This holiday season many readers are going to decide whether to purchase either an Amazon Kindle Fire for $199.00 or a Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet for $249.00. But there’s another option, which is to buy a Nook Color e-reader for the newly discounted price of $199.00 (at sellers like Target, Wall-Mart and Staples, in addition to Barnes & Noble). Since I’ve owned a Nook Color device for a few weeks, I decided to write-up my impressions – for what they’re worth – here. Maybe my experience will assist someone who is attempting to make an informed decision about the pluses and minuses of owning this 7″ tablet, with a small “t”.
With any reading device the strongest impression is going to come from the quality of the viewing screen. The screen on the Nook Color, made by LG, is bright, sharp and offers great depth when viewing color scenes. The depth is so noticeable that it seems to be a 3-D type of effect, and will be greatly appreciated by avid photographers. When it comes to devices smaller than the now almost standard 10.1-inch tablets, the Nook Color’s screen is second in quality only to the Samsung Galaxy Tab in the 8.9″ Goldilocks-sized version. Buying the Samsung involves spending $449 to $549. So, the high quality viewing experience on the Nook Color is literally a bargain.
I’m not able to read books on a PC because of eye strain issues, but eye strain has not been a problem with the Nook Color. This may be because the screen has been treated with an anti-glare solution, or because it is remarkably easy to adjust the brightness at any time to compensate for a change in lighting conditions.
The web browser on the Nook Color is very, very fast – and definitely faster than when one’s browsing pages on a netbook, low-priced laptop or an antiquated BlackBerry “smart phone” made by RIM. If you have an opportunity to test a Nook Color, try calling up a Wikipedia page on almost any subject and you’ll see that it loads wickedly fast. Of course, since the Nook Color is a Wi-Fi only device, actual speeds will vary depending on the capacity of your home wireless network.
I tested the public Wi-Fi feature in a restaurant in downtown Oakland, CA where the system required a log-in password, and it worked effortlessly and flawlessly. And, of course, you can use the Nook Color in any Barnes & Noble store, where the device automatically connects to the bookseller’s network. Downloading a book that you’ve ordered from the Barnes & Noble shop takes just seconds (and always less than 10 seconds), and you can read a sample preview of almost any book that’s offered for sale. With the bestseller Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, the free sample is an excerpt of the first 118 pages!
If the Nook Color trips on occasion, it’s when it comes to memory. In theory, you can stop reading a book at any point and return to it hours or days later and the device will remember the last page you were on. However, in practice, this only works about 75 percent of the time… The more hours/days that you put the Nook Color down, the less likely it is to remember where you were last. The device is also supposed to let you select a home page of your own, but even after following the very specific directions needed to set your personal home page, the Nook Color will periodically forget your selection and open with the staid Barnes & Noble page. Sigh.
Battery life seems to be fine while you’re reading or surfing the web, but if you let the device run down to 5% or so of its remaining power, you’ll be sad to find out that it will take a full three hours to recharge it fully. Three hours seems like an eternity now when the best smartphones can recharge in less than half an hour.
The build quality on the Nook Color seems to be admirable, and it’s a small device with some heft. On the flip side, it often feels a bit too heavy when one’s spending a good period of time holding it while reading. The new Nook Tablet is 1.7 ounces lighter, which seems like a positive development.
If the Nook Color were a book rather than a technological device, I’d rate it on the borderline between Well Recommended and Highly Recommended. As a practical e-reader and web surfing machine, it gets the job done 98% of the time, and the price is just right at $199.00. But today, for an extra $50.00, you can have a Nook Tablet that’s lighter, faster (with a dual-core rather than single core processor), and has a longer-lasting battery. All that’s needed now is for some boy or girl genius to develop a turbo-boosted charger for the Nooks that will recharge them in 20 minutes instead of 3 hours!