If you are Jonesing over the Apple iPad but can’t afford half-a-grand for a baseline 16GB WiFi version, the $250 Barnes & Noble NOOKcolor is a good alternative.
Sporting twice the amount of RAM (512MB) along with 8GB of flash memory (expandable to 40GB thorough a microSD slot), the well-designed NOOKcolor has hardware features that are very competitive with the iPad’s. The excellent 7″, capacitive, multiTouch, IPS LCD at 1024×600 resolution nearly matches the iPad’s 1024×800 pixel count but at a much higher pixel density. The NOOKcolor’s 800MHz ARM Cortex-A8 is almost as fast as the iPad’s 1GHz A8. WiFi connectivity appears to be better on the NOOKcolor than on the iPad. From my own experience, battery life is very good and approaches the iPad’s.
The only features missing on the NOOKcolor that are present on the iPad are a microphone, Bluetooth and compass. The NOOKcolor might also lack an ambient light sensor; although there appears to be a place for one to the left of the home button, there does not appear to be any software support for a light sensor yet.
Arguably the best eReader currently available, the NOOKcolor is easily rooted using Auto-Nooter by following the directions here. You will also need to install LauncherPro or some other similar program to access apps installed using the Android Market. Once rooted, the NOOKcolor becomes the best Android-based tablet for the money.
Of course, the iPad’s App Store is unmatched, but the Android Market is nothing to sneeze at. Previous purchases from the Android Market will automatically become available for installation on the rooted NOOKcolor, and this is a big advantage for Android-based devices. While iPad users might enjoy a greater variety of software choices, the Android universe is exploding with new devices and all of your Android Market software purchases will carry over to any of them (although some programs might not run properly on every platform).
Rooting the NOOKcolor is not without problems. The process is still young and requires perseverance, patience and a modicum of technical acumen. Rooting the NOOKcolor might also void the device’s warranty and could possibly interfere with future official B&N operating system upgrades including the upgrade to Android 2.2 (Froyo) planned for January.
But having used both devices, the rooted NOOKcolor is responsive and fun. Games like AngryBirds are every bit as good on the NOOKcolor as on the iPad. The outstanding email client is equal to the iPad’s and the Dolphin Browser, available through the Android Market, is a better browser than the iPad’s limited version of Safari. While the iPad’s touch screen might currently be a little more responsive and accurate, this could change in the NOOKcolor’s favor when the Froyo upgrade soon becomes available.
None of the NOOKcolor’s original functionality is affected by rooting, but it is satisfying to load the Amazon Kindle Android application onto the NOOKcolor so that you can read all of your Kindle books in a better format than any Kindle delivers.
So if you are feeling a little daring, the NOOKcolor is a terrific eReader that makes a great tablet when rooted. The rooted NOOKcolor is a very strong, inexpensive alternative to the WiFi Apple iPad.