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Rooting a Nook Color: Is it Worth It?

Looking for a good, cheap Android tablet? Lots of folks recommend grabbing a Barnes & Noble Color Nook and then rooting it to make an Android tablet. Is it worth it? Depends on what you expect from a tablet computer.

The Color Nook is a nice little piece of hardware for the price. The screen is crisp and clear, and it’s a great size for carrying around for reading books and light Web browsing. But you can do all that right out of the box — what about when you’ve rooted the Nook?

I decided to go the “Auto Nooter” option to root the Nook so I could install third-party applications, rather than installing a different Android release. The procedure to root the Nook is simple enough. It looks much more complicated on paper (so to speak) than it actually is. So if you’re finding the long list of steps intimidating, don’t worry — it’s a piece of cake. You can root your Nook in about 20 minutes, as long as you have a MicroSD card big enough handy.

After rooting, you can settle in and start installing apps and such. The Auto Nooter gives you a couple of apps that appear in the Extras screen already — plus the Soft Keys app to emulate the hardware buttons that the Nook doesn’t have, like the back arrow and Home key.

So far, I’ve installed Firefox, the Kindle app for Android, Angry Birds Rio, and the Amazon App Store, plus a few other assorted goodies.

The verdict? You get what you pay for, maybe a little more with the Nook. Let’s start with performance.

The Nook has a fairly slow processor for a tablet. It’s fine for reading books on the Kindle or Barnes & Noble app. It’s OK for browsing the Web with the built-in browser if you’re not a heavy Web user. I found it comparable to browsing the Web on my iPhone or Nexus One, but far slower than the first-generation iPad. Naturally, it’s much slower than using a laptop or desktop — even my aging ThinkPad runs circles around it. So I’d give it a B- as a browser.

I haven’t run into any serious bugs when trying to run applications like Angry Birds Rio. If you want a cheap tablet to play Angry Birds and a few other low-end video games for Android and read a few books — run, do not walk, to the nearest Barnes & Noble.

One of the things I love and hate about the Nook is the form factor. It’s a heavy little sucker for a tiny tablet. Let’s say “solid,” though. Don’t let the weight dissuade you from buying one.

The screen size and resolution are good for bursty use. I have found after having the iPad for a year that my enthusiasm for reading books on a multifunction device with a bright screen has waned considerably. In short, if you really plan to spend a lot of time reading books that don’t require high-res color pictures, then do yourself a favor and invest in a black and white Nook or Kindle.

One note about the screen size and a rooted Nook — mobile videos from YouTube and other places look funky and pixelated a lot of the time. What I think is going on here is that the Nook is getting video meant for phones, and would look just fine on smaller screens but not so much here. I also tried a few videos I’d ripped using Handbrake for the iPad, and they look pretty good on the Nook. Playing movies may not require rooting the Nook, by the way, but it’s a nice feature for a tablet this size. I found the sound from the Nook to be better than expected — good enough for watching a movie on the road, if you’re in a spot where headphones aren’t required.

The biggest problem I’ve had with the Nook is that I feel like I need a stylus or something for precise touch input. This is especially and mostly true when browsing the Web. If links on a page are close together it often takes more than one try to hit the right one even. This may be partially a symptom of having larger hands.

Input is my biggest complaint with the Nook Color. Since the NC wasn’t designed to be used as a tablet, you don’t have any options for Bluetooth keyboards or anything like that. The on-screen keyboard is OK, but not great. If you want a tablet for taking notes or doing anything of that sort, then the Nook isn’t worth fussing with.

Note that the Nook is, of course, missing other hardware that you might (or might not) want in a tablet. No GPS, camera, or microphone.

Final Verdict

That the Nook Color can run Android apps or a full Cyanogen Mod release is a good thing, but not enough to provide serious competition to the iPad. If you have low standards for a tablet, then the Nook Color is fine. It’s a Hyundai to Apple’s Cadillac, though. For a few light games and Web browsing, it’s great. For a full-fledged tablet, it’s not quite there. But it is a far better alternative right now to the Xoom and other full-priced tablets if you just want a few apps.

The Nook Color also gives me some hope for Android competing with iOS — though I’m still a bit soured on Android with Google taking the Fauxpen Source route with Honeycomb. With Amazon getting into the game with its application market, I doubt an Android-based Kindle tablet can be far behind. I suspect that the Nook Color 2 will also be a much better tablet than the first iteration. Look for much better Android tablets in the near future that fuse media and application stores the way that Apple has done on iOS. Buckle up, it’s going to be an interesting ride. Now I’m going to go back to playing Angry Birds Rio for a bit…

Comments on "Rooting a Nook Color: Is it Worth It?"

dragonwisard

You have a graphic of the original black&white Nook even though your entire article is about the Nook Color.

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rdaleypa

I love my Nook Color and have recommended it to friends. Barnes and Noble is going to release a software update to Froyo which they say will enable Flash in the browser and other tablet features. The stock firmware is pretty nice for most users. It is definitely the nicest “skin” I have seen on top of Android for a tablet.

I have my Nook Color rooted and have installed CyanogenMod 7 and I have run the preview build of Honeycomb. The device has a Cortex A8 based processor in it (same as iPad) and with an overclocking kernel (included in most custom firmwares) it can be overclocked to 1.1 mhz and probably higher. You can’t compare Nook Color to iPad. iPad is not exercising the processor like Android. Besides, the Nook Color is a half the price of a 32GB first generation iPad. That said, it is zippy with the processor overclocked and runs the preview build of Honeycomb much better than you would expect.

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gamer

looks like a good option but has it usb ports???

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soraar69

The latest version of CyanogenMod 7 has bluetooth working, keyboards and gps receivers are supported.
I have been running CM7 overclocked at 1100Mhz.

You can also install a new rom to an SD card and boot from that, no need to touch the stock rom.

For the price it is an excellent device.

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    @Soraar69 : you said CM7 has bluetooth working.. But does the NC has the hardware to support bluetooth(I don’t know the specs of it, I’ve NookTablet8GB), have you used this feature. Can i use this CM7 for Nook Tablet to have bluetooth feature enabled ? and give the link for CM7(where you downloaded it).

    Reply
epheph

It’s worth noting that CyanogemMod 7 RC4, released just a few days ago, finally has video acceleration working for the Nook Color. Also, CM7 RC4 has been wrapped up into Phiremod V5.3, which I highly recommend. Video acceleration was the last missing piece for me and I finally feel like I have a real Android tablet; it’s really a great little gadget.

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HelDC

You really should have given CyanogenMod a try. It really speeds up the nook, makes the most of the hardware (and as others have mentioned, adds bluetooth support which really opens up possibilities). The B&N version of android is slow and clunky and annoying, but CM makes a rooted nook quite a competent and zippy daily use device.
I prefer my CyanoNook over my laptop or phone for email, twitter&FB, and news&comics via RSS (in google reader). Plus of course it’s great for casual games.
Also, check out Button Savior instead of SoftKeys. I much prefer it, and have it installed on my CyanoNook for those apps that insist on fullscreening themselves so I can’t access the native CyanogenMod menu and back.

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    HelDC

    Oh, and a CyanoNook can be charged from and do data transfer over any standard MicroB usb cable, rather than only via the official B&N cable.
    Swiftkeys is a really useful keyboard on a nook. (I also like it for my phone, but it really shines on the CyanoNook.)

    Reply
FatAlbert

Wow buddy, you are waaaaaaay behind. Try the cyanogen mod and your opinion will change. But since you’re using autonooter, use the skyfire app. It let’s you watch most flash videos.

PS; once they get bluetooth to work, this will officially surpass the ipad as far as value. Typed from my NC using a bluetooth keyboard :)

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    ifbaptist

    If you come back to this please post what keyboard you’re using. I’m looking at the Scosche freeKey bluetooth keyboard from TigerDirect.

    I’m having a blast with this setup and a keyboard would be great.

    Good points in the article. This is definitely not as featured as even my HTC Inspire but the folks at CM7 have done a great job on this. You just need to go into it with realistic expectation. It’s no Galaxy or Xoom. That said I know my expectations have been exceeded.

    Reply

    I am planning on getting the NC for my birthday but to be honest i don’t know a lot about them. I have went back and forth between Nook and Kindle. I know that I want a Nook. I have been reading about rooting, can you help lead me in the right direction with this purchase and how it would better the devise. Does rooting change the warranty of nook? Thank you for your help.

    Reply

    i meant to comment off of you but i guess it came off of ifbaptist

    Reply
CStitzer

What about 3G on the Nook color with CyanogenMod. Is it an option or not available? How is it accessed if available?

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Idk from the site what rooting does? I eant to play@pch games or facebook games and the nc bogs down.

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    How upsetting! Little ones just don’t understand how upsetting these things can be to adults. I have had to deal with panic attacks, too, but mostly just over the last year. When I think about how I almost died Memorial weekend 2010, it starts that panic feeling, so I try not to think about it for too long. I hope that yo1278&u#;re going to be OK. I will be praying for you.Your sis in Christ,Suz

    Reply

If I do the rooting will the apps and books that I have on there now be erased?

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    I think if you do a dual boot, the apps and books from the barnes and noble account will still be there on the nooks default booter… However, if you run the Android booter, you can still log in via the barnes and noble nook app (like if you were on your PC or phone) and see all the books you purchased there. The apps will likely need to be downloaded again to the Android booter. I wouldn’t think books on your SD would be affected unless you’re using the dual boot from an sd that doesn’t have enough space for that and the books.

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