One of the many anticipated new E-reader devices scheduled to join the ever-growing market in the coming months is Barnes and Noble’s Nook Color. While we are still awaiting its shipping and release in the later part of November, we can give you a brief overview based on its specs, as well as some things we like and don’t like, about the Nook Color before you head out to order for yourself.
The Nook Color is a valid attempt by Barnes and Noble to compete in the increasingly more crowded e-reader market, by focusing not only on a device that will provide the optimal reading experience for its users, but also allow for multimedia entertainment and more significantly media sharing. However, by ensuring the device will be practical for multimedia purposes, Barnes and Noble is also hoping that the ability to view newspaper and magazine subscriptions through the Nook Color’s sleek visual display will drive it ahead of competing devices. The Nook Color is also primed for social networking usage, including its own sharing platform, NOOKfriends, which was designed for integration with Twitter, Facebook, etc. Some other interesting ebook-centric features designed to continue its relationship with Barnes and Noble include the Read In Store feature, allowing users to read ebooks for free during any visit to a Barnes and Noble. Further included is the ability to lend out some ebooks for a 2-week period through the LendMe function.
- Built-in WiFi
- Web-browsing and e-mail capabilities
- Media accessibility, such as Pandora or the ability to play ebook or MP4 videos
- Widely customizable features, both to Nook Color itself as well as apps
- Social networking capabilities
- 8GB internal memory, as well as microSD card slot
- 7-inch LCD touch screen, with 1024x600 high resolution
- 16 million colors
- Aforementioned Barnes and Noble centric apps and perks
- No 3G support
- Lack of flash support (although can be hacked to use Android 2.2 OS)
- Inferior battery life because of screen power usage demands
- A bit on the heavy side
- Designed more for casual readers, those planning on use for several hours per day may be disappointed by lacking battery life.
While we won’t know the whole story of the Nook Color until its actual release later this month, the specs provided are intriguing to say the least. It is currently available for pre-order through Barnes and Noble for $249 a pop, which including its tablet PC-like multimedia capabilities makes it seem reasonably priced. We will update you more on the device and its functionality once we’ve seen it publicly in action.
In the past year, Barnes and Noble has gone from a non-entity in the e-reader market to the market standard, with much of the credit due to the release of the Nook Color. With an Android-style OS and a design geared toward accenting the Nook’s impressive display screen and periodicals, websites, and children’s books that are optimal for use with the Nook. The Nook Color’s significant tablet PC capabilities that allow it to compete with traditional tablets like the iPad, as well as the company’s recent announcement of its own unique Android app store, have made the Nook Color a formidable newcomer on the e-reader and tablet PC markets. Clocking in at $249, the Nook Color is certainly a significant new entry into the tablet and e-reader markets, and its multiple functionalities and sleek looks are certainly worth a deeper look.
As far as system specs go, the Nook Color’s 7-inch screen sports a resolution of 1024 x 600. The screen itself, while trumpeted by Barnes and Noble as a particular strength of the device, does still experience reflection in bright light but is a significant improvement on some of its competitors. Nook Color also touts 512MB of RAM, as well as a microSD port compatible with cards up to 32G, and 8GB of flash storage. The CPU itself is can operate at up to 800MHz. The physical design of the Nook reflects a significant amount of attention by its designers and Barnes and Noble. The top of the device sports a headphone jack, with power and volume controls located on either side of the screen near the top. On the back of the gadget is a speaker. Finally, much like other tablets, the Nook Color features a single home button on the front of the device, which allows for easy navigation and return to your home page at any time. Also located on the front of the device is a sensor for light, which allows for energy conservation, a necessity given the Nook Color only supports around eight hours of battery life. While the battery is purported at eight hours per charge, with the kind of infrequent use common to the casual reader, the battery can usually last for a day or more without needing a new jump. What this means is that the Nook Color has decent battery life in comparison to some devices, but still pales in comparison to the battery capabilities of an iPad. Finally, 3G is noticeably absent from the Nook, although it does have WiFi capabilities. Given the sleek look of the Nook Color and its fairly impressive specs given the price tag, it is obvious a lot of care went into both form and function in the device’s design
While the Nook Color does operate with an Android-based OS, it has been tweaked and reworked to the point that the OS feels like something completely unique from the 2.1 version it was designed after. This is both a blessing and a curse, as although the OS does feel new and unique, the system has already become a bit outdated by new platform versions, something that will only be exacerbated by further market growth and development. The homepage screen has a simple, user-friendly design that is a positive for the device’s function as a whole. With displays of downloaded content, recently read materials, and easy access to settings and other recently visited areas, the screen provides an easy base page that can help for organization, as well as be easily accessed via the home button. This idea of easy interface exploration is continued with the inclusion of a small tab on every display screen, which allows for access to common device areas like settings, library, search etc.
The library section itself has been designed to be either automatically arranged or custom-arranged by the user, and is designed to allow easy interaction with Barnes and Noble’s lending program, using a social network-type function that allows for easier access and communication with other Nook users to share and lend each other materials. While the service is still limited by certain content not being shareable, the focus on functionality helps to take a highlight of the device and make it even more user-friendly.
However, the shopping function is more of a mixed bag, if only because of the ensuing file management headaches involved. While the shop interface itself has been streamlined and is presented efficiently, the process of creating playlists or adding groups of songs or albums was a headache. The Nook Color requires a restart after adding music content, which while still workable is a bit more annoying than simply synching itself after being attached via USB. The music player is also one of the only main features not easily accessible via the previously mentioned main options tab, and unfortunately it cannot be accessed easily while other aspects of the Nook are being used. Furthermore, when using Pandora on the device, the device will not automatically cancel either the service or the music player, which seems to be a minor if annoying glitch. These glitches are also apparent with video playback, as some HD clips were problematic and a number of video file types were seemingly incompatible. While this can be excused a bit by the device’s focus on reading content, it would help to make the Nook Color a bit more competitive given the other tablet PC and e-reader devices emerging on the market.
In contrast to these issues though, gallery and file viewing was efficient and enjoyable. PDFs were easily accessible (with the same lag present throughout the device’s functions), as well as file types like .doc and .ppt that certainly give the device another aspect of usefulness. Also common to tablet PCs, the Nook Color does feature a complete web browser, as well as the aforementioned Pandora service, and a small games section. One thing that remains to be seen is the content and enhancements that may become available upon the release of the Barnes and Noble Android app store, which with proper developer support could become a future strength and help keep the Nook Color a step ahead of its competitors. As far as the web browser goes, the experience is pretty standard Android 2.1 fare, though as with the homescreen and general navigation on the Nook Color, the fun of using the device is hampered by touch response and refresh rates that seem way behind the curve. The team working on this software really needs to clear up some of these lag issues to make the Color a more viable choice for those considering this instead of a dedicated Android tablet. Of course, this price point helps to make a powerful argument.
Finally, not to be forgotten amongst all of the Nook’s software and hardware features is its initial basic purpose, as a stylish and savvy e-reader. The vast array of formatting and visual settings allow for a customizable content viewing experience that should allow nearly anyone to personalize their display to their satisfaction. In this respect, the Nook’s LCD screen does a worthy job of providing a sleek reading experience, especially in regards to magazines, children’s books, and other high color reading content. The device also includes functions for note-taking, as well as word/quote exploration (ability to do searches of the dictionary or sites like Wikipedia). Furthermore, in its aspirations to compete with other tablet PCs and e-readers, the Nook Color also offers integration with Twitter, Facebook, and email for easy sharing and social media connecting. One other aspect of the Nook’s reading experience worth taking a closer look at is its use with magazines. Specifically, the inclusion of features like a page scanner that can be used to help skim content and skip advertisements is a notable plus, as well as the ArticleView function, which allows for the extraction of text from the page for more easy viewing. The only real drawback to this aspect of the device is the same that hampers the device in every other feature, slow loading and page-changing due to the aging OS and processor. Also, while the idea of being able to centrally collect all magazine content is certainly a strength of the Nook Color, its limited catalogue of participants still leaves readers wishing for a bit more choice in regards to subscriptions. Furthermore, while the device was obviously designed to be streamlined in regards to magazine use, newspapers in traditional format are not as effectively displayed by the Nook, which could further hurt its attempt to paint itself as a useful alternative to, say, an iPad. One last aspect of the Nook Color that is a particular strength to the device, however, is the Nook’s “read to me” capability, designed to allow for children to read along with an adult narrator’s voice in an obvious attempt to broaden the device’s user appeal. This feature, which allows a child to follow along on the screen while the story is read to them, will be an obvious attraction for parents looking for a new way to get their kids interested in reading.
In summary, depending on what your desired use is, the Nook Color is either a formidable tool or a device that still leaves something lacking. If you are someone looking to take advantage of the ability to have newspapers and periodicals delivered and organized in a central location on a subscription basis, the Nook will make you very happy. Furthermore, if you think you can utilize the children’s books functions, you’d also be happy with your purchase. Also enticing about the Nook Color is the potential and breadth of the anticipated App store, which if executed well and properly supported by developers could make the Nook Color a steal at its current price of $249. However, for spec-focused gadget lovers, the Nook will frustrate you, with its lack of solid video playback, its increasingly outdated processor and OS system, and its lack of features touted by competing tablet PCs. Basically, if Barnes and Noble continues to put the same level of investment and care into improving the Nook Color that it did during its initial conception and development, this device could be something you’ll be happy you bought for a long time to come.