So, after most of a year, I finally revisited Cyanogenmod 7.2 on my Nook Color. Competent tablets are available for around $100 now, so perhaps this is less interesting now, but I had a Nook Color, and figured I might as well try it out before spending money on something else.

I was never happy running it from an SD card–it was way too laggy and sluggish–but Cyanogenmod 7.2 is competent when installed on its internal memory, at least for the things I most want to use a tablet for–light web browsing, reading e-mail, watching SD video, and reading PDFs–and it leaves the SD card slot open for storing the media I want to consume.

Installation is straightforward. Forget everything else you’ve read, and follow this process, and you’ll have it up and running in around an hour. It’s not as easy as installing Windows 7, but if you installed Windows 98 back in its glory days, you won’t have any trouble with this, either.

First, get a brand-name micro SD card, download a CWR image of the same size as the card, and write the image to the card following the instructions in the link I just provided.

Download Cyanogenmod 7.2 and Google Apps and save the Zip files to the root directory of your SD card.

Jump to step 3 of these Cyanogenmod 7.2 installation instructions and perform steps 1-25 in order, wait when it says to wait, and you’ll be OK.

After things settled down, I installed Nook Tweaks. The default settings caused the device to crash as soon as it tried to do anything, so I throttled the maximum clock speed back to 900 MHz (the official clock rate is 800). I also dialed the minimum speed back to 100 MHz so the device can save battery life while I’m reading PDFs. Attempting a 50% overclock by default is just asking for trouble.

Potentially, the sub-$100 tablets showing up in stores like Big Lots, which feature 1 GHz CPUs and Android 4.0 could be better. But some seem to be worse. The Nook Color is known to be a well-built device, and Cyanogenmod is a known quantity too.

Cyanogenmod 10 is in alpha for the Nook Color (the Nook Color’s code name for Cyanogenmod’s purposes is Encore), but I find it’s best to run software that was current at the time of hardware’s release. I may try Cyanogenmod 10 on it, but given its modest hardware, Cyanogenmod 7.2 is probably the best choice.

Used Nook Colors are readily available for around $85, and sometimes less. Now that the biggest shopping season of the year is under way, sales on new and refurb units aren’t out of the question, either. And of course if you already have one, the going rate doesn’t matter.

If you need something reliable for modest needs like mine–mainly I want to be able to watch instructional video or read PDFs while doing something else, or have a small portable device that my boys can watch video on when I need to keep them occupied–the Nook Color still offers possibilities.