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Android e-reader adds color, web browsing, and video

Oct 27, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Barnes & Noble announced a $249, all-color version of its Android-based Nook e-reader that adds full web browsing and video viewing capabilities. The Nook Color offers 8GB of internal storage, a microSD slot, and a seven-inch, backlit 1024 x 600 color touchscreen, but while it offers 802.11n Wi-Fi, there is no 3G option.

Early this year, Barnes & Noble introduced its Wi-Fi- and 3G-ready, Android-based Nook e-reader, and despite some rough edges, the product has become a hot seller.

The company followed up in June with a $199 Nook 3G that ditched Wi-Fi capability, as well as a $149 Nook Wi-Fi version that omitted the 3G modem. Like the original Nook, the Nook Wi-Fi and Nook 3G offer a six-inch E Ink Vizplex monochrome display with 16-level grayscale, as well as a secondary 3.5-inch color touchscreen.

Nook Color
(Click to enlarge)

With the Nook Color, there is now a but a single color screen, and it jumps up to seven inches. The "VividView" screen offers high, iPad-like resolution (1024 x 600) with 169 pixels per inch, says Barnes & Noble. Other touted features include glare reduction, a backlight, and accelerometers for seamless landscape/portrait switching.

The Nook Color measures 8.1 x 5.0 x 0.48 inches and weighs 15.8 ounces, making it slightly larger and considerably heavier than the earlier models, such as the original, 11-ounce Nook. The redesign also includes a small loop handle.

Nook Color (left) and earlier Nook Wi-Fi (right)
(Click to enlarge)

Whereas the earlier Nooks' tiny color screen offered an Android-based interface, it was a highly customized version oriented almost exclusively toward perusing and purchasing content on the Barnes & Noble eBookstore. The new version, meanwhile, offers a somewhat more complete Android experience, with web surfing, email, and the ability to share selected passages from e-books via Facebook and Twitter.

Still, the interface remains heavily customized, even by Android tablet standards, and there does not appear to be Android Market access. No Android version was cited.

In addition to offering the previously available MP3 audio player, the device now supplies MP4 video playback and a media gallery for photos. Other software features, listed as "NookExtras," include Pandora Internet radio, chess and Sudoku games, and crossword puzzles, says the company. A Quickoffice app for viewing Microsoft Office files is also said to be available.

The 802.11b/g/n-enabled device offers 8GB of storage space, up from 2GB on the original, which is said to be enough for 6,000 books. It also supplies a microSD slot for up to 32GB of additional storage.

Like the earlier models, it offers a mono speaker, a microUSB port, and a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, says the company. There does not appear to be a 3G option, although this may be introduced as an option or as part of another Nook Color model at a future date.

The battery is said to last up to eight hours, which may be pretty good for a color tablet, but is nowhere close to what is available with an E Ink monochrome display. The original Nook was touted as having a battery claimed to go without a recharge for 10 days, assuming no wireless use, compared to 14 days for the rival Amazon Kindle, which has no secondary color screen.

Nook Color showing LendMe feature

(Click to enlarge)

As with the previous models, the e-readers support ePUB, eReader, and PDF publishing formats, in addition to offering integrated access to B&N's over two million eBookstore titles. Adjustable font sizes are also said to be available. Other previous eBookstore focused features are also available. such as the LendMe feature that enables lending on e-books for up to two weeks, says the company.

B&N takes advantage of the full color display to offer a variety of magazines and newpapers, such as Us Weekly, Elle, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. The Nook Color also introduces a patent-pending "AliveTouch" interface for kids books. The kid-friendly AliveTouch offers features like expanding text and zooming into pictures, says the company. A read-to-me feature, meanwhile, offers text-to-speech options.

Citing strong sales of the Nook as well as Barnes & Noble's retail clout, analysts contacted in a story by our sister publication eWEEK believe the Nook Color could be a major contender. Not only does it up the pressure on the Apple iPad and other e-reader focused color tablets, but it makes's monochrome Kindle look rather old and gray by comparison, suggests the story.

The key to the competition may lie in whether anyone misses the lack of a 3G modem, or whether the Nook Color screen is as glare-resistant as B&N claims. The device's high resolution display looks to be a winner, however.

Amazon is pushing the Kindle's readability, battery life, and low price (as low as $139) as key advantages, and sales have continued relatively strong despite the iPad revolution. Nevertheless, the company is rumored to be working on its own color tablet.


Barnes & Noble is planning on a Nov. 19 ship date for the Nook Color, which will retail for $249. More information may be found here.

The original eWEEK story on the Nook Color may be found here, and the follow-up analysis story should be here.

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