Review: Nook Tablet is a worthy competitor to Kindle Fire

The Tablet improves on the Nook Color mainly by beefing up the processor and the memory and extending the battery life
The Nook Tablet improves on the Nook Color mainly by beefing up the processor and memory and extending the battery life.

Last week, Associated Press technology writer Peter Svensson reviewed the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s $199 tablet that aims to challenge the iPad. This week, he reviewed the new $249 Nook Tablet from bookseller Barnes & Noble, which he called “a solid product, worthy of duking it out with [the] Kindle Fire.”

Here’s what he had to say about the device…

“Like the new Kindle Fire, the [Nook] Tablet has a 7-inch, touch-sensitive color screen, about half the size of the iPad’s. It’s the same screen as on the Nook Color, the eReader Barnes & Noble launched a year ago. I thought it was the best eReader yet when it launched.

“The Tablet improves on the Nook Color mainly by beefing up the processor and the memory and extending the battery life to 11.5 hours of reading, or 9 hours of video. The Tablet also has improved software, but the Color will be getting the same software through a downloadable update.

“The Tablet is debuting with Netflix and Hulu applications. Coupled with the nice, sharp screen, that makes for a good device for that TV and movie fix—as long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi. The apps actually highlight one of the shortcomings of the Tablet: there’s no way (short of hacking the software) to use it for offline viewing of movies you buy or rent.

“Barnes & Noble promises to provide some sort of movie store next year. Amazon, meanwhile, launched the Kindle Fire with access not just to Netflix and Hulu, but to its own store with downloadable video, plus free streaming content for Amazon Prime subscribers.

“Barnes & Noble is also well behind when it comes to the selection of third-party applications: It has about 1,000 available today. That compares to just under 10,000 at Amazon, and 500,000 on the iPad. However, the Nook has these features over the Fire:

“• Faster processor and more memory for software operations, which means faster web browsing and magazine page-flipping.

“• Longer battery life.

“• Twice as much storage space: 16 gigabytes compared to eight. Don’t get too excited about this, though. What Barnes & Noble has left out of its marketing material is that only 1 gigabyte is available for content that isn’t bought from Barnes & Noble. Since books don’t take up much space and Barnes & Noble doesn’t sell movies, much of the 16 gigabytes is likely to be wasted.

“• A slot for memory cards. This is the cure for the lack of memory for non-Barnes & Noble content. You can add another 16 gigabytes of memory by buying a $20 card.

“• The ability to load books from third-party stores like Google Books. On the Kindle, you can only read books from Amazon…

“• Children’s books with built-in narration (some Kindle apps have this).

“• A microphone. This doesn’t have a lot of uses, but it does allow you to record your own narration. …

“For the most part, the Nook Tablet justifies the higher price tag compared to the Kindle. Of course, anyone with money to spend should also be looking at the iPad 2, which starts at $499 and does all of what these smaller tablets do—plus a whole lot more.”

A comparison of the major features of Barnes & Noble Inc.’s Nook Tablet computer and Inc.’s Kindle Fire:

Price: The Nook Tablet costs $249; the Kindle Fire, costs $199.

Connectivity: Both tablets connect to the internet only through Wi-Fi.

Screen size: Both tablets have displays that measure 7 inches diagonally. That’s about three times the size of an iPhone screen and half the size of an iPad screen.

Software: Both run modified versions of Google Inc.’s Android software. Neither one has direct access to Google’s Android Market for third-party applications; Amazon and Barnes & Noble run their own stores.

Apps: Barnes & Noble says its goal is to have 1,000 third-party applications available by the end of the year. Amazon has nearly ten times as many.

Storage: The Nook Tablet has 16 gigabytes of storage plus a memory-card slot. Of the built-in memory, all but 1 gigabyte is reserved for content bought from Barnes & Noble. The Kindle Fire includes 8 gigabytes of internal storage and no memory-card slot.

Battery life: Barnes & Noble claims up to 9 hours of video on the Nook Tablet, Amazon says 7.5 hours on the Kindle Fire.

Thickness: They’re nearly identical: the Nook tablet is 0.48 inches thick, while the Kindle Fire is 0.45 inches.

Weight: Again, nearly identical. The Nook Tablet weighs 14.1 ounces, the Kindle Fire half an ounce more.

Movies: Both come with apps from Netflix and Hulu, which provide streaming movies and TV shows to subscribers. The Kindle Fire also provides access to downloadable and streaming movies from Amazon.

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