First Look at the NOOKcolor: A Gamer’s Perspective

Today looks to be crazy hectic, so I’m going to hit the high points of the NOOKcolor, and I’ll come back later on with more opinions and assessments.

You might wonder what this has to do with gaming? Read on and see.

First off, I’ll just say I love it. I’m not a company shill, but Barnes & Noble has long been my go to “real world” bookstore.  When I first say the Nook last year, I thought it was cool, but didn’t feel compelled to buy one. It was too much for just an e-reader, but as I approached the end of this year, I’ve seen the rise of the iPad and the sagging of my bookshelves. I’ve run out of valuable shelf space meaning some of my cherished books would be condemned to the anonymity of the cardboard box limbo. Something had to be done. I finally broke down and got an early Christmas present of the NOOKcolor. I had looked at them in the bookstore last week and decided now was the time to get one. I needed to do some research.

It got a CNET Editor’s Choice and overall the reviews elsewhere were really good. The LCD screen has 16 million colors at 1024 by 600 and is comparable with the iPad. In fact, it’s a bit sharper since all those pixels are cozy. So points there. I will be the first to say this is not an iPad killer. It is marketed as a “reader’s tablet” and it fills the role nicely.  Let’s take a quick look at what this means for you, the RPG gamer guy with an itch to scratch who doesn’t (or can’t) shell out the cash for an iPad but is looking for something. If you want the full tech specs, click here.

Raw numbers don’t impress. What can this baby do? I’m in three days on this thing and have given it as much as a workout as I can while still doing my regular writing. I’ve been getting a bit less sleep of late as a result.

Here’s what I’ve learned after day 3:

Wi-Fi is all I need. No 3G? No problem. You can find networks anywhere. When Burger King and Krystal’s have wireless, you know you’re in a tech nation. Connecting to a network is quick and painless.

The speed is nice. I can sit and surf the web for hours (and have done so). It’s a pleasure to read and I find the double-tap to zoom is easy to get used to. Moves quickly from landscape to portrait mode and I can respond on Forums, use Facebook just fine, but I have noticed the Twitter bar get a little funky–it has a tendency to float around and responding to Tweets is a little weird. If you don’t try to overstress it, like I was doing, it’s fine for reading a tweet, clicking on somebody’s link, and getting back. In fact, it worked pretty fine. For posting new tweets, it was okay, but works best if you blow up (zoom in) the screen a bit so you can click the links more easily. Certainly, you can do this with a laptop, but you don’t get any heat buildup off this puppy, and the size is just right. I rested it on the arm of my cushy reading chair and tapped away. If you can do the thumb-typing on your cellphone, you’ll be typing away in no time on the little keyboard. I’m not a touch screen typist, but I’m up to speed at this point, and still improving.

Sideloading info onto the device is quick and painless. When you plug in your NC, it goes to USB mode (like the PSP does), and you can easily access the file directory and store your date directly on the device or the microSDHC card. That’s right. This puppy can use up to a 32GB chip, so you have (essentially) endless memory (as long as you can afford it). I see best price for the 32GB on Amazon is SanDisk Ultra for $72.99. The best price on TigerDirect is the Transcend for a few bucks less at $69.99. I’ve used SanDisk for years and have never heard of the other one, so for my money, peace of mind is worth three bucks more.

This thing can read PDFs quite well. I put in my stress testing PDF, The Dresden Files RPG, a beautiful, massive PDF filled with much goodness, and it didn’t miss a beat. As I mentioned on Facebook, I turned on the NC, navigated to the proper directory, and was looking at the file in 21 seconds flat. If I’m already in the directory, I can click on the icon and am looking at the cover in 2 seconds flat. I’m a tad familiar with Goodreader and this is not Goodreader. This is a basic PDF reader but you can look at in landscape or portrait modes, fit it to page or width (you’ll want width in most cases), and you can easily go to specific pages. Pinch and zoom is available if you want to zero in on an area, but 8.5” x 11″ PDFs look good on this thing and you can read them find in landscape mode. I plan to load my NC up with a goodly number of game books, so I’ll always have them on hand if I want to reference a particular thing at any given time. This also reads Word documents and Text files–I’ve checked out both .doc and .docx and they render fine. Nothing fancy here, but good for reviewing copy on the go, and it serves as a nice adjunct to my main computer monitor.

I got an easel cover, but it’s tablet (portrait) instead of landscape. I may end up with both as I have different needs at different times, and I may end up getting a standard book cover type one as well. I got the easel without fully browsing, but it’s a good choice. I’m not certain its the best choice for me, however.

This thing will play MP3 files, so you can load it up just like any other file and you can access it easily. Click to pull up the menu. Click on music. Click on song or direct it to play on a loop or shuffle or whatever. I listened to an episode of Pseudopod this morning while on the stationary bike with headphones and it sounded great. The built-in speakers are good, but not as robust as headphones. It also has Pandora built in, if you don’t want to bother downloading music of your own. If you’re using it for background music to add atmosphere to a game, I’d suggest springing for an external speaker. I haven’t shopped around yet, so suggestions are welcome on this subject.

Oh yeah. You can read e-books on this too. The NC shop is great and what gamer doesn’t need inspiration? You can get books and magazines fast and you can get samples. A world of books is only a few clicks away.

You can also snag some great public domain stuff. Will Wheaton tweeted about Lovecraft and Feedbook’s the day before I got the NC. I didn’t know he had prophetic abilities, so there you go. I snagged all the books on my PC, and using Calibre (discussed next), I had them on my NC and on a dedicated library. How cool is that? Using a free program called Calilbre, you can manage your library, and while I was adding in the link, I discovered it “can automatically fetch news from websites or RSS feeds, format the news into a ebook and upload to a connected device. The ebooks include the full versions of the articles, not just the summaries.” This begs investigation.

All in all, this thing is a wonderful companion for a gamer. The price doesn’t sting too badly for $249 and it’s a sweet spot size-wise for me. It’s quite portable and can be easily carried in one hand. It has some heft (weighing 15.8), which I like. It feels nice and solid, but it still beats carrying a stack of books around. Will this eliminate your need for dead tree editions? Probably not, but it’s a good addition to the gamer’s arsenal. You may still want the big hardcovers; the rising trend in digest-sized books shall certainly benefit from this creation. This may be posited as a “reader’s tablet”, but I daresay deem it’s a “gamer’s tablet” as well. It’s running on Android 2.1 and the word seems to indicate Froyo (Android 2.2 build) is just around the corner. This will add functionality, such as Flash. With the Nook Marketplace arriving soon thereafter, this adorable, little misfit cannot help but get better.

With my new technology in hand, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!

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