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Nook Color update gives you a $249 Android tablet, almost

I recently bought a Nook Color for my wife as a birthday gift. She's a dedicated book reader, and I was tired of seeing her with paperbacks and a flashlight each night at bedtime. I looked at the Nook and it's very nice, but it's really a one-trick pony. The iPad offered more functionality than I thought she'd utilize, so that brought me to the Nook Color. When I found out the Nook was due for an update that would make it more like a full Android tablet, that was deal maker. A 7-inch color Android tablet for $249? Really? Well, yes and no.

Out of the box the Nook Color was loaded with software version 1.1 and limited apps. The 1.2 update was available and notes on the Nook site said it would be pushed to device via WiFi in the next several weeks. The update was available for download, however, and installing it was a simple drag and drop operation through a USB connection to my MacBook. So with the update complete I set out to get her the apps I knew she would want the most...Facebook, Words with Friends and Angry Birds.

After a quick trip to the Nook Shop I found Angry Birds, but no Facebook or WWF. Thinking the update had made the Nook a full Android tablet, I then went to the Android Market. The apps were there but when I tried to install them I received a "Warning, Warning, Wil Robinson!" alert saying the Android Market did not recognize the Nook as an actual Android device. Hmmph!

Turns out, Android Market access was really never intended for the Nook Color. The Nook Shop currently has 140 apps in it and the intent is to add more soon. Hopefully WWF will be one of the early ones. For Facebook I set her up using the updated web browser, which works very well. Most the Facebook features are there, although there is no way to upload a photo. Videos embedded in Facebook will play, although they are very choppy with error messages saying they are not optimized for the device.

There is a way to make the Nook Color into a full-featured Android tablet, although it involves "rooting" the device (sort of like jail breaking) and loading the Android software and apps from a flash card. I decided not to try it, since it's likely to cause some problems and the added features are not important to her.

The Nook Color itself is a very capable device with a sharp and bright color touchscreen that's very responsive. The new web browser and email work really well and the available apps are very polished. And of course as an eReader the Nook Color really shines with sharp text, animated page turns, bookmarking and full-color photos and graphics.

If you're looking for a full-featured tablet that can handle a lot of multimedia content, get an iPad, Motorola Xoom or Samsung Galaxy Tab. If you're looking for an eReader you can also use for email, Facebook, Twitter, light web browsing and also with some apps, the Nook Color with the update is an outstanding value at $249.

Posted by Gadget Guy at 3:12:30 pm on May 04, 2011