Nook Tablet vs. Kindle Fire: Battle of the cheap tablets

Barnes & Noble's new Nook Tablet is pretty similar to Amazon's Kindle Fire and you suspect that B&N took a look at the Fire's success and said to their Nook e-reader engineers, "We need a $199 Android tablet, stat!"

While there are some minor differences in the tablets' overall specifications, the real differences come down to what extra goodies you get from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, such as cloud storage and digital newsstands. In this article we'll break down the similarities and differences between the Nook and the Kindle Fire and deliver a verdict on which tablet is most worthy of your hard-earned $199.

PREVIOUS TABLET BATTLE: The Kindle Fire vs. the iPad 2

TECH ARGUMENTS: Amazon Cloud Drive vs. Apple iCloud

Hardware: Have we mentioned that these two tablets are very, very similar? Well, they are. The Nook Tablet has 8GB of internal storage and a 1GHz TI OMAP4 dual-core processor. The Kindle, in contrast, features ... 8GB of internal storage and a 1GHz TI OMAP4 dual-core processor! The biggest difference hardware-wise is the significant improvements in battery life that B&N is promising to deliver with the Nook. So while the Kindle Fire delivers just eight hours of reading time and 7.5 hours of video time on the Kindle Fire even when the Wi-Fi is turned off, the Nook promises 11.5 hours of reading time and nine hours of video. Not too shabby!

Size and weight: The Nook and the Kindle Fire feature identical 7-inch display screens with resolutions of 1024x600 pixels. The Nook's weight of 14.1 ounces is ever-so-slightly lighter than the Kindle Fire's 14.6 ounces. All in all, though, this comes up as a push.

Operating system: They both run on modified versions of Android 2.3 ("Gingerbread"). There's been no word yet on when either device will get upgraded to either Android 3.0 ("Honeycomb") or Android 4.0 ("Ice Cream Sandwich"), both of which are optimized for the tablet form factor.

Price: As mentioned before, both tablets will set you back $199 so pricing comes out as yet another push.

Extra goodies: Finally! A clear, definable difference between these two cheapie Android tablets! And unfortunately for the Nook, this will likely be the advantage that keeps the Kindle Fire on top in the battle of $199 tablets.

First of all, Amazon has been heavily touting its new Amazon Silk Web browser that is directly integrated with its Elastic Computer Cloud (EC2) to deliver users' favorite Web pages at faster loading times than other browsers. The browser keeps track of pages you visit frequently and essentially preorders the page through the EC2 when it thinks you're about to request it. That way, when you do finally request it, Amazon's cloud will have it ready to go for you and will push it right out onto your tablet.

What's more, the Kindle Fire also gives you free cloud-based storage for all applications, songs, books and videos that you purchase through Amazon.com. This means that you won't have to waste any of your 8GB of internal storage on your MP3 collection since Amazon will gladly push it out to you through the cloud when you need it.

For what it's worth, the Nook also offers free cloud storage for all content purchased through Barnes & Noble. But B&N lacks Amazon's overall cloud portfolio and doesn't offer anything like the Amazon Cloud Drive that gives users 5GB of storage for free to start and then charges users $20 a month for 20GB of storage and $50 a month for 50GB of storage.

Both the Nook and the Kindle Fire also offer extensive digital newsstands that feature full-color magazines that can be purchased either through subscription or on a per-issue basis. And yes, both tablets give you access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora and other key content delivery services.

The bottom line: In reviewing the Nook's basics, we see that the device only comes out on top of the Kindle Fire in two key categories: its battery life and its weight. The Kindle Fire, meanwhile, can take advantage of Amazon's extensive cloud capabilities in a way that Barnes & Noble just can't match right now. Until B&N figures out a way to truly differentiate the Nook, there just isn't a compelling reason to choose the Nook over the Kindle Fire if you're in the market for a $199 tablet.

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This story, "Nook Tablet vs. Kindle Fire: Battle of the cheap tablets" was originally published by Network World.

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