We’ve been impatiently waiting for a serious color e-reader for a long, long time. Monochrome e-readers have been out for a while now, and a few color e-readers have even popped up recently, but none of these recent color e-readers have had enough polish to really be desirable. When Barnes & Noble announced the Nook Color last month it seemed like this new e-reader could potentially be the color ebook reader that we’ve all been waiting for. The new Nook Color features a 7″ touchscreen color display that is complimented by WiFi, 8gb of on-board memory plus a microSD slot, and a U.I. that is running on Android 2.1.
Before we get into the Nook’s physical design and display, we must to give a shout out to its easy-to-open packaging. The top of the box literally flips open and the Nook slides out so nicely. God bless them for creating such an easy to open, neat and tidy packaging system.
Now, onto to the design of the Nook Color. The Nook Color’s hardware is solid and well made with a minimalist look going for it. With its rounded edges, complimented by a soft touch finish on its backside, it’s also comfortable to hold in your hand. Unfortunately, weighing in at 15.8 ounces, it’s also on the heavy side. It’s not as heavy as the iPad’s 21 ounces, but it’s also significantly heavier than most monochrome e-readers, which means it’s not quite as comfortable to hold in your hand for prolonged periods of time. That said, its 7″ display really is the ideal size for a color e-reader in terms of portability and reading comfort. It should easily slip into most medium sized purses without weighing down your bag too much.
The display on the Nook Color is a VividView display which features 26 millions colors and a 1024×600 IPS resolution with 169 pixels per inch. This special display uses a full lamination screen film on top of the LCD which manages to help reduce glare from the backlight. Colors on the Nook Color’s display are vivid, crisp and sharp. Reading magazines are a pleasure, as is browsing the web and watching movies too. This superb display really enables the Nook Color to excel at showing off magazines and kid’s books. This display is also able to get very bright. However when reading text for extended periods of time, you’ll probably want to turn down the brightness a bit. Speaking of text, text looks very sharp too, even sharper than on the iPad. This is most likely because the Nook Color resolution is packed into a smaller display size and because of its high 169 pixel per inch count. Our only significant gripe with the Nook Color’s display is that similarly to the iPad’s display, it is very fingerprint prone, so you’ll want to keep a cloth handy.
The Nook Color’s interface is simple to get the hang of and is pretty intuitive. While it still has some minor ironing out to do in terms of some lags here and there, it is quite polished and overall impressive for a first run.
A dedicated “n” button at the bottom of the Nook Color’s display serves as the home button. The n button takes you to the Homescreen. Running along the bottom of the homescreen the Nook shows off thumbnails of your latest downloaded content. Above that is an area where you can drag and drop your latest titles to rearrange however you’d like. This homescreen extends to up-to three screens and you can use your own photos as wallpaper for the homescreen too.
The “Book” icon at the bottom of the interface will bring you back to the most recent page you were reading in your library. At the bottom of the device you can see status indicator icons for WiFi, audio, battery life and the time. Double tap on the time at the bottom right and “Quick Settings” pop up which offer the option to toggle the WiFi on or off, as well as toggle on Mute, Switch off the Automatic Orientation and Adjust the screen Brightness
Downloading books is generally very quick and takes just a few seconds. Many books have samples which you can download first before you decide to actually purchase the book. Page turns are also quick when it comes to text based ebooks.
When you’re reading an ebook, you can double tap on a page and a menu will pop up with several options:
Content – Lets you quickly access the table of contents, as well as any notes & highlights or bookmarks that you may have.
Search – Lets you search for a word or phrase within the book.
Share – Lets you Recommend, Rate & Review or Post your Reading Status. This lets you recommend what you’re reading to one of your contacts, or via Facebook and Twitter. You can also Post/Share your reading Status on Facebook or Twitter, so that your status will say for example “I am through 10% of the Confession by John Grisham.”
Text – Lets you change the font type, size, text color and line height of the text you are reading, as well as the background color. So for example, you can make the background color dark gray which can be helpful for reading in a dark environment.
Brightness – gives you quick access to the brightness settings.
The overall, web browsing experience on the Nook Color is very good. The device runs on Android 2.1, so that means it features a lot of of Android’s functionality including video playback and a great web browser. As a result, the web browser is hardly an after thought and provides a rich web browsing experience. It’s really nice to be able to load up a web site in between reading books, without having to switch to a different device. Browsing over wi-fi is fast. The experience is complimented by the onscreen keyboard is easy to use, and is very iOS like. The browser however, unfortunately lacks the ability to pinch to zoom in and out, instead you’ll need to double tap to zoom in.
Nook Kids features special color kids books which have the option to “Read By Myself” and “Read to Me”. Read to me actually reads the sorry out-loud. This is a neat option, but a computerized voice is definitely not a substitute for a parent’s voice and spending time reading to their kid.
The selection of magazines and newspapers available for the Nook Color Magazines and Newspapers is quite healthy – B&N is already already offering everything from the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal to Spin, Redbook, National Geographic, Maxim US Weekly, GQ and more. You can buy current issues of Newspapers or magazines or subscribe to the periodical. Many magazines and newspapers have free 14 day trials too.
Magazines are shown with their original layouts, ads and all. And they quite frankly, look beautiful. You can pinch to zoom in on articles but unfortunately there is somewhat of a lag when doing this. Also, When reading both magazines and Nook Kids books etc, there is slight lag when flipping from page to page. You can also view magazine stories in “Article view”, which is is a pop-up version of the article with regular text. On the other hand, Newspapers are broken down into text and images for which you can adjust the text size and colors etc just like you would with a downloaded ebook.
The Library breaks down your media into Books, Magazines, Newspapers. It also has a section for “My Shelves” which is a convenient way to organize your favorite reads. Plus there is also “My Files” where you can access saved documents including videos and pictures etc. The device also has support support for PDF, ePub, and Word files, as well several image and video files, and MP3 files. “Lend Me” shows you which books in your library are available for lending out.
The Nook Color currently comes preloaded with “Extras” which help extend the functionality of the device beyond just an e-reader. Currently the Extras are limited to Chess, Contacts, Crossword, Gallery, LendMe, Music, Pandora and Sudoku. In particular, Gallery lets you view photos and create a slideshow. When it comes to listening to music, you’ll need to connect the Nook to your computer over USB to transfer off music files etc. Unfortunately, there is no built-in e-mail app, at-least not yet. So if you want to send or receive an email you’ll have to use the web browser to log into your email account. Alas, B&N has not included the Android Marketplace on the device, which is really a shame because that would essentially transform the device into practically a full fledged and very affordable tablet, as opposed to just a versatile e-reader. That said, the Nook Developer program promises to expand these extras with more “apps”. Lonely Planet and Dictionary.com are some of the Extras that are supposedly on their way.
The Nook Color advertises a battery life of up-to 8 hours with Wi-Fi turned off, and in use this claim mostly holds true. This is a shorter battery life than most monochrome readers, but totally worth the trade off in exchange for a full color and more versatile device. In any case, battery life should be enough to get through most flights.
The Barnes & Noble Nook Color may not be the first e-reader with a full color touchscreen, but it’s definitely the best color e-reader option available on the market today. Its interface is quite polished for a first run, and that combined with B&N’s massive library of books and the excellent color touchscreen display, makes the Nook Color a serious desirable e-reading device. The Nook Color can be ideal for parents who read to their kids a lot, it’s also idea for the casual reader / serious magazine reader. Personally, I fit into that last category. I love magazines, and I always take a pile with me when I travel, so the Nook Color would make a great travel companion for me.
Furthermore, if Barnes & Noble adds more extras to the device, than the Nook Color has the potential to be a serious stripped down tablet and multimedia device, and not just an e-reader. That said, if you mostly read text heavy books, than the 1st gen Nook will most likely be sufficient for you. The B&N Nook Color retails for a very reasonable $249, which is about $100 more than competing monochrome e-readers, and $100 more than the older Nook. Considering how much more value you get with the Nook Color, the extra $100 is well worth it. All in all, if you’ve been waiting to finally jump on the e-reader bandwagon, and you were waiting for the next gen of color e-readers, there’s no need to wait any longer, the Nook Color is a highly recommended device that is light years ahead of its monochrome e-reader counterparts.
The Good: Excellent display and build quality, 7″ display offers the perfect size for an e-reader in terms of portability and comfort, polished interface, fair price tag, social networking integration, massive library of over 2 million ebooks and periodicals, quick ebook downloads, magazines look brilliant, lots of stylish accessory cases are already available for it, Extras have potential to extend the functionality of the device into tablet territory
The Bad: No 3G option, some lag when turning magazine pages and zooming in and out, battery life isn’t as long as on most monochrome e-readers, a bit on the heavy side, very limited amounts of Extras available so far and no access to Android Marketplace yet.