The Barnes & Noble NOOKcolor is an eBook reader with a 7 inch IPS 1024 x 600 pixel touchscreen display. Oh yeah, it also runs Google Android, has a web browser, and at least theoretically it can run third party apps, making it one of the cheapest Android tablets available in the US at $249.

I’m guessing an embargo lifted this morning, because I spotted at least four reviews of the NOOKcolor this morning:

There’s not really a lot of consensus on the device, but at $249, the NookColor is half the price of an Apple iPad, and offers a reading experience that’s actually quite similar. The screen is bright and colorful, and offers a higher pixel density than the iPad, plus similar viewing angles thanks to the IPS display.

On the other hand, it’s a backlit screen, which means it will draw more power and run down the battery more quickly than an E Ink display — although it should still be good for a day or two on a charge unless you’re into marathon 8-hour reading sessions. The NOOKcolor is also much more difficult to read in direct sunlight than an old school Nook or Amazon Kindle. On the other hand, you can read it in bed without turning on a lamp.

The NOOKcolor connects to the Barnes & Noble Nook eBook store, where you can download free and paid books. You can store about 6,000 books on the built-in storage, or use and SD card for expansion. Unlike E Ink devices, the NOOKcolor can also handle some video content.

Right now there aren’t a lot of third party apps for the NOOKcolor, but Barnes & Noble plans to launch its own app store next year. It also comes with a Pandora internet radio app, and a few games such as chess, soduku, and crossword puzzles — the kind of games that might appeal to folks more interested in buying an eBook reader than a tablet.

Overall, the NOOKcolor sounds like a great alternative to an E Ink eReader if you’re looking for something with a color display and support for video playback and some third party apps. On the other hand, if you value long battery life and lighter weight (the NOOKcolor weighs almost a pound), then you can probably save a few bucks and stick with the NOOK classic or another eReader.

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