Travel Log
Microsoft Surface - Early Impressions

First Impressions - Nook Color running Honeycomb and Froyo

First, I would like to thank Apple for not having enough iPad 2s in stock, otherwise I would have had one of those, and never embarked on this little experiment.

Over the past several months I've read the reviews (Kevin Tofel, James Kendrick, Engadget) and experience on the web from people picking up a Samsung Galaxy Tab and loving the form factor.  I resisted, because I don't need another wireless contract (already have a phone and a Sprint Overdrive 4g hotspot), I was very interested for a wifi only model to come out.

Well flash to iPad release day.  Last year when the first iPad came out I had no intentions of picking one up, until I read Walt Mossberg's review while eating breakfast in the hotel lounge a couple of days before release.  It sounded very intriguing, still I'm far from an Apple fanboy, and would not be standing in any lines for it.  Conveniently I live right across the street from a Best Buy, so on release day around lunch time I called over to see if they had any in stock.  I expected an answer of no, all sold out and that would be that.  Well, they weren't so I ran across the street and picked up the 16GB wifi model.  I have to admit (aside from being forced to install iTunes and plug it into my PC to turn it on) I was very impressed.  The only time I've attached it to my PC since was to upgrade the OS to gain "multitasking" - I still have not put 4.3 on it (though I need to because I want the physical screen rotation switch back).

All the hype around iPad 2 I thought was mostly hype, but it was very thin an sexy looking, that combined with speed, incremental thinness increase, and the smart cover made me very interested.  When I saw was offering $300 (+ 5% if you opt for gift certificate) for my first generation I thought that was a great deal.  So flash to release day, I was working from home, kept seeing the posts about how crazy the things were selling, I confess I didn't make the long treck across the street on Friday, I waited until mid-day Saturday - surprise surprise they were completely sold out.

Since then I've been looking around the web for an alternative, the rumors about the Tab wifi edition (a little pricey still I think), and the HP 7' tablet in theory coming later in the year.  I'd heard about the Nook Color, and the online rooting community.  I did a couple of google searches and discovered there was a ROM out there enabling you to boot your Nook Color into Honeycomb directly from a SD card.  How easy is that! 

I'll admit that in my old age (and relative financial comfort) I've become lazy, and had held off from the Nook because I wanted something that "just worked."  but if it was as easy as formatting an SD card, and the device only costs $250, seems like a no brainer to me.

So I stopped at Best Buy on the way home Tuesday and picked up the Nook Color.  I did ask if they had any iPad 2’s in stock, of course “no, and we have no idea when we’ll get more” didn’t even offer to let me “pre-order” one like they had over the weekend.  For the first time, I did pick up the display device just to see about the weight/thickness difference.  My perspective was, you can tell the thickness difference but not the weight, without having a first generation there to compare it too. 

I tried a Honeycomb build, but it’s not ready for production yet (no calendar, no you tube, no flash to start), it’s based on a beta developer release from Google, not even the final code drop.  I echo the reviews of the Xoom it’s not ready yet.  And I’m sure the performance is even more sup-par on this cooked ROM than the legit on from Moto.

Yesterday I found another SD enabled ROM that runs Froyo, so I grabbed that.  I found a couple of Gingerbread ones, but they seem to require rooting, and putting on the actual device’s memory, not up for that.

I’m loving the form factor, it’s lighter (I think it clocks in just under a pound), and the size is just much more convenient for handheld operation.  I think that even if the iPad was the same weight it would be still be harder to operate hand held – just from an unwieldy perspective relative to the size of your hand.  This you can hold in one hand, or very easily hold in 2 and thumb type on.  I’m completely sold on the form factor.

The current Froyo build I’m using is pretty solid (calendar, you tube, flash support), about as quick as my phone (Moto Droid X), which is impressive since the Nook’s processor is 200MHz slower than the phone.  The experience isn’t as fluid as the iPad, particularly the screen isn’t as responsive.  I’d say the screen is slightly less responsive than my phone, but no where nearly as bad as my old WinMo 6.5 Resistive touchscreen phone.  I don’t know how much is hardware, OS, or just the fact that it’s a baked OS running on the hardware from a SD.

Best Buy has 30 day return policy (and apparently they’ve done away with restocking fees – or so the clerk told me).  So I’m definitely keeping it for most of that time.  I’m 80% sure I’m getting rid of the iPad.

This isn't the perfect device, there some compromises to get this form factor.  With the rumor mills put the wifi only version of the Tab on the market in early April, and price it at $400, that’s $150 more than this, not sold yet.  What I really want is a 7’ tablet, running a stable Android build, with a dual core processor, and operating on 4G that enables hotspot functionality, then I’d ditch my Sprint hotspot card and use that… But I don’t see any of those announced on the market yet.  Rumor has it HP will release a 7’ version of their WebOS device in September, but I don’t know that it’s 4G…  Maybe the HTC Flyer...

More to come!