Meet the Contenders - Nook Color

The Nook Color is an interesting case. It’s technically an e-reader, and the included Android ROM never lets you forget that. But the spec-sheet says differently. A 7” 1024x600 IPS display, an OMAP3 SoC, and Android 2.2 for $249? Sounds like a budget tablet to me. 

On a hardware level, that’s basically what it is. As with most tablets, the front face is screen dominated, with a slightly larger-than-normal raised bezel and a stylised N beneath the display acting as the home button. The design of the Nook Color was handled by Yves Béhar and his team at fuseproject, one of the leading industrial design firms in the country. 
 
You’d expect a device coming out of an elite design studio to have a very polished design, and the Nook Color definitely does. The design elements are very cohesive, with a final product that is at once attractive and very functional. The bezel is rendered in a metallic-look matte dark gray plastic, with a near-black rubberized back cover. Connecting the front and back faces is a matte silver rim around the four sides of the device, acting as a plastic band holding the device together. It’s a nice look, with slightly cooler shades of gray (probably 3-5% saturation of blue), and more importantly, the rounded edges make it very comfortable to hold, almost like a thin hardcover book. Almost makes you wonder if they meant for you to read books on it...
 
 
But the most notable industrial design feature of the Nook Color has to be the nook (for lack of better word) in the bottom left corner. It’s like a larger version of the through-holes you can find on some MP3 players and cell phones, but with basically no function beyond housing the microSD card slot (unless you really are planning on attaching a 7” tablet to a lanyard.) It’s more of a design quirk, one that adds a bit of character to the device, but an aesthetic element through and through. I’m a fan; it does a lot to break up the monotony that most tablets, especially ones with large bezels, suffer from while also making an amusing play on the Nook’s name.
 
The buttons and ports are built into the silver colored band, with the power button on the left side near the top, and the volume buttons near the top on the right side. The headphone jack is on the top and the microUSB on the bottom, as God intended them. The microSD card slot is built into the edge of the “nook” on the backside, under a flap bearing the Nook logo. 

Overall, the Nook Color is bigger and heavier than the Galaxy, but that gives it a more significant feel in hand, and it definitely feels more durable and rugged than most of the other tablets out there. This is a combination of the larger bezel, the rubberized back, and the high quality matte plastic, and a welcome one. It’s a $250 device that really doesn’t look or feel like it. 
 
Unfortunately, the spec sheet sheds some light on why it’s so much cheaper than the Galaxy. Let’s start with the CPU - it’s an OMAP3 processor, which means Cortex A8 and PowerVR SGX 530. So far so good. Specifically, it’s the OMAP 3621, an 800MHz part that is the basis of TI’s eReader platform. Okay, so an 800MHz A8 isn’t going to set the world ablaze, but it’s definitely livable, especially if we’re planning on tossing a bare-bones ROM onto this thing. Here’s the weird part. Like the Droid 2, the 3621 uses an IVA 2 DSP decode chip, and it can only do SD resolution video decode. So no 720p video. 
 
Which is kind of a pity, because the display is gorgeous. It’s a 7” IPS WSVGA panel with a great contrast ratio, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Rounding out the rest of the specs, we see 512MB RAM, 8GB of onboard flash storage plus the microSD expansion slot, 802.11g wireless, an 8 hour battery, and a distinct lack of any cameras. 
The Need For Budget Tablets Rooting the Nook Color
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  • nomagic - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Because it is so damned affordable... Reply
  • medi01 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Nah. Street price for WiFi Samsung Galaxy Tab is about 260$.

    Basically this article sounds like hidden advertisment / Samsung bashing.

    Galaxy Tab is vastly superior. Screen is NOT better than that of Nook (I know, I've used both). With contrast of 700+ you care more about max brightness, than max contrast.

    Samsung's device is solid.

    And "hacker undriendlines" of Galaxy Tab is sush a piece of bull**it, it's rootable for ages, and there are custom roms. Not that it's built in ROM really needs rooting, as Nook does.
    Reply
  • VivekGowri - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Where are you seeing that street price? For a new one, the lowest I can see is $340 on Amazon, $345 on Google Shopping results, and $349 from most standard retailers. There's less out there for the Galaxy Tab as far as ROMs and the like, but just to root it, yeah just run SuperOneClick and you're all good. The point being that unlike the Galaxy Tab, you need to hack the Nook to make it useful, and once you do, you have more options than with the Samsung.

    Look, I like the Galaxy Tab, I've got two here and they're both great devices. I also like the Galaxy Tab more than the Nook Color, it says pretty clearly there that the Galaxy Tab is definitely the better device. If you can find it for $260 (the refurb deal on Woot, maybe), yes, no brainer right there. At $350, only $50 less than the ASUS Transformer, hell no. If you're looking for a cheap and cheerful barebones tablet, the Nook works better simply because it's a lot cheaper.

    And just for the record, the reason the screen is better has more to do with the viewing angles that come with the IPS display in the Nook, but as far as regular TN LCD panels go, the Galaxy Tab is one of the best. I can't wait to see the AMOLED panel in the next-gen Galaxy Tab 7".
    Reply
  • DJMiggy - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    The 3G/WiFi galaxy tab refurbished was 259.99 on woot today but that is sold out. Must be where you are getting that price from unless you mean with a two year contract which you can get it on Sprint's Network for $199.99 with a 2 year contract. Reply
  • zvadim - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Overstock had a refurb Nook Color for $183 shipped a few days back & B&N sold brand new ones on e-bay a few times for $200. Reply
  • kkwst2 - Friday, May 27, 2011 - link

    Yeah, I recall some refurb prices for a little over $100. If you can put up with its speed, it is a great deal given the screen quality. Reply
  • redechelon - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    First off, great article! (in typical Anandtech fashion)

    But... the Asus Eee Pad Transformer seems like too much of a solid competitor to leave out of this budget category. I realize it's slightly more expensive ($399/$400) than these, but it seems th $50 difference from the Galaxy is well worth it, just a thought.
    Reply
  • redechelon - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I also realize you talked about it, i just couldn't get over it =P. Out of the 2 though, I'd take the nook as well... would be fun to monkey with. Reply
  • VivekGowri - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Yeaaaap, the Transformer's pricepoint just blew the 7" Galaxy Tab off the market. I mentioned it at the beginning and only really discussed it at the end, but I figured that it made more sense to compare these two, since they're pretty similar, instead of comparing to any of the Honeycomb tablets. Reply
  • medi01 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    No it didn't. No GPS, no 3G, crappy software, unpolished hardware.

    I don't get where do you get your conslusions from, guys. From articles filled with lies/semi-lies like this one?
    Reply

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