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Posted at 6:15 PM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Barnes & Noble NookColor review, with video

By Rob Pegoraro

In this week's video clip, I demonstrate a device I didn't expect to think much of: Barnes & Noble's NookColor e-book reader.

The first Nook, a $259, grayscale-screen device with WiFi and AT&T 3G wireless access--now selling for $199 and since joined by a WiFi-only $149 version--was a me-too competitor to Amazon's Kindle. This $249, Android-based, WiFi-only device is a little bit Kindle and a little bit iPad, without trying too hard to imitate either device.

Here's what I like about the NookColor unit the New York company's PR department loaned for this review:

* The Web browser handles most Web pages--Adobe Flash content aside--without issues and without the distracting pause to redraw of Samsung's Galaxy Tab. For home uses like casual couch reading or in-kitchen recipe lookups, that's fine.

* Its 7-in. color screen, at 1024 by 600 pixels, is sufficiently sharp for easy reading of e-books. But that resolution isn't high enough for reading digital editions of magazines that mirror print versions; I had to do a lot of zooming in and out when I thumbed through a copy of Rolling Stone.

* The NookColor has enough multimedia capability to keep you entertained on a trip. You can drag-and-drop music files, photos and videos (it even played a copy of "Dr. Strangelove" ripped from DVD with the free HandBrake program, although it balked to a copy of The Matrix) to the device or listen to Pandora Web radio.

* Its battery life is nowhere near that of the first Nook or the Kindle, thanks to its use of an LCD instead of an e-ink display. But it's still pretty good: With its screen's brightness turned all the way up from the default 30 percent and the Pandora app playing non-stop, it ran for about five hours.

* If you're the tinkering type, you can "root" the NookColor and turn it into a general-purpose Android device.

Here's what I don't like:

* The glossy screen makes this less than ideal as an e-book reader; it suffers from too much glare. Its lack of physical page-turn buttons means you're limited to tapping the screen--which sometimes brings up a menu of viewing options instead.

* The NookColor's USB cable looks like a standard micro-USB connector but is just different enough to render it useless with other devices.

* It was sometimes sluggish at browsing through a photo album.

* It crashed and restarted once in two weeks of testing.

* Barnes & Noble's store sells titles locked with "digital rights management" restrictions.

The NookColor is no iPad, that's for sure. But it's also no Galaxy Tab. Instead, it's a reasonably priced tablet that doesn't try to solve every mobile-computing scenario. For half the price of an iPad, that could be a reasonable tradeoff--even if you never buy an e-book from B&N's store.

For earlier episodes, such as last week's review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, see our video channel.

By Rob Pegoraro  | December 7, 2010; 6:15 PM ET
Categories:  E-books, Gadgets, Weekly video  
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Got mine last weekend. I intend it primarily for video viewing and web surfing. Will keep the 3g Nook for book reading.

I've noticed that it won't do status updates on Facebook. I tap on the text entry box, the keyboard comes up, and I can enter one letter. Then the keyboard goes away and I can't enter any more letters. I can comment on other people's updates/photos/etc. I assume this is a javascript issue.

Those 'soft' keyboards are somewhat less than ideal for entering more than a line of text, and the Android auto-correct (how do I turn that fscking thing off!!!) tends to stomp all over words that aren't English, or even words. Try writing "iPad" or "Archos 70i" using it.

Needs a real file system browser. The Gallery app plays ripped DVDs well, but doesn't display the name, so you kind of have to guess when you tap and hold...

This weekend I'm gonna look into rooting my LG Ally so I can use it as a portable wifi hotspot for the Nook when I visit Dad. He doesn't have wifi.

Posted by: wiredog | December 8, 2010 7:36 AM | Report abuse

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