Barnes & Noble is knocking $20 to $50 off the prices of its NOOK tablets running Google Android software. You can now pick up a NOOK Color for $149, an 8GB NOOK Tablet for $179, or a 16GB model for $199.
The price cuts come the better part of a year after B&N introduced the tablets. But it’s likely that Google’s introduction of a $199 Nexus 7 tablet this summer may have had something to do with B&N’s decision to slash prices.
Google’s tablet features a higher resolution display and a faster processor than the B&N tablets, and also has a front-facing camera and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean software (not to mention full access to the Google Play Store with hundreds of thousands of app).
On the other hand, the B&N tablets all have microSDHC card slots for extra storage — something the Google tablet does not.
Up until recently, the 8GB NOOK Tablet and 8GB Nexus 7 were both selling for the same $199 price. Unless you really need that microSDHC card slot, the Nexus 7 looked like a much better deal.
Now that the NOOK Tablet is $20 cheaper… the Nexus 7 still looks like a better deal. $20 isn’t much to pay for a better screen, faster processor, and more well-rounded operating system.
On the other hand, Google charges $249 for a 16GB tablet, while B&N has slashed $50 off the price of its 16GB NOOK Tablet, bringing the price down to $199.
Meanwhile, the NOOK Color is still alive and kicking for bargain hunters. It’s about the same size as the newer NOOK Tablet, and has the same 1024 x 600 pixel IPS display. But B&N’s newer tablets have faster 1 GHz TI OMAP 4 dual core processors while the NOOK Color has an 800 MHz single core TI OMAP3 CPU.
The NOOK devices come with a modified version of Google Android 2.3 Gingerbread designed to let you purchase books and apps from the NOOK Shop. There are ways to root the tablets and install custom ROMs (or even boot custom ROMs from a microSD card) to give the devices a more standard Android experience, complete with access to the full Google Play Store.
On the other hand — you can always just buy a Nexus 7 and install the NOOK app to read books from the B&N eBook store.
Personally I would much rather have the Google Nexus 7 than the Nook Tablet, as much as I love Barnes and Noble. I originally got to play with the Google Nexus 7 from a coworker at Dish, then recently I was given the chance to play around with the Nook Tablet and the Nexus 7 is just so much faster and cleaner to use. I would mostly use any tablet I got for watching live TV on the Dish Remote Access app streamed from my Sling Adapter connected DVR, and the Nexus 7 would just be a better option for it. Of course, there are also many rumors about the iPad Mini, so who knows what might be best for everybody!
I’d say the price reduction is not enough to make Nook Tablet attractive.
Compared to Nexus 7, Nook Tablet has:
no Bluetooth or GPS
lower res screen
no Android 4.1 (yet)
no access to Google Play without mod
less impressive construction
Rumor is that Amazon will announce updates to its Kindle line next week. Nook will probably look even less desirable after that.
Theoretically, I suspect Amazon and B&N would be perfectly happy to get out of the hardware business altogether and just have users install the Amazon/NOOK apps on the Nexus 7 and other tablets…
BUT… most people probably won’t do that. If a tablet comes with Google Play preloaded, it’s easier to download apps, books, movies, etc from Google’s store. So it makes sense for content distributors like Amazon & B&N to continue to try to sell tablets that use their own content stores as the default.
I suspect we’ll see next-gen Kindle and NOOK devices designed to compete with the Nexus 7 soon, and they’ll continue to ship with their own content stores front and center.
The problem is that it’s going to be tougher for them to stand out on price and features in 2012 than it was in 2011. Last year, the Kindle Fire and NOOK Tablet were arguably the best tablets you could buy for $249 and less. This year they’re not.
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