Nook Color Review: Pros and Cons


Nook Color

Now that Barnes and Noble has revealed their latest shiny new gadget, the Nook Color, it’s a good time to go over all of the official specs and make a list of the pros and cons of the device as an ebook reader and as a tablet.

If you look at the date of this article you see that it was published before the Nook’s release. On January 4th, 2011 I went ahead and updated this post after having used the Nook Color since its release in mid-November.

Make sure to check the new dedicated Nook Color Review page for my full hands-on review, video review, photos, and the complete list of specs.

Nook Color Pros

  • Ideal for color content: magazines, children’s books, cookbooks, magazines, newspapers, etc.
  • Android operating system.
  • You can hack the Nook Color to add the Android Market and install 3rd-party apps.
  • ARM Cortex A8 processor.
  • 7-inch capacitive LCD touchscreen with 16 million colors and a viewing angle of 178 degrees.
  • 1024 x 600 high resolution display with 169 pixels per inch.
  • Plays videos smoothly that are embedded in ebooks as well as MP4 videos (learn how to set up videos on the Nook Color).
  • Play music and stream Pandora internet radio.
  • Browse the web and send and receive email.
  • The Nook Color will be updated by B&N to run Android 2.2, which includes Flash support for web videos.
  • B&N plan to introduce Nook app store in Q1 2011 to download apps.
  • Comes with 8GB of memory and there’s a microSD card slot for cards up to 32GB.
  • Built-in WiFi.
  • Adjust font size, type, spacing, and background color.
  • Adjust backlight brightness.
  • Supports Adobe DRM for ebooks from a wide range of ebook stores as well as free library ebooks.
  • Quickoffice software for viewing Microsoft Office files.
  • Customizable homepage, bookshelves, wallpaper.
  • Nook apps are available on several platforms for reading and syncing ebooks across multiple devices.
  • Share ebooks and passages with friends via Facebook and Twitter directly within the reading app.
  • Import Google contacts.
  • Lend certain ebooks for 14 days with LendMe.
  • Access to Barnes and Noble’s in-store exclusive content with More In Store.
  • Read ebooks for free while visiting B&N stores with B&N’s Read In Store feature (up to an hour per day).
  • Ebook section for Kid’s books called Nook Kids.
  • Alive Touch feature lets kids interact with words and pictures, and the Read To Me feature reads a story aloud.

Nook Color Cons

  • LCD display is prone to reflection and poor visibility in bright lighting conditions.
  • LCD displays drain battery power, giving the Nook Color just 8 hours of battery life for reading compared to 1-4 weeks for an E Ink ereader.
  • Some people have problems with eyestrain when using backlit LCD displays.
  • PDF support is basic.
  • B&N won’t give access to the Android Market, not allowing full access to all the apps.
  • No Flash support until 2.2 update.
  • B&N’s DRM won’t allow you to display your purchased ebooks on anything but a B&N-supported device/software.
  • No 3G connection.
  • Battery not user-replaceable.
  • At just under 1 pound it’s a little on the heavy side.
  • Fingerprints.
  • Only available in the United States.

Nook Color Review Conclusion

The Nook Color is a multimedia device first and an ereader second. Given its feature-set it clearly isn’t designed for the person who is a hardcore reader like the original Nook was. It is designed more for casual readers that enjoy reading color content in the from of magazines, newspapers, etc., and want to be able to browse the web, send emails, and play video and music as well as read.

For those that read for several hours a day, an E Ink ereader is probably going to be a better choice with its high-contrast display that’s easier on the eyes and long battery life for weeks of reading. What it all comes down to is personal preference, of course. So which do you choose? An ereader? Or a tablet that doubles as an ereader?

49 Responses to “Nook Color Review: Pros and Cons”

  1. A really exhaustive list, Nathan. I also agree with the dilemma exactly as you put it in the end. Because different people have different needs.

    IMO, a tablet PC like Nook Color can be mostly a replacement for a netbook, not a dedicated e-reader.

    With Nook Color at $250, though, some e-readers now seem quite expensive (I am thinking mostly of Sony Readers) and their prices may be reduced – we had the same effect with the launch and success of iPad. Reading habits aside, a 7” Sony PRS-950 (which targets especially newspapers and magazines readers) is $50 more expensive than 7” Nook Color, which does a lot more. That’s a problem for Sony.

  2. Forgot it, I think with Quickoffice the files are not only viewable, but also editable in Android platforms

    • I think you are right about Office files being editable, but I couldn’t find any definitive info on B&N’s website/documentation.

  3. Thanks for the information you have helped sort out my dilemma
    on my purchase.very informative post on the nook color.this model not for me do love your site hopefully will be able to make the right choice with your help keep up the good work,
    thanks again

    regards

    Adam

  4. “B&N’s DRM won’t allow you to display your purchased ebooks on anything but a B&N-supported device/software”
    This is a big com.

  5. Some more cons (relative to the E-Ink NOOKs) getting some attention in the NOOK forums:

    * NOOKcolor will not read eReader PDB format[1]
    * free AT&T Wi-Fi isn’t included[2]
    * the battery is not user-replaceable[2]

    Also, MS Office documents can be viewed but not edited[3].

    [1] http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/t5/NOOK-and-NOOKcolor-General/NOOKcolor-Supported-File-Type-Question/m-p/698016#M37434
    [2] http://www.barnesandnoble.com/nook/compare/index.asp (select “compare features” tab)
    [3] http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/t5/NOOK-and-NOOKcolor-General/NookColor-and-MS-Office-docs/m-p/701096#M38215

    And just to clarify for others reading this posting: there are a few non-B&N e-readers that can read B&N e-books (now called NOOKbooks), such as the Ectaco Jetbook Lite and the Pandigital Novel. B&N also sells some non-DRMed EPUBs that are usable on a wide range of e-readers, but alas doesn’t give the potential buyer any indication if DRM will be applied or not aside from the publisher’s name.

  6. B&N’s DRM won’t allow you to display your purchased ebooks on anything but a B&N-supported device/software.

    I’m sorry, but what device allows this? Are you saying I can buy an e-book from Amazon and display it elsewhere without Kindle software? How about Sony’s E-store? Borders?

    I agree with some of your stuff, but this shouldn’t be a con because everybody is doing this exact con. This is how E-Readers are.

    I also did notice that you neglected to mention that Nook allows you to purchase books from online bookstores (ebooks.com), or you can download books from your local library and display them on Nook. Only a few e-readers do this.

    Since we are on topic of LCD displays, there was an optometrist that actually said that the new led/lcd screens do not really cause all the eye strain like the old CRT screens/Early LCD/LED screens did. (i wish i could find the review that mentioned this, but as soon as I do i will post another comment).

    • Hi Jonathan,

      Not all ebook stores lock you into their hardware/software. Amazon, B&N, and Apple do. The rest of the major ebooks stores like Sony, Borders, Kobo, eBooks.com, etc all sell Adobe DRM which can displayed on 95% of ereaders so you have the freedom of changing brands—just not the Kindle and a few others. The Nook can indeed read ebooks from all those sources as well as library ebooks—that’s mentioned halfway down the pros list.

  7. Thank you for the excellent list- you mention android market apps if you root the device but the list doesn’t mention that apps will be available through nook developer even if you don’t.

    I think this is both a pro and a con as at this time- since it’s not clear what will and won’t be approved. If they refuse all but a handful of apps, just to keep out competition, its a con. But if they let developers get creative and just screen to make sure the apps actually work with the device then its a pro – it prevents you from spending money on something in the android market app then later finding out it doesn’t work or look right on your particular device.

    Also, I personally would consider it a pro if they screen out adult applications – I have a young daughter and the people who want them can root their devices.

  8. while it’s true that NOOKbooks can only be read on BN supported devices/software, it’s important to note that that includes all laptops, pc’s, macs, smartphones, ipads, etc.

    the only things you CAN’T read them on is other e-book readers…

  9. Is it possible to print part of a magazine article on the color Nook? Turns out that many folks(my spouse included) would enjoy subscribing to mags on the Nook, but expect to be able to print out a recipe, instead of writing it or carrying the Nook to the kitchen. Recipes are generally ripped out of a mag, annotated and whatnot. Without similar capability, many potential mag subscribers will not be interested.

    • Hi Walt,

      I highly doubt that is possible, but I will double check when doing the review. If it had a screenshot feature then that would work, but I haven’t found an option for that yet. I know the Kindle has an option to clip articles but I have not seen that on the Nook, but I will double check. I’ll add another post below if I find out a way to get that to work.

  10. But she could download the same book onto a desktop computer using the NOOK desktop application, and then do a print screen of the recipe and print it, no?

  11. I wish I could have tried the Nook out before I ordered six of them. I truly regret it. I have noticed that most books cost just as much as paper books. Not only that, they have a real crummy selection of books that can be read aloud to children. I made a big mistake and now I will have to return the Nooks and look into buying the Kindle or IPAD. What a huge disappointment for my students. They have learning disabilities and I thought this would be a great way to have them expereience the joy of reading. What a let down.

  12. I got a chance to play with the NookColor in my store & I have to say that I’m pretty underwhelmed by it. The part of me that likes shiny new technologies wants it, but that same part of me is also telling myself that if I really wanted a non e-ink reader then I might as well buy the iPad.

    I also wrote a review, but it didn’t cover all of the stuff in this one. I’ll have to link to this review…

  13. A bit of feedback and opinion from a professional business user (attorney) who has had hands on use of a Nook Color for 48 hours …

    After months of researching the Kindle 3, the iPad and other e-readeers, I had decided on the Kindle 3 and intended to purchase it Thanksgiving weekend … but that changed the Tuesday before Thanksgiving when I passed a B&N advertising the Nook Color for pre-order and discovered they had one on demo. Played with it about 10 minutes, asked the most important questions on features I required of a device and then asked when they would be in store for sale — was told they had a few in and I bought it on the spot (Kindle 3 was no longer a contender after picking up the Nook Color and iPad went to a distant 3rd).

    What I wanted was an eReader/tablet that was fast, small (real briefcase size) and less bulky than a netbook for easy loading and reading of my own law books, cases, statutes and codes, audio/mp3 (video would be a plus), etc.
    and with Microsoft Outlook like functions (email, contacts, calendar, appointment/todo capability — either in device or via internet WiFi connections e.g., through courthouse and office networks). Also needed to read Word DOCs, PDFs and the Web decently (Kindle does not do DOCs without conversion). The Nook Color will meet these nedds better than the other — and a lot cheaper than the iPad (weigh into the price that Nook Color has unlimited memory and with a single 32 gb microSD will run around $300 whereas the iPad 32 gb will run over $800 with no expansion memory)

    Noted that at this moment that Nook Color does not have internal apss for editing DOC or text files or acceptable contacts list, and no internal Calendar/Appointment software. But, without question these apps exit for Android and, if not available direct from Nook Marketplace in the next few months, will run via some unlocking or hack of the root system software.

    That said two opinions — (1) this, by outward appearances — its aluminum framed body, is the highest quality, most solid and sturdiest eReader I have had my hands on (making the old Nook and Kindle look and feel like plastic toys) and (2) this device, with the right availability of Android apps, could seriously hurt all Amazon, Apple and Windows tablet sales — a very well become the best selling tablet on the market — even without additional Android apps it will seriously hurt Kindle 3 sales.

  14. @rsp
    That means you have to buy those books from B&B (and only from B&N).
    I beg to differ on (1) – try Sony PRS-650 (or Pocketbook IQ for LCD tablet/reader).
    On (2) the key is “with the right availability of Android apps”. Oh wait, it’s locked on B&N! So there is no (2).

  15. @Adrian:
    1. I can get many, many books from many different sources that will run on the NOOK.
    2. RE: Android apps: Of course, the iPad is “locked” on the Apple App Store, with it’s fees, limitations and “no Flash” rules. For those willing and technical, the “unlocking”/”rooting” of the NOOK is already documented which allows access to many (but admittedly not all) Android apps; for the non-technical, it may well be worth waiting to see what B&N will do with it’s App Store next year (something I would recommend to my non-technical friends) before purchasing the NOOK. But the potential capabilities make waiting worthwhile; for me (and yes, I am an engineer willing to root the device), I am awaiting delivery from UPS tomorrow to put my hands on the NOOK Color.

    This, like every other purchase comparison, is only correctly determined by how the actual user experience is for that specific user.

    Happy Holidays, everyone!

  16. Hi Nathan,
    i can’t decide what one to buy: the NookColor or the Pocketbook IQ… You have tested both. So i’m asking, is the Nook’s reading experience much better than the Pocketbook’s? Firstly, i’m thinking about the screen quality and touching-experience… Secondly, which has better .doc-support and text-editing support?
    Thanks in advance.

    • The Nook Color’s screen is much better than the IQ’s, much clearer and sharper, touch is better because it is capacitive, and the text is bolder and more defined, so it easily wins in that department, but the IQ wins in the tablet department since it can install apps. The Nook can too with a hack but that requires some technical work and voiding the warranty. The IQ has better .doc support simply because it can install different apps that support that format. You can’t edit text with the Nook, and I don’t know of any apps that do that so I can’t comment about it for the IQ, but there are probably some.

  17. Thank you very much for the detailed answer!

  18. “Documents to Go” is an Android App that allows you to view and edit office 2007 documents. I haven’t tried it and don’t know if they can be installed on these devices, although presumably one could on the POCKETBOOK IQ.

  19. I was ready to order a Nook Color, but stopped in my tracks when I found out B&N has as yet no plans for out of warranty battery replacement. There has been a fair amount of discussion on B&N’s own forums about this. As of now, if the battery fails, as it eventually will, you’ll be left with a $250 brick unless they decide to provide a mail-in replacement service. Unfortunately, B&N has been very evasive about this, saying things like “the battery will last for the lifetime of the device.” In my case, when I inquired about how B&N was planning to handle the inevitable need for a battery replacement, I got a canned message telling me how to make the battery last longer, nothing more. Its too bad they didn’t make the battery user-replaceable, which was a big advantage of the original Nook over the Kindle. It looks like marketing decided that making the Nook Color sexy thin was more important than a replaceable battery.

    • That’s definitely something Barnes and Noble needs to figure out because that’s a pretty big issue. Nobody wants to be tethered to a power cable once the battery stops holding a charge, which is bound to happen at some point down the road. Certainly someone will figure out a solution eventually, if not B&N.

  20. I sent three e-mails to B&N trying to get a straight answer about their Nook Color battery replacement policy. On the third, I told them that a sale was riding on a satisfactory answer. Here’s what they said:

    “Dear Customer,

    Thank you for your inquiry.

    The answer to your question is as follows:

    The NOOKcolor is covered under warranty and under that warranty the NOOKcolor will be replaced at the time that the battery is unable to charge anymore or if the NOOKcolor stops working.

    After the warranty date when the NOOKcolor stops working or the battery is no longer able to be charged the NOOKcolor will need to be replaced. This will be at the owner’s expense.”

    Note, they said the entire device will have to be replaced at the owner’s expense. In other words, throw it away and buy a new one.

    No sale!

  21. To charge a NookColor, there is a convenient USB charge port – unfortunately it only works with the charger supplied with the unit! You cannot connect the standard USB connector to your PC and get power from it – it will connect so you can move files onto it, but no charging… A most unfortunate design…

  22. Took mine back when I realized that you can not reply to emails. Will wait (and hope) for iPad 2

  23. I have a question. Can you download apps onto the Nook Color like the iPad? Please answer ASAP. Thank you!

  24. does the color Nook have a read alound function from book text (I mean from any book, not a book with a special audio feature included)?

  25. @Garth : the Nook Color charges through USB connected with your computer ! I was suprised also … I left my NC connected and after a while the charge was 100% !

  26. Nate-

    Thanks for the info you and others have provided. I am not a tech guy, therefore I will not be hacking my new Nook Color.

    I will wait to see what apps are available. I do have a question…what kind of apps are we looking at in your opinion?
    Will there be a calendar app? Will there, for example, be an MLB (Major League Baseball) app such as the one on my IPOD touch?

    Thanks.

    • I don’t know. B&N is requesting apps that are focused on ereading, but I imagine they’ll allow a lot of the more popular Android apps since that only helps them sell more units,

  27. I bought my wife a nook color for Christmas. Here it is not a full week later and it is dead. Anyone else have this problem?

  28. I don’t know why there is so much fuss over the LCD. You just need to change the background and turn it way down – which prolongs the battery life – so a double bonus. Has anyone ever tried to read a paper page is bright sunlight? It reflects too. If B&N plays their updates right they will steal the small tablet market. This is a gem if you just recognize it for what it is. Nothings perfect.

  29. I was given the NOOK for Christmas. It is the ereader I have been wanting. I tried five before this. The LED reading light is wonderful and my main reason for purchase. I like to read at night without disturbing the nonreader next to me. The brightness is turned down in the dark and brightened in day reading. This makes the screen easy to see and changes for my needs. The previous ereaders did not have enough of a contrast between the gray scales of letters and page.

    My major concern is the lending option. NOT ALL BOOKS are lendable. When I discovered this I was seriously disappointed.

    Overall, I do not want to buy any “real” books. As a librarian, I was surprised by my use of this device. When I read at home I leave it charging as I read. Then it is always ready to go when I am. This is the best one so far!

    I am purchasing more books with the ereader,but they could provide specials for those of us who purchase books often and make them all lendable.

  30. I really wanted to buy the Nook Color. Then I read the reviews and decided to go with the Kindle 3G+WiFi.
    The Color only comes with WiFi….. so if you’re out traveling and wanted to surf the web, send email, buy a book and were NOT within WiFi range, YOU’RE OUT OF LUCK.
    I dont understand why the B&N offers their a Nook in black and white with 3G + WiFi, but NOT in COLOR.

    So, until this happens, I’m sticking with my Kindle. I also dont like the fact that you’ll someday have to TOSS out a $250 unit, with ALL YOUR BOOKS YOU BOUGHT when the battery dies. That’s just not right.

  31. Nook Color easily connects to the web using my phone’s 3G hotspot. I don’t need, or want to pay for yet another 3G device. I use the Nook Color professionally to access documents, reports, manufacturer’s data sheets, conference proceedings, technical manuals, CAD drawings, pictures in the field. I’ve placed orders on McMaster-Carr and reviewed reports without picking up my computer with this thing. I work in places that make the iPad look like a glass slipper in a rock crusher. Kindle slightly more than worthless in these places. There is simply nothing else on the market that comes even close to the capabilities of this handy little device at this price point. My solar charger works when electricity is not available otherwise.

    That’s with the 2.1 operating system. It gets even better with Froyo.

  32. Nook Color can only play these video formats: 3GP, 3G2, MP4, M4V, and OGG. And supports MPEG-4 Simple Profile up to 854×480, H.263 up to 352×288, and H.264 Baseline profile up to 854×480. So if u want enjoy your video on Nook Color, u must convert video to these Nook Color compatible formats. I suggest u try Foxreal Video Converter , which can convert all format videos to Nook Color with the optimized format (MP4, H.264, 854×480).
    U can try it, good luck!

  33. Tech Support has not proved to be good. I’ve now placed 3 calls. The first to advise the power cord stopped charging and the second and third that the replacement power cord was never received. I wanted to speak to a supervisor but that was deflected. I have been without the Nook Color since Feb 3rd. I don’t know that I am that excited anymore with the concept of having all my new books at my fingertips if I can’t read them. If the new power cord doesn’t work and I need to have the Nook Color replaced, I wonder how that will go. I have 10 months left on the warranty.

  34. You know that Barnes and Noble are getting a app store in 2011 and that you can buy Nook in other countries buy you just have to buy it online.

  35. I have a NookColor & I love it! I am a dedicated reader, but I also like to read other things, like magazines & such.

    First off: They have a screen protector that is anti-glare. Is it the eInk? No. But it serves the purpose & is just as effective. (Besides, most eReaders have protective covers they recommend you put on anyway to keep the crud off the screen.)

    Which brings me to my next point.

    Secondly: I was looking at a standard Nook today so I could test out this “incredible eInk” technology. Guess what? It is not the same as paper because I could still see the lights (not as bright but I could still see them on the screen, which you don’t with actual paper).

    Basically, you can read & do much more. As stated previously, I love it!

  36. The Barnes and Noble e-Book technical support is terrible! I spent hours on the phone with technicians in The Phillippines to get a book that I had purchased to display on my color Nook. They suggested that I unregister and re-register my Nook, which would wipe out all my bookmarks and highlights for all the e-books on my Nook. They wouldn’t refund my money until they could confirm that the file was corrupted, and I would have to call them back and speak to another technician to get the refund.

    They also refused to let me speak to a supervisor or manager.

    I am very disappointed that Barnes & Noble would provide such poor technical support. The Nook is a pretty good device, but I will probably switch to the iPad and another e-book provider given this experience I just had with B&N.

  37. I totally agree with your pros and cons list. I have had my NookColor for about 2 months now. My first two issues I found in the first week were that most of the PDF files I needed to access for my graduate studies would not “open” on the nook. All I got was a blank white “page” with two red lines from corner to corner making an “x” with the number of pages it would not display. My second issue is that I tried to download a free trial of a textbook B&N was offering & was unable to download to the nook. When I called Customer Support, I was told there was NOTHING they could do about the PDF issue, and that the eTextbooks they sell can ONLY be read on a PC!!!

    Then, a wire broke in my power/USB cord within a month of purchase. It stopped making the connection with my computer, so the only way to add documents or files to the Nook was restricted to the data card. I called B&N and they told me they would send a replacement cord immediately. It has been well over a month and I have not received the replacement cord. I have sent several emails requesting information on the cord, and have gotten no response.

    So, if you are having similar issues, here are some suggestions: Rooting your nook is a relatively simple process. You can get the step-by-step instructions from uTube. (shop these videos and select one that you believe is knowledgable.) Once the nook is rooted, you can access the Android Market. There are tons of apps that you can download, many for free. “Documents to Go” is a great app for using Office Suite for everything from reading PDF files (This opens EVERY one of my needed PDF files) to editing or creating word, excel, etc. documents. Finally, from the Android Market, you can download the android version of all the other competitors and can download Kindle books (Can buy eTextbooks there than CAN be accessed from the ereaders) or whatever competitor you want to read on the Nook. One note, a rooted Nook appears to be draining on the battery, so having a power cord available to charge is important. This brings me to my last solution… I happened to have USB and a/c cords for a samsung smart phone (Samsung Moment or Samsung Intercept). These chargers work acceptably well with the Nook. Charging is somewhat slower with these cords, but they are worlds better than no power or USB cord at all.

  38. we just want something to read and check our e-mail while in mexico and other forign countrys. any ideas?
    bob