REVIEW: Nook Color, If you like color this is the device for you
I think Angela James tweeted something to the effect that if the nookColor was your entrance into ereading, you wouldn’t be disappointed. The other reviewers of the nookColor are also right. If you view this as a ebook reader plus, you’ll be satisfied. If you were hoping to get a cheap Android tablet and don’t have very good technical skills, you’ll be frustrated and annoyed.
Speaking of frustrated and annoyed, I could not get the screencap option to work very well so on many of the screen caps, you’ll see a volume box (this is because to make a screencap, you press volume down and the nook button).
The nookColor has a bright, crisp LCD screen. This makes for great reading indoors, regardless of the ambient light, and on a lightly cloudy day, I could read easily outside. Because it is LCD and not eink, there is no noticeable refresh lag. The movie I put on the nookColor looked beautiful with only slight visual artifacts around the objects. Nothing that would bother my kid or me.
The capacitative touchscreen is pretty responsive although there is some slowness when turning the page. I think it was noticeable to me only because the iThings I have respond immediately and to light touch.
The exterior of the nookColor is mixed. The top and sides are metal and the back is a grippy rubber. The top is a metal overlay which I find to be odd and slightly sharp.
I’m not sure why it couldn’t have been a seamless construction on the top. The open triangle on the bottom left corner is for looks but it also allows access to the microSD slot. There are three buttons on the case:
- the power button on the upper left.
- the volume buttons on the upper right hand side.
- the n button which serves as the home button.
On the bottom is the USB port and the top is the headphones jack. The package include nookColor, a proprietary USB charger, a USB cord and a booklet. I had a hard time getting the accessory package out. Weirdly, the box of the nookColor can serve as a stand for the nook. For in home display purposes? A special note about the USB charger. The USB cord that is included with the nookColor is “slightly longer supporting a second set of pins dedicated for charging at a higher rate for a higher capacity battery (when compared to Nook and other mobile devices).” This means not any microUSB cord will work with the nookColor. The BN rep goes on to say that the USB nookColor cord should only be used with the included wall adapter. If the USB is plugged in to your computer and is not being used, the nookColor will charge slowly. You can use the nookColor if it is plugged into the wall adapter.
The home screen of the nookColor is actually actually divided into four areas:
A. The top bar tells you what book you are currently reading. Clicking on “More” gives you a list of the last three books, periodicals, and personal files you have accessed. Note: This can be cleared by going to “Settings -> Home -> Clear Keep Reading list”.
B. Is the “home screen”. There are three home screens. The grey/white dots at the top tell you which home page you are on. You can add books and magazines and newspapers that you purchased through BN.com simply by dragging them from the Daily Shelf (the “C” area) to the home page. Double tapping puts all the books in a grid. You can even stack the thumbnails on top of each other. (see pic)
C. Daily Shelf area is where your BN.com recently received books, magazines, and newspapers appear. It scrolls from left to right with the most recent item on the left. Just swipe to scroll.
D. Status Bar. This bar is visible at all times and shows what time it is, whether you are connected to wifi, whether you are charging or what your battery status is. On the left side is a small open book icon. Tap that and you are back to the last book read. The middle button is the “Quick Nav Arrow”. Note: Swiping from right to left on the status bar in web browser takes you back a page. This is helpful because for some reason, the back arrow disappears in the web browser. Note: Tapping on the battery/time icon brings up the “Quick Settings” menu where you can turn off wifi, mute sounds, and adjust the brightness.
Quick Nav Bar
This bar appears on every screen by depressing the Quick Nav Arrow. From here you can access your “Library/Shop/Search/Extras/Web/Settings”. The Library is where you can find your sideloaded or downloaded content. I was able to download PDF, Word docs, and ePubs using the nookColor web browser and read them after downloading. The sideloaded or downloaded content canNOT be added to the Home Screen, but they can be organized into shelves.
The nookColor (and with the updated nook Classic software), readers can organize their books into “shelves”. It is easy to create a shelf. By holding down your finger on the title that you want to “shelve”, a new menu pops up which gives you the choice of “Read/View Details/Add to Shelf.”
Note: Holding your finger on a title in the Daily Shelf does not bring up this menu. Instead, to add BN.com purchased content, go to the “Books” tab and press and hold the cover of the purchased content. You will then see the “Add to Shelf” feature along with “Add to Home” option.
INTERACTING WITH BOOKS
Customization. You can choose to use the publisher default settings or customize your own look. You can choose three different line heights (or spacing between lines) as well as three different margin sizes (white space between the sentences and the edge of the reader). There are six fonts and six font sizes and six font color schemes. The font color schemes include “Normal, Night (which is a dark grey and white scheme), Gray, Butter, Mocha, and Sepia.”
Bookmarks and Notes. You can easily bookmark a page by tapping on the upper right hand corner of the book. Notes and highlights are created by holding and pressing until the annotation shelf appears.
You can highlight text as well as make a note. These are accessed later by clicking on “Content” in the book menu bar. From the annotation menu, you can also share text and notes via Facebook, a form of email (which I couldn’t get to work), and Twitter. You canNOT export the notes file. You can also look up words using the internal dictionary or by launching the web browser to access wikipedia or google.
Turning pages. I found turning pages to be a little frustrating. Generally, a light tap on the right side will advance and a light tap on the left side will go back a page. But if the nookColor is resting upright (like against my knees), I found I had to tap a little harder. Additionally, you can swipe to the right or left to get the pages to turn forward or backward, but the swipe has to occur on the right side to advance forward. Having the tap zones on the right and left rather than top or bottom made the nookColor one handed only if you used your right hand. I hope that a future software upgrade gives readers the option of tap zones for page turning.
You can see your progress by tapping in the center or by looking in the upper right hand corner which says what page you are on of how many. I.e., page 30 of 329. Additionally, when accessing content, it would show you what page each chapter starts on. I loved this feature. (see pic)
If you are buying the nookColor for magazine usage, beware. Some of the magazines are unreadable on the nookColor. For instance, House Beautiful did not fill up the entire nookColor screen, leaving a weird blank space at the bottom. (see pic)
Further, while some pages offered Article Mode which was a subpar text overlay of the text content, not all pages had that feature. The text was simply too small to read on many of the pages and when I went to pinch and zoom, the nookColor thought I wanted to look at the page previous or next. It was very frustrating but the color magazine was intriguing and so I thought I would go and download the magazine on my iPad using the nook App. This was a no go because magazines that I downloaded on the nookColor are apparently not compatible with the iPad nook App.
Shape Magazine was better suited for the nookColor. The entire page filled the nookColor screen and most of the text was easily readable without any pinching and zooming. You’ll definitely want to sample each magazine before you buy a subscription.
NookColor comes preloaded with two kids books. They both offered a “read to me” feature which allows the book to be read to your kid and it’s not a text to speech voice, but some form of real audio book. One of the books also offered a nice feature of a pop up with bigger font to make it easier for kids to read. A drawback to this is that the book (I think it must be flash based) reloaded from the beginning and there was no bookmark feature.
Additionally, it was not possible to tell when you were shopping in Children Nookbooks section which ones had this audio feature. Look at the description for the Rudyard Kipling “The Elephant’s Child: How the Elephant Got His Trunk!” (see pic)
This one of the books that comes preloaded and has audio and the pop up text overlay. Hopefully, BN will do a better job of designating which books are multimedia. Note to publishers, please do a better job of providing samples. Several samples are pages and pages of front matter and then maybe one page of the actual book content itself which makes the sample worthless.
The BN store is really easy to use. You have a search bar at the bottom. You can browse by sections. You can view the selections by Grid, medium list, and tiny list. You can search by price and release date. It would be nice to be able to set a bookmark for your favorite part of the BN store (i.e. Romance for me). The BN store on the NookColor is the best ereader store yet, better than Amazon, and in part it is because it is not eink and thus everything refreshes faster, scrolls faster, responds faster. I enjoyed looking at the color covers and scrolling through the virtual shelves was easy and a lot of fun. It’s also better than the iBookstore because of a) greater selection, b) more sorting abilities (top maches/bestselling/title/price/release date), and c) ability to drill down from romance into subsections or look at the whole section of romance.
There isn’t a ton here that I would change except I would like to be able to access my BN.com account through the store instead of the web browser and I would like to be able to manage my magazine and newspaper subscriptions here as well. Instead, I am forced to go to the BN.com browser. I would also like to see tagging or other ways to drill down my browsing selections. I think it would be nice for nookColor readers to be able to access the BN.com message boards.
For ease of use, accessibility, and sheer looks, the BN.com shopping site on the nookColor is the best I’ve seen on a mobile device.
Web Browser. The web browser is a bit sluggish and the pinch and zoom does not work. Instead you double tap and the screen zooms in a bit. Double tap again and the screen zooms out. Some of the pages loaded as if I was using a mobile device and I preferred this as it loaded faster and looked better on the smaller screen. Instead, websites think I am using a full scale browser. Here’s what the Ibis Reader looks like on the nookColor here and here.
Probably the best thing about the web browser is that I was able to access my dropbox and my gmail account and download books straight from those two sources. Kindle allows you to email yourself documents and essentially this is the same thing.
There are only a few apps installed on the nookColor and no current access to any app market. Pandora, the internet radio station, can play in the background while you are browsing and reading. The LendMe page allows you to add friends who can lend you books and you can see which books they are willing to lend. You can also decide which books you will allow others to borrow. (How you add a friend, I’m not sure).
The nookColor plays video and I could access sites like youtube.com and play videos from youtube. One problem is that the videos were really pixelated and I couldn’t switch from mobile YouTube to Desktop YouTube because in Desktop YouTube, I was told that I needed to upgrade by Adobe Flash Player to watch the video. However I did load a movie I had ripped for my iPhone and it was very nice with only a little ghosting around the edges. It’s actually much clearer than this.
Of course I am not sure how many regular folks are going to rip their dvds to put on the nookColor and BN doesn’t offer a) access to streaming video like hulu.com or netflix or b) downloadable movie/video content.
- The tap zones for page turning aren’t customizable and this means if you want to read one handed, you’ll have to hold the device in your right hand. Unless, of course, your thumb is long enough to reach across the screen to tap the right hand side to turn the page. I found this to be very frustrating.
- If you have PDBs, prepare to be disappointed. You can’t read encrypted or unecrypted PDBs on the nookColor.
- The nookColor does not get free wifi access at ATT wifi hotspots like the nook Classic does.
- You cannot delete either samples or user added content (whether it is added via a USB transfer or downloaded from the web) from the device itself. To delete a sample, you must go to the BN.com site, log into your account and delete the sample there. To delete user added content, connect your nookColor via the USB and use the file explorer or finder to locate the user added content you want removed.
- Android operating system (and thus the nookColor) does not recognize ad hoc wireless connections which means using your phone as a hotspot is a no go.
- Reading on the nookColor is like reading on a laptop. If you get eyestrain from your computer, you will likely get eyestrain from the nookColor.
- Be prepared to charge your device every day. I started using the device at 7 am on Saturday and by 4 pm, the device was telling me I had to plugin. I didn’t read all day, but I was transferring files, watching a little video, listening to music. On a day that I just read and did not use the device for non reading, I was able to read two books (one long and one category) without recharging.
- I was disappointed that there was no email client or calendar client on the device.
REMEMBER, this is not really a tablet so please don’t buy it thinking that it is going to work just like the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab. It’s a color reader that does some extra things.