Barnes & Noble Nook Color: A Review

nook-colorUnconditional love – that’s what I give my lovely Nook Color.  I’ve now had it for three weeks, even though the device has been out since November, and I’ve got a fairly good idea of its capabilities.  First, it must be said that the NC is a very specific device.  It’s a color touch screen tablet that’s still, first and foremost, a device for reading books.  When it comes to reading, the NC mostly succeeds.  In other areas, not so much.

The Looooove

  • Reading Library Books: This is the most important reason that I got an eBook reader, and I have no complaints.  Adobe Digital Editions, that’s another matter.
  • Size:  I deliberately chose a larger size that more closely resembles (so it seems, anyway) the dimensions on a paper page, and I love the 8” x 5” dimensions with a 7” screen.  I’m all in favor of fewer page turns.
  • Internet: I am spending so much time on the Internet, it comes a very close second to my reading on the NC.  The WiFi is perfectly adequate for my needs, and although the touch screen causes a few issues (more on that later), generally I find the browsing comfortable and easy.
  • Battery Life: I’m currently on my fifth day of intermittent reading and Internet surfing, and I still haven’t hit 50%.
  • LED Screen: I love seeing illustrations and graphics in their full technicolor glory.  You can tap the edges or swipe to turn the page, and there is also a variety of settings (font, size, and background) that I haven’t really explored, because I usually keep it on the publisher’s default.  So far, I haven’t had any issues with eyestrain.  The night mode does exist for those who like it; I hate it.  But since paper books require lights anyway, I’m not fussed at all.
  • Appearance: I really like how the NC looks and feels, compared to other devices that look a bit utilitarian, and I like the home screen, which is designed as a movable desktop with your most recent books lined up at the bottom.

Crappy Things I Can Live With

  • Glare: Yes, it definitely exists.  But I rarely read in full sunlight, and it doesn’t really cause me grief to tilt the device ten degrees.
  • Weight: The NC comes in at half a pound, which is considerably heavier than E-Ink devices, and I’m certainly not capable of holding it in one hand while reading.  However, I don’t do that anyway with paper books.  And it’s still small enough to fit in my handbag, cover included.
  • Price: It’s almost twice as much as the Kindle WiFi and the Kobo.  But hey, I bought it.
  • Landscape Mode: It only works on the Internet and for PDFs.  This has unfortunate consequences when I’m on the Internet in landscape and I want to adjust the settings, which brings me back into portrait, which means I have to rotate the device.  I’ve gotten real good at changing my settings at a 90-degree angle.  That being said, a paper book stays perpetually in portrait mode anyway, and I’ve adjusted.

B&N: Please Fix ASAP

  • Touch Screen: The NC touch screen is a capricious mistress – it’s absolutely dandy when reading, but can throw minor hissy fits on the Internet, where it varies in sensitivity and accuracy.  I have to surf the Internet in landscape, which makes things larger to ensure accuracy, and even then I sometimes have to enlarge the screen again.    Close to the edges of the screen, touch is downright unreliable.  Pinch and zoom can get spotty, and when I’m using the NC while charging, man, it goes nuts.  The iPad, it is not.  Sure, I deal with it.  Sure, I’ve learned to be patient.  But it can definitely see some improvement.
  • Nook Library: It’s a pain.  The “official” NC library only shelves books bought from B&N and personal files you’ve transferred to the Nook App.  Because I don’t buy from B&N (long story), and because all of my eBooks (personal and library) go through Adobe Digital Editions, I use ADE as my main cataloguing software, although, believe me, I wish this wasn’t the case.  Because of this, all the non-B&N books appear in a separate folder called My Files.  This doesn’t look nearly as nice as the library, and doesn’t permit organizing into shelves and whatnot.  And I really, really hate ADE.  But I’m stuck.

I know nothing is perfect, and I do recognize the NC’s shortcomings.  I also haven’t explored the audio side, not being a big audio book listener and not bothering to load songs onto the device.  But I love the instantaneous page turns.  I love reading The Bernstein Bears and The Redemption of Althalus with equal fidelity to the hard copy.  I love being able to take 700-page books that normally I’d have to confine at home and read them on the subway.  And I sure love taking the Internet outside of the house.  In short, the Nook Color fits my needs almost perfectly.

- Jean AAR

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14 Responses to Barnes & Noble Nook Color: A Review

  1. carrie says:

    I love my Nook Color as well. With help from forum I actually rooted my nook (shh) so it runs Android Apps as well. Angry Birds is way too addicting ;)

    I will say that I really dislike the Nook case my DH bought for it for me from Barnes and Noble. the Top right corner where it hooks onto the nook is actually *bending* my nook a bit. I will be returning it….I worry that it will affect the volume buttons in the long run. right now the volume buttons tend to stick for me and are kind of wonky.

  2. Hannah says:

    Thanks for the review. I have a Kindle 3 and a Sony Pocket reader (not the touchscreen model). I’d love a device like the Nook Color for reading library books. I would definitely root mine as well–love that Angry Birds! While I’ve read several books on the Sony Pocket reader, the small screen is just not that enticing. Also I’m spoiled by being able to download books wirelessly on the Kindle. One plus is that the Sony Reader software is possibly a bit easier to work with than ADE.

  3. Clothdragon says:

    Love mine as well. (and have that slightly guilty, worried about admitting, rooted nature for mine as well. It let me install google reader and kindle for android — not that I’ve bought anything through them yet, but it amused me to do so.)

    And the children love Angry Birds, Bubble Blast, and Bubble Buster. It has become the perfect thing to offer them during the occasional socializing dinner out to keep them from getting too bored with adult talk. It gets a little heavy for extended reading, but it is so much better on the treadmill than trying to keep a paper book’s pages open.

    I love mine too.

  4. Jean Wan says:

    Carrie – While I’m not glad to hear that the case sucks, your problem totally vindicates my decision not to buy the case. I looked at them in the store, and was so hesitant about the clip’s finesse that I ultimately decided not to get the clip cases. And I really didn’t like the slide-in case, which I found flimsy. I hope B&N takes it back; good luck!

    Hannah – ADE was the main reason I really wanted to consider the Sony PRS-650. ADE seems more or less made to be compatible with Sony, and kind of spits on everything else. FYI, you can download books wirelessly onto the Nook Color. But through WiFi, not 3G.

    Clothdragon – I’ve resisted rooting my NC. So far. There’s now a rumour floating around that B&N is going to release the firmware update for the Nook, which brings it up to Android 2.2 for tablets, and which includes a Nook App Store. Since Home Shopping Network started this rumour, I’m not sure whether I believe it. But it sure would be nice.

  5. DJ says:

    For me it was all about being able to read library books. That’s why I chose a Nook over a Kindle. I actually like the Kindle better, it seems lighter and quicker and easier to read on… but no library books, that was the deal-breaker.

  6. Jean Wan says:

    DJ – That’s also why I eliminated the Kindle from the get-go.

  7. Barbara says:

    I love my NC although the drawbacks Jean listed are a pain. I really have issues with the touchscreen on the internet. I also have the BW nook which is lighter but has limits. I take that one with me to the gym, etc. Since it is lighter it is easier to use on the treadmill.

    It has been fun to have the internet with me wherever I go especially since I do not have an IPad…….yet!

  8. I have a nook color and a Kindle. I love my Kindle, there are only a few things I dislike. It’s clear, has no glare, and using Calibre, I can get all my books on it. And put them with my Kindle books in the same library.
    The NC is new to me. So far, I love the quality of the screen. It does get a bit iffy on the Internet – does that improve if you root it? I’m thinking of using it for night reading and as a small tablet – much more portable than an ipad.
    I just bought a Kobo – couldn’t resist the price at a closing Borders. Lovely screen, nice and simple, buttons are nice, too.

  9. Jean Wan says:

    Barbara – I do love the NC’s portable size, which is why I resisted getting an iPad.

    Lynne – I considered the Kindle and using Calibre, but I borrow books so often from the library that I would be continually transferring files back and forth. And I figured I would get tired of it. One-click transfer is about all I can manage. I kept going back to the Kobo, though, because of its simplicity. In the end, I found it much too slow for my tastes.

  10. DJ says:

    One thing that drives me nuts about the Nook though is that I have twice now taken the time to create shelves and sort my books, only to have to return my Nook to factory settings (per customer service’s instructions), which erased all the shelves and the organization of my books. I won’t bother creating shelves again. I’ve only had the Nook for a couple of months, so it’s been disappointing to have things go so wrong twice.

  11. mariel9898 says:

    I love my Nook Color! I rooted as well, I’m running rooted stock which basically means I get everything I bought the NC for including the B&N interface but I get all the extras from the various Android markets. It also means I can get library books via ADE or wirelessly using Overdrive. I can read Kindle books via the Kindle app. It lets you install better PDF readers though I haven’t played around with that too much as I don’t have many PDF files.

    Rooting lets you install other web browsers such as Dolphin HD which are much better suited for browsing than the stock browser.

    Another thing I really like is the Free Friday books. Every Friday there is a book offered for free, all you have to do is download it. It’s a great way to try our new materials and new authors. And of course if you live near a B&N store you can go there and use the read in store option to try out new books.

    The best part is that there is a huge community of Nook Color lovers out there, both on the reading side (mobile e-reader site, B&N forums) as well as on the techie side where you can see what great things they are doing with this little e-reader (XDA, Nook Devs, and most of the Android forums now have Color Nook forums). Anything you want to know they can help you with, including the best way to deal with non B&N books.

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