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.
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 Fire||B&N NOOK Tablet|
|Screen||7 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel IPS display||7 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel IPS display|
|CPU||1 GHz TI OMAP4 dual core||1 GHz TI OMAP4 dual core|
|Claimed battery life||8 hours reading||11.5 hours reading|
|Weight||14.6 ounces||14.1 ounces|
|Dimensions||7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″||8.1″ x 5″ x 0.48″|
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
- 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).
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
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?