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20Nov/10Off

A Week with NOOKcolor: Hardware

Welcome to a super amazing extended review of the brand-spanking-new NOOKcolor. Let me begin by assuring you that the name is “NOOKcolor” all one word rather than “Nook Color” as I’d originally assumed in posts of the past. Then, let me let you know that this is not the first multi-post review we’ve done of a bit of gear – search for the term “A Week with” – our most recent project being the HTC HD7. Now we move on to this NOOKcolor, Barnes and Noble’s full-color eReader, on its way out on the delivery trucks as we speak, just in time for the holiday season. This first post we’ll discuss a bit about the hardware – how the item feels, works, and functions in the real world.

Let me begin by saying that this whole situation has both an unboxing and hands-on post and a demo post preceding it, both of the posts can be considered a sort of prequel set to this. Then lets get into the basics: weight, size, and portability.

The NOOKcolor weighs approximately 15.8 oz, that being .98 pounds – lighter than a Harry Potter book (the bigger ones.) It measures in at 8.1x 5.0 x 0.48 in, making it small enough to fit in a jacket pocket, but just a bit too big to fit in anyone’s pants pocket. You can hold it with one hand and read a book, but like any paper book, you’re going to probably want to hold it with both hands and/or balance it against your leg or a table or something along those lines.

There’s a “loop” in the lower left-hand corner that both acts as an aesthetic gesture which differentiates this device from other tablets and marks the place where you’re going to be able to insert your microSD memory card. Over the phone with Barnes and Noble I was told that without any card inserted, the NOOKcolor was able to “hold 600,000 books” – for me, this ends up being about 5.1GB of space with 26 books and magazines on the device taking up space. It is possible for each regular book on your device to be anywhere from 47.2MB all the way down to 372KB – these aren’t the limits, but they are the largest and smallest books I’ve got on the device at the moment, just to give you an idea. Also over the phone I was informed that with the memory card slot you’d be able to attain “unlimited storage.” Infinite books!

Along the edges of the device there’s a headphone jack (on top), volume up/down buttons (upper right), USB plug in (with lovely glowing orange/green “n” on the official cord) (on the bottom), and power button (upper left.) On the back there’s a lightly gripping rubbery back with the official “n” pressed into the center, FCC info and BARNES&NOBLE logo printed on the bottom of the back panel, above and below a small speaker hole grid. Along the entire edge of the device is a very sturdy plastic ring – don’t go bashing against any brick walls anytime soon, but don’t be surprised if it holds up against attacking small animals.

On the front, there’s on single button in the center of a piece of plastic as long as the short end of the screen and as tall as the greater border. This button is sort of a “home” button, bringing you back to your desktop from wherever you are in a book, app, in the browser, wherever. This button is again, cleverly shaped in the NOOK “n.”

Then there’s the screen. The lovely 7-inch backlit LCD screen which I’m told by Barnes and Noble started as a prototype. It’s an IPS screen with optics fusion, 1024×600 resolution, essentially no space between the display and the glass, with a lamination across the whole thing to reduce glare. It’s certainly not a no-glare situation, especially since it certainly is glass, but the sun’s not blasted my eyes out yet with it, that’s for sure.

The screen’s colors are brilliant. Whether you’re accessing a magazine (the best example of still-images, or a video from your “files”, you’re going to find the display’s details to be no disappointment. You WILL see some degradation if you go through the browser to a place like YouTube, even if you’re watching an “HD, 1080P” video – I always use The Matrix movie trailers to test screens out, and this doesn’t stand up to that test at all – lots of yuck in the blacks and colors and everything. However, if you do have a video optimized for the NOOKcolor, you’ll find excellence.

NOTE: Check out this post by user “The Hillarican” on MobileRead forums which explains optimal settings. Use something like the free application “HandBrake” to convert your video. Convert the file you wish to watch to the following: MPEG-4 (FFmpeg) for video codec, AAC (faac) for audio codec, stereo sound mixdown, samplerate of 44.1, and bitrate of 128. DOUBLE NOTE: This seems to work for some people and not for others. If you get it to work, comment below and tell us your super cool secret.

I do wish it were easier to play video content with the NOOKcolor. With other tablet devices (even smartphone devices) it ends up being a much simpler situation in almost every case. On the other hand, this tablet is being marketed as a reading-centric device and they do not seem to push anywhere in the marketing of this device that you’ll be able to view brilliant video. Also note that there’s no video content available anywhere in the B&N store. Should I wish for an easier video situation on a device that doesn’t technically promise it? I can’t be sure.

There are several ways to interact with books and apps, meaning several ways to tap, swipe, drag, etc, but I’ll get into more of that once we reach the rest of this review series. For now, I’ll let you know how well the screen reacts to those actions. Every sort of move or press or tap seems to work perfectly. There are times (especially when tapping something small, like a text link in a book or on the browser) that it takes a few tries to get it to accept your tap, but on the whole, it’s a very good experience touchscreen-wise here.

There is one place on the screen that shows a digital ghost when squeezing the device – see picture – this shouldn’t be a problem since, you know, why would you be squeezing the thing in the first place, but it’ll be interesting to see if this develops into a problem in the future. More than likely this situation arises from there being a piece of equipment inside the casing set up a little higher than everything else, and that’s the place that touches the back of the display first.

Plugging into the wall or the computer seems to work pretty well, the drive folder showing up on your computer’s desktop within a minute, most of the time within 10 seconds. As I’ve said before, I do really enjoy when any power plug lets me know when the device is fully charged, and this one does just that with a lovely NOOK “n” on the cord on the device’s end. While the device is plugged into the computer, you’re not allowed to access anything on the device unless you eject the files folder. Once you do this, though, your device will power up even as you use it. IMPORTANT: if you ever decide to fully power your NOOKcolor off, do not expect to turn it back on without it being plugged in. For some reason you are not allowed to turn the device on from fully-powered-down mode without the device being plugged into the wall or your computer.

Wrap-Up

The NOOKcolor has very minimal problems in the hardware department. If you’re the sort of person who loves to own the latest device in every department, this is definitely the one for reading books. It feels really great, handles well, and looks just lovely. Powered off or powered on, you know that this is an iconic piece of industrial design, and that is to be commended. I do not miss the ability to turn pages with physical buttons, and as of yet (remember we’re not reviewing the apps in any form yet) I do not miss the eINK display. The NOOKcolor is bright, it’s beautiful, and hardware-wise, it’s right on.

Be on the lookout the rest of this week for more posts like this, each of them accessible by searching “A Week with” in the SlashGear searchbar. [This paragraph will be replaced with links to the rest of this extended review at the end of the week]

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20Nov/10Off

SAP chief info officer: Apps in works for RIM tablet

Chief Information Officer Oliver Bussmann says SAP will have mobile versions of its business software ready to go by the time RIM releases the Playbook.

Originally posted at News - Wireless

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20Nov/10Off

Samsung goes where Apple won’t

Samsung is the first top-tier manufacturer to come out with a 7-inch Android tablet in the U.S. Is Steve Jobs missing a market opportunity?

Originally posted at Nanotech - The Circuits Blog

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20Nov/10Off

Why my Nintendo Wii has been collecting dust

Now, before I start talking about why my Wii has been collecting dust, let me just make this clear: I have been a fan of Nintendo products since the 1980s. And each new Nintendo console typically finds its way into my home on launch day. I also enjoy The Legend of Zelda and the Mario franchise.

But that doesn’t mean that I won’t criticize the Wii.

[Image credit: Richard Lemarchand]

Over the past five months, I have not booted up my Nintendo Wii. However, I have been playing games. In fact, I’ve played so many games as of late that I’ve had to pull myself back a bit to ensure I don’t get ahead of the long list of titles that I plan to beat in the coming year.

But during that period, I haven’t found a single compelling Wii title that makes me want to put down a competitor on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. It’s not that I haven’t been searching — trust me, I have — but I simply look at the Wii library and find a slew of casual games that are every now and then punctuated by a so-called “core” title.

Now, I realize that such a complaint is nothing new to the Wii, and a lot of people in my position have had the same reaction. But I’m a little concerned. The Nintendo Wii is the world’s best-selling video game console. It’s also home to several outstanding franchises, most notably Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda. It has a lot going for it.

But it’s also home to a motion technology that isn’t so new anymore. And it’s being met with competition in Sony’s PlayStation Move, that at least in my experience, works exceptionally well, compared to the Wii. And all that fails to mention the value consumers will continue to see in the Microsoft Kinect, which delivers motion-gaming fun without the controller. Simply put, the key revenue driver for the Wii isn’t so unique and compelling any longer.

Of course, that probably won’t stop Nintendo from continuing to enjoy strong sales this holiday season. But it does make me wonder how much longer I will keep the Wii hooked up to my television, rather than disconnect it to free up precious electrical outlet space behind my entertainment center.

Looking at the upcoming Wii release calendar, Donkey Kong Country Returns certainly appeals to me, and I suppose I should (finally) try out Goldeneye 007. But other than that, I’m bored by both what’s available and what’s coming out soon.

It goes beyond games. Although the Wii has Netflix, I don’t go to that device to access content. Instead, I typically choose my Apple TV or my PlayStation 3, now that it also offers support for Hulu Plus. It also helps that the PS3 has a Blu-ray drive, making it even more viable.

Simply put, I’m seeing few reasons to use the Wii much anymore. Although I believe the console has merit and provides a viable experience for some gamers, for me, it’s starting to lose its value.

Who else is with me?


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20Nov/10Off

DROID 2 Has 1.2 GHz Processor?

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If you were guys were ever kind enough to lob me a softball in a series of questions and ask “Tyler, what is the speed of the processor in the original DROID 2?”, I might play along for a second and pretend that you asked me a doozy of a question, think hard and respond “1GHz, Sir”. Up until yesterday I don’t think anyone would question my answer.

Droid Life just got tipped off to an interesting advertisement on Verizon’s website which claims that it is 1.2GHz. Don’t believe me? Here’s an SS that Droid Life nabbed:
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It’s entirely feasible that Motorola or Verizon would have reduced the clock on purpose until adequate testing could be done to prove that 1.2GHz is safe to unleash and issue some sort of update to up the clock speeds after the fact. Possible, but unlikely. Chances are it’s a typo and one that may be fixed in the coming hours/days.

To see the advertisement for your self, head over to Verizon’s site, after the introduction has finished mouse over the Droid 2.

[via Droid Life]

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20Nov/10Off

Kindle stock shortage scuppers holiday gift plans

Bad news if you were planning on picking up a Kindle as a gift this holiday season: Amazon US is currently out of stock of both the WiFi-only and WiFi/3G versions of its ereader. Estimated shipping times are now listed as 7-9 weeks, missing the all-important holiday period.

The shortage affects not only US Kindle availability but those international countries orders to which are shipped from US stock, such as Canada, Germany and France. UK WiFi and WiFi/3G models are listed as in stock, but are limited to three devices per customer.

Amazon launched their Kindle ebook gift program on Friday, allowing customers to buy ebooks for friends and family with nothing more than their email address. Titles can then be read either on a hardware Kindle or using one of Amazon’s free software Kindle apps.

[via Lesen]


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20Nov/10Off

Notion Ink Adam scratchproof matte display detailed [Videos]

Notion Ink is doing its usual weekend-sharing of a few Adam teasers, and there are a fair few details this time around. Perhaps most important is the fact that Adam will have a special, matte-finish scratch resistant display, including a lot of work avoiding the color fringing that can take place when you don’t use a glossy panel. Meanwhile there’s also plenty of software news, including the fact that – unlike the iPad – Adam is designed to work as a standalone tablet, rather than requiring regular synchronization if you want to load content.

Videos after the cut

Notion Ink’s solution is a file manager called Sniffer, which takes advantage of the Eden UI‘s three panel layout to easy drag and drop content from one part of the system to another, or from USB drives, shared network storage or indeed Bluetooth devices. It also seems that Adam will be able to update its firmware without needing to be hooked up to a computer.

As for the other custom apps, Notion Ink’s email client, Mail’d, is in beta, with support for offline messages, undo-sending of sent emails, missing attachments warnings and more. Meanwhile, in January an update will apparently add email expiration support, timed delivery (even without a network connection) and other aspects.

The GPS navigation app is also in beta, and currently supports 43 different languages – handy, considering Notion Ink intend Adam’s launch availability to be pretty broad – and the Paint app and Photo Editor are also in beta. The company’s new site, NotionInk.in, should be up and running later this weekend.

Adam boot screen:

Adam teaser:

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[Thanks Bart!]


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20Nov/10Off

Black Friday: The App

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With Black Friday starting in less than one week, it may be time to gather your wits and plan accordingly. www.dealnews.com wants to take a little bit of that stress away with the latest iteration of their app, aptly named, Black Friday.

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From this you’ll be able to browse all the Black Friday deals whether they be confirmed or mere rumors. If you see something you like you can bookmark it for later, or if the moment strikes you right you can be taken directly to the online advertisement. You can make shopping lists and even Tweet or Facebook your sweet findings for others to take advantage of.

Now I want Club Crackers.

[via Into Mobile]

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