewis, Argos, Foyles, Blackwell's, Currys, Dixons, Waitrose and Sainsbury's stores in October. It will be priced at £109, with the non-LED lit version available for £79.



>