NOOKColor Morphs from Quiet Little eBook Reader to Killer Little Android Tablet

If you have been following along here at Gear Diary you probably have seen Carly’s review of the NOOKColor. The NOOKColor was noted as Barnes and Noble number one seller for the holiday season and it’s pretty easy to understand why. I am not really an eBook user and don’t often find myself reading too many books, but what I do enjoy is pretty much anything Android and the hardware that it runs on. So far you’ve seen what the $250 devices gets you, a full featured, beautiful color screen eBook reader powered by Android 2.1. It was not days after the new eReader hit the shelves, nookDevs’s along with some wizardry from XDA members, transformed the eBook reader into a full featured Android Tablet. The NookColor took over the role of not only an eBook reader, but also a really sweet Android tablet too. It takes some reading and a little SD card manipulation to make happen, but is rather simple if your familiar with Android or Linux.

The end results are simply amazing, you can basically run most Android apps from the market, watch movies, check email, twitter, Facebook, and anything else really that would do with an Android phone or tablet. The tablet is closely related to a Droid phone with a decent processor and graphics chipset. There is talk of Bluetooth being built-in to the CPU and the devs are looking into whether or not that can be turned on or not. Storage is cut down to the new partitioning, but you can always add as much memory as your want via the expandable SD storage. And finally the best part about it is that it doesn’t cost you another dime after the initial purchase of the device. I converted my Nook Color into a nice little tablet within hours of picking it up at the local Barnes and Nobles. Here’s how it all went down.

Disclaimer: Rooting your device will indeed void your warranty, with Root access you can manipulate the core OS files and potentially ruin your device. Gear Diary is not responsible for anything that happens to your device if you attempt this process. With that said, the Nook has a built-in failsafe, 8 failed boot ups and your device will revert back to factory condition with no signs of ever tampering with it. I take no credit for any of this work, I simply followed the forums and capitalized on everyone’s hard work. Support your developers and donate.

If you check out NOOKdevs or XDA there are a few great walkthroughs that make the conversion process go pretty seemless. You can use Linux, Mac, or Windows to do this and all result in the same outcome. I’m not going to walkthrough a step by step, but I wanted to give you an idea of what involved in the process. Basically on a Windows box, you need to download the modified image and put it on an external Micro SD card. The card only needs to be about 1GB and can be reformatted after the initial use to be used as normal expandable storage after the installation. Here are the basic steps of what needs to be done:.

  1. Startup your Nook and register it through the normal process, you must have a Gmail account for rooting, so it helps to use this one.
  2. either wait for the official 1.0.1 update to install automatically or manually do an upgrade. you must be on 1.0.1 before anything else is done
  3. insert modified SD card and turn on the Nook on (it doesn’t look like anything is happening but it is)
  4. After that’s done your Nook boots and you see the setup wizard as if it were the first time you setup and Android phone (skip through it)
  5. connect to WiFi and open YouTube, sign in to your YouTube channel
  6. Open the Android Marketplace, Accept terms, and start downloading your favorite apps
  7. Enjoy your new tablet

There are many other things that you can do and probably will do anyway once you get this far. Most of the common apps you will use are already installed for you which takes almost all of the manual labor out of it. The first thing I did was install ZEAM launcher which changed the homescreen to be more like a normal Android phone. This allowed for the changing of my background, adding new apps to the homescreen and launcher bar, and making a cleaner user interface. Included in the modified image is a softkeys app which gives you home, menu, back, and apps buttons since the Nook only has one button at the bottom of the screen. The original Nook functionality has not changed and I still have the original Nook menu and eBook apps. I can write fully say that I am completely happy with my $250 Android Tablet and have with me now pretty much wherever I go. I use my Android phone to tether when there is no wi-fi and now have a 7″ screen instead of my phone to work with. I can’t say enough how much I love this eBook reader!

Here is my current setup, which changes daily but you can see some of the stuff I have loaded. All these screen snaps were taken using the built-in Screenshot utility (press and hold “n” and Vol -)

Nook Home Screen “ZEAM Launcher”

Apps Drawer

Settings page

Android Marketplace

Opera Mini Browser in Landscape

Angry Birds

XDA Forums App

This is just a few of the many apps I have installed. Video encoded for iPod Touch (.mp4) work fantastic and fill most of the screen. If encoded in this format and at 800 X 480 there is no audio lag or skipping throughout the movie. Most games that I have downloaded work exceptionally well, I have not had a single graphics issues or lag with anything I’ve played so far. I did have a screen scaling issue with Asphalt5, but so far this has been the only game/app that has given me any problems. One thing to note about apps is that the device shows up on the Android Market as a LogicPD Zoom2. Some of the apps do not show up do to the footprint of the device, this is easily remedied by using Dropbox to send the .apk files directly to the device or using Appbrain to push them to the market. Some apps do not work as of now, but with the soon (I hope) addition of a clean 2.2 based Rom that should change.

One of the biggest things that worried me about this device was the battery. Battery life on most Android devices is not all that great, but with all the added functionality of the apps and graphics stress I assumed the worst when it came to battery. The NOOKColor battery is not (supposed) to be user replaceable so the possibility of extended battery is out of the question. I was so relieved to find out that after a few days use on the device, the battery life is absolutely amazing. I have never used a device short of my netbook that had such great battery life. There are a few scripts and directions on the forums that remove some unneeded services and claim to extend battery. What I love about this is that I can tap the power button and shut down the screen and leave it in “standby” overnight, and come back the next day and maybe have lost 1% of my battery. So if you’re wondering about battery life, it’s great.

So for now the Nook is my primary traveling or couch surfing tablet. I love the heavy metal and plastic casing, the beautiful color screen, and the overall feel of the device. It has already exceeded my expectations and will only get better as time goes on. The developers are updating things daily and more apps are added to the “working” list daily. If Bluetooth is possible then this could shape up to be a worthy little road warrior with a BT connected keyboard, GPS, or whatever else you find the need to attach to it. If you want to check out more than take a peek at the XDA NOOKColor Forums or head over to nookDevs. You can find all the information your curiosity desires and keep up on progress of a fully custom-built Rom for the device. Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment if you want to know about any specific application running on this device. I wanted to mention also that I bought the Barnes & Noble Anti Glare screen protectors and absolutely love it. It’s an easy install and drastically reduces the fingerprints and glare on the glossy screen. Clarity drops a little bit but certainly not enough to bother me one bit.

Info Available Via Barnes and Noble, XDA Forums, and nookDevs

Update: It has been brought to my attention that B&N is sending out and update that kills the root access, from what I can see it from people who have rooted their device early on and have since gotten the 1.0.1 update. The forums and nookDevs process is already updated to fix this issue. So for now, it’s game on.

Categories: eBooks, Reviews

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13 replies

  1. I think you’ve convinced me on getting one! I’ve been looking for a tablet that is NOT an iPad, and the Nook Color seems to fill the bill, especially since it can be hacked easily. And that it is only $250 :-)

  2. You are enticing me…I have a 5″ Dell Streak and sometimes I would like just a little more real estate. This is starting to look like a downright affordable option!

  3. Wow. I was tempted *before*; now I’m *seriously* tempted. Only a lack of disposable income is holding me back. Can I get one with an Amazon gift card? (Heh.)

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  12. NOOKColor Morphs from Quiet Little eBook Reader to Killer Little …: I can write fully say that I am completely…

  13. NOOKColor Morphs from Quiet Little eBook Reader to Killer Little Android Tablet