capsule review

Barnes & Noble NookColor

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Unfortunately, the benefit of the rapid charge-and it’s fast, I was surprised by how quickly NookColor juiced up—is offset by the need to use only the included charger and cable in order to power the device. Sure, the charger has pleasing, subtle touches like an outlet plug that collapses into the compact brick, and a glowing Nook “n” that shows its charging status; but it’s the only source of power. If you use a cable other than the one supplied, you can only transfer data. At the least, Barnes & Noble should have allowed for a trickle charge, just as you get on the Apple iPad. Want an additional charger? That’ll be an extra $25. As for the battery, the company says it should last 8 hours.

Also on my hardware wish list: I’d like to see a higher pixel depth, so the text quality is closer to that of Apple’s iPhone 4. The book text is better than the browser text, and the bottom line is that both views could improve with additional pixel depth.

A few of my gripes could conceivably be fixed in future firmware updates. Already, Barnes & Noble says it plans an update to NookColor to an Android version that supports Adobe Flash via the Web browser “sometime next year.” For now, YouTube videos will play via the browser, but they look choppy and full of artifacts. I also wish that you could just tap on the battery icon and pull up the current battery life. PDF handling could be improved, as well; you can’t just tap at right or left to page through books, but rather have to page by swiping up or down.

The revamped Nook store is lightyears better than before, and it bests its competition with a graphical approach and easy searching. But I wish the search results, navigating while inside the shop, and moving among selections, proceeded more smoothly.

Macworld’s buying advice

By launching with 100-plus strong collections for its periodicals and children’s books, NookColor makes a strong case for the color e-reader, and it does so in a far more compelling way than any other device has so far. Still, for all of its screen enhancements, I wouldn’t suggest an LCD e-reader like NookColor if you will primarily use it outside in direct sunlight. But for anyone else, NookColor is a worthy contender-especially for those who want to consume books, periodicals, kids’ fare, and PDFs.

Barnes & Noble’s NookColor succeeds in combining much of the readability of the E-Ink based e-readers with the speed, customization, and graphical advantages of the LCD-based e-reading apps on competing touch screen devices, phone or tablet. And at $249, NookColor even has limited viability as a reasonably priced, contract-free tablet for those who prize reading and Web surfing above playing games and downloading apps.

This story, "Barnes & Noble NookColor" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Display produces good colors and minimal glare
    • Intuitive interface is optimized for reading

    Cons

    • App store not coming until 2011
    • Requires proprietary MicroUSB charger
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