Nook Color (with Froyo) review

This guest review was written by Aaron Orquia.

Nook-color-froyo-review The Barnes & Noble Nook Color is certainly an interesting device.

It was released as a color e-reader in November 2010, but thanks to its impressive hardware and Android base it garnered a dedicated development community and became a budget Android tablet.

But is it worth plunking down $250 of your hard earned money for nice hardware with only the potential for a good OS? The currently available Android 2.2 custom ROM for the Nook still has a few wrinkles that need to be ironed out, and of course installing it on the e-reader isn't something that all users will feel comfortable doing (tutorial here).

Read my review below for a rundown of the Nook Color, or skip to the video at the end to see the Froyo-ized device in action.

Hardware

If I were forced to sum up the hardware of the Nook Color in one word, it would be solid. The device obviously had a lot of industrial design behind it, and you can feel that it is a quality product. Compared to tablets from the likes of Archos, the Nook has a much more "premium" feel.

Nook-color-back

The device itself is mostly covered by a rubber matte coating, with the only exception being the sides, which are mostly plastic and house all but one of the physical buttons on the Nook.

Nook-color-bottom-port

On the left are the volume buttons and on the right is the power button. On the bottom of the device you will find a microUSB port, the standard for mobile phones and hopefully for tablets soon. And on the top is the standard 3.5 mm headphone jack.

Nook-color-nbutton

The only other button on the device is the single "n" button on the bottom. This will cause some trouble for users running Android 2.3 and below because those versions require the standard Android hard buttons, but thanks to the inclusion of soft menu/back buttons in Android 3.0 Honeycomb, it will no longer be a problem with newer versions of the OS.

An interesting inclusion on the device is the loop on the bottom left corner. Apparently, it's for attaching small charms, but I may end up using it for a lanyard.

Build quality on the Nook Color is great; the only thing that I would mark it down for are its somewhat flimsy power and volume buttons. Other than that, it comes close to the solid premium feel of Apple device and is on par with the Galaxy Tab.

Software (Custom Froyo ROM)

The original software has been written up many times, so if you are interested in that then you can take your pick of reviews. Here we will be covering stock Android 2.2 instead, courtesy of the xda-developers forum. Keep in mind that Android on this device is experimental, and not everything is working quite right yet.

As the time of this writing, however, Froyo on the Nook actually works surprisingly well, considering the fact that it was never intended to work at all. Sound, WiFi, the display, the accelerometer, and the Market all work. In fact, everything you would expect from a stock Android build works, albeit with some bugs.

The most problematic bug I experienced was one that would cause the screen to stop responding to touch, something that could be easily resolved by turning off the screen and turning it back on again. I also got a few more force closes than usual, but that is to be expected.

Most of the bugs with running Froyo on the Nook Color at this time concern apps. First off, many apps do not install correctly. Even though Angry Birds will run on the Nook, for example, I was unable to get it to install from the Market. Also, some apps don't utilize the entire screen and will only display in a small portion on the top. Other apps, when they install, will not work at all, force closing every time you open them.

Despite this, I was still able to get my device configured with LauncherPRO, Google Books, the Nook app, the Kindle app, and a few 3D games like Tank Hero and Fruit Ninja. All of these apps run perfectly on the device and allow me to use it daily without much of the pain caused by experimental software.

If I use what works, and simply ignore what doesn't, the Nook works perfectly as a tablet for me. Considering that the list of what doesn't work is relatively short, and getting shorter each day, I feel safe saying that after another month or so, the device will be ready for average, everyday use. As for right now, it works, but is buggy.

Only those who are prepared to deal with the problems should attempt installation of Froyo on their Nooks. But if you are one of those daring people, we've got a tutorial on installing Froyo on your Nook Color right here. And if you're not, then stay tuned because soon the Nook as an Android tablet will be much more accessible to everyone.

This guest review was written by Aaron Orquia.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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