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The new Nook color comes in at around 0.5″ longer than the Kindle Keyboard or 1.5″ longer than the brand new Kindle. It’s very slightly wider and very slightly thicker. It’s still small enough to fit in your pocket or handbag. What you get for this though is an additional inch of screen. It is twice as heavy as the Kindles and almost as heavy as the Kindle DX.
It feels sturdy and well made and is a combination of plastic and metal. It’s a touch and only has one button on the front which is the Home Button. Along the bottom is the micro USB port for syncing and charging. The charger is included. On the right hand side is a volume control and built in speaker. On the top of the device is the headphone jack and on the left hand side is the Power Button. The back has a nice rubber coating and also houses a door under which houses a micro SD slot for adding additional memory (32GB max).
It has the look and feel of a small tablet such as the Samsung Galaxy 7″ tablet. In fact it shares a lot of it’s features as a high quality color IPS LCD screen and also runs android (more of this later).
What separates the Nook Color from it’s competitors is it’s next generation LED-backlit display. It uses the higher quality IPS screen which is the same as you’d find on the iPad. It’s a fantastically looking sharp display, offering as resolution of 1024 x 600 at 169ppi and more than 16 million colors. It’s also nice to see that the Nook uses a capacitive multi-touch display rather than the cheaper resisitive type. It is the same type used on the better tablets such as the iPad and makes for very accurate navigation.
Reading on the Nook inside is very pleasurable. Compared to reading on tablets, the Nook’s text is sharper and comparing it to eInk technology eReaders such as the Kindle, the background page is much whiter and the text slightly darker. The pages turns are also very quick and you get none of that photo negative type look when page turning. The only downside to this display is when reading outdoors in bright sunlight. If you turn the Nook towards the sun the screen acts as a mirror and the glare makes it hard to read. If you angle it right though it shouldn’t be too much of an issue and turning up the brightness also helps. Some people find looking too long at an LCD screen can cause eye fatigue, so I would advise turning down the brightness when reading indoors. I didn’t find it an issue myself. With this being an LCD screen I would advise getting a protective case in case of accidental dropping.
As mentioned earlier the Nook uses a customised version of Android and consists of short cuts to your reading library. You have three main desktops. Along the bottom you have your scrolling content which you just swipe left or right to move through – similar to a smartphone. At the top right of the display there is the More option which has various options including files that have been recently accessed. If you tap the Up Arrow option just above the Home Button it brings up a horizontal menu containing: Library, Shop, Search, Extras, Web Browser and Settings. Finally, to the left the Up Arrow option is the book symbol which will take you back to where you were reading.
The Library option lists all your books in the form of their book covers which looks nice and you can scroll up and down using your finger or the Search box. Along the top you have options to lists your Books, your Magazines, your Newspapers, My Shelves which allow you to group your favourites any way you like for instance grouping all your horror books together, Files which list all your books, music, pictures etc and then the Lend Me feature. This allows you to lend a book (if it is eligable for lending) to a friend for 2 weeks. It will tell you if it is lend-able on the Library option which lists all your books and will have “Lend Me” across the book cover.
The Shop option will take you to the Barnes and Noble book store. It’s well laid out and features Recommendations, Top 10, New Releases etc and Kid’s interactive books which will read out to you. There is also a Browse feature along the bottom which will bring up a menu of Popular Lists and Categories or you can just type in the name of a book to search for it. The Magazines on this device look really colourful and have been altered to look really good especially for the Nook. Each page fits well on the Nook screen and there is also an Accelerometer so you can read it in landscape with 2 pages showing or in portrait mode with one page showing. You can pinch to zoom in or out as well. Finally there is the article view which makes the text bigger and does away with all the fancy formatting so you just get the text.
To turn pages when reading you can either swipe your finger across the page or click on the right hand side of the screen. To get Options just tap in the middle of the screen and it brings up: Table of Contents, Search, Share, Text and Brightness. Under Text as well as changing the text size, you can also change the spacing , the fonts and the background. The night mode background is especially neat as it means you can read in bed without lighting up the room and annoying your partner. As well as normal books, you can also download audio books and kid’s interactive books which not read out to you but are also interactive.
The pdf option is impressive as well and has a few advantages over the e-Ink versions found on the Kindles and other eReaders. You Fit to Page, Fit to Width, Go to Page, Properties etc. Again you can read it in Portrait or Landscape Mode and you can pinch to zoom in or out. The built-in Quickoffice software also handles Word, Excel & PowerPoint files
Under Extras, you get a Chess game, Contacts which you can integrate with Google Contacts and it has social networking for sharing what you are reading on Facebook or Twitter, Pandora which is streaming Radio, Sudoku, a Music Player and Gallery which you have your Pictures and Videos. Videos can play upto 720 pixels wide and they run very smoothly. Pictures (as well as videos) can be seen in Portrait or Landscape modes and you can run them as a slideshow, crop them them, rotate them etc.
The final feature (phew) is the Web browser. The Nook Color uses the Android Web Kit Based web browser. You can use the built in Adobe Flash to view videos online. Again you can use Portrait or Lanscape modes. Testing it on webpages it loads quickly and renders both ordinary and mobile websites very well. There is a box in the corner with a “+” and “-” sign to zoom in and out. Pinching doesn’t work with the browser.
Battery & Memory
As this is an LCD display it doesn’t have the same battery life of other eReaders that use monochrome eInk technology. I found that the claimed 8 hours “usage” was what I was finding when using the device. That obviously doesn’t mean after 8 hours the battery will go flat, rather that after 8 hours of use the battery will go flat. It is similar to the life you’d find on other LCD devices such as the Galaxy Tab.
Memory wise it has 8 GB as standard which is more than the other eReaders and this can be further upgraded by as much as 32 GB via the micro SD slot on the back of the device.
The Nook Color is a Wi-Fi only device. I found surfing was very quick especially when connected to a good high speed Wi-Fi network. Downloading books was equally quick, with some books downloading in as little as 10 seconds – this is faster than other eBook Readers I have used. Wi-Fi connection is free in all Barnes & Noble Stores.
Due to the strong competition in the eReader market, Barnes & Noble has just cut the price of the Nook Color to a very attractive price of $169. Sure, there are other good eReaders out there for less money, but considering what you get with the Nook Color I have to say it offers outstanding value for money.
UPDATE – Barnes & Noble have recently cut the price of the Nook Color to just $79.
I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed my time using the Nook Color. It’s a well built, feature rich device that is a pleasure to use. The screen especially is top quality and to get all this for under $150 is a bargain. Like I said earlier there are cheaper alternatives and if you think you don’t need the extra features or the color screen, then I would advise you to go for either the Kindle Touch or the Nook Simple Touch. But if you are looking for something that offers a bit more than a Kindle, has a color screen and is more portable than an iPad, then I strongly recommend you give the Nook Color a go.