After September's Kindle Fire announcement from Amazon.com, it was only a matter of time before rival bookseller Barnes & Noble retaliated with a new e-book-friendly tablet.
Update, November 18 at 1:12 p.m. PT: CNET's rated reviews of the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet are now available. The following text has been updated to reflect the observations made in these reviews.
Bearing a striking resemblance to Barnes & Noble's previous effort (the Nook Color--which remains on the market at $199), the Nook Tablet outguns the Kindle Fire in a few key specs.
The most notable differences are the amount of system RAM (1GB on the Nook Tablet, versus 512MB on the Kindle Fire); the amount of integrated storage (16GB versus 8GB on the Kindle Fire); and the inclusion of microSD memory expansion on the Nook Tablet.
Nook Tablet (photos)See all photos
Unfortunately, the improved specs of the Nook Tablet come at a $50 premium over the $199 Kindle Fire. Then, there are the details that are not easily broken down on a spec sheet. Once you get past the silicon, these tablets are essentially windows into different storefronts and services. When you add up all the e-books, apps, music, games, and videos, there's no question that Amazon has more of its own content offerings to dive into. Its cloud technology infrastructure also happens to be one of the most robust systems in the industry, and its tablet reaps the rewards in terms of improved Web-browsing performance, media lockers like Cloud Player, and Cloud Drive file backup.
Amazon Kindle Fire photosSee all photos
The other big advantage--or, some would say, caveat--to the Kindle Fire is Amazon Prime. In addition to free two-day shipping for most of Amazon's physical product offerings, Prime offers members access to a growing library of Netflix-style on-demand streaming movies and TV shows (a subset of Amazon's full catalog), plus the option to borrow some e-books for free. Of course, all of that "free" stuff comes at a price: $79 per year. Many find it to be the retail deal of a lifetime, but--like Xbox Live on Microsoft's game console--it does mean you need to factor in a yearly premium to fully unlock the value of Amazon's tablet.
But Barnes & Noble has some alternatives to Prime. For one thing, it has hundreds of brick-and-mortar stores where customers can get hands-on with its products, and return for tech support (not unlike the Apple Store). Also, because Barnes & Noble doesn't have as many in-house digital-media services as Amazon, it has more of an incentive to partner with other providers (including Netflix and Hulu) to close the gap. But Amazon isn't shying away from partnerships, either. Netflix and Hulu Plus apps can also be found on the Kindle Fire, as well as popular apps from Electronic Arts, Zynga, Rhapsody, and ESPN.
Below, you'll find a chart detailing the hardware differences between these two devices. Spec comparisons like this can be useful for distinguishing between two similar products, but they only tell part of the story. The truth of the matter is that neither of these tablets is very impressive when you evaluate it on specs alone. The appeal of these unique tablets and their distinct differences only becomes apparent when you turn them on and see how well they match up with what you'd like a tablet to provide for you.
To that end, stay tuned for a follow-up piece that discusses the type of user each of these tablets is suited for.
|Kindle Fire||Nook Tablet|
|Dimensions||7.5 inches by 4.7 inches by 0.45 inch (HWD)||8.1 inches by 5 inches by 0.48 inch (HWD)|
|Weight||14.6 ounces||14.1 ounces|
|OS||Custom Android 2.3 fork||Custom Android 2.3 fork|
|Processor||1GHz dual-core TI Omap 4||1GHz dual-core TI Omap 4|
|Storage||8GB (approx. 5GB user accessible)
||16GB (1GB user accessible)
|Battery||8 hours reading, 7.5 hours video (Wi-Fi off)||11.5 hours reading, 9 hours video (Wi-Fi off)|
|Charge type||Micro-USB; computer charge OK||Micro-USB; requires wall adapter|
|Wi-Fi||802.11 b/g/n/x||802.11 b/g/n|
|Screen size||7 inches (IPS)||7 inches VividView, laminated (IPS)|
|Pixel density||169 dpi||169 dpi|
|Resolution||600x1,024 pixels||600x1,024 pixels|
|Book store||Amazon||Barnes & Noble|
|App store||Amazon||Barnes & Noble|
|Book formats||Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, DOC, DOCX, Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX))||EPUB, PDF, DOC, TXT, DOCM, DOCX|
|Not supported||EPUB, LIT, LRZ/LRX (Sony)||LIT, AMZ, LRZ/LRX (Sony)|
|Video formats||MP4, Adobe Flash||MP4, Adobe Flash|
|Music formats||Non-DRM AAC, MP3, MIDI, OGG, WAV||Non-DRM AAC, MP3, MP4, AMR, OGG, WAV|
|Photo formats||JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP||JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP|
|Other features||Cloud storage backup, wireless sync, Whispersync, Amazon Silk Web browser, Free month of Amazon Prime, Amazon Lending Library, Prime Instant Video, purchased apps compatible with Android phones and tablets||Nook Friends, in-store specials, Newsstand, unique e-book content for children, free in-store Wi-Fi, in-store support|