For a time, it seemed that Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablet would be launched without opposition from the company’s e-reader rival, Barnes and Noble. Not to be outdone, however, the retailer recently unveiled the Nook Tablet.
Both of these tablets are from retailers, both will have built-in stores, both have seven-inch touch screens and both run modified versions of Android. They’re very similar products for consumers with similar needs – so which should you buy?
Barnes and Noble has been quick to trump the RAM and memory specifications of the Nook Tablet. It will have 16 gigabytes of storage and 1 gigabyte of RAM, and both specifications are double what the Kindle Fire offers. Better still, the Nook Tablet’s maximum memory capacity – counting the microSD card slot – adds up to a whopping 48GB. That’s almost as much as the SSD in my desktop!
That’s great. But when it comes to performance, the two tablets will likely be similar because they use the same SoC architecture, which is known as OMAP 4. This is a very quick part – the same used in the iPad 2, in fact – so it’s not as if these two tablets have lowered prices by offering sub-par processors.
Claimed battery life for the Fire is eight hours of reading with Wi-Fi off, while the Nook supposedly offers 11 hours. However, manufacturer battery life claims mean little. I encourage readers to look at reviews of both devices for real-world numbers.
Neither product offers a camera or GPS.
Ultimately, the winner in the hardware arena is obviously the Nook. Though it is $50 more, the massive increase in memory and storage capacity more than compensates for the difference.
Though it’s a new product, the Nook Tablet has old bones. It uses the same chassis as the Nook Color, which has been around for some time.
I’ve handled the Nook Color before. While it’s not a bad product by any means, I felt the design matched the price point. The masses of dull silver are not attractive, and the little loop in the bottom left hand corner still strikes me as odd. B&N is offering the Tablet with aluminum trim, however, which will class it up a bit.
Kindle’s Fire, on the other hand, is all new. And it looks all-new. Like the Nook Tablet, the design is more utilitarian than luxurious, but I think cladding the device in black does a better job of obscuring any material cheapness – from afar, at least.
There are other advantages, too. While the Fire and the Nook Color both have 7-inch displays with a resolution of 1024×600, the Fire is not as wide, not as tall, and just a bit thinner. On the other hand, the Nook Tablet is a tad lighter.
Personally, I think the Fire wins, but it’s close enough to be considered a toss-up.
Comparisons here require some long-term speculation. The value of a tablet’s marketplace depends on the support for it, both by the original manufacturer and by developers. Just ask BlackBerry PlayBook users, who still lack an email app for their device, despite it being promised as “coming soon” when the device was launched.
On this front, Amazon has given us much more to go on. The company already provides a wider selection of services. It has a gigantic library of digital books, streaming video, cloud music and file storage, and its own Android app store. Many of the new services that Amazon has improved or debuted over the last year are applicable to this new tablet. On top of that, Amazon is offering a custom web browser that is promised to be smoother than anything seen before.
That’s not to say the Nook offers nothing. It will come with Netflix and Hulu Plus installed and has an app store of its own. What’s not clear is how many apps will be available on that store, and how strictly separated the device will be from the rest of the Android eco-system.
Given how much we already know about Amazon’s offerings, the Fire is the clear winner. If Barnes and Noble has any tricks up its sleeve, it had better announce them soon. Amazon already has a head start.
Now you know about both devices. But which should you buy?
That depends on how you plan to use your device. The Nook, with its larger storage capacity, seems to be a better choice for users who aren’t excited about cloud storage or streaming video. Barnes and Noble will be offering sales and service at its stores as well, an advantage Amazon can’t match.
If you’ve had your head in the clouds already, and like the view, the Fire is probably the better choice. It has a wider range of services available, a more mature app store, and an interesting custom browser. Sure, the storage is less – but that’s only an issue if you are going to fill up the Fire’s eight gigabytes. If you aren’t, the Nook’s only advantage is RAM, which may not be worth the additional $50.
If it were my money, I’d choose the Fire. I think that the software and service advantages do outweigh the Nook’s hardware specs. I can see the Nook’s appeal, however. It may be the better choice for users who don’t care for cloud services and need the extra storage capacity.
Image Credit: LEDFrog