The 7-inch tablet market just got a whole lot more interesting, with the newly-released $199 Kindle Fire and the $249 Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet. According to what you may have read, both of these tablets will surely kill the iPad.
They won’t, actually, but they’ll spend plenty of time trying to kill each other nonetheless. So which one is best? Neither. Or both. It depends what you want to do with them. Here’s a look at some of the similarities and differences, pros and cons, apples and oranges.
The Nook Tablet wins this round. It has a better overall build quality than the Kindle Fire, which is a good thing considering the $50 price difference. It’s got dedicated volume buttons and an N-shaped home button, whereas the Kindle Fire has no volume buttons, a software-based home button and its power button is located on the bottom of the device. After accidentally turning it off for the fifth time in 10 minutes while reading a book, I eventually started just using the Kindle Fire upside down. The Nook Tablet is also a little bit lighter than the Kindle Fire, though not by enough to make a huge difference.
Under the hood, the Nook has double the RAM of the Fire, resulting in a snappier overall experience. It’s also got double the storage and an expansion slot to add more, though of the Nook Tablet’s 16 gigabytes of storage, only one gigabyte is available for content you load onto the device yourself. So that expansion slot immediately comes in handy.
As for the screen, the Kindle Fire’s is slightly brighter and reproduces white better, while the Nook Tablet’s is more responsive and has better viewing angles.
Battery life will vary depending upon what you’re doing, but the Nook Tablet promises up to 11.5 hours of reading or nine hours of video with Wi-Fi turned off and the device’s power save mode enabled, while Amazon promises up to eight hours of reading or 7.5 hours of video with wireless turned off. In the real world, I found the Nook Tablet to last about seven hours and the Kindle Fire to last about six. That’s with mixed media usage, Wi-Fi turned on, and screen brightness set at about 75 percent.
This one’s kind of a toss-up. I find the Kindle Fire’s overall interface to be more intuitive, while the Nook Tablet’s got some cool integration with reading content and Netflix. For instance, there’s a “Keep Reading” icon on the top of the Nook Tablet’s screen that allows you to jump back into whatever you’ve been reading most recently, and there’s a quick “More” menu that shows popular movies and TV shows from Netflix that you can launch directly.
I like the Kindle Fire’s web browser because it has tabs, though the Nook Tablet’s browser is faster overall—even despite Amazon’s “Silk” technology that offloads some of the heavy lifting to Amazon’s own servers. If you don’t care about tabs, the Nook Tablet’s browser has the edge.
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