By now, you've probably heard about all the Android mad scientists hacking their Barnes & Noble NOOKcolor's into full-fledged Android tablets. If you haven't donned the Einstein wig yourself and are curious whether this hack-job is for you, read on ...

People often ask why they should go the Nook modding route when there are devices out there that are--you know--actually meant to be tablets?

As the current Android Central Nook Color Adviser, my official answer is:

"Buy the Nook! Buy the Nook!! Then come to Android Central for all your NOOKcolor modding questions!!! Be sure to tell your friends, too!!!!"

... however, as a human being who happens to immensely enjoy his Nook Color tablet, my answer is that it's really going to depend on two things:

1. What are you looking for in a tablet?

2. What are you wanting to pay for a tablet?

Because, obviously, there are other tablets that offer things a modded NOOKcolor can't.

If you want to be on the bleeding edge of hardware specs and operating systems, then by all means, wait for the Motorola Xoom.  If you really like the 7-inch form factor, and are willing to pay $500-$600 to have 3G, cameras, GPS, and no need to rely on the development community, then you might really love a Samsung Galaxy Tab.  If your eyesight is just a little too good, and you'd really like to strain it from poor viewing angles, then may I suggest the Viewsonic G-Tab or the Archos 101 (yes, those were very cheap, very unfair potshots at two respectable and moderately-priced tablets that may be worth looking into . . . let the tomato-throwing commence).

For me, however, the NOOKcolor delivers the features I want most in a tablet:

  • web-surfing
  • email
  • games
  • apps, apps, and more apps
  • texting w/Google Voice
  • music/video
  • 1024 x 600 resolution on that small enough to be mobile, big enough to be a tablet 7-inch screen (same as the Galaxy Tab)
  • the best Kindle yet  :p

  • the promise to have more software upgrades and more features unlocked (bluetooth anyone?) as development continues

Many of us can do without cameras, GPS, and 3G on a tablet, as these are already on most Android phones. Would I take them? Of course. Would I pay twice as much to have them?  HAHAHAHAHA---no.

What this is all leading up to is the price. It seems that Apple set a precedent when they priced the cheapest version of their iPad at $500, as other tablet-makers have followed similar suit. The prices for the upcoming tablets from CES have yet to be announced, but it's probably a safe bet that they won't be far from that.

But since good ol' Barnes & Noble wasn't selling the NOOKcolor as a tablet, they didn't get the memo that it has to cost around $500-$600. They wanted to float their product somewhere between the iPad and the Kindle. Hence, you can buy the NC for a very reasonable $250.

To those of you who have been holding out to get a tablet "until the prices go down,” I'm here to tell you that B&N has (accidentally) done just that, as they've given us the first quality sub-$300 tablet. It takes some modding, and it takes following someone else's instructions carefully, but if that's something you're willing to do, it may be time to create your own $250 Android tablet.

So why not take a gander at our newly-expanded Nook Color forums, and check out the guides, how-to's and tips. No matter what tablet you go with, Android Central has the scoop.

. . . and we'll still be here a year from now, when all of us Android mad scientists are playing Angry Birds 3D on our rooted Color Kindles:

 
There are 42 comments

mdlissner says:

Won my fantasy football league and waiting for the check to show up to get my Nook Color to Root and use as a tablet.

It is killing me that my daughter got one for Christmas and I have not yet rooted it on her as she likes it for its intended use.

you can just load nookiefroyo from the sd without ever modifying the onboard storage/memory

JMusic says:

Resistive or capacitive? That decides for me whether it is worth getting to use as a tablet or not.

...Captcha thought that ^ was spam...

gcims says:

capacitive!

NDchem2014 says:

Bought mine last night!! I love it so far. I have yet to root it however. I didn't have time last night and can't do it at work. :( I'm really looking forward to playing angry birds on it though. :D Thank you AC, you are the ones that got me to purchase one.

edit: I had to do a captcha because my post was thought to be spam. haha.

scoty024 says:

I picked one up on Saturday. Had it rooted 20 minutes after I got home. I've rooted a number of devices by this point... It has NEVER been that easy before. I make a lot of impulsive, albeit informed, purchases... This was one of them. That being said, it was the smartest and most benefitting impulse buy I've ever made.

Hand_O_Death says:

never even considered this until this article. My wife has a Kindle which is fantastic for books, and I thought the color ebook (read: touch screen like every other computer screen out there) was a joke comparing it to e-ink. BUT as a nice rooted tablet, this think looks pretty sweet. I realize it is wifi only, but that is something I could live with for that form factor. Thanks guys, I think you moved me to get one and mod it.

htowngator says:

A few negatives though:

1) No guarantee of getting Honeycomb 3.0 on it anytime soon if ever. I'm sure it will happen, but when? Probably not till later this year. At that point this thing should be even less than $250 or at the least a newer version will be out.

2) While it's a great deal, you can tell the 800mhz processor shows it's lack of speed with page flips, program loading, etc. Yes, they have overclocked it just recently, but only 950Mhz and it's still unstable half the time.

3) There will be a TON of new tablets coming in the next 3 months so I'd rather save my $250 now and see what comes out at what cost. If nothing is enticing then I'll go pickup the Nook Color.

junglejunkie says:

Tempting, but I am waiting for the Xoom WiFi.

Oskiee says:

I'd say the same thing... But I highly doubt they'll come out with one. :O(

pDoG says:

awesome article, because ive been looking for a tablet to go along with my G2. the galaxy tab is way too small, so im looking for a 10incher, like the new g slab. but im only looking for a the wifi version. this really makes me consider wanting to buy one if i had some extra cash. but im lookig for save for better hardware because i cannot stand lag.

DeathsArrow says:

There's a couple of guys at XDA working on Ubuntu for the NC.

supra_2nr says:

So I was mulling over buying one or not... but decided to... I had it rooted with autonooter, skinned with adw launcher, and a half dozen other market apps within a half hour... super simple

My hat goes out to the guys at xda for their top notch work and cant wait to see what else they comeup with...

For those of you who think it isnt worth it as a tablet... I just got done watchin family guy its a trap and switched to angry birds while running stuff on the internet... great little tool to have :P

TekWarren says:

Articles like this make it hard not to go buy one. I've been wanting a tablet device and wifi only is fine for me. I have been following as much development on the root capabilities as I can. I agree with some of the comments though mostly about how I think it should be even a little cheaper yet and that I am also really trying hard to wait for the market to explode which affect prices. I wonder if a newer NC will come out but at the same time I could see B&N NOT releasing new hardware since the intended use is so narrow and for that it seems the current hardware is more than enough.

ChrisFricke says:

Another thing to consider: If you are one of those debating whether you'll use it more as a tablet or a reader (and afraid of the reader part because it's not e-ink) you might be surprised.

We have a NC (unrooted still) that the woman uses for reading - lots of reading. Now that she's had it for a few weeks I asked her which screen she preferred for long term staring (original or color) and she said hands down the new color screen. Apparently she didn't know that e-ink is better for the eyes, so says the experts, and hasn't touched her old Nook but maybe a couple of times.

I'm actually leery of rooting it cause she's enjoying the Nook-ness so much and I don't want to mess that up!

htowngator says:

E-ink is helpful for long periods of reading time or in bright light.

Croak#AC says:

Ya'll need to remember that the NC is cheap as it is because B&N is surely eating a goodly chunk of the costs of this device, basically
selling it for cost or below cost.

If you think about it, it's really the same thing the carriers do with phones, the difference being B&N doesn't make you sign a contract. But if there's a lot of sales to people who buy it to root and make it a tablet and do NOT buy content from B&N, this pricing model may have to change.

It's not that Samsung is ripping people off with the Tab for selling a higher-featured and better materials device for a higher price. It's that Samsung really only gets one shot at your money with the Tab, at time of sale.

htowngator says:

I highly doubt B&N will raise the cost of the NC simply because some people are rooting it. Like I said, I will wait and see what pricing and availability are for the HTC Scribe, Galaxy Tab 2, Xoom, and even BB Playbook before I decide on maybe getting a NC instead. Don't want to use the $250 if the HTC scribe, for example, is $400 (although I doubt it will be but you never know).

icebike says:

Quote:
Ya'll need to remember that the NC is cheap as it is because B&N is surely eating a goodly chunk of the costs of this device, basically
selling it for cost or below cost.

[citation needed]

Common sense and deductive reasoning should be a good enough citation.

Gameboy70 says:

B&N is a massive sales and distribution channel, so the company very likely benefits from economies of scale not enjoyed by tablet makers like Archos. With only direct sales (no third party retailers), they probably make a healthier margin than their competitors, except for Samsung and Apple.

I read somewhere that, after a NOOKcolor tear-down, it was estimated that, based on the costs of the parts, B&N is profiting about $50 off of every nook color sold. So they're obviously counting on book sales to make the real profit, but they're still likely making a few bucks off of the ones people root and never even so much as open the Barnes & Noble software on. I'm sure they were aware of the potential (or inevitability) of rooting/modding, and if they were actually losing money on each device, I'm guessing we would have seen a very different approach to safeguards and whatnot (the fact that it looks first to boot off of the SD card tells me mod prevention wasn't something they were gravely concerned about). Besides, all the hub-bub about rooting serves to increase the general popularity of the device and brand recognition, which, if their goal was to compete with both the Kindle and the iPad, can only be seen as positive. Of course you make a good point that they're coming at this from a different perspective than someone like Samsung, who doesn't have much more to sell once customers take their tablets home. ... And it certainly gives some perspective on Apple, who's profiting massively off of both the initial sale AND digital sales.

mike96789 says:

The NC is pretty good device, and rooting it just makes it better. I can play a lot of the games from the market in full screen and connect to the internet on WIFI. If I am out of the house I always have my android phone with me and just tether the NC to the phone. On the XDA forums there is even a hint that the guys at CyanogenMod maybe making CM7 for the NC, Which would be AWESOME! For the price and usabiltiy of this price, with all the specs, its a good deal!

jonnyl says:

I definitely agree that the Nook is the best bang for your buck right now. I just bought a Nook over the weekend and have been pleasantly surprised by how well it works as a tablet. It's not not as polished as more expensive tablets, but it's quite usable, especially for the someone on a budget.

Bujin#IM says:

I hemmed and hawed about buying one, and then I managed to get a great deal on one from a friend. Had it rooted in less than half hour, and it works great!

It was my first experience rooting (never had the nerve or real desire to root my EVO).... it was easy peasy!

dcreed says:

Must...resist...must...resist....

dhoshman81 says:

The Nook Color is hands down the best bang for your buck and if youre holding out for a cheaper tablet for the same quality tablet, good luck. Def hack it immediately after purchasing it. If you haven't seen one then do a youtube search and be amazed.

Waffles says:

Best Kindle my arse! :P When my NookColor is next to my Kindle with the same text on the screen, the battery sucking LCD screen is pure crap in comparison.

But PDF viewing can be better on the NookColor, specifically the full color ones.

For those worried about losing the nook interface when you root...you don't. The Market and any apps that you install show up under Extras. I put the Zoom launcher and Fancy Widget on mine, and absolutely love it. All of the nook stuff still works there, too...you just have to go into the app drawer to launch the Library and Shop apps. I got a slight kick out of installing the Kindle app and registering it with Amazon for my Kindle account.

ObsidianGT says:

I should buy and mod a B&N NOOKcolor from Amazon. That'll show 'em.

crxssi says:

>"the cheapest version of their iPad at $500, as other tablet-makers have followed similar suit."

Did Notion Ink not get that memo? According to this:

http://www.crunchgear.com/2010/12/09/notion-ink-adam-pricing-details-rev...

the tremendously faster, 10", dual core, wifi Adam tablet with camera and many other goodies will be $375. I am not saying that the Nook is not a nice option but it is not like all nice, fast, large, Android tablets are GOING to be $500+.

I already have a fast, 4.3" Evo. For a phone it is huge. It is even like a small tablet. If I get a "real" tablet, I want something a LOT bigger and faster too. I don't think the Nook would cut it for me.

ftumph says:

My thinking was to get the NC and root it now, and see how I like the 7" tablet form-factor. Then, maybe near the end of 2011, when the really amazing, 10 oz, dual-core, Honeycomb, $399 unicorn-powered tablets are out, I'll pick up one of them.

While my rooted NC is a little clunky compared to a real tablet, those are minor concerns, especially given the quality of the device overall, and the price.

trebores says:

So I have to disagree with the author of this article. I purchased one of these to mess around with and I have come to the conclusion that it's just borderline ok, not good as a tablet.

First of all, this is not a good user experience.. it works for the most part, but it's behavior is inconstant, which is very frustrating. Sometimes it's fast enough rendering web pages and switching apps and sometimes it chugs. Generally, it's a bit on the laggy side. It doesn't run android nearly as well as my phone does(HTC Incredible).

Look, it's great that if you bought the NC an ereader, you get some added functionality, but to tell people that this is a great tablet to get is not fair. It's ok for the price, but it's still not a good user experience. You're better off waiting a little bit longer for honeycomb. If you want an e-reader with mediocre battery life and a toy to futz around with, go for it.. otherwise, it's just so-so.

kenyee says:

The Nook as an IPS screen so that's why it has good color. Too bad you can't calibrate it. Still good bang for the buck for something that is plentiful in supply...

uscguy says:

I just went out and bought a NC today because of this article... awesome info thanks Will!

cyberjamin says:

So I went to Barnes and Noble yesterday and played with the Nook Color. The very first thing I noticed was the weight, the second was the glare; both of which are my biggest peeves with the iPad for reading a book. I then went to all 3 websites to compare specs:

* The iPad Wifi only is 16.5 oz, the Nook Color Wifi only is 15.8, and the Kindle Wifi + free 3G is 8.7
* Both iPad and Nook have glare issues. The Kindle has no glare at all
* Both iPad and Nook Color are bad for reading outside, but great at night in bed
* The Kindle is great for outdoor reading, but not so good at night
* Both iPad and Nook Color can be equipped with a screen protector to cut some of the glare; although not at 100% and it impacts the resolution some (not too terrible)
* The Kindle can be equipped with a light for nighttime reading

In the end, the weight difference is a biggie for me. I can get around the glare/no light things on each. I love the iPad apps, so I don't really need the redundancy on the Nook Color; plus I'll be getting an Android phone, so I'll still get to play with fun apps on that. The recent reviews that I have seen comparing all 3 conclude that the Nook Color is really competing with the iPad, not the Kindle; and most reviews says they end up with both an iPad and a Kindle as best of all worlds. The added bonus with the Kindle is the free 3G, not that I really "need" that, but it's a bonus at this point since the price is 189 vs 249 for the Nook. If I talked myself out of the 3G part, then we're looking at 139 for the Kindle Wifi only. I'm going to try the Kindle to see if I like it, if not I'll return it and get the Nook.

rc748 says:

Bought a Nook Color and I think they are pretty good for the money paid. I especially like the color LCD feature because I like to read my favorite magazines while I wait in line, wait at a doctor’s office, or anywhere else.

I did have a hard time finding a sleeve for it. However, found a small company that makes a pretty good sleeve for this unit and sells them for only $8.95 with free freight at www.nuvo-tek.com.
By the same token, if anyone knows of where I can buy a good cover (not a sleeve) that is not too expensive for the Nook Color, please let me know.

Thanks

nip_vik says:

Extremely well said. You have reinforced my decision to buy nook color.

The tablet (ooops e-reader) is decent enough to carry around and affordable enough to dispose once other much advanced tablets become affordable.

zuki01 says:

I'm new to this, got my NC, and absolutely loved it. Now, I like to try to root it. Where do Begin?

nardyboy says:

Really enjoying this nook color...the price...test driving honeycomb android (cant wait for the genuine article to be released). Definitely, the most bang for your buck. The function of a tablet for the price of a reader.

jsliu111 says:

That's a good one. I install android 2.3 inside. And it really works well. And I also try android 3.0. It's just ok, can play angry bird any way. Android 3.0 Tablet: Install Android 3.0 in Nook Color

a250gpreguy says:

Loving this....First Android device for me..Rooted and ROM'd to CM7, OC'd to 1.3ghz, tethered thru my Palm Pre. as someone farther up said...Easy peasy Works great!