Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Nook Color 1.4

Barnes and Noble released the 1.4 version of the Nook Color operating system yesterday. Rather than waiting up up to a week for an over the air update, I loaded it by hand. This is easy enough. You download a .zip file to your PC, plug in the USB connection to the Nook, copy the file to the root directory and disconnect it. As soon as the Nook goes to sleep it recognizes the file and loads it.

I could tell that this was a major update. I still had the .zip file from the 1.3 release and the 1.4 file was much larger - nearly 1/4 gig.

After doing the update I gave it a spin.

The biggest change is how you access the menu bar and home screen. Previously the physical Nook button did very little. Most functions were performed with a soft button at the bottom of the screen. The soft button is gone. Its functionality has been replaced by the Nook button. You press this once to get the menu bar, twice to go to the home screen.

When the Nook Color first came out it was a dedicated ebook reader that had a few tablet functions. By this release it is a tablet with a built-in ebook reader. The web browser worked well on several sites and it handles YouTube quite well. Pinch to zoom does not seem to work but you can set the default font size which helped with the 7" screen. Email worked better than on my phone, nearly as well as on a full PC.

One improvement was the auto rotate. This now works with ebooks.

There are a few annoyances. There is no hardware "back" button. Some applications have a soft one. Others do not. I looked at a PDF attached to an email but could not go directly back to the email. Instead I had to bring up the menu and use it to get to the email program.

The sound is poor, even with the sound turned up all the way. Earphones would help a lot. At least it has hardware volume buttons.

The tablet itself has a nice solid feel and is very light. When we bought it my wife got an anti-glare filter which we have not used. It does not seem to need it.

For some reason, Nook does not include a Gmail app. You have to access this through the web browser. There is no Facebook app but there is a free replacement which works as well or better than Facebook's own app. B&Ns app store is only a fraction of the Android Market and nearly everything costs something (usually $0.99) but it is fairly well stocked and you don't have to worry about Trojans.

For those who want a $199 tablet but don't want to buy into the Amazon ecosystem, this is a good choice. I'm not sure that the extra speed of the Nook Tablet is worth the additional $50.

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