Nook Color: Will it Meet Your Tablet Needs?

As a former Nook Color owner, I decided that it did not meet my needs. But I recognize it may be all the Android tablet some will ever need.

In case you are not familiar, Barnes and Noble released the Nook Color as an update to their first Nook eBook reader. They added a color touch screen and the ability to run a few apps, including a web browser and mail app, among others. The user community surrounding the device quickly hacked it to make it possible to load many different versions of the Android operating system, including Honeycomb. After rooting it and putting the full Android Marketplace on the Nook Color, users had a nearly full-fledged Android Tablet for only $250.

Is the Nook Color enough tablet for you? Some people will really like the Nook Color for the following reasons.

Nook Color

Simple and Inexpensive Web Surfing eBook Reader

The discontinued HP Touchpad aside, most usable tablet devices range from $400, up to a couple thousand for a Windows Tablet PC. So a $250 Android tablet is tempting. The HP Touchpad, which HP discontinued and sold off for $99 or $149sells well on eBay for around $300 now. People want inexpensive tablets to use for surfing the web from their couch or bedroom, in addition to a few other simple tasks.

The Nook Color offers a wonderful option for these tasks. The simple device runs a decent web browser, has a few games and entertainment apps, will fetch your email, and adds a large library of eBooks and periodicals from Barnes and Noble. And it comes with one thing the Touchpad doesn’t: ongoing support and new apps developed all the time.

The Nook Color hardware provides enough horsepower for basic tasks. What a netbook does for those needing a small cheap laptop computer, the Nook Color does for those wanting a simple Internet surfing eBook reader with a few fun apps like Angry Birds and Pandora. Someone with simple needs who likes to read will be extremely happy with the Nook Color.

Tinkering Tech Geeks

You know who else will really enjoy the Nook Color? People who like to play with tech toys and see how much they can hack things to get them to do what they were never designed to do. A large community of users will support your tinkering habit. You can dual-boot the thing with the stock OS remaining intact on the built-in storage while running multiple versions of Android from the micro-SD card you put into the device. Because of the way the device and its OS works, it is nearly impossible to brick the thing if you make a mistake while rooting it.

I got a Nook primarily for this reason. My wife used the stock OS and I played with Android booting from the card. I had two cards – one for Honeycomb and one for FroYo. Gingerbread didn’t run well on it by the time I got rid of it. As a Kindle owner I also installed the Kindle App, so my family actually purchased less than a dozen Barnes and Noble books and apps for the thing. If you want to, you can add a lot of great apps by rooting the Nook Color. Netflix will run on some of them, depending on which version of Android you put on a rooted Nook Color.

Nook Color Rooted

Tinkerers might find that their needs quickly push them to graduate to a more powerful tablet. I chose to upgrade to a full Android tablet for this reason. If you don’t have $400 though, a $250 toy might suffice. Be strategic and buy when special promotions happen. You might find it brand new for as low as $200. Refurbished or used Nook Color tablets can be found for less than retail as well.

Who Won’t Be Happy

A few people won’t be happy. First, if you are not a book reader, the Nook Color is not for you. Getting a Nook Color without being a reader would be like a runner buying a bicycle because they like to have somewhere to sit down after the race.

Second, people who want to primarily play games won’t be happy with the Nook Color. The iPad satisfies gamers. You may not have $500 for an iPad, but wait and save your money till you do. Gamers won’t like the Nook Color.

Third, those who want Internet access while away from WiFi obviously will be disappointed with the Nook Color. You need either a 3G iPad or something like the 4G version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Owners of a mobile Internet device like a Mifi or who have a WiFi tethering plan on their cell phone are the exception to this.

Finally, if performance and speed are your primary desire, the Nook Color will disappoint you. The tablet doesn’t drag, but movement isn’t as fluid on it as it is on the iPad, ASUS Eee Pad Transformer or Samsung Galaxy Tab.

If you fit the first two groups and none of those in the last four, then hit the Barnes and Noble page to get your Nook Color or go down to one of their stores.