If it’s a cheap tablet you’re after, Barnes & Noble and Amazon want your business. Amazon’s $199 Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s $249 Nook Tablet both look promising on paper—the former with its suite of Amazon services, and latter with its superior specs and more diverse streaming video offerings—but chances are, you’ve only got room for one tablet on your holiday wish list.
As is often the case with gadgets, finding the best 7-inch tablet is a matter of figuring out your personal needs. Below, I’ll divvy up the strengths of the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire so you can figure out what’s most important.
The Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire both have app stores, but Amazon’s tablet has a bigger selection. Its gaming library, in particular, is much more diverse, with categories for RPGs, strategy games, shooters and more, whereas the Nook focuses mostly on lighter fare. The Amazon Appstore also offers more free apps, and gives away one paid app every day.
Advantage: Kindle Fire
Netflix is integrated with the Nook Tablet, pushing recommendations to the user’s home screen, and Hulu Plus is pre-loaded, making Barnes & Noble’s tablet a strong streaming video device. Although the Kindle Fire has its own streaming video service through Amazon Prime, it’s only ideal for people who already subscribe to the $79-per-year service for something else, be it the limited book rental library or free two-day shipping. For everyone else, the Nook Tablet’s video services have a better selection and wider availability on other devices, such as smartphones and game consoles. Streaming music is a toss-up, with both tablets offering apps for Pandora, MOG and Rhapsody. (UPDATE: The Kindle Fire will be getting a Netflix app at launch. I’m still giving the edge to the Nook Tablet for now for its Hulu Plus support.) (UPDATE 2: Amazon now says it’s getting a Hulu Plus app on launch day as well, giving the Fire more streaming video options than the Nook Tablet. I’m changing my vote here.)
Nook Tablet Kindle Fire
The Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet hit all the same feature checkboxes for e-reading. Both devices offer millions of e-books, plus newspapers and magazines. For parents, the Nook Tablet gets a slight edge for its “Read and Record” capability, which lets you record your own story narrations, but Amazon Prime members will prefer the Kindle Fire for its selection of free e-book rentals. Comic book fans will be divided; the Nook Tablet will have graphic novels from Marvel, while the Kindle Fire has a deal with DC.
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