Neither the Nook Tablet nor the Kindle Fire has a great native email client, but the Nook Tablet's is the better of the two. It lets you jump into Gmail labels, for example; and emails resized better to fit the 7-inch vertical display. It's too bad that the email app displays mail only in portrait mode. Also the Nook Tablet's email program lacks the Universal Inbox offered by the Kindle Fire.
Next: Pictures and Personal Video, and Apps
Pictures and Personal Video
Our test images looked sharp and lovely on the Nook Tablet, which also played our 1080p .MP4 test movie smoothly and with fine detail.
Unfortunately, the Nook Tablet's My Media gallery viewer app is a mess. It dumps all of your images into a single undifferentiated top-level view, regardless of any folders you may have organized them into on your media card. Thumbnails appear as fuzzy, poorly rendered squares. The app has a basic slideshow mode, but you can't see image or movie file names, and you can't opt to email an image to someone—all basic functions in competing Android 3.2 tablets and in Apple's iPad 2. Barnes & Noble says that its video player can also handle 3GP and 3G2 MKV video, but I didn't try those formats. The company also says that it plans to improve My Media in a future update; but at this point, the app is a hassle.
The Kindle Fire's Gallery app makes images painful to view. It automatically resizes images transferred to the device, lowering resolution and dropping detail in the process--and making it impossible to zoom in on the image if you want to show something. The Fire resized one of my test images to 486 by 324 from its original 3888 by 2592 pixels. The problem lies entirely with Amazon's Gallery app software, since that same photo renders well on the Kindle Fire in a free image viewer that I downloaded, exhibiting better color and saturation, and reasonably sharp detail. The same picture displayed in the Fire's native image gallery was much worse.
Unlike the Nook Tablet's app, the Kindle Fire's Gallery app supports folders, shows rectangular thumbnails as well as square ones, and displays image information. It can play videos just as the Gallery app does on the Nook Tablet and on Android tablets in general. My 1080p .MP4 test video ran in the same video player that the Fire used for playing videos acquired from Amazon, complete with that player's nifty 10-second rewind button. Amazon says that its video player supports just two file formats: .MP4 and Google's VP8.
My test video retained most of its sharpness and detail, though it did stutter in a couple of spots (the same video looked better and had no stutters on the Nook Tablet). In contrast, the Amazon-acquired videos that I tried in the same player looked fuzzy and often showed pixelation and artifacts.