Nook Color Review

Ebookreader.org takes on the Barns and Noble Nook Color. Find out how good -- or bad -- it really is.

nook color

Specifications/Features

  • Dimensions -- Height x Width x Depth = 8.1" x 5.0" x 0.48", Weight 15.8 ounces - As can be seen by the dimensions, the Nook Color is very light and thin, as a result it makes it very easy to transport and easy to hold and read from.
  • Color Touchscreen Display -- 7" VividView ™ Color Touchscreen, Shows over 16 million colors, IPS display. High resolution 1024x600, 169 PPI, Reduced glare and optimum brightness, Backlit -- The Nook Color has a slightly larger screen than seen in earlier versions, it is also the first color screen eReader to be released, this is good for imagery however it does mean that the screen is backlit which can cause glare. However it does mean that the device can be read in the dark.
  • Customized Styling -- Adjustable font size in order to suit the users reading style and eyesight, a choice from 6 different fonts, choice of background colors, line and margin spacing. All these features allow the user to customise their reading experience to suit them perfectly for maximized pleasure and ease of read.
  • Storage -- 8GB in-built memory. SD slot allowing expandable memory of up to 32GB. -- The added option of expandable memory gives the user the ability to store a wide range of files, specifically needed when storing music on the device as well as eBooks.
  • Enhanced Web and Media Player -- Adobe Flash® format, video support, audio, built-in-speaker, universal 3.5mm headphone jack. This allows for the Nook Color to support online streaming and also a range of audio files.
  • Supported Formats -- EPUB, PDF, XLS, DOC, PPT, PPS, TXT, DOCM, XLSM, PPTM, PPSM, DOCX, XLX, PPTX, JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, MP3, MP4, and AAC. The Nook Color supports most files as seen from the list above it can support documents, graphics, audio and video, as well as ePUB. The Nook Color does not support files purchased from Sony or Amazon.
  • Battery Life -- Up to 8 hours with wireless connections disabled. Charge time approximately 3 hours from mains.
  • Built in Wi-Fi connectivity.

 

What's in the Box?

The Nook Color comes packaged in a cardboard box which is white with black sides and has an image of the reader on the front. The box snaps open at the bottom and reveals the device in the upper half of the box, with the accessories being stored in the bottom half of the box. With the reader you get an instruction manual on how to get started using the reader, a USB cable for connecting to a computer, a power adaptor, enabling you to charge the device from the mains power and the rechargeable battery; however this is already installed into the device. The packaging for the Nook Color is exactly what it needs to be, it's chic and minimalistic, and is also ‘green' as it is totally recyclable, a factor considered to be an important one by many! The Nook Color comes with a good range of accessories, specifically the power adaptor being a nice touch.

 

Nook Models

There are basically two current Nooks with a couple of legacy models floating around that you can still buy.

Nook Color

nool color image

Nook Simple Touch Reader (the 2011 updated Nook)

nook simple touch

Nook Wi-Fi (previous generation)

nook wi-fi

Nook Wi-Fi + 3G (previous generation)

nook wi-fi + 3G

 

Nook Color Versus...

Nook Color vs. Nook Simple Touch

nook color vs nook simple touchnook color vs nook wi-fi

Firstly, I want to look at the Nook Simple Touch reader, which is the NEW Nook reader which is the second generation Nook (you can read our review of the 1st generation Nook here). The biggest difference is the color screen. The Nook Simple Touch uses an eInk display, which is a black and white screen which works by contrast rather than a backlight in order to read exactly like paper. The color screen is an altogether different sort of screen technology and features a backlight. This has had an effect on the screen as now there is a slight glare, although it has been reduced as much as possible, you will not be able to read the Nook Color in direct sunlight as you could with the Nook Simple Touch. This can be a problem; however it does counteract this downfall with the advantages of color

One major advantage is that the Nook Color can display children books well, as color is a key part of this; also magazines look much better on the Nook Color. This is fantastic for those of you who do read magazines or children's book, if not the Nook Simple Touch would probably be better for you. If battery life is a big deal, then definitely don't get the Nook Color -- since it lacks the digital e-ink screen, the battery life won't be anywhere near as long as the non-color Nooks.

Barnes and Noble have put a lot of effort in to working on the support of music within the device. The Nook Simple Touch does support any music files at all while the Color does. This is a nice touch to the reader, particularly when a lot of other readers have the inclusion of music. Another aspect that they have worked on in this model is a web browser. The non-color models may end up with a web-browser though a future firmware update, but they don't have one now. One point I do think Barnes and Noble need to be careful of is overstepping the line between a reader and a tablet, as this is what the Nook Color is verging on.

Another feature of the Nook Color is the ability to download apps and sync them to the reader. I cannot help but feel Barnes and Noble are trying to follow in Apple's footsteps a little bit too much, and this could cause them problems in the future, however for now they seem to be keeping just within the boundaries of whether or not they are trying to copy apple, they need to be very close however as they are becoming dangerously close.

 

One of the areas that I feel the Nook Color suffers is the battery life with the Nook Colors battery lasting for only 8 hours with all connections disabled and the Nook Simple Touch lasting ‘up to' 2 months with connections disabled, however this is nearer 3 weeks when the reader is being used fairly regularly. If you are looking for a device just too read novels or for travel then I would suggest the Nook Simple Touch over the Nook Color due to its poor battery life.

Nook Color vs. Sony PRS 650

nook color versus sony ereader 650

Another reader that has been compared to the Nook Color is the Sony PRS 650 (read our Sony PRS 650 review). There are two main differences between the two readers; firstly, the Nook Color is color screen, whereas the Sony PRS 650 is an eInk pearl display. Whichever is better for you will depend how you are going to be using the device. If you are buying a reader, just to read eBooks, then the Sony PRS650 may be better for you due to the fact that the screen display is well known for being easily readable even in direct sunlight, however the Nook Color uses a backlight and as a result, when in light the screen can have a glare, obscuring the screen and making it difficult to read from. This is a massive downside, particularly if you are taking it on holiday instead of books, you're lying on the beach and bam, you can't actually read the screen.

However, this problem would not occur with the Sony PRS 650. However, if color is important, say you want to view children's books on the reader, then the Nook Color would be a better option for you. Another advantage of the Nook Color is that it includes Wi-Fi connectivity, this means that you can browse the web or download eBooks whilst out and about, as long as there is a Wi-Fi connection nearby, which 9/10 times there is now, specifically with the introduction of Wi-Fi hotspots up and down the country.

If you are planning to use your device alongside children, then the Nook Color is much better than any other reader on the market as there is a lot more interaction, firstly, it is touchscreen, unlike the Kindle which uses buttons and a QWERTY keyboard, this goes alongside the feature of being able to download and install apps on the Nook, which has not yet been included in the Sony or the Kindle ranges. It's always nice to have the option there. However, when it comes to battery life the Nook Color is no competition whatsoever for the Sony PRS 650 with the maximum battery life being 8 hours, this is without any connectivity enabled, this is a result of the new screen using a backlight, which uses battery continuously, in comparison to an eInk screen which only uses battery whenever a page is refreshed. Therefore if you are looking at buying a reader that you are just going to read novels on, then the Nook Color is not for you, as the added extras that come with the device, cost some of the basics greatly, and unfortunately performance as a reader is one of them, in some respects I feel that Barnes and Noble have forgotten the original purpose of the device.

Nook Color vs. Ipad

nook versus ipad

Lastly, the iPad by Apple is being compared a lot to the Nook Color. However I do not feel that there is any competition with this, as the iPad has many more advantages than the Nook Color, doing what Barnes and Noble have done, before them, and much better. Mainly, the display on the iPad is much brighter and a higher resolution and their app store has a much larger range than that seen by Barnes and Noble. The Nook Color is in other words, a cheaper copy of the iPad, and although, the Nook is not bad, it still has nowhere near the same capacity of performance as the iPad, and this is probably due to the fact that the Nook was originally designed as a reader, and the iPad has been released as a tablet. They both have different objectives; the Nook Color has features such as apps based around its main purpose as a reading device whereas the iPad has a range of features, with the ability to read books on it an added advantage. I don't think it is fair to compare the two, however Barnes and Noble have bought it on themselves by trying to compare to Apple. Something I expected to see after they started to develop very similar software and packaging to Apple.

 

About the PC Software

As has been seen in previous versions of the Nook, the Nook Color comes with brilliant software for the PC to be used in conjunction with the device. The software allows the user to interact with the device very well and to make use of a great range of features included on the device and also online support and communities that Barnes and Noble have promoted. The overall look of the software is very minimalistic, using a side toolbar for navigation and the main focus being a section to the right of this in order to view content. Firstly, Barnes and Noble have developed an app that allows you to download your purchases to any other device, for example, your iPad, and this can be done on several devices. The menu's options are ‘the daily' which has the latest from Nook, for example the latest recommended books or software updates. Underneath this is my library, where you can view all of the books you own, this is split up into categories such as magazines and eBooks, allowing you to find things slightly easier if you have a larger library, there is also a search bar if you are looking for a particular title. There are other options such as reader settings, a link to the online store and so on. The software runs smoothly and doesn't freeze or lag; there is also a very nice slide navigation transition, which is always a nice touch. Out of any other reader, the Nook Color definitely comes with the best software I have yet seen for a reader; it is modern, up to date and very user friendly.

 

Supported File Formats

EPUB, PDF, XLS, DOC, PPT, PPS, TXT, DOCM, XLSM, PPTM, PPSM, DOCX, XLX, PPTX, JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, MP3, MP4, and AAC are all the formats that the Nook Color has listed within its technical specifications. This is an amazingly vast and varied range of supported formats. The main ones needed are obviously, ePUB, which is eBook format, and all readers will support this.

However, Barnes and Noble devices such as the Nook Color will not support ePUB files purchased from other eBook retailers, for example Amazon or Sony. You can read unprotected DRM epub (i.e. EPUB formatted ebooks that don't have any sort of DRM protection), but any other ebook reader's protected EPUB format, you can't read.

In terms of other document formats the reader does well, supporting files produced in excel PowerPoint, and other windows office programmes. The reader also supports PDF files (Presentation Display Files) allowing the reader to display files produced in the Adobe suite, a major advantage for educationalists and designers using the reader.

In terms of media files, the Nook Color is to leading reader in supporting the formats needed for this. For imagery it supports all types of image you are likely to come across, and due to the new color screen they will look fantastic on the reader. The most impressive thing from the Nook Color is the support of MP4, meaning videos can also be watched on the device. Barnes and Noble have made an impressive progression from the earlier Nook Simple Touch, which didn't even facilitate mp3 files. The Nook Color can not only support MP3 files now, but also MP4, allowing the user to make the most of new features such as the enhanced web browser and color screen as videos can now be streamed and played back.

 

Memory

The memory of the Nook is always a strong point; in this case the internal memory is 8GB, which is much larger than its predecessor the Nook Simple Touch. There were many complaints with the memory on the Nook Simple touch due to three quarters of the memory being reserved only for use with Barnes and Noble purchases. Barnes and Noble didn't learn their lesson from this at all. The user accessible is actually 5GB; 4GB of this is reserved solely for use with Barnes and Noble purchases, as happened with the previous model they also advertised as ‘up to' when it actually is a definite feature. This is an annoyance, and does put me off; however with the microSD slot, memory can be expandable up to 32GB which is more than enough, and this can be used however the user pleases. Therefore the limited device on the memory is not a massive hardship as SD cards can be purchased anywhere for a low price now.

 

Battery Life

The battery life is a major let down on the Nook Color, as many of the new features cause battery life to be drained very quickly. Especially in comparison to other models of readers that Nook has released. The main problem is the screen, as it is a VividView screen, and therefore color, the device needs a backlight to work which is constantly using battery when the device is on, whereas the eInk displays only consumed battery when a page was refreshed, as a result there is the shocking difference of the Nook Color having 8 hours battery life, in comparison with eInk readers that normally last around 2-3 weeks. Bearing in mind this is still a short battery life, this is still quoted with wireless connectivity disabled, and therefore when the connections are enabled and the reader is used the battery has been reported to last around 2-3 hours tops. Very poor, don't expect to take the reader away for the weekend and not have to charge it, as it is just not realists. This is a major problem for users, and people really need to decide whether or not the color screen is that important to them, yet again it depends on how the user plans to use the device.

 

Screen Quality

nook color screennook color screen text

The screen is a massive difference to other readers that have been released on the market at the moment. I really struggle to find how Barnes and Noble can call the Nook Color an eReader due to the fact that there are so many gimmicks on the device that the real purpose is not fulfilled well at all. The color screen is a nice thing to have however it means that there can be glare on the screen which is useless if the user is trying to read in daylight, particularly in comparison to the Sony PRS 650 for example, that uses an eInk screen and therefore can be read without glare, even in direct sunlight. This is a massive issue for me, as the main think that separated readers from any other device was the screen. I could read on my iPad, however I bought an e reader because in the light the iPad is useless, with a reader I could sit out in the sun and read my book, however you cannot do this with the Nook Color, and screen wise, although they have developed to include color, I feel this is a step back in terms of development. After all they are a reader. The main advantage of the Nook Color having a color screen is that they have promoted Nook Kids, which is a range of children's books that can be shown on the Nook Color due to the bright colors and so on; therefore if you plan to use this facility, then you may be willing to accept the downsides also. However, if you haven't got children, the color screen may not be worth your while.

nook color textnool color screen pictures

In terms of the color screen quality, the resolution is high and the screen can handle over 16 million colors, meaning it will display web browsers, videos and imagery very well. It matches up to its competitors here in the terms of tablets, for example the Samsung Galaxy has the same display, however, this is a tablet, a point I can't stress enough. The Nook Color isn't just a reader now, and I can't decide whether this is good or bad.

 

Build Quality and Design

nook color body

The build quality and design of the Nook Color is one of its strong points, the main material used in the body of the Nook Color is plastic, however it is clearly a tough, well-made plastic rather than a nasty cheap one. This is an advantage as it means the device stays light and is easily portable, unfortunately a feature which would not have been achievable with a metal casing. The device is very minimalistic and is designed so that all audiences can buy the reader, any age, or sex. This is an advantage as the basic device is nice, if the user wishes to personalize it then they can get a case, which not only protects the reader, but is much cheaper to replace if you get fed up with the color Rather than getting a red device then having to buy a new one because your color preferences have changed! The ergonomics of the product are okay. There is the same thick border around the screen on the device that was used in the Nook Simple Touch, allowing the reader to be held without accidently pressing things on the screen. However, there is an in dent on the bottom left hand side of the device, which is fine if you're right handed, however if you hold the device with your left hand, this could be a problem, and you should probably try handling the device before you spend your money on it.

 

The Good

The Nook Color comes with a host of new exciting features, and this is definitely a positive, there is genuinely a lot more interaction on the Nook Color, with the ability to download apps and sync them to the device there is a wider variety of things to play with. There is also the inclusion of mp3 and mp4 support and an enhanced web browser, this allows the user to browse the web and play videos. The reader also supports flash, meaning that the web can be viewed as it would on a computer, a massive advantage. The color screen is a good quality and opens up the possibilities of children's books on the reader.

 

The Bad

The battery life on the Nook Color is extremely poor, only 8 hours, without Wi-Fi is appalling, this is if the reader is solely being used to read books and do nothing else. Compare this to the new Nook Simple Touch which rates the battery life at 2 months (though in it's more like 3 weeks if truth be told).

If reading is all you are planning to do on the device, the Nook Color really isn't the option for you. The screen is also a slight let down considering purpose, as it is backlit it will have a glare when in daylight, meaning that it won't be easy to read outside, as it was with the eInk display. The lack of digital e-ink screen also means you deal with the whole eyestrain thing.

A further problem is that the Nook Color has included apps and web browsing on the Nook Color however they haven't yet included a 3G connection, if you want to use your apps somewhere there is no Wi-Fi, for example, on a train, you don't have the option of 3G, it seems pointless including all the new features which require internet if you are not guaranteed to get internet for all the time you are on the device.

 

The Bottom Line

The Nook Color is not so good as a reader -- it's more of a hybrid ebook reader / tablet PC. The target audience for e readers tends to be an adult audience who are looking at reading a lot, and regularly, enough for them to warrant paying for the device in the first place. The Nook Color is an example of Barnes and Noble getting distracted from their original intention of providing a reading device, and they seem to be dabbling further into the realms of a tablet, rather than a reader, which is fair enough, however by doing this, the Nook Color neglects the fundamental elements that make a good reader, for example, battery life, ease of use and so on.

Another problem I think the Nook Color is going to encounter is the encouragement for children to be using technology at such a young age with their Nook Kids marketing side of the Nook Color. This could be a massive problem; call me old fashioned, but I think it is good for a child to learn to read from an actual book, as being able to pick it up and turn the pages is all part of their development, it doesn't take long to learn how to swipe your finger down a screen.

Another downside to the Nook Color is that once again Barnes and Noble have limited the memory on the device, I don't see how they think this is helping them as it is really putting people off.

Barnes and Noble do have a very extensive online library, however, if there is a title you want and they don't have it, yet Amazon does, you're still not going to be able to download it to your advice, and due to their poor customer service, I don't see it appearing on their library any time soon as a result of your request. There is also the issue of not being able to read EPUB books bought from other ebook reader stores, such as the Sony or Amazon.com. For example, Sony has quite a few children's books you can download from the Sony store in EPUB format. You can't read those on the Nook color because EPUB ebooks from different ebook stores/readers are incompatible. You can read unprotected EPUB ebooks, but not protected ones -- pity as this just punishes the reader.

So should you buy the Nook Color? In our opinion, No. The Nook color is the poor man's version of the Ipad. You are better off putting the money towards an Ipad if you want a "color reader." Children's books and magazines look great when read on the Nook Color, but so do they on the Ipad too. The Ipad really does everything better than the Nook Color.

Non-color readers offer substantially better battery life and a much better screen for reading text on. Personally, if you want a Nook ebook reader, we recommend the new 2011 Nook Simple Touch over the Nook Color. It's a much better device to read regular ebooks on and the battery life blows the Nook Color at of the water.

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Nook Color

Price: $249

Buy on Amazon.com