Jan 17 AT 4:25 PM Nick Gray 58 Comments

Using a rooted NOOKcolor as an Android tablet

Since returning from CES, the number one question I get from all my friends has been “did you see that cool tablet?” Typically I have to ask them which tablet they are referring to and then I have to tell them that it won’t be available for quite some time. The truth is, most tablets that were unveiled at CES will hit store shelves in the next month or two (whenever Google gets the chance to put the finishing touches on Honeycomb) but you’ll still have to march into your local service provider’s store and sign a contract if you don’t have $600 or more to shell out.

So what’s the best Android tablet option? Right now, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is the clear choice, but the price is simply too much for most. Yes, the price is dropping, but most people simply can’t justify spending more on an Android tablet than they would on a more useful netbook. For me and my wife, the best tablet option was the one we already had, the NOOKcolor. At $250, the Nook Color is certainly the cheapest Android tablet on the market. The only catch is that you’ll need to void your warranty and root the device in order to get any tablet functionality out of it.

Out of the box, the Nook Color is one of the most capable eReaders on the market. It features a 7″ 1024×600 IPS color display, an 800 MHz Ti OMAP 3621 processor with a PowerVR SGX530 GPU, 512 MB of RAM, and an ample 8 GB of internal storage. Barnes and Noble chose to launch the eReader with Android 2.1 which allows users to play games, browse the web, view documents, listen to music, and of course download, read and share eBooks. But if you’re looking to a bit more functionality, the beefy specs also gives you the opportunity to easily turn the NOOKcolor into an extremely capable Android tablet.

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Rooting the NOOKcolor is almost as easy as counting to three. When developers first gained root access, it looked like it was a daunting task. Fortunately, things have come a long way in the past few months. Now, all you need is a spare microSD card and about ten minutes of spare time. I won’t go into all the details since there are about a million tutorials already out on the web, but if you’re interested in rooting your NOOKcolor I would highly suggest you check out the YouTube video by huskermania.

I guess now you probably want to know how the NOOKcolor stacks up against the Samsung Galaxy Tab. You want the truth? Well… the Galaxy Tab is a much better tablet than the NOOKcolor. But the fact that the NOOKcolor costs half what you’ll pay for the Galaxy Tab goes a long way to even out the score. By rooting the NOOKcolor you gain access to the Android Market which in turn opens up endless possibilities. With apps like ADWLauncher you can customize your home screen and app launcher to your liking, giving the NOOKcolor a more “traditional” Android tablet feel.

Since the NOOKcolor was never intended to operate as a tablet, there are some limitations and disadvantages in how the NOOKcolor operates. The main example is the fact that the device only features one button (Home) under the screen. Developers have added a few soft keys (Back and Menu) into the NOOKcolor’s notification/menu bar, but things get a little tricky when you’re in an app or game that expands to use the full screen.

With the NOOKcolor, you’ll need to spend a little extra time customizing the tablet feel to your liking. But once things are set up, the NOOKcolor offers a rewarding tablet experience. Over the past few days, my wife and I have used the tablet to play games, surf the web, check Facebook and Twitter and enjoy some pretty entertaining YouTube clips. The Barnes and Noble NOOKcolor may not be the most refined Android tablet currently on the market; but with a reasonably low price point and impressive hardware, the NOOKcolor should keep most of you entertained long enough to pass on the first two or three Honeycomb tablets that hit the market this spring.

Nick is a tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC and its devices. Nick joined the Android and Me family in the summer of 2010.

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  • http://Website David

    Can you be a little more specific about performance? Is there lag or do you get very many force closes?

    • Nick Gray

      As you can see from the video, there is very little lag when going through the apps and home screen. The ADWLauncher did have the animated 3D efects turned on which does run a bit slow on the NOOKcolor.

      Gaming is really where you’ll encounter lag, though I have found that the majority of 3D games in the Android Market work pretty well. Some do not scale properly for the screen, but performance it pretty much on par with a mid range Android phone.

    • Snafu77

      I have had my NC rooted for a month. No force close or lag issues at all. There are some issues though. The NC will reboot in sleep mode for some people unless you setup a profile to turn off wifi when the screen turns off. When I play Jet Car Stunts sometimes the screen stops responding between levels and you have to turn the screen off and on to fix it. No problems at all playing Spiderman, Angry Birds or Crazy Snowboard. RememberTheMilk doesn’t work. It crashes or refuses to sync. K9 is great. Google Voice works great and allows me to text. WinAmp is very nice. The Kindle App works well as does Adobe Reader.

      There is onboard bluetooth but its dormant. If the community finds a way to get that running VOIP calling will be possible. There is nothing but upside with the NC.

  • http://adomanico01.blogspot.com/ Anthony Domanico

    It will be interesting to see how rooting your current device differs from what happens with the pending 2.2 update, which apparently makes the Nook Color a bit more of a tablet (with market, etc.).

    • http://Website riffraff

      B&N *has* said there will be a marketplace…*their* market. With “reading-centric” apps. So, no unrooted access to “Android Market,” but there’s supposed to be some sort of “B&N Market” coming 2011Q1.

  • http://Website JD

    @ David

    I have a rooted NC also, and there’s no lag. For me it was between this and the Archos 70, which was constantly sold out at the time. I am very happy with my choice. The screen is ions better than the Archos screen. There’s already an overclock kernel available, and CM7 rom is in the works. Right now, froyo is available (nookie froyo), but I haven’t installed it yet.

    My advice is to study up at XDA developers where there is constant updates and feedback in the Nook Color forums.

    • Snafu77

      The screen is really fantastic. I was in shock when I went in to B&N to check it out. Videos really don’t do it justice.

  • http://Website hoop

    My NookColor runs wonderfully with android 2.2 and an overclocked CPU @ 950. No lag no problems for me.

  • http://Website Prettyboy85712

    I know that Gmail doesn’t sync contacts. What about Gtalk?

    • Nick Gray

      Contacts in Gtalk sync up just fine since it technically uses a friends list rather than your Gmail contacts.

  • http://Website Matthew

    I went with the viewsonic gtab. 10 inches + vegan 5.1 was enough for me. The only drawback was the screen, otherwise its a great machine

  • http://Website Gee

    Kind of off topic but does anyone know what wallpaper that is? Looks nice.

    • Nick Gray

      My wife found that wallpaper last night with the Backgrounds app. I believe it was under the “Artsy” category.

  • Jaymoon

    Performance was always a question I had, seeing as how Android is making it’s way onto all sorts of devices (iPhone, HD2, etc), but are there more to prove a point than to be used.

    What about battery life? What are we looking at here, 4, 6, 8(+!) hours battery life?

    Right now my only fear is that it will turn into a $250 Angry Birds player.

    • Nick Gray

      Battery life seems to have taken a hit, but I’m thinking that the main cause is the fact that I have been downloading and testing out various apps. I’d say the battery still lasts about 6 hours with continual use with the WiFi kept on.

      • http://Website JD

        I get about 8 hours of moderate to heavy use. 10% – 12% per hour on average. When sleeping, this sucker loses almost nothing (1% in 8 hours today), which is nice.

      • http://Website y3n0

        There are instructions somewhere on the net regarding disabling certain phone idle related apks by renaming them. The instructions used adb, although Root Explorer worked for me. Battery life has vastly improved, in my case.

    • http://www.twitter.com/dalex7777 dalex7777

      I am easily getting more than 8 hours of battery life on my rooted Nook Color. I keep the brightness down, but other than that no tweaks.

      I’m still running at the stock 800MHz as I don’t seem to have any significant performance issues. Heck, the NC runs the Quadrant faster than the stuck-on-froyo Samsung Galaxy S phones.

      Here’s a video to prove it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwp9IqhBTNs

  • http://Website dharr18

    Button Savior, search the market, is the perfect app to get around the single button issue.

  • http://Website Beelo

    The Nook color is awesome, especially since with the overclock kernel – now all my movies/shows play pretty damn well. And at 250 (plus tax) it’s tremendous value. Though I do plan on getting a xoom, I don’t plan on getting rid of the nook color when that time comes.

  • http://Website Jared

    Can you develop on one? Like run an app to it when its connected from your comp?

  • http://Website DaveC

    I still think the Archos 70 is a better value but as JD said, getting one is problematic. Supply is definitely not keeping up with demand.

    • http://Website Nick

      I have been trying to track one of those down for a while but none of the Best Buy locations in my area seems to have them in stock. They all still have the old Archose internet tablet fgrom early last year.

  • http://Website Julio

    I have a quick question. I have noticed that when I launch Google Maps and ask for my location it pinpoints it quickly and seems to point to my location. It seems to beat my Samsung Epic. Can anybody else confirm this?


    • Jaymoon

      The Samsung Epic 4G has a very well-known GPS bug that Samsung refuses to acknowledge/fix.

      • http://Website Julio

        Yep, broken GPS in most Galaxy S phones, but I was surprised that the Nook has GPS in it as well as reported Bluetooth. I wonder what other surprises… besides the new reports of overclockability may be behind this little gem.

        • http://Website Craig Allen

          No GPS, but it can approximate your location using your IP address. Works within a half block for my home, YMMV.

          And of course, you must be connected on wifi!

          • http://Website riffraff

            Mine’s even closer…Google Earth on my NC thinks I’m standing in my back yard! Eerily bizarre, for a device without GPS.

      • http://www.twitter.com/dalex7777 dalex7777

        The Epic does not have broken GPS. It’s slow, but it’s not “broke” like on the Vibrant and Captivate.

        Those SGS’s couldn’t find their way out of paperbag.

        My Epic GPS locks take 2-3x longer than on my EVO, but they are accurate.

  • http://Website hnn

    Not saying the Archos 70 isn’t a nice little machine (running 2.2!), but my Nexus One already runs at 800×480 resolution.

    The Nook Color’s 2.1 and single button are the biggest issues for me in trying it out, but it really is a steal.

  • http://Website J. Berardi

    I have a rooted NookColor and absolutely LOVE it.

  • http://Website Eric

    I got the Nook Color for Christmas and had it rooted the same day. If you know what you’re doing this is very easy and makes the NC a very good tablet. There are still some apps that aren’t tablet ready but other than that, i couldn’t ask for much more. If i have to have those apps, I can always run them on ny Droid X!! I highly recommend the NC both as a reader(which is what i use it for 80% of the time!!) and as a tablet as well. You can’t go wrong for $250 and about a half hour of following easy rooting instructions.

  • Snafu77

    Restoring the Nook Color to factory settings is very simple and my warranty is intact. This is a reversible softmod.

  • http://Website JD

    Just wanted to add that Nesoid and Snesoid on this baby=pure awesomeness.

    • Snafu77

      Have you tried psx4droid?

  • geniusdog254

    Hey all, I’m the maker of the overclock kernel, and I can say that it is an amazing device, especially once it’s overclocked to 950/1000Mhz (depending what your chip can handle).

    It’s no Galaxy Tab, but it’s no slouch either. It has a very similar chipset to the Droid X, with the same PowerVR SGX530 GPU. The only major difference is the 800Mhz CPU clock vs the 1Ghz in the DX. I highly recommend it if your on the fence.

    • http://www.twitter.com/dalex7777 dalex7777

      How can we get your overclock kernel? I just got my NC for my birthday this past week and rooted it on day 2, I’m LOVING IT!

      And I can’t imagine all those who are excited about a 10in tablet. This seems the perfect size.

  • http://Website jonehi

    Could this play beter quality games like nova 1, gun bros, and zenonia 2?

  • http://Website sinzim

    Awesome news! Can it playback 720p video? Is angry birds playable? :P

    • http://Website Nick

      720p can be played, but it’s pretty choppy. Make sure you watch the video, Angry Birds works just fine. I’m thinking of doing another video which shows off some of the better 3D games from the Android Market. I spent about an hour last night playing HomeRun Battle 3D, definitely more anjoyable on the Nook Color than my G2.

      • http://Website DaveC

        I think this is where the Archos shines. Their focus in the past has been as a media player, and they do a great job of supporting almost any video codec right out of the box.

        • http://Website Robin

          Yes the Archos supports much more codecs… but the screen of the Nook is ten times better

  • http://Website Kaz

    If you are going to root anyway, why not talk about the viewsonic g tablet..? the rooted g tablets are getting rave reviews… aside from the viewing angle…

    • Nick Gray

      That may be a viable option, but last I checked the price of the ViewSonic G Tablet was at least $120 more than the NOOKcolor.

  • http://Website Bharath

    And we have a winner !!!

  • scottric

    Rooted my nookColor almost immediately after I got it, and I love it. Video can be a little choppy sometimes, but I watched a movie on it last night without any issue. Definitely a good decision.

  • http://kit.im Kit F

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=877505 Here’s the new market, doesn’t have the same glitch as the old one!

  • http://Website viktorialee

    This may be a stupid question, but does the Nook still work as an e-reader for B&N after rooting, or would we have to download the Nook app from the market? The main reason I got the Nook was to be able to check out books from the library. I don’t think the Nook app is able to read library books, so I would hate to lose that functionality.

    • Nick Gray

      All Nook functionality is still there. I suggest you watch the video from the post. When you root the Nook, all that you really get is the Android Market and a few other apps that are added into the “Extras” menu. You can leave things just as they are or install your own launcher from the Android Market. Your choice.

  • http://www.thatwebguyblog.com Mike

    Rooted NC? That’s just sealed the deal for me. One problem though: does anyone know if I can use the Nook Color in Australia without restrictions (purchasing books will be the main use)? I understand you can’t buy them here but I want to order a couple of them this week for gifts. I emailed B&N nearly 2 weeks ago but still no reply.


  • http://Website Giuseppe

    If you check out the beta for “Gun Bros” it runs amazing on the NC. It’s a pretty cool 3d game, with some sweet graphics. It looks and runs pretty great. I was playing it even before I switched to the OC kernal. It’s great as a tablet, and as a surprise , it’s actually great as an ereader. I only intended to use it as a tab, but i’ve already read 3 books. Easily my favorite piece of tech at the moment.

  • http://Website Amy L

    Wow… now I really need to get me one of these! I’ve been holding out for a while, but if this thing can actually hold up as a tabelt, I’m all in! Is it really that simple to Root?

  • http://Website Carlo

    Maybe a bit unrelated, but I am wondering how is it possible that Android & Me hasn’t yet talked (to my knowledge) of one of the best tablets being launched now: Notion Ink adam. I am really curious to know why.

  • http://Website Missy

    Can the NookColor (rooted or out of the box) be used to view and annotate pdf files and subsequently transfer them to pc? and, can you view ppt,doc,xls files?

    If not, can you suggest a good tablet/e-reader that does? This grad student is tired of lugging textbooks, laptop, countless journal articles between home – library – classroom – coffeehouse …. The academic world is in dire need of a device that can do this.

    Thanks, in advance, for your help.

    • tonis79

      The only option I know of is the app on the android market called Documents To Go. There is a free version that allows you to view, but if you want to edit, you have to buy the paid version. I think it is $15. I use it all the time, you can use it to view just about anything including documents that you upload to google docs.

  • http://Website Anthony

    Just did the root and loving it so far. BUT, how do I get widgets and shortcuts put on my home screen???

  • http://blog.oeschey.de Lars

    anyone knows how to order it internationally? Checkout on B&N says it won’t ship here…