Nook vs GTab

Looking for a Tablet Computer?

Which one is right for you?

The iPad & iPad2 (both running Apple’s iOS) seem to get most of the headlines. On the Android side, the Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab & several lesser-known versions are all hyped. Now, RIM has released the Blackberry Playbook and HP is scheduled to release their TouchPad running WebOS. What is common among all of these devices: They are all EXPENSIVE! They cost from $500-1100. Most even require you to sign a 2yr contract for data services(which can add over $1000 to the real cost!).

But for those of us who are willing to put a little work into it, the two HOTTEST tablets are the Barnes & Noble Nook Color and the ViewSonic G-Tablet. Both are Android devices that sell for under $300. They are WiFi-only (no direct connection to a cellphone data service – although they CAN be tethered to a smart phone providing a “hotspot”). Although both devices have marginal value “out-of-the-box,” when they have been “rooted” and loaded with a custom ROM (such as Android Gingerbread from CyanogenMod or even HoneyComb), they compare nicely to some of the most expensive tablets on the market today. So, what is it like to use them and how do they compare to each other?

In March, I bought and rooted a Nook Color for my wife. A couple weeks later, my daughter gave me a G-Tablet for my birthday – which I rooted almost immediately (instructions found here. Now I have both devices running CyanogenMod 7, so it is only appropriate that I compare them. (Update: I am now running HoneyComb on my GTab but my wife still has CM7 on the Nook).

Notice: this is NOT a scientific comparison – it is simply my personal observations of the two devices based upon real use. Also, the home screen of the GTab is MUCH prettier now that I have HoneyComb!

You can check the official specs for the two devices here:

I have some benchmarks for the GTab here. I have not run similar bench tests on the Nook.

Weight:  The GTab weighs 1.5 lbs while the Nook weighs 1 lb. But I can tell you that the Nook feels MUCH lighter – especially when holding it with one hand and operating it with the other. I like to sit in my hammock and surf on the GTab but it becomes uncomfortable quickly unless I rest it on my lap. However, the Nook is quite comfortable in my hand for extended periods.  Winner: Nook

Size: The Nook has a 7″ (diagonal) 1024×600 display while the Gtab has a 10.1″ 1024×600 display. The Nook’s display seems to have less glare and a better viewing angle. Both displays are nice and both (after rooting) support live wallpapers, widgets & other Android goodies. There is a lot to love with the GTab’s larger display but that love comes at a cost. The GTab is difficult to hold and, even in portrait mode, thumb typing is uncomfortable. Without a special tablet-enabled keyboard application is impossible to thumb type on the GTab in landscape mode. If you have large pockets, you might put the Nook there – but the GTab is almost as large as an 8×10 inch notepad and has fewer handy spots for toting. Winner: Nook

Processing speed: The dual-core 1000 MHz GTab has the 800 MHz Nook outpowered with both the main processor and the graphics chip. But in actual use, both are quite adequate. The CPUs on both devices can be over-clocked to provide even better performance (at the expense of heat, battery drain, and other complications). Still, the GTab is clearly more powerful.  Winner: GTab

Battery Life: I have not made any real comparisons for battery life. The GTab has a 12V 3650mAh Li-ion battery and the Nook has a 3.7V 4000mAh Li-ion. Battery life on both devices is very good and users should experience from 4 to 6 hours of continuous use with either device (much longer with intermittent use). One significant issue with the GTab is that you cannot charge the battery with the USB connector. You MUST use a specific 12V adapter (supplied). Winner: Nook

Communications: Both devices have similar stats in this area. Both have radios for 802.11b/g/n WiFi (but neither seems to link to the N-devices in my home.) Both have hardware supporting Bluetooth. I have no problem linking to Bluetooth devices with the G-Tab but (although there is an option in the settings in CM7) I cannot get Bluetooth to activate on the Nook. This *IS* a big deal! The Nook does not have a built-in microphone, so without Bluetooth, there is no way to “speak” to the device. That eliminates a LOT of functions/applications. One of my favorite Android features is the voice search and voice-to-text. Both work great with the GTab but all such applications are non-functional on the Nook. I have read that the Bluetooth hardware on in the Nook does work but until without it, a lot of functionality is lost. Winner: GTab

Other features: Both devices have an external micro-SD slot that supports cards with up to 32GB. Both have a USB slave port (to connect the device to your computer). The GTab has the older mini-USB port – that does NOT charge the device while the Nook has the newer MICRO-USB connecter – which DOES charge its battery. Beyond that, the Nook doesn’t have much more to offer. Added to that however, the GTab includes both a front-facing 1.3M camera and an internal microphone. But the GTab also includes a USB HOST connector. This is for attaching other devices to the GTab. Not only can you EASILY plug in your thumb drive to display pictures, video clips,  documents, etc, you can also attach a USB mouse (although it is a bit coarse in operation). I have used two different USB keyboards and I read that it will also support some USB webcams, etc but I have not tested that. From what I have read, it will support almost anything that does not require a specific driver. GOOD STUFF!  Winner: GTab

So, there you have it. My real-life comparison. I hope it helps you make the best decision – based on your specific needs for a tablet.

Your comments are requested.

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24 Responses to Nook vs GTab

  1. Kelly says:

    Hi Ray, I recently got a refurbished Nook Color after reading your review. Although I have the rooted GTab, I was interesting in a smaller device for reading books. The GTab can get bulky/weighty after a while. Well, I haven’t touched the GTab since!! Lovin’ the Nook, and I’m considering keeping it as is (i.e. not rooting). I figure that for the price of the GTab and the NC, I’ve still spent less than for one iPad, so I’m waaay ahead of the game.

    My only complaint right now about the NC is the lack of free/cheap apps, so I may root it at some point. Would you consider a NC rooting guide for us not-so-tech-savvy fans, or is it similar to the GTab process?

    Keep up the great work! I added a little something to your “tip jar”…you’ve been a big help!

    • Ray Waldo says:

      Thanks for the comment – and for the VERY nice donation!
      Your request for a NC rooting guide is consistent with my intentions. I have had a draft setting on the site for a couple months. But, since I am not allowed to mess with my wife’s nook (grin), I don’t have a prototype. I have rooted a couple of them. Once you create the little SDCard that does it, you just insert it and boot. It does the rest – SUPER SIMPLE! And, the result is FAR better than the stock version.
      To answer your request, I will try to hammer out a guide when I can get access to my wife’s nc.
      If you get anxious and want to continue before I am able to get a guide published… See this thread… http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1054027

  2. bill says:

    Ray, rooting the nook was a “prep exam” for my upcoming G-Tab root. I have, for the most part, solved the problems. For the benefit of anyone else who might try this here’s the rundown. I purchased the Nook back in the spring after reading what a great tablet it makes when rooted. While waiting for it to arrive I was researching the rooting procedures (much like I am now for the G-Tab). During that research I found someone selling sd cards loaded with Froyo on Ebay. Sticking in an sd card and turning on the Nook seemed way easier than actually rooting it so I chickened out and went the “safe” route and bought the sd card. It was ok but rather slow and glitchy and it soon became another one of those great ideas that winds up unused in a desk drawer. When I saw the reviews on the G-Tab and found your site it gave me the courage to revisit the rooting of the Nook. Being a complete noobie to rooting here are a few things I learned along the way. 1) It takes WAY longer to gather the files and prep the sd card than it does to do the actual rooting. 2) Even the best directions available still assume you know some things that you may not. For example, the ClockWorkMod zip file is a .tar.gz file. Windows won’t extract it so I searched for a free program that would and found Bitzipper. Well that extracted a .tar file, not the .img file. When I ran bitzipper on the .tar it extracted a .img but with nothing in it. I then tried extraxting the .tar file with 7-zip and got a good image file. The point is, I do very little with zip files so I was unfamiliar with the correct process to use on the ClockWorkMod file but all the instructions assume you can get by that part. After all that, and I’m sure there is/was a better way, I wasn’t very confident I had a good image of ClockWorkMod but it did work flawlessly. Because you leave the other files zipped they were easy to move to the sd card. Once I had that it was easy to follow the steps for the actual rooting, and yes…I did actually root the Nook. The first time through I had a problem but I’m not sure if I didn’t wait long enough (I gave it a full 10 minutes to boot)or if something actually went wrong. I did 2 things different on the 2nd attempt. First, I remembered from your G-tab instructions something about clearing the Dalvik cashe and the instructions I followed did not mention that. So on the second try I decided to clear it. That gave me a minor heart attack because after clearing it the Clockwork program totally froze and I though my Nook was going to an early grave. I was able to force a hard shutdown and reboot into Clockwork and continue on. So I turely don’t know if clearing the dalvik cashe help, hurt, or did nothing. The second change was I did not load the overclocking kernel. Whatever the reason it work on the second go-around and WOW am I happy with the Nook now! I’ve been playing with it all day today and it’s super responsive and just a joy to use. Regarding the problem with the Android Market: I’m still not sure why I don’t have the option of downloading certain apps but apparently there is a “new, updated” market and it’s interface looks quite different. I found a suggestion on another forum and by going to Applications – Manage Apps – All – Market app and hitting “uninstall updates” my nook had the “old” market and I was able to download the apps that I couldn’t get in the “new” market. It keeps updating to the “new” one so I have to repeat the procedure but I know I saw something last night for preventing that…I just need to find it again. So…to wrap it up, At 5pm yesterday I was a total noobie at rooting and, even with a few setbacks, by midnight had an awesome tablet. I believe if I were to do it again it would probably take less than an hour and I can’t wait to get my hands on the G-Tab! Ray…thank you so much! I pretty much did this myself with instructions from another site but let me tell you, just knowing that you are a “real person” who responds to questions (pretty darn quickly I might add) gave me the confidence to give it a try. Hopefully anyone reading this will get that same feeling…it’s well worth the effort involved.

  3. bill says:

    I have a weird situation. I can access the marketplace and download many apps but some of them I can’t find a download button. For example, youtube. I can find it in the marketplace but can’t download it.

    • Ray Waldo says:

      First thing – I have not done anything with the Nook in about 5-6 months. Once I got my wife’s Nook rooted, all I need to do now is update it from time to time. So, I am not prepared to offer much help with it.

      You could try: Settings – Applications – Manage Apps – (“All” tab) – find the Market app and clear the data.

      Since yours is such a unique problem, you should visit the forum where you got the instructions. Ask there and maybe someone else has seen the issue and found the solution.

      Primary concern: Did you ACTUALLY root the Nook? Or, did you build the SD Card and run Android from that? If you are not sure, just remove the SD Card and see if it boots up in Android – or the old Nook interface.

      If you did not actually root the Nook, then there are all kinds of problems that you may encounter. I strongly urge you to go all the way and root the device – rather than a temporary SD boot.

  4. bill says:

    Okay….ran through the process again without loading the overclocking kernel and have success!

  5. bill says:

    Ray…need some help if you can. While waiting for my G-tab I decided to “get out of the boat” and root my wife’s color nook. Using the instructions here:
    http://www.addictivetips.com/mobile/install-cyanogenmod-7-android-2-3-gingerbread-rom-on-nook-color/
    Everything seemed to go smoothly but when I turned the nook back on it was looping from the Cyanogen logo with “loading” under it to a black screen. After 10 minutes I held the power button to force a shut down and when I restarted it it did the same thing but this time after a few minutes it loaded a screen with the silver “n” in the middle and “contains reader mobile technology by Adobe Systems Inc” down the bottom. It’s been sitting on that screen for over 10 minutes. And suggestions?

  6. Nilum87 says:

    Ray,

    Regarding typing on the gtab (or any 10″ tablet for that matter), I have heard very good things about Thumb Keyboard (https://market.android.com/details?id=com.beansoft.keyboardplus), though admittedly I have not used it on a tablet. My own Gtab is coming via that great Woot! deal yesterday.

    For a free option, again I have not used this, you might try Tablet Keyboard Free (https://market.android.com/details?id=com.prettyeasy.tabletkeyboard.free)

    • Ray Waldo says:

      Congratulations on the new gtab! Be sure to return here for help rooting it.
      The problem is not with the keyboard. It is the distance between the two sides that make it difficult to reach the center keys.
      The best solution for all thumb typing seems to be the SwiftKey app. It is uncanny how it can predict what you want to say. I recommend it for all touch screen devices.

  7. Bob Krause says:

    Ray,

    I bought my Gtab in April when Woot last put them on sale. I found your instructions for installing Cyanogen and was able to get it up and running during lunch at work. 🙂 Now that there’s a working Netflix streaming app for the Gtab, it does everything I’d want from a tablet and more.

    Thanks for the clear and concise instructions on installing Cyanogen. I couldn’t have asked for better. 🙂 (Now, if those wonderful devs at XDA and Slatedroid can just get Honeycomb and/or Ice Cream Sandwich running on the Gtab. )

  8. KPDriscoll says:

    Very practical review, Ray. We rooted my son’s color nook with CyanogenMod and are very happy with it. It seems to run better under the 7 version than the prior honeycomb mod we had tried. Still no bluetooth, though I’ve seen claims of people getting it working (skeptical).
    I’m considering the Gtab and was happy with your analysis. The comments on the large developing community and thumb typing of the Nook Color have me leaning that way, but since my son mainly games on his, I think I could get a Gtab, hack it, and if not happy swap with him. I’d like to try some keyboard tricks on the gtab, as I have a USB/mini adapter that I used with some success with a Nokia N800 last year. I’m curious if I could use the front facing camera for Barcode Reader, another app I know the Nook Color can’t do.

  9. THRiLL KiLL says:

    i had a gtablet. i just sold it to buy a nook color. I wanted something smaller that had a better screen quality ( i mosty use it to watch videos, but the gtab was a bit to big and heavy.

    yes the gtablet is dual core. there is nothing that utilizes it. honeycomb, which will be dual-core aware, is not being released on the tegra2 platform.

    the other reason why i sold my gtab, 1. it still has value. 2. there are 3 or 4 developers on xda. 2 just stopped developing.

    on the other hand, nook has a much larger community, and they have a working ported version of honeycomb.

    Thanks for this review!!

    • Ray Waldo says:

      I fully understand your comments. As I said, I sorta would like to switch devices with my wife . The 7″ form factor is MUCH easier to handle and use.
      As to honeycomb, I have been a member of XDA for the past 4 years and I am pretty certain that they will find a way to bring the honeycomb goodness to the GTab.

    • Jason Knight says:

      I think that this may be the deciding factor for me. I bought the Nook, and then heard about the Viewsonic GTab. Went over and looked at it today, and was pretty much set to return my Nook and get the GTab, since I’m still within my 14 days over at B&N. Then I went to forum.cyanogenmod.com and looked at the download section compared between the two. There is ONE download for the GTab, and as for the Nook, there are two stable builds and many nightlies that have been under development recently, with a new release about every day. Nada under nightlies for the GTab. Hm… Really want that webcam and internal mic, but my bluetooth is working fine on the Nook… I hate the speaker on the Nook, it sucks bad! Still up in the air as to what to do, but development and community is important to me mostly.

      • Ray Waldo says:

        The Gtablet has a large development community on xda and cyanogenmod.
        We, here on the “Bishop” are very active in support of the device.
        After several months of owning both devices, I can assure you that you will get a much better tablet with the GTab.

  10. Dreday says:

    “Processing speed: The 1000 MHz GTab has the 800 MHz Nook outpowered with both the main processor and the graphics chip. But in actual use, both are quite adequate. Still, the GTab is more powerful and can be over-clocked even higher. Winner: GTab”

    was this really even a contest?? the Gtab has a DUAL-CORE running at 1Ghz..cmon man

    • Ray Waldo says:

      Not a contest but a COMPARISON. I stand by what I said, “in actual use, both are quite adequate.” — cmon man! Don’t dis me for speaking the truth. My goal is to give COMMON people real -usuable- info. My wife uses the Nook every day and is very pleased. I use the GTab and I am pleased — but in some ways, I would like to switch.
      Regardless of what hardware is inside, the (rooted) Nook is a very capable device. That is USABLE info if someone wants to COMPARE the two.

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