While I was in the USA I picked up a gadget. Such a surprise. I went into Barnes & Noble, a US bookshop chain, and bought a Nook Color. This kind of a colour screened answer to Amazon’s Kindle, a portable e-reader for looking at books and magazines downloaded via WiFi. It has a nice screen and I figured it would work as a portable reading device, and maybe even iPad replacement.
Unfortunately you can’t buy the Nook in the UK, and if you do bring one this side of the pond you will be unable to use it as intended because all the content is region locked and you need a US credit card to make purchases. But I didn’t want to use it as a Nook. I’d read that if you put a micro-SD card into the device and turned it on, it would automatically boot from that card, allowing the use of other operating systems. I’d also learnt that there were a number of versions of Android out there which would turn this device into quite a handy tablet. So, that was the plan.
Armed with an SD card and a USB reader I set to work. The install process is quite straightforward. If you don’t mind the performance hit of running everything from the SD card it is as simple as just plugging in the card and turning the machine on. However, I went for the option of replacing the entire Nook operating system with the Cyanogen version of Android. After a few false starts and a bit of head scratching I managed to get a stable device built on the 7.1 Release Candidate. The device works with Android Marketplace so I quickly had quite a few applications running, including a free copy of Angry Birds and even the Amazon Kindle reader, which is actually rather ironic.
The device whizzes along quite happily, the only problem I’ve found is that it chugs quite a bit when watching TV from BBC iPLayer (although lower quality versions viewed via the BBC web site look OK). Battery life is very good and the whole thing is properly useful. I’m not completely convinced about Android itself, some of the operations are a bit fiddly and not intuitive to me, and I have a whole bunch of camera and phone functionality that is irrelevant on this device. However, I don’t regret the purchase.
If you are in the market for a well made tablet with good battery life and a nice screen, and you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, then the Nook will fit the bill nicely. I don’t feel to bad about “de-Barnes and Nobelising” it, I reckon they probably make a bit of profit on the hardware anyway.