With the 8GB Nook Tablet, 4GB is now user-accessible. That adds a significant amount of space for those aforementioned personal files (videos, music, PDFs, EPUB, whatever). Yes, it's still limited, but unlike the space-challenged Kindle Fire, you can always add that microSD card for up to 32GB more.
The only catch is that "Barnes & Noble content" (apps, books, magazines, games, and the like) is limited to 1.5GB. With apps and magazines getting beefier, that could mean more uninstalling and reinstalling (or redownloading) as space gets tight.
As for owners of the existing 16GB Nook Tablet, starting in mid-March Barnes & Noble is offering customers an optional reallocation of memory partitioning. If you choose to change the memory scheme it will be: 5.5GB for Barnes & Noble content and 8GB for personal content. (Plus the expandable memory.) To make the change, you have to bring your device to any Barnes & Noble store where a Nook seller will make the change for you. Nook Tablet (16GB) devices produced after the new partitioning scheme goes into effect will ship with the new memory configuration.
Which Nook Tablet should you buy?
For better or worse, Barnes & Noble has left consumers with a difficult choice: is it worth spending the extra $50 for the higher-end model?
That's really a tough call. What I would say is that if you aren't planning on downloading a lot of apps and will be using the Nook Tablet as more of an e-reader with some Web surfing and streaming video and audio thrown in, the 8GB model will be fine and you can always purchase a memory card to expand the memory; again, both models accept cards up to 32GB.
If you're someone who wants a little more breathing room for onboard storage, as well as that very slight performance bump, it's probably worth spending the extra the $50 on the 16GB model.
Note: For those considering the older 8GB Nook Color at $169, that model has a slower processor and these two newer models definitely feel zippier. I would recommend stepping up to the $199 Nook Tablet instead of buying the Nook Color.
8GB Nook Tablet vs. Kindle Fire
I would be remiss not to offer some comparison to the Kindle Fire, especially when these two products are now exactly the same price, with exactly the same internal specs (same CPU, same 512MB RAM, same 8GB of memory). I was hoping that Barnes & Noble would've taken this refresh opportunity to add Bluetooth to the Nook Tablet (for easy wireless audio streaming), but it's still not to be found. Oh well.
To its credit, however, the Nook's advantages include a slightly better screen and better ergonomics (physical volume and home buttons, both lacking on the Kindle). The Fire, meanwhile, still wins for many people on the "ecosystem" issue: if you're already an Amazon customer, you have easy access to all of your Amazon-based book, video, and music purchases. Amazon Prime members, meanwhile, get access to a huge library of movies, TV shows, and books at no extra cost beyond the $79 annual membership fee. (All that said, you can access Amazon Instant Video from the Nook Tablet's browser. We tried playing a few movies and most of them ran well enough, though the Fire's interface for Amazon Video is slicker).
Bottom line: the 8GB Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire have the same onboard storage and RAM, but the Nook Tablet has an expandable microSD card slot and a slightly better screen. The Kindle Fire, however, currently has better cloud-based music, a more expansive app store, and video download services.
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