f you are looking for an eReader that focuses on the reading experience, especially for expanded content like full-color periodicals, while also offering a few extra goodies then we think you’ll love the Nook Color. The biggest trade-off is that the very things we like about this unit, such as its captivating display, are also the things that drag it down (fabulous display equals not so fabulous battery life). For the money and the extras, the Barnes & Noble Nook Color is putting itself in an excellent position to grab some substantial market share.
The first version of the Nook appeared on the market in October of 2009, and at $259 it was billed as a lower-cost answer to the competition offered by its arch nemesis, Amazon.com. In response, Amazon lowered the price of the Kindle 2 from $299 to match the Barnes release price of the original Nook, and from then on, you could almost hear the two bookselling stalwarts chanting, “Game on!”
Let’s dig a little deeper into the nuances of the Nook Color and see if we can make a few reasonable judgments ourselves.
How I conducted my analysis of the Nook Color:
The Barnes & Noble store closest to my location is about a half-hour drive, and during the holiday shopping season the place was bristling with customers. At the Nook counter, it took another half hour to get someone freed up long enough to answer a few questions for me, and predictably, I was told I couldn’t open the box without committing to buying the device. My hands-on observations about the Nook Color were gathered first with the help of a Barnes associate, who was kind enough to leave me alone with a unit so I could continue scribbling my notes.
I also read the online reviews of nine different respected sources, as well as scanning the end user reports on two different sites.
What I thought of the Barnes & Noble Nook Color eReader:
Right out of the gate, the thing I noticed most about the Nook Color was that it’s heavy. Really heavy, in my opinion. Of course, you have to allow for a bit of a discount in my case, because as a regular business traveler, I like my gadgets thin, compact, and above all, LIGHT. Not that the Nook Color is particularly heavy for an object of it’s size – but to me, the new Nook is definitely heavy for a device of its kind. In fact, the Nook Color is just one ounce short of a pound, which makes it nearly double the weight of the Kindle 3 (8.5 oz) or the Kobo eReader (7 oz). Thankfully, the new Nook isn’t as weighty as the iPad (1.5 pounds) but then again, it isn’t a full featured tablet, either.
For me, the weight of the unit is as close to a deal breaker as it comes. But putting my own opinion aside for a second, and recognizing that people read books on the iPad pretty regularly these days, I was more than willing to cut the Nook Color a break in the weight department.
The Nook Color’s 7-inch display is the second thing I noticed, and it was clearly a redeeming factor. It’s an inch bigger than the New Amazon Kindle, and as an LCD, the screen of course looks quite a bit different than what you’ll see on an eInk reader. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? I thought the colors and the resolution were top shelf – impressive, in fact – even if you go into the Nook Color experience expecting nothing less. I was also impressed with the unit’s glare reduction feature, which made viewing comfortable and clear, both from an overhead lighting and backlighting perspective.
The display is touch screen, and with its 16-million color, 1024 X 600 viewing area, magazines and periodicals with color pictures represent the true test of the Nook Color. This is where the device truly shines; I thought the pictures looked vibrant, clear, and perfectly balanced in terms of color. Overall, I give the new Nook’s display a big thumbs up.
The third thing that jumps out about the new Nook is the price. Yes, it’s more expensive than lower end, $99-$139 eReaders, but this is no entry-level machine. At $249, the Nook Color isn’t out of reach, and even if it’s 65% as heavy as the iPad, it’s only about half the cost (even less for the more expensive versions of the iPad).
Next, I asked the Barnes & Noble associate about storage space, which is 8 GB for the unit I was playing with. Plenty of room by just about anyone’s standards, and that’s a good thing since there are over 2 million titles (most for $9.99) available to download. Although I thought the onboard hard drive was certainly generous enough, there is also the option to expand space with a micro SD slot.
In addition to the capability to hold 6,000 books, Nook Color users can take advantage of its flashy screen and expanded features to mix up the onboard content quite a bit. For example, you might configure your machine to hold, say, 1,000 books, and fill the rest of the space with a combination of songs (yep, you can play music on it) full color magazines, newspapers, kids books and photos. Barnes and Noble also offers the “Lifetime Library” feature, which essentially means you can lose your device or let the hard drive crash without having to worry about repurchasing your titles. You simply re-download them on your new device, because once you buy them you own ‘em for life.
The Nook Color supports not only PDF an ePub book files, but also MS word documents. Previous comments about weight notwithstanding, that’s pretty handy, especially for business users.
After learning what I could about file types, storage and such, I was on to battery life. In a nutshell, this is the second potential deal breaker for me. The Nook Color (say it again with me – COLOR) will be hungry for the charger after just 8 continuous hours of use. Compared to most eInk readers (we know, it’s different technology) the Nook Color doesn’t stack up at all in the area of battery life. Business travelers who are leaving out on a one-week trip won’t like the idea of having to lug the AC adaptor along to keep the gadget juiced up. According to the lady at my local Barns and Noble, the Nook Color takes about 3 hours to recharge. Realistically, that means plugging it in overnight if you’re on the road.
There are always trade-offs when it comes to any electronic device, so I’m not going to get all hung up about battery life. If you’re in the market for a straight, paperback-looking eInk type of eReader, then maybe you aren’t going to be interested in the expanded features of the Nook Color. You can save a hundred bucks and use your eReader as, well, just a reader. But for those who’d like to pack a little more into a device this size, the extras might be worth it.
For example, the Nook Color offers the capability to listen to music while you’re actually reading. For kids, there is also the option to have some children’s titles read out loud via the Nook’s “Alive Touch” feature, which allows kids to interact with the pictures they see on the screen. Crossword puzzles, chess and Sudoku are a few of the games you can play using the touch screen. And as an open source, Android-driven device, the Nook Color allows developers to create their own “NookExtras” and sell them on the Android App market.
I think those are pretty slick features. Maybe slick enough to overcome the weight and battery life issues.
The Nook Color is fully Wi-Fi functional, so browsing the web is yet another valid use for its excellent touch screen. I also liked the fact that you can browse away without having to worry about signing up for a 3G data plan, which can be a bit pricy for a machine you aren’t likely to surf with all the time.
In summary, I think the Nook Color is an exceptional little (or not so little) device in many ways. I like the fact that you can share opinions online (at sites like Twitter and Facebook) about what you read. I like the idea of being able to take a break from a book and pop up an mp3, a video or a crossword puzzle. In my opinion, Barnes & Noble has put the emphasis where it belongs – on reading books and magazines – while adding a few extras that make it a great choice. Especially for the price.
Online experts’ opinions of the Nook Color eReader:
I went to nine different online resources, including Cnet, MSNBC, PC World, PCMag, EnGadget and ARS Technica among others. Maybe it’s the honeymoon phase, but some of what I saw online gave the Nook Color more of a pass for its size and battery life than I did. In other areas, however, I did come across candid reviews that pointed out a few flaws I didn’t recognize. For example, MSNBC’s review mentioned that some content looks a little “pinched” on the 7-inch screen. The reviewer was speaking specifically about large format children’s books, however, so I don’t think its necessarily fair to pan the display for that reason alone. Realistically, who’s going to take a coffee table book on an airplane or to the beach anyway?
ARS Technica’s review suggested that the user interface was “a bit of a mess at the moment,” citing the extra thought required to ensure he could bring up the correct option. But since the Nook Color offers customizable screens, I feel that most gadget-heads can figure out how to get around the unit just fine.
Cnet gave the Nook Color four out of five stars and an Editor’s Choice distinction. They really liked its “zippy” performance, file support, onboard memory and vibrant touch screen. They were also quick to agree with me about the battery life issue.
Reviews by PC World and PCMag largely coincided with my own observations.
What customers who bought the Barnes & Noble Nook Color eReader thought about it:
After browsing through over 30 online reviews, here are a few of the things end users had to say about the Nook Color.
EnGadet User Reviews:
“I don’t think LCD is the way to go for long time reading. This feels a little bit rushed to get some edge in the game.” RobKort
“A droid will cost you $500 unlocked. Nook Color? Just as powerful, 7 inch screen, and $250. A must get if you’re desperate for Android.” Kyle Reynolds
Cnet User Reviews:
“It’s a reader’s tablet. The magazine reading is great, so is the ePub and side-loaded PDF/Doc etc content.” Darjeeling_unlimited
“Laggy at times, limited Wi-Fi reception, and heavier than expected.” EduarditoJ
Of course, the jury is still out as the Nook Color has only been on the market for about a month. We’re sure there will be plenty of additional commentary as people learn more about the device.
Attractive screen. Attractive features. Attractive price.
An interesting sidebar: when you Google “where to buy Nook Color,” one of the online retailers that comes up is Amazon.com. They list the Nook Color at $314.95 (through a selling partner, of course) which may be a creative way to make the New Amazon Kindle appear even more attractive price-wise.
If you are looking for an eReader that focuses on the reading experience, especially for expanded content like full-color periodicals, while also offering a few extra goodies then we think you’ll love the Nook Color. The biggest trade-off is that the very things we like about this unit, such as its captivating display, are also the things that drag it down (fabulous display equals not so fabulous battery life).
For the money and the extras, the Barnes & Noble Nook Color is putting itself in an excellent position to grab some substantial market share.
*Prices are only estimates and may vary from time to time, eReader central does not guarantee the stated prices.