Get a Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet for $149

Forget the pokey old Nook Color. For the same price, this e-reader/tablet has a faster processor, more RAM, and a microphone.

The 8GB Nook Tablet is an unbeatable deal at $149 shipped.
The 8GB Nook Tablet is an unbeatable deal at $149 shipped. Barnes & Noble

The tablet wars are on.

Just last month, Amazon slashed the refurbished Kindle Fire to $139 (it's now back up to $169). Today, Barnes & Noble (via eBay) is offering the refurbished Nook Tablet for $149 shipped. Just to clarify, that's the Nook Tablet, not the older Nook Color -- which is what you usually see selling at this price.

Update: Yikes! Big goof on my part: this Nook is new, not refurbished!

What's the difference? Physically, they're just about identical, but the Nook Tablet features a faster processor, more RAM, and a microphone. The Nook Color was already pretty great; the Tablet is even better.

This is the 8GB model. That may not seem like a lot of storage for your books, music, videos, and whatnot, but because the Nook Tablet has a microSD expansion slot, you can easily (and cheaply) add lots more storage. (Just yesterday I posted a 32GB microSD card for $15. It's since expired, but a good example of what's out there.)

With rare exception, Barnes & Noble's refurbs arrive in indistinguishable-from-new condition. And they carry a full one-year warranty, same as new Nooks. For this particular product, there's zero downside to going the refurb route -- and 50 upsides. (A new Nook Tablet sells for $199.)

So, which is better, the Kindle Fire or the Nook Tablet? Right out of the box, I give the nod to the Kindle Fire for its slicker interface and nifty integration with Amazon Prime. However, I don't like the location of the Fire's power button, and miss having dedicated volume controls, which the Nook has. Plus, the Nook Tablet is easily transformed into a bona-fide Android tablet by popping in an N2Acard or a Root My Nook Tablet card.

You can accomplish the same thing on your Fire by "rooting" it, but the process is more complicated and less reversible. Thus, for anyone seeking maximum versatility in a 7-inch tablet, I'd say choose the Nook.

For another take, check out CNET's review of the Nook Tablet , which includes many comparisons to the Kindle Fire.

I'm liking this deal a lot for dads and grads, who are next up on the annual gift-shopping hit list. As always, just cheapin' it real...

Bonus deal: Reader Brennan shared a sweet deal from AT&T: the Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone for $9.99 shipped (with a two-year contract, natch). This top-rated Android phone originally sold for $199.99 and features a 4.3-inch super-AMOLED screen, dual-core processor, and Android 2.3. (An Ice Cream Sandwich update is apparently just starting to roll out.)

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