Last week when I was talking about the iPad Air 2 and Nexus 9 I mentioned that I've been finding new tablet announcements pretty dull. I guess Barnes & Noble has a different opinion.
Yesterday the company announced the "Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1" and I just don't know what they're thinking. This is a $299 tablet (for now; they're saying that price reflects a $50 instant rebate so at some point it will go up to $249) with a 10.1" screen, and I guess that's as hard as they hope you'll look. Turns out the screen has a resolution of 1280x800, for a poor ppi (pixels per inch) of 149. In other words it has the same resolution as the 7" Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0. Inside is a 1.2 Ghz Qualcomm CPU.
Now to be fair, there aren't a lot of 10" Android tablets that offer a better screen, (Android tablets this big seem to be going out of fashion) but you can find some if you shop around. The ASUS Transformer Pad is 10" with a 2560x1600 (300 ppi) screen and a Tegra 4 CPU inside. It can be had for $279.
But Barnes & Noble's adversary is Amazon, so let's look at the Kindle Fire line.
The latest and greatest Kindle Fire is the HDX 8.9. It's a little smaller than the new NOOK, and it starts at $379, but it has a 2560x1600 (339 ppi) display. That's a display you can stare at all day without your eyes complaining and I assume if you're buying a tablet from a book seller it's because you expect to read on it a lot.
If you can stand going even smaller, the older Kindle Fire HDX 7" is available for a mere $179 and it has a 1920x1200 (323 ppi) screen. I have one of these and it's my current favorite tablet for reading.
The one benefit that the NOOK has over the Kindle tablets is access to Google's Play store. The Amazon tablets limit you to the Amazon app store and that might be a significant difference depending on your needs. If that matters to you I'd still urge you to consider the ASUS I mentioned earlier, or even the smaller NOOK 7; it's currently $169.99 and that 1280x800 resolution on a 7" screen means a ppi of 216. Or perhaps consider Nvidia's Shield Tablet. $299 there gets you an 8" tablet with 1920x1200 (around 283 ppi) with a fast Tegra K1 CPU (if you're into mobile gaming the Shield is an especially attractive choice).
I don't meant to beat up on Barnes & Noble but I just think we're past the day when we should have to put up with low ppi screens. (In case you haven't picked up on this yet, I have a strong belief that a high ppi screen is one of the most important factors in choosing a tablet now that most of them are 'fast enough' for everything but the most demanding mobile games.) Anything less than 200 ppi is, in my opinion, inadequate at this point. 250 ppi is better and anything over 300 ppi is great. I don't have science to back up these figures, just my own experience of using a lot of different tablets.
I feel that, on paper at least, the "Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1" is an ill-conceived product and I don't think it's going to do much to revive the NOOK brand. Maybe the reviews will prove me wrong; I kind of hope they do.