Review: Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch GlowLight

Everybody loves an underdog. Daniel-san, the Little Engine That Could, Lou Diamond Phillips in Stand and Deliver. The triumph of the least-likely victor is the most delicious part of all the best sporting events, books, movies and after-school specials.

Barnes & Noble may be the underdog in the e-reader market, the David to Amazon’s Goliath. But its Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight is anything but an underpowered, scrappy challenger.

The Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight (B&N really needs to work on the name) was the first mainstream e-reader with a glowing screen. The front-lit display contains LEDs at the top of the screen which illuminate the display so you can continue to comfortably read when the ambient light grows too dim.

It works, but it’s not perfect. The glow is mostly even, but the LEDs create bright spots, or “blooms,” near the edge of the screen, and the glow tends to get slightly darker as you move away from the light sources.

These inconsistencies are only really a nuisance at the top of the e-reader’s screen. It’s not horrible, and after a few pages, you become accustomed to the bright spots. But the Kindle Paperwhite uses similar technology, and Amazon managed to pull it off with greater success. When the Nook’s hottest competitor has such a stellar version of the same type of screen at the same $120 price, it’s tough to ignore the bright patches of light.

Like the Amazon and Kobo, Barnes & Noble decided to make its light-up e-reader a touchscreen affair. Such is the sway of smartphones — e-reader-makers believe their wares need to be as fondle-happy as the devices we use to play Tiny Wings.

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