NOOKcolor Ships Early; Gets Positive Reviews

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Barnes & Noble surprised everyone yesterday when it announced that the NOOKcolor was starting to ship ahead of schedule. If you were an early pre-order customer, your NOOKcolor may have shipped yesterday. (Originally B&N planned to start shipping units on Friday, November 19.) New orders are expected to ship on November 26, which implies that they've got a sizable number of pre-orders to fill.

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If online-ordering isn't your thing, brick and mortar Barnes & Noble stores should have demo units available to check out sometime this week. You'll also be able to find them at some Best Buy, Walmart and Books-a-Million stores. B&N says there will also be "very limited quantities" of NOOKcolors for sale at stores. You can read all the details in B&N's press release.

Along with an early launch, a review embargo must have expired because a few sites posted their NOOKcolor reviews yesterday. The overall take-away seems to be that the hardware is decent, if a little heavy (about a pound) but that the software needs some polishing, with several complaints about UI sluggishness. Although NOOKcolor is based on Android it is modified/skinned extensively enough that it feels like a unique operating system (at least until hackers root it). B&N has a NOOK app store planned but it won't launch until after the first of the year. Bottom line is that it's a $250 tablet that does a great job as an e-reader (particularly for magazines) and an OK job as a general purpose tablet (it plays some videos, has a web browser, a few apps, etc). It sounds like B&N could polish this device into a real winner.

Ready to learn more? Here's a partial list of reviews: Engadget, Gizmodo, CNET, CrunchGear.

Based on what I've read, I'm putting the NOOKcolor on my holiday list. Anyone else interested? If not, why not? Are you a dedicated E Ink fan? Or just see no need for an e-reader? Or are you concerned about the amount of content available? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Peter Smith writes about personal technology for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @pasmith .

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