This morning, Barnes & Noble took the wraps off the not-so-secret Nook Tablet, follow-up to the Nook Color and a head-to-head competitor with Amazon’s upcoming Kindle Fire. The Fire will cost less – $199 rather than the Nook Tablet’s $249 – but will also offer less memory and storage. And each will ship around the same time, mid-November.
So… which to choose?
This isn’t a question that can be answered in the same way for everyone, so let’s look at the two devices’ features one by one:
The Nook Tablet will cost $50 more than the Kindle Fire, probably not the best move for B&N if they really want to compete with Amazon in the tablet eReader space. Amazon is also throwing in a free month of Amazon Prime, a $79/year club that offers thousands of free streaming movies and TV shows, free two-day shipping, $3.99 per item overnight shipping, and even book lending.
The specs of the two tablets are pretty close: they each have a dual-core 1GHz processor, a 7-inch 600×1024 IPS touchscreen display, Wi-Fi, an Android OS foundation, and 3.5mm audio jacks. But the Nook Tablet has double the RAM, twice the onboard storage (16GB), and the option to store even more content via a microSD slot that supports at least 32GB microSDHC cards (and many even larger microSDXC capacities). The Kindle Fire is 8GB onboard storage – no expansion.
If you want to mostly read books on the Fire or the Nook Tablet – and if this is the case I suggest you stop reading now and buy an eInk Kindle or Nook Simple Touch; your eyes will thank you – you’ll have many more to choose from with Amazon, the undisputed champion when it comes to eBook selection.
Magazines & Newspapers
Both the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire will allow you to read full-color digital magazines and newspapers. There’s no word yet on a side-by-side comparison as far as the number of selections, but most popular digital publications will likely be available on both.
The Kindle Fire has Amazon’s Instant Video service with over 100,000 titles, more than 10,000 of which are free to Prime members. The Nook Tablet will have Netflix.
Netflix may be an option on the Fire at some point, but so far no dice. Update: Amazon has announced that Netflix will be an available app for the Kindle Fire at launch.
The Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire will each have music players, though the Fire will ship with Amazon MP3 as a native source to purchase music, and the Amazon Cloud Player for streaming of music you already own without having to store it on the tablet itself. The Nook will be compatible with streaming music services like Pandora, but won’t offer access – at least as far as I can tell – to a way to purchase songs from the device. You’ll also be able to load your own compatible tracks on each device’s internal memory.
Both devices can run Android apps, but not all. Amazon has its own Appstore – B&N has Nook Apps. Amazon will probably have the better selection, but…
Web & Email
Both devices will have onboard web browsers and email clients.
The Nook Tablet will include free Wi-Fi at Barnes & Noble retail locations. No big deal considering how many places offer free Wi-Fi, but B&N also allows you to read books for free while you’re in one of their retail stores, and to get onsite help with your Nook should you need it.
If you’re already deeply embedded in Amazon’s or Barnes & Noble’s ecosystems with books, memberships and apps, it’s probably best to stay with the company you know if you want a color device; there just isn’t that much difference between the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet in terms of hardware to go with one over the other for that reason. That is, unless you want to be able to load a great deal of content onto one of the tablets, in which case the Nook is the winner by a long shot.
For most users, though, given the price, Amazon’s content, app, and media selection, the Kindle Fire is probably best.
Netflix is the only real extra consideration here, since the Nook Tablet ships with Netflix onboard.