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A worthy upgrade for Nookworms

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Nook Glowlight 4 Plus e-reader with example text set on a white background

It’s no secret that e-readers changed the game for bookworms forever. We’re no longer tied to shelves of physical paper. However, now that we’re over a decade removed from the first-ever e-reading tablet, manufacturers are honing these devices with incremental improvements. Small details edge a product ahead of the competition, which is precisely what Barnes & Noble’s Nook GlowLight 4 Plus (a longtime tooth-and-nail contender against Amazon’s Kindle) brings to the table this year.


The case for buying the latest installment in the Glowlight series is varied, from improvements to storage capacity and display size, along with the addition of support for your favorite audiobooks. The Glowlight 4 Plus makes a strong entry into an increasingly competitive e-reader space, and it sure doesn’t hurt that it’s priced reasonably.

Nook Glowlight 4 Plus

Barnes & Noble finally broke some new ground with the Nook Glowlight 4 Plus. This e-reader is compact enough to travel while big enough to offer a clear, easily consumable reading experience.

Brand
Nook

Resolution
1,404 × 1872

Storage
32GB

Connectivity
USB-C, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

Front Light
Yes

OS
Android 8.1

Battery
2,500mAh

Buttons
Nook button, page-turn buttons

Weight
285 g

Dimensions
198×147×7.8 mm

Format Support
EPUB, PDF

CPU
Allwinner B300 1.8 GHz quad-core

RAM
2GB LP-DDR4x

Audio Formats
Nook

Screen Size
7.8 inch

Ports
3.5 mm Audio; USB-C

Pros

  • First Nook with audiobook listening capability
  • Flush screen prevents dust collection in corners
  • 32 GB of storage holds thousands of books
  • Large, tactile page-turning buttons
Cons

  • Screen washes out under harsh, direct light
  • E-ink is a bit laggy at times
  • No onboard speaker
  • Screen doesn’t rotate to landscape orientation

Price and availability

Barnes & Noble’s is the first and last place you should look

The Glowlight 4 Plus is available for $200 exclusively through Barnes & Noble’s website. Brick-and-mortar locations also carry the tablet and various accessories, such as cases.

Design, hardware, and what’s in the box

Everything you need to get going is included

Nook Glowlight 4 Plus laying centered on table screen up with screensave on

Nook’s design has matured since its earliest models, but it still has some classic components, including large buttons on each side of the tablet for page turning. I was disappointed to see the Nook home button in the bottom center is no longer a raised, physical feature. Because it lacked a tactile response from the new flush touch button (in combination with the delayed on-screen reaction in most e-ink devices), most times, it was difficult to tell if the device had registered the home button being pushed.

The Glowlight 4 Plus’s matte black plastic casing looks sharp but is fingerprint-prone. A display flush with the casing is a new feature, but in my experience, it didn’t really make a difference. If you’re not used to it, you might notice a slight decline in contrast. Barnes & Noble states that this new flush screen is meant to prevent dust collection in the corners, but I’ve never been one to leave an e-reader in place long enough for it to collect dust. Also, the new screen is touted as glare-free, but I did find that it washes out under harsh lighting at specific angles.

Nook Glowlight 4 Plus held in hand with ports facing camera

The 7.8-inch screen fits a nice happy medium territory, allowing most texts (depending on the chosen font and font size) to remain pleasantly readable. It’s probably smaller than what would be preferred by comic or manga fans. Still, the screen’s 300ppi 1404×1872 display means that images stay plenty crisp, by e-ink standards, anyway — as long as the images are formatted for portrait orientation. The Glowlight 4 Plus does not rotate to landscape.

The highlight of the new Nook is its 3.5mm headphone jack. While the older Glowlight Plus also has a port for wired headphones, it didn’t come configured with Barnes & Noble’s audiobook platform. The Glowlight 4 Plus is the first audiobook-compatible Nook, offering a headphone jack and Bluetooth compatibility.

The Glowlight 4 Plus comes with a USB-C charging cable, no brick included, and a quick-start guide in the box.

Software and performance

Smooth reading set back by a few small issues

Nook Glowlight 4 Plus propped up against books on bookshelf

Readers using a Glowlight Plus (2019) or Glowlight 4 (2021) won’t see leaps of performance improvement moving to the Glowlight 4 Plus. Since all three models utilize the same tier of B&N ambient Glowlight Illumination tech, there’s not much difference. The Glowlight 4 has a smaller screen than the 4 Plus but offers the same 300ppi refresh rate and only a marginally worse resolution (1440×1080), so a boost in display quality is negligible, if at all noticeable.

The Glowlight Plus is incredibly similar to the Glowlight 4 Plus, with the same PPI, grayscale specs, the screen size (but a slightly smaller resolution, and recessed, not flush), an audio jack, and Bluetooth capability. However, the 4 Plus offers four times the storage of the Glowlight Plus — 32 GB over just 8 GB — and introduces audiobook listening capability, whereas the Glowlight Plus could only play B&N podcasts.

The Glowlight 4 Plus’s performance was a mixed bag. Reading on the Nook is usually convenient, with a few exceptions. The tablet’s e-ink text display is highly customizable to ensure a positive reader experience, whether you prefer tiny Times New Roman or extra-large Comic Sans print. The pictures below show the variety of fonts available on the Nook and examples of the smallest, midrange, and largest text sizes.

While the Glowlight 4 Plus may not be the snappiest e-reader on the market, it more than gets the job done. Pages turn quickly, with enough formatting options to dial in your preferred fonts and text size. This means an avid reader and anyone who simply wants to dabble will find acceptable performance for the general purpose of reading. It’s a device you can hand to anyone, and they’ll find their way around just fine, and that has a lot to do with even performance across the board.

There’s even an option for automatic night mode, which adjusts the warmth and brightness of the display based on the time of day, which is certainly a welcome feature. The only issue I ran into was when the e-reader would freeze with half-rendered pages, often set off by trying to make annotations and look up words. So, there’s still some polish needed for the software, but by and large issues aren’t frequent.

Battery

Expect to use the device for weeks without a charge

Nook Glowlight 4 Plus held in hand showing backlighting on screen

The Nook Glowlight 4 Plus battery is perfectly fine in the best possible terms. B&N’s website puts the battery life at three weeks on a single charge at 30 minutes of daily reading and only 10% brightness. Any longer reading sessions, higher brightness, or audiobook playback restricts the battery life consistently.

I started using the Nook with a full charge, reading for at least an hour daily, listening to three or four hours’ worth of audiobooks per week, and usually having the brightness set to at least 30%. By the end of week one, the Nook’s battery level dropped to around 40%. More frequent charges (by e-reader standards) are a small price to pay for audiobook playback capabilities, though.

Competition

Amazon and Onxy have you covered

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition

There’s some stiff competition for the Nook Glowlight 4 Plus. Amazon’s Kindle offers the same amount of storage as the Glowlight 4 Plus, the same 6.8-inch auto-brightness flush screen, 300ppi, audiobook compatibility via Bluetooth, and wireless charging. All for $10 less than this Nook, with three free months of Kindle Unlimited. And the Kindle is available in two extra colors to boot.

Onyx’s 32 GB Boox Page is also worth considering. While $50 more than the Glowlight 4 Plus, it also brings a similarly-sized flush screen at 300ppi. It also connects to audio players via Bluetooth or the USB-C port and has an in-house speaker. The Boox also runs Android 11, so you can run third-party apps.

The Kindle and the Boox have displays that can rotate to landscape for reading online newspapers/magazines, textbooks, and comic books/manga, unlike the Glowlight 4 Plus, which does not rotate. Both support a wider range of e-book types, while the Glowlight 4 Plus only selectively supports books outside of those purchased from B&N, making accessing rented books, like from Libby, a hassle.

Should you buy it?

Nook Glowlight 4 Plus review held in hand outside showing screen with text

Overall, I enjoyed my experience with the Nook Glowlight 4 Plus and recommend it to other longtime Nook users who want to upgrade. I wouldn’t consider the Nook Glowlight 4 Plus e-reader an unmissable upgrade unless you’re a longtime Nook user who wants Bluetooth compatibility or needs more storage. When comparing the Nook to a Kindle or other competitors like Boox or Kobo, the standout reason to choose a Nook is if you’ve already invested a lot of money into building a collection of e-books purchased specifically from Barnes & Noble.

Adding a headphone jack and expanded storage should be enough to keep Nook readers from dabbling with competing tablets. If you’re new to the e-reader space, the price is competitive with an appealing feature-to-price balance, though certain Kindle and Boox devices have an edge regarding content or Android support. But if you’re looking for something simple that doesn’t stray too far from the norms Kindle has set, the Glowlight 4 Plus holds its own at an acceptable price point.

Nook Glowlight 4 Plus e-reader with example text set on a white background

Nook Glowlight 4 Plus

Barnes & Noble’s Nook Glowlight 4 Plus is the latest e-reader from the company that offers a compact footprint for travel while still being big enough to provide a clear, easily read screen. It’s B&N’s Kindle competitor and stacks up just fine, especially if you enjoy the Nook ecosystem.

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