The two biggest names in eBooks will begin offering new tablets for reading books, watching movies, listening to music and running apps this month. Both feature 7 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel displays and run modified versions of Google Android. They’ll also both be dirt cheap by iPad or even Android tablet standards.

Amazon’s Kindle Fire is available for pre-order for $199, while the NOOK Tablet is up for pre-order for $249.

But there are a number of things setting the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet apart. The B&N model costs more, but offers more memory and storage and has a faster processor than the Kindle Fire. But Amazon offers a wider selection of content for its devices and a stellar system for keeping your media synchronized across devices.

Amazon Kindle FireB&N NOOK Tablet
Screen7 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel IPS display7 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel IPS display
CPU1 GHz TI OMAP4 dual core1 GHz TI OMAP4 dual core
Memory512MB1GB
Storage8GB16GB
SD card?NoYes
Microphone?NoYes
Claimed battery life8 hours reading11.5 hours reading
Weight14.6 ounces14.1 ounces
Dimensions7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″8.1″ x 5″ x 0.48″
Price$199$249

The hardware specs paint a certain picture… but the services bundled with each tablet, along with overall performance may paint another.

There’s probably no right answer to the obvious question “which one should I get?” But let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of each device

Amazon Kindle Fire

Pros

  • Amazon has its own MP3 store and video store, which makes purchasing or renting media easy.
  • Books, music, and movies purchased from Amazon are stored in the cloud for free.
  • For $79 per year Amazon Prime members can watch thousands of videos for free and get free two-day shipping on purchases from Amazon.com.
  • Amazon also has a new Kindle Owners Lending Library that lets Prime subscribers “borrow” one book per month.
  • Amazon’s Whispersync technology allows you to sync bookmarks, annotations, last read page, and other details across multiple devices including tablets, eReaders, mobile and PC apps.
  • The Amazon Appstore already has over 19,000 Android apps available for download.
  • Every Amazon Kindle owner gets an email address. You can send eBooks to that address to load them onto a Kindle Fire or other Kindle device.
  • The tablet is $50 cheaper than Barnes & Noble’s (but the same price as the NOOK Color).

Cons

  • The Kindle Fire has just 8GB of local storage for apps, media, and other content.
  • There’s no SD card slot for expansion.
  • Since there’s no SD card slot, you won’t be able to boot custom ROMs without altering the built-in storage (something that NOOK Color users have been doing for a while).
  • 512MB of RAM could limit multitasking performance or affect performance of some games or other apps.
  • Amazon’s tablet doesn’t have a microphone.

Amazon’s tablet also uses the Amazon Silk web browser, which offers faster browsing by using remote servers to pre-render some content. I’m not counting this as a pro or con, because you have to weight the performance enhancement against the privacy implications — but it is a special feature.

Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet

Pros

  • The NOOK Tablet has 16GB of storage and 1GB of RAM — twice as much as the Kindle Fire.
  • There’s an SD card for extra storage (or for loading custom ROMs, sideloading apps, or doing other geeky things).
  • Barnes & Noble’s tablet includes a microphone. It’s officially for a “read and record” app which lets you record yourself reading a book — but I suspect developers will come up with other apps that use it as well.
  • You can walk into a bricks and mortar Barnes & Noble store to check out the NOOK Tablet or get support.
  • Users get free WiFi access at Barnes & Noble location.

Cons

  • There are fewer third party apps available in the NOOK app store (at least for now).
  • The NOOK Tablet relies on third party apps such as Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, and Rhapsody for video and music content.
  • You have to pay $50 more for a NOOK Tablet than a Kindle Fire (but you can get a NOOK Color for $199 if you like… it just won’t have all the features that come with the Tablet).

Barnes & Noble also claims that the NOOK Tablet has better screen viewing angles than the Kindle Fire, but I haven’t put that to the test yet, so I can neither confirm nor deny the truth of that claim.

Verdict

Neither tablet will offer access to the official Google Android Market, but each will have its own app store. Neither has a camera. Neither is really meant to compete with the Apple iPad, Motorola XOOM, or Samsung Galaxy Tab line of products.

Instead, these are media consumption devices that can also run a number of apps. Amazon’s tablet probably won’t be as easy to hack as Barnes & Noble’s, but Amazon officials have suggested that they don’t really have a problem with users rooting their tablet.

For those that don’t care about the SD card or memory or storage, Amazon’s tablet has a lot going for it including tight integration with Amazon’s digital book and movie services as well as its Whispersync technology for keeping data synchronized between devices.

Which tablet would you rather buy?


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22 replies on “Amazon Kindle Fire vs Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet”

  1. My local BN just got the Nook Tablet in, while I can’t compare the screen to Kindle Fire since I don’t have one it had way less glare than Nook Color. If the Kindle Fire is a clone of the Blackberry Playbook with toned down specs then I’d say it’s a safe bet that the Nook Tablet has the better screen.

  2. For me, it’s all about how easy it will be to root.  Knowing that Ice Cream Sandwich is going to be open sourced, it’s only a matter of time until the great Nook developer community ports it (most likely via CyanogenMod 9) to the Nook tablet.  Real ICS tablet vs. Amazon’s fork = Nook Tablet FTW!

  3. Modest discounts for B&N members.  Already have a Wi-Fi i-pad that lives in a desk drawer as I am hard pressed to find a practical use for it.

  4. What about the KOBO VOX? Can anyone shed some light on wether a NOOK can be used from Canada?

  5. If there’d been a “both” choice in the poll, I’d have taken that, because I can’t stop waffling (<–hope this doesn't get "aftermath" interested in waffles :).  I was actually trying to decide between the Kindle and Nook e-ink dedicated book readers: Kindle Touch and Nook Simple Touch but, at these prices, the color devices are hard to refuse.
     
    Apparently .epub books can't be read by Kindle devices without file conversion, but I wonder if Kindle doesn't more than make up for this with other file compatibility? 
     
    If I remember correctly Kindle Touch ebooks have links to Wikipedia and dictionary word-lookup and Nook ebooks and the Nook Tablet lack anything like this (correct me if I'm wrong).  I presume these features would also work on the Kindle Fire.

    For me, the fast Kindle browser might at least partially offset the extra RAM and storage of the Nook, and the Kindle's blue tooth, a must for audio books, is apparently lacking from the Nook… but the Nook's micro SD slot is very tempting and, I presume, would enable bluetooth use. 

    1. The Kindle Fire doesn’t have bluetooth either, it’s pretty bare minimum for the Kindle Fire as it’s basically just a good screen with a good processor and nothing much else besides Amazon’s services.

      While B&N officially never supported bluetooth for the Nook, but the original Nook Color did have the hardware and that’s how people managed to get it working with rooting and custom ROM.

      We just don’t know yet whether this can be done for the new Nook Tablet though.

  6. Thank you for your exhaustive list of the important pros and cons of these very valid computing choices.  To reciprocate, I thought that I’d offer a comparable analysis of equivalently valid food choices.

    –McDonald’s McRib
    * Pros: Available for a limited time only
    * Cons: Messy to eat

    — Kentucky Fried Chicken Cheesy Bacon Bowl
    * Pros: Bacon
    * Con: Inedible bowl

    –Verdict
    Who cares!?  Just close your eyes, repeat those marketing messages to yourself, and enjoy.  One thing is for sure: it’s a great time to be employed at a job that offers lunch breaks.

  7. It’s just easier to make the Nook into a full tablet if that’s what you want.  The fact that it has EXCELLENT hardware for the money is a huge plus.  The screen alone is worth a lot of headache.

    If you’re into using the devices as they are supposed to be used…  The Nook feels a lot more open to me than the Kindle where they are very much about locking you into their services.  Those services are VERY nice, and Amazon is clearly not going anywhere…  but still.  On the flip side, that also means that BN’s services aren’t all that up to snuff.

    1. Great point!  The Cheesy Bacon Bowl is more like a complete meal, whereas the McRib really is just a sandwich that calls out for at least an order of French Fries.

  8. I would add the Lenovo A1 to this list as it is selling for $199.80 at the moment.

    PROS:

    16gb

    Bluetooth

    microphone – so you can skype etc

    Front and rear cameras

    Full sized SD slot and micro SD
    Google market

    Android stock – no need to root.

    Cons

    1ghz single core

    512mb ram

    A sweet alternative if you ask me.  Only missing the dual core power over these too. 

    1. Great point!  I should add to my list Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy at Wendy’s.

      * Pros: Those new “Where’s the beef?” ads sure are nostalgic.
      * Cons: A  hamburger is still a hamburger and is a fairly traditional menu offering at this point (it’s like the resistive touchscreen of sandwiches)

    2. You don’t have to post this comment on *every* thread, you know.

      The $199 price is only on one model (the black one) for a limited time. The normal price is $249 for the 16GB model, and the cameras are only 0.3mp/3mp front/back, which is better than nothing, but not by much. Oddly, the $229 model says is only has 2GB of storage??

      Finally (and I speak as a big fan of their Thinkpad range), I have to comment on Lenovo’s obnoxious practice of posting “full prices” that are completely fictional. The supposed full price of the 16GB A1, for example, is $399, but it’s obviously a fiction (or a lie, if to be precise) since Lenovo has never had any intention of selling this low end tablet for anything more than $249, which is a full $150 lower than that. The very first officially announced price was $249.

      Lenovo is insulting prospective customers by lying to them in this way. The only reason for doing this is to con people into thinking they are getting a better bargain than they really are.

  9. It would be a big “Pro” for me if the new Nook color tablet runs Cyanogenmod. I took many months for the first Nook Color to officially run Cyanogenmod, so I guess we will just have to wait and see about this new one.

    1. Great point!  It is a big “Pro” to me that I can hack the McRib by swapping out the bun for a couple of pieces of lettuce.  I just don’t see KFC upgrading that bowl from the Chicken Cheesy Bacon Bowl to something more edible, and the food hacking community isn’t coming together to subsidize support.

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