's comparison photo

A few days ago, my dad asked me what I knew about the Nook. He was thinking about getting something he could read books on as well as surf the web and check email occasionally. So being the dutiful son I am, I spent 40 minutes putting together a spreadsheet to compare all the different features of Nook’s new tablet with Amazon’s new Kindle Fire.

Part of the reason these two products are creating such a splash is because of their price. While an iPad or iPad2 will run you closer to $500, both of these products are half that. And they don’t come with any contracts attaching you to a phone company’s Internet service. And unlike many of the cheap tablets out there already, these two are backed by Barnes & Noble and Amazon. They both already have an online infrastructure built up to push books to folks. Amazon at least (I haven’t check B&N as well) also has movies and music, making it a miniature iTunes. Because these two companies are so big and plan to sell more content to the person buying their device, they can also do like Apple and push a heavy subsidy, keeping the price of their device lower than a competitor with the same hardware who lacks the online sales.

  Kindle Fire Nook Tablet
Price $199.00 $250.00
  WiFi WiFi
Internet Amazon Silk cloud-accelerated browser “lightning fast Email, Web & smooth streaming video”
Display 7″ vibrant color IPS 7″ VividView touchscreen
battery life, wireless off 8 hrs continuous reading or 7.5 hrs video playback 11.5 hrs continuous reading or 9 hrs video
storage 8gb on device for 6k books 16gb, plus expandable memory with SD cards
  Free cloud storage for all Amazon content Always free Nook support in-store, + “Nook Cloud for backing up content and sharing some data??”
  multi-touch, dual core processor, 512mb ram multi-touch, dual core processor, 1gb RAM
  All of Amazon’s Android apps (Pandora) lots of games & apps (Pandora)
  Netflix app may be in DEV Netflix app
file types Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, non-DRM AAC, MP3, MIDI, OGG, WAV, MP4, VP8. Load EPUB (including Adobe DRM or DRM free) or PDF file types from your computer or microSD card
    Watch videos in MP4, or Adobe Flash Player format, 3GP, 3G2 MKV, WEBM (Video Codecs: H.264, MPEG-4, H.263, VP8)
    Load photos and create personal wallpaper: JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP
    Play audio on built-in mono speaker: MP3, MP4, AAC, AMR, WAV, OGG (Audio Codecs MP3, AAC, AMR, LPCM, OGG Vorbis)  

 So let’s look at features. I’ll start with the things that, in my mind, argue for the Kindle Fire. It’s $50 cheaper, which gives it that $200 price tag that will help make it all the more of an impulse buy for people. Amazon has integrated the browser with cloud acceleration. So supposedly this will make commonly visited webpages load much faster than if they weren’t accelerated by the cloud. It also sports free cloud storage for any of that Amazon content I mentioned earlier. That will make the hard drive space last a lot longer, if you don’t have to worry about bogging it down with books, music & movies that you buy. It also comes with the Amazon App Market. This is a different twist on the Android Market that Google has. Basically Amazon makes some of its own deals with developers (like Plants VS Zombies), and hosts their apps on Amazon. Now many of the apps Android users love will also be available from Amazon, but not all of them. I saw from a quick scan that Dropbox is not available from Amazon, so I’d have to change my file syncing software to SugarSync if I bought this device. It also supposedly has a Netflix app in development, but not yet available.

Now for the Nook Tablet. It has a longer lasting battery. The times listed above are from the company, and usually companies pad their battery estimates a bit. After both products are for sale, people will start doing benchmarks to see if they really can last as long as they claim. It has twice the hard drive space as well as expandable memory thru SD cards. I like this feature quite a bit, since I always worry about running out of space on things. For those of you who don’t like tech support over the phone where you have to figure out how to describe the problem, the Nook also sports ‘free in-store support’. So go to your local B&N store, and someone there can help you troubleshoot any issue you’re having. It has twice as much RAM as the Fire, and an already developed Netflix app. And a big difference for me is that Nook supports EPUB file format. I have access to different book sources, and some of them may be most easily available in this format. And I like that I have the option.

For all the things they have in favor of either, some may be misleading as to how important they are to the final product. In early previews, some folks reported the Nook being a little sluggish in its interface, whereas the Fire (sporting good old Android) was rather zippy. So that RAM amount really might not be such a big perk. Heck, the iPad2 has just 512MB and it does fine according to most folks. But any issues the Nook had may be ironed out before it actually goes on sale, or via an update you can download after you activate the device the first time.

As I told my dad, my simple answer is this: I’d wait. Both products either just went on sale or are in pre-order stage. Let them hit the hands of the early adopters, let product reviews roll in and security/functionality bugs get patched. And with all the extra information I then have, I’ll decide which one I want and ask Santa for it.

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