Nook Tablet vs. Kindle Fire: Take Either of Two Tablets and Call Me Christmas Morning

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If spending $499 or more for an Apple (AAPL) iPad isn't in your holiday budget, how does $199 or $249 for a slightly smaller yet still full-featured gadget sound?

Barnes & Noble (BKS) threw its hat into the ring this week, unveiling the Nook Tablet, a $249 device ready to take on Amazon.com's (AMZN) ballyhooed $199 Kindle Fire. It also lowered the prices of its original Nook e-readers.

The Nook Tablet offers the same seven-inch screen as the Kindle Fire, but raises the spec sheet bar by offering twice the RAM and initial storage capacity of its Amazonian counterpart.

Both devices will hit the market next week, and it will be pretty hard to miss them as the holiday shopping season kicks off later this month. Amazon announced on Tuesday that its entire line of Kindle e-readers and tablets -- including the Kindle Fire -- will be available at Best Buy (BBY), Target (TGT), Walmart (WMT) and more top retailers. In other words, you won't necessarily need to log into Amazon.com to buy the gadget.

A Tablet By Any Other Name

If you're shopping for an Apple fanatic, the Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet probably won't work. Only the iPad can tap into Apple's iconic App Store with countless free or nearly free downloads. If you're committed to the Apple platform, instead of an iPad 2, consider saving some money by trying to find a used iPad. The major differences between the original and current Apple tablets is that the iPad 2 comes with cameras and has a faster processor.

However, you're going to be seeing plenty of Amazon and Barnes & Noble tablets handed over as Christmas and holiday presents next month. They both read e-books, of course, but their multi-touch screens and high resolution will make them great video streaming devices, too.

As long as you have WiFi connectivity, the Nook Tablet comes with pre-installed apps for Hulu Plus and Netflix (NFLX). Music fans can stream Pandora (P). The Kindle Fire dives into Amazon's rich ecosystem, and that includes access to roughly 13,000 streaming video titles at no additional cost to those that pay $79 a year to be part of the Amazon Prime free shipping program.

Androids at Heart

Both the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are based on the open-source Android operating system, but this doesn't mean that they will play nice with third-party downloads. Both companies want to make their devices as proprietary as possible.
However, future software updates can always change that. The beauty of today's gadgets is that they don't become obsolete just because something shinier comes out.

Besides, now that the appealing tablets can be had at price points typically reserved for handheld gaming systems or wireless phones, there are fewer excuses in not treating yourself to one this season.

Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any stocks in this article, except for Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Amazon.com, Apple, and Netflix. Motley Fool newsletter services have also recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple.



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9 Comments

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Denise

After having spent waay too much on an iPad, how about no tablets? They are not computers.

November 18 2011 at 2:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pks29733steel

I'll wait and tablet prices will surely fall. Just like the Apple MP3 player - The I-Pod. Gee $50 bucks for 2 gigs, buy another brand and get twice as much storage for the same price. Once more tablets are made, prices will be reduced!! Remember in the 80's with cell phones. They were sold for hundres, then in the 80's alot were free with a contract. The same should soon happen with the tablets!!

November 17 2011 at 9:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
terezib

I plan on buying a Nook Tablet - what decided it for me is not only the initial storage capacity, which is twice as much as much as the Kindle Fire for just $50 more, but it's ability to take SD cards, which means I could GREATLY enlarge it's entertainment capability by just carrying a few along. The fact that Amazon's material is stored on their cloud is useless to me, since I plan on using it when (ironically!) flying, when I couldn't access the internet in the first place. As for iTunes, it's not that difficult to convert iTunes tracks to mp3, which I could then listen to on the Nook. I WOULD ideally like the iPad, but it's still way too overpriced in comparison - PLUS the fact that it won't take an SD card.

November 17 2011 at 8:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
WB

"no additional cost to those that pay $79"

Actually it sounds like it costs $79.

November 17 2011 at 7:20 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
gbrond23

Buy no electronics before holidays!

November 17 2011 at 7:11 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
John Go

Let's see what pro reviewers had to say after playing with Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire side by side:
PCWORLD:
The Nook Tablet's unique display has less reflectivity than the Kindle Fire's, and so is easier to read. In addition, some fonts and videos render more sharply on it than on the Fire. The dual-core 1GHz Texas Instruments OMAP 4 CPU and 1GB of RAM made switching from app to app a breeze, with little lag or stuttering. Movies played smoothly and stutter-free in Netflix, and the high-definition images re-rendered for Nook's 1024-by-600-pixel display looked lovely, with terrific contrast.
The Nook Tablet's display was dazzling overall. The screen's glare was minimal, thanks to what Barnes & Noble calls its VividView display. The IPS display is laminated and bonded; so unlike on other tablets's displays--including the Kindle Fire's--there's no annoying, visible air gap between the glass screen and the LCD beneath.The Nook Tablet's home screen is highly customizable and provides quick access to apps and reading material.

CNET:
We streamed Netflix side by side with the Kindle Fire, and head-to-head comparisons were very favorable to the Nook--it simply looked better. Both tablets have the same app, but the Nook Tablet's picture looked more vivid and detailed. The Nook Tablet also has physical volume controls on the side, which come in handy--the Kindle Fire strangely lacks them. The screen, which is a higher-quality IPS display than the Kindle Fire, really shows off Netflix and Hulu Plus to amazing effect...
It's the best screen on a budget tablet that I've ever seen. More storage--both onboard (16GB) and via microSD expansion--and the ability to read EPUB files could be big news for those who want flexibility. There's plenty of expansion room, and you'll have a hard time running out of space for your apps or your magazine downloads.

Bloomberg:
Barnes & Noble’s one-year head start in developing software really shows: scrolling is smoother, the screen reorients itself faster and the device just generally feels zippier.

November 17 2011 at 6:48 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
millermandg

Bunny, this is an article about tablets. nowhere does it claim to be a solution to unemployment. While your concern is admirable, not everything everybody does or says every second of every day necessarily has to be concerned with that one problem. If you are only interested in articles dealing with unemployment, I suggest you only read relative articles. And if you're not interested in tablets, just don't buy one.

November 17 2011 at 3:57 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to millermandg's comment
Tom

I agree 100%.

November 17 2011 at 7:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bunnyfunny47

It's a marketing world, all about getting your money. Just think, in the past few years all the gadgets we've purchased, yet in no-time flat, that "Got to have it item" is now sitting around collecting dust as they come out with "another better edition". And then, the other part of the story nobody dare talk about, these wonderful gadgets are not being made in this country, and even those that are, are being made by imported Visa workers. Please tell me how this is solving Americas unemployment problems. We're spending ourselves into the poor house.

November 17 2011 at 11:19 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply