As you may know, the awesome Barnes & Noble Nook Color e-reader (which is still available refurbished for $199, a deal too good to pass up) now offers some tablet-like features–most notably Flash support and access to select Android apps.
But it’s far from a bona fide Android tablet. If you want to transform it into one, you can–but that involves “rooting” the device, a scary and complex proposition for most users, and a warranty-violating one at that. Nook2Android is a microSD card that turns your Nook Color into a dual-booting Android tablet. Just pop it in, power up your Nook, and choose which operating system you want to load: Nook or Android. I’ve been testing one for the past few days, and it works beautifully.
The card provides a modified version of Android 2.3 (known as Cyanogenmod CY7, if you’re interested). Conveniently, it comes with a couple dozen popular apps already pre-installed, including Angry Birds, Facebook, TuneIn Radio and Words With Friends.
You also get Android Market, so the sky’s pretty much the limit when it comes to adding more apps. With CY7 up and running, your Nook really does look and function like a traditional Android tablet.
Consequently, it can also run apps not sanctioned by Barnes & Noble–most notably the Amazon Kindle app. That gives you an easy workaround for the “lock in” that’s normally associated with e-readers; you can buy and read books from just about any source you want: Amazon, Kobo, etc.
What’s more, Nook2Android doesn’t void your warranty in any way. Indeed, you can pop it out for a “permanent” return to the Nook OS, and it’ll be like Android was never there. Contrast that with the whole rooting process, which is much harder to undo.
Prices for the Nook2Android start at $34.99 for an 8GB version of the card, which has about 5GB free for apps and whatnot. That’s not much, so consider springing for the $49.99 16GB card (which has about 13GB free) or the $89.99 32GB card (28GB free).
Although tech-savvy users will be quick to point out that you can build your own dual-booting microSD card for free (well, free plus the price of a microSD memory card), what you’re paying for here is simplicity. The Nook2Android works, and with plug-and-play effortlessness. Much as I’m a fan of saving money, this is one instance where I think it’s worth spending a few bucks.
And look at it this way: the Nook Color sells new for $249. You can buy a good-as-new refurb for $199 and a 16GB Nook2Android for $50. Thus, for the same price you’d pay anyway, you get not only the best e-reader money can buy, but also a killer Android tablet.
I’m sold. Big time.
Self-proclaimed cheapskate Rick Broida has been a technology writer for over 20 years. He has authored over a dozen books, including, most recently, “How to Do Everything: Palm Pre.” Currently he writes the Cheapskate blog.