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PROS AND CONS OF A TABLET CONVERSION
So whats the good, bad and the ugly about a tablet conversion? It's mostly good as long as you understand where its somewing from. People develop alternate software for devices for their own purposes, not as their job. Whole communities of developers spring up around popular devices. They develop the software for various phones and tablets without all the information that the manufacturer has about them.
For software to enable hardware functionality it has to be very exact and very specific to the hardware on board. Developers have to have full hardware specifications (and sometimes source code) to develop a reliable software driver for hardware (or in English, software that enables the functionality of hardware. For example a software driver for a wifi chip enables the operating system to access and use the functionality of that hardware chip. Without the software it's a useless piece of ceramic).
In many cases, its not in the manufacturer's best interest to release full details of their hardware, or even identify what components make up their systems (sometimes when you take apart electronics, you'll find that some computer chips have their names and identifying number painted over or even ground off so they remain anonymous). Developers oftentimes have to reverse-engineer functionality by making educated guesses, trying things and seeing what works. That's why, when reading about the latest version of a particular ROM1, you'll read something like "Camera works well, bluetooth operation is sporadic, graphic acceleration seems to be working OK...". It's a work in progress and a constant iteration towards full functionality that rarely gets to 100% - sometimes it comes very close though. When I'm assessing what ROMs to put on tablets, I need a ROM to enable all of the hardware that I need to work and I don't care about those that don't affect me. For instance, I don't use bluetooth, so if the ROM can't get bluetooth to work reliably, no problem (for me)! But if the ROM can't get wifi to work reliably - BIG problem for me.
When converting a tablet like the gTablet or Color Nook, you're removing the tablet's original software (usually restricted in various ways by the manufacturer) and replacing it with a version of full-blown Android, and usually a version of Android that has enabled most if not all) of the tablet's hardware functionality. Since the Color Nook out-of-the-box is an e-reader, full Android, even with some minor functional blips is much more workable than the e-reader (intentionally limited in functionality by the manufacturer). Similarly, the Viewsonic gTablet came with awful software that was on top of the underlying Android, making using it problematic. We're replacing that software with full-blown Android, so even is there isn't 100% effectiveness of the Android in enabling every last thing hardware-wise, it's still much much better than the tablet right out of the box. Sometimes replacing the ROM enables you to replace it with a much newer version of Android than the manufacturer provides. Its not in the best business interest of the various hardware manufacturers to upgrade the software on the devices they manufacture, so oftentimes people that bought their devices are left with something that is either never or rarely updated.
That said, let's take a detailed look at the pros and cons of converting a Barnes and Noble Color Nook (the original one, not the newer tablet) into an Android tablet:
|GREAT screen! Really really great screen||No cameras, either front OR back facing|
|Battery Life - I'll address this in more detail below, but battery life is pretty darned good||No microphone - thus no making Skype calls|
|WIFI connectivity, works solidly||No cellular connectivity (but most people don't want that anyway)|
|No contract necessary. bye bye Mr. Corporation|
Maybe Bluetooth (if it works, it might work poorly)
Since this was written, Bluetooth refined and works fine in major ROMs.
|3-axis accelerometer, gravity sensor, linear acceleration sensor and rotation vector sensor||Won't comb your hair|
|Inexpensive - compared to other similar tablets, really inexpensive, especially given that gorgeous screen||The MicroUSB charging may be nonstandard.|
|MicroSD card expansion|
|Very easily modified|
|BOTH (OR NEITHER)|
|The processor is a Ti OMAP 3621processor running at 800 Mhz. The Samsung Galaxy Tab for comparison purposes used an ARM Cortex A8 running at 1 GHz. However, the Nook Android tablet can be overclocked to 1100 MHz, where it works beautifully stable and gratifyingly fast.|
|There are no permanent Android tablets buttons or keys at the bottom of the screen (home, back, menu and search). In fact, the Nook only has one physical button. BUT software "buttons" are provided that give you all necessary functionality, such that their implementation is so smooth that I have trouble going back to a "real" Android device with real buttons.|
OK, so you have to find wifi to connect...big deal. The biggest issue for me (and it's not huge) is the lack of a camera. Without one, I can't scan QR codes or take pictures of things to import into my Evernote files. Nor can I do any video calling. Annoying but not fatal.
And I do have to say that if I could make Skype calls from this tablet (even without a camera) it would be awesomely sweet, but that would require a microphone and it doesn't have one. Guess I'll have to limit myself to texting.
If one were to buy a 32GB MicroSD card for it, when combined with the internal 8 GB of memory, you'd have a total of 40GB's of storage, which is a serious amount of storage. But, if you use the tablet as a portal into cloud storage (especially your own), you'd never need that much local storage. And this is the way computing is going.
Your battery use may vary, but I can consistently get at least two days light of use on a battery charge, one day of continual use (depending on the ROM and amount of overclocking). And it takes about 3 hours to charge it (with its own charger).
Finally, if you buy one in a Barnes and Noble or online, you'll pay $200 ($249 for the new one), which is seriously cheap when compared to other 7" tablets (Samsung announced a "reduced" price for their wifi version of the 7" Galaxy Tab for "only" $349. Two cameras worth an extra $100 bucks to you? OK...it's 2 ounces lighter too!). Barnes and Noble also offers a "certified pre-owned" Nook color with full warranty and tech support, including 90-day phone support, for $149. AND if that's not cheap enough I have seen certified pre-owned for sale at various establishments for much cheaper (bought one myself for $119).
These are untouchably sweet prices for a functional 7" Android tablet! And I have to say that the Color Nook converted into a full-blown Android tablet is a well-working useful and solid appliance, right now more practical than the Viewsonic Gtab.
Convinced? Want to convert one? Want to buy one? What's the next step? Look here.
1ROM stands for Read Only Memory, and in phones and tablets it stands for the operating system for the device, which is usually loaded onto Read-Only memory so you can't erase it. Developers haev learned how to erase it and load their own software onto the various devices. So a differetn ROM for a phone or tablet is a different operating system,a nd gives the phone or tablet entirely new characteristics.