Hands-on with the B&N Nook Color; an excellent color ebook reader

Barnes & Noble is rolling out their new Nook Color device that brings a color high resolution display to the ebook reader scene. At $250, it is half the cost of the cheapest iPad and is constructed much better than the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

I started using my Sony Reader PRS-505 a few years ago, had a couple of Kindles, had a couple different Sony Readers, and finally moved onto the Barnes & Noble Nook last year. I am a huge fan of the Nook because it offers a fabulous eInk display, 3G and WiFi wireless capability, full EPUB and PDF Digital Editions support for loading books form multiple online stores and those checked out from your public library, and a nice user interface that gets better with regular updates. A few weeks ago, Barnes & Noble announced the Nook Color and I immediately went and pre-ordered one since I am such a fan of the Nook and ebook reading. Unfortunately, a couple days later I canceled it since I tend to read more on my smartphones than the Nook and really did not think I needed another device to carry around. You can check out some product photos in my image gallery, a video of the Nook Color below, and my thoughts on this new ebook reader. After now playing with the Nook Color for several hours, I ordered one again so read on to find out why I made this choice.

Image Gallery:A walk around the Barnes & Noble Nook Color ebook reader device.
Image Gallery: B&N Nook retail packaging width=
Image Gallery: B&N Nook library

In the box and initial hands-on

The original Nook came in a plastic shell that was a bit challenging to open so I was relieved to see they redesigned the packaging for the Nook Color. The box is quite long at 11 inches in length, but it has a cool magnetic opening about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom so it opens up like a hand puppet with the top half laying back and then snapping closed as the magnet attracts. A full color photo of the Nook Color is on the outside. In the top portion you will find the Nook Color and Quick Start Guide with the rest of the accessories in the bottom portion. Inside the bottom portion you will a USB cable and a USB A/C adapter with foldable prongs for easy travel.

I almost jumped on the Internet and ordered a Nook Color again after pulling the device out of the box since it feels so great in your hand. I checked out the Samsung Galaxy Tab at the T-Mobile store this weekend and the Nook Color blows it away in terms of quality feel and construction. After turning it on and seeing how bright and clear the display is I was further engaged into getting my own Nook Color.


The specifications for the Barnes & Noble Nook include the following:
  • 7 inch VividView LCD color capacitive display with IPS and support for 16 million colors
  • Android 2.1 operating system
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • Mono speaker
  • microUSB port
  • 8GB internal memory for approximately 6000 eBooks
  • microSD card slot for expandable memory options, up to 32GB
  • 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
  • Dimensions of 8.1 x 5.0 x 0.48 inches and 15.8 ounces

Difference between the Nook Color and Nook obviously include the display technology, but also includes increased dimensions and weight (15.8 ounces vs 11.2 ounces), lower battery life, no hardware buttons for page turning, increased internal memory (8GB vs 2GB), and no option (currently) for a wireless 3G data signal. The Nook Color is very fast and responsive and the web browser is quite usable too. The user interface is easier to navigate on the Nook Color than on the Nook 3G or WiFi.

Content, content, content

From the Barnes & Noble site, here is what types of content are and are not supported on the Nook:

Supported formats: From Barnes & Noble, Fictionwise & eReader

  • EPUB
  • PDB
  • PDF

Other Sources

  • EPUB (Non or Adobe DRM)
  • PDB (Non DRM)
  • PDF
  • Office: Word, Excel, PowerPoint
  • Graphics: JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP
  • Audio: MP3 and AAC
  • Video: MP4

Not Supported: LIT, AMZ (Amazon), LRZ/LRX (Sony)

Checking out free ebooks from your public library is supported on the Nook Color, as well as supporting EPUB and PDF documents from other online stores.

The Nook Color supports all of the formats that the Nook 3G/WiFi support, with the addition of Office documents and video content. I loaded up Word, Excel, and PDF documents (shown in my video) and saw that the viewer used on the Nook Color is from Quickoffice. The viewer works very well and is responsive.

I also loaded up a movie, in MP4 format, and it played perfectly on the Nook Color. I could see using the Nook Color as my traveling device for ebook, music, and video content given that it is just over 1/2 pound lighter than the iPad.

Getting content onto your Nook Color

You can use the integrated WiFi at your home, office, Barnes & Noble store, or other WiFi hotspot to connect, browse, buy, and download ebooks, magazines, and newspapers. There is no 3G data connectivity in this model, but we may see this in the future.

You can also connect the Nook Color to your PC or Mac and manage the data loaded on the device, including music, videos, images, and more via a file explorer.

Using the Nook Color

After pressing the center Nook button at the bottom of the display you will see the instructions to slide from left to right to unlock the device. You will go back to the last screen you were at and you can then navigate around using the bottom menu button, aka Quick Nav Bar. You can also tap the top bar to go to the document you were reading. Tapping the word More in the upper right corner shows you a long list of the items you last viewed so you can jump quickly between several documents.

Options along the bottom row include library, shop, search, extras, web, and settings. The library is MUCH more functional on the Nook Color than on the Nook with each type of data clearly labeled in the top row of tabs and very easy touch friendly access to your storage areas and folders. There is even a tab to quickly see the ebooks that are eligible for lending.

You can browse the store and easily make purchases right from your connected Nook Color. You can search the store and your device too. You can tap, press and hold, scroll, swipe, pinch & zoom, and drag on the Nook Color so explore and discover your device. You can swipe to turn pages or just tap on the left or right side.

Extras is an area where you will find games (chess, crossword, and Sudoku), utilities (contacts, music, and LendMe), photo gallery, and Pandora. The photo gallery is an awesome way to share and view photos with support to view the photos as a slideshow, crop them, rotate the, or set them as wallpaper. You can pinch to zoom and quickly slide right or left to view more photos. One of the main uses with my iPad is to use it as a portable photo display and at $250, the Nook Color is a much cheaper option for this capability.

Pandora looks and works quite well so you can listen to music while you work or play. Barnes & Noble is promoting their developer program so hopefully we see even more apps coming out for the Nook Color soon.

The ability of the kids's book to be read aloud is attractive for families with young children and uses their AliveTouch technology. Your books can be read to your kids and if they want to read it themselves they can tap on the text to have it blown up and made more readable.

Magazine work very well on the Nook Color with a cool page thumbnail view to quickly navigate to the page you want. You can also then tap the ArticleView button in the upper right that will then show you the text of the article without all of the higher end features of a magazine. You can jump back and forth between this view.

If you tap and hold while reading an ebook, you should see options for highlighting, notes, share, and look up. If you single tap then you will see options appear at the bottom for table of contents, search, share, text, and brightness. There are six text sizes, different font types, different line spacing, and different justification options for you to control.

What's up with sharing?

Within the settings are you can setup three accounts on the Nook Color, including Google Contacts, Facebook, and Twitter. You will then find the ability to share quotes, recommend titles, rate and review the title you are reading, and post your reading status to others.

Wrap up of initial experiences

I spent about 20 minutes with a Samsung Galaxy Tab and own an Apple iPad. IMHO, the Nook Color is a much better built tablet than the Galaxy Tab and for the things that I actually do with my iPad I could likely get by with a Nook Color at much lower price. I generally use my iPad for ebook reading, web browsing, showing off photos, watching videos, and playing games. The Nook Color does all of this fairly well, but is not yet a real gaming device.

I went and ordered my own Nook Color again after spending several hours with the device and plan to pass my Nook 3G down to someone else in the family. The Nook Color is an excellent choice and some things I plan to discover over the next few weeks are the battery life and my daily usage patterns. Do you have any questions about the device? I will be holding a conference call with Barnes & Noble later today to talk more about the Nook Color.