The NOOKcolor is the latest eReading device from Barnes & Noble. It features a 7-inch full color VividView touchscreen display, 8GB of memory plus up to 32GB more with a microSD card, WiFi wireless networking, and support for ePub, plain text, and Microsoft Office files in addition to MP3 and AAC audio.
It is now available for $249 from Barnes & Noble, and will be available from Books-A-Million as that company's exclusive hardware bookreader starting in December.
BUILD & DESIGN
The NOOKcolor is very similar in size to the original nook reading device that was released last year. (It won't fit into any form-fitting nook case, but it will work just fine with something like the Waterfield Slip Case.) The newer device is the same width, though slightly longer and thinner, but that's where the comparison ends. The new NOOKcolor is much sleeker, even though it's a bit heavier than the nook, thanks to an all black design that looks very sharp.
The exterior casing is dark gray/black plastic, with a smooth touch coating on the back of the device for extra grip. The entire device feels extremely solid; it's obviously well made and designed to stand up to a lot of daily use.
There's a small cutout at the bottom left corner of the device that I didn't quite understand until a B&N rep explained it to me as a design feature that makes the NOOKcolor stand out in the crowd of eReading devices and tablets that are popping up everywhere these days. Turn the device over and you'll see that there is a small nook logo next to the cutout; The microSD expansion card slot is very cleverly hidden underneath, with a magnetic flip-up door concealing the slot.
The NOOKcolor is the perfect size, in my opinion--large enough to offer a great reading experience without being so large that it's hard to handle or carry. It is roughly the size of a trade paperback book, though slightly shorter and narrower and obviously much thinner. It certainly won't fit into a pocket, unless cargo pants comprise your entire wardrobe, but it will fit into just about any purse, backpack, or gear bag, taking up a minimum of space.
I like the heft of the device as well; the NOOKcolor is weighty enough to feel solid without being too heavy. It won't weigh down your bag or cause any hand or wrist strain when holding it during long reading sessions, which only makes sense--one of the best things about eBooks is not having to carry around large hardcover books anymore.
The VividView LCD display is absolutely gorgeous, and after just a short time of use my fears related to leaving eInk behind were put to rest. It does provide a great reading experience in a variety of lighting conditions, from reading in bed at night to outside on a park bench on a sunny day. When I'm inside, I turn the brightness far down to conserve battery life and because it suits my personal preference.
I didn't encounter any eyestrain at all, but then again I've been reading eBooks on LCD screens for the past several years, on a variety of devices. I like eInk screens and have used my original nook extensively, but I don't consider any particular screen to be the "ideal" for reading eBooks--I believe it comes down to personal preference and the needs of each individual reader.
That said, I am impressed with the screen on the NOOKcolor. At full brightness it is visible outside in full sunlight, but comes with a bit of glare. The anti-glare screen protector offered by B&N helps a bit, but I found that the problem is easily solved by angling the screen toward my face rather than straight up toward the sky.
I don't believe that there is any real issue with glare on the NOOKcolor, though I am addressing it here because I know that folks are concerned about the possiblity of glare when reading from LCD screens. You can get some glare in certain lighting conditions, but it is minimal and easy to eliminate entirely by changing the angle of the device.
In all respects I found the screen to be extremely responsive to my taps, and accurate as well, even though there was no calibration process when I first started up the device. Everything just works, whether I'm choosing a book from my library, typing on the virtual keyboard, or highlighting one of my favorite passages.
Colors are rich and the illustrations in my books look great, especially the bright paintings in the sample childrens books that were included with the device. Some folks may wonder why color is important when it comes to eBooks, but color can really enhance the experience. The NOOKcolor certainly delivers in this department, and I'm very impressed by the color saturation here. There is no obvious pixelization, even when closely examining the display. In other words, the NOOKcolor has an excellent display and is a true winner in this regard.
The NOOKcolor has a virtual onscreen keyboard that pops up when necessary. It works extremely well since the touchscreen is just sensitive enough to register my intentional taps, but not so sensitive that I have a hard time and end up hitting the wrong letter.
The "keys" on the keyboard are spaced as far apart as possible, in the traditional QWERTY lineup. A small ?123 key in the bottom left corner of the screen takes you to the number row and two rows of punctuation and symbols. Tap the ALT key at that point and you'll find extended symbols and a few foreign characters as well, even an ellipsis key.
Other Buttons & Controls
There are no immediately discernable buttons on the NOOKcolor. That makes it look fabulous, of course, but that can also be a bit confusing until you get used to it. The power button is flush with the device on the upper left side; you have to press in just the right place to activate it. That's great when you want to make sure the device doesn't turn itself on accidentally of course, but it does take a little training to hit it every time. You can also find the button without looking if you run your finger slowly down the side of the NOOKcolor, since it has a small imprinted power icon.
The volume control buttons are exactly the same in style, flush with the upper right edge of the device. I'm glad they're hidden in that way, since you're not likely to use them all that often. That also helps avoid the rattling button problem that was such a distraction on the Kindle DX.
The small nook logo at the bottom of the screen is actually a button that brings up the home screen of the device when you press it. The only other features are a headphone jack at the top of the device and a microUSB charge/sync port centered on the bottom edge of the device.
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