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NOOK Tablet or Kindle Fire - Which is Better?

NOOK Tablet or Kindle Fire - Which is Better?

Both 7 inch Android tablets, costing only half as much as the legendary Apple iPad, the NOOK Tablet and the Kindle Fire make it a tough choice for those looking for their first ebook-reader-cum-tablet...
Abhijit Naik
Both Barnes & Noble (B&N) and Amazon have been manufacturing e-book readers for quite a while now. While B&N has the NOOK series to its credit, Amazon has the Kindle series to boast about. Now, they have decided to take a step forward and foray into the world of tablets which has been dominated by the likes of Apple, Samsung and Motorola. Amazon launched its first tablet PC, the Kindle Fire, on 15th November, 2011, while Barnes & Noble followed with the NOOK Tablet on 17th November, 2011. Roughly a week down the line, there seems to be a general consensus in the tech arena that Amazon's Kindle Fire is better than the B&N NOOK Tablet!
NOOK Tablet Vs. Kindle Fire
Basically, both - NOOK Tablet and Kindle Fire, fall short of expectations when compared with tablets like the iPad, Galaxy Tab or the Xoom. With the absence of some basic features such as a camera, Bluetooth, cellular capability or built-in GPS, it is virtually impossible for these tablets to take on the iPad, or even the Xoom for that matter. If that's the case, how can these tablets survive in a world dominated by the likes of the iPad and the Tab? One aspect which definitely works in favor of these tablets is the tempting 'price tag' that they come with. At US$249 and US$199 respectively, the NOOK Tablet and the Kindle Fire cost nearly half as much as the major tablets do. It is this very factor which makes some people believe that these tablets will eat into Apple's pie, and hence the tag iPad killer!
Here is a quick look at the specifications of both devices, though this by no means can help you decide which is a better product.
Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet Technical Specifications
Dimensions 8.1 × 5.0 × 0.48 inches
Weight 14.1 oz
CPU 1 GHz dual-core processor
RAM 1 GB
Display 7 inch 1024 × 600 at 169 pixels per inch (PPI)
16 million colors
OS Android 2.3 (Customized)
Storage 16 GB in-built (+32 GB microSDHC expansion)
Connectivity Wi-Fi and USB
Battery Life 11.5 hours (Wi-Fi off)
Price US$249

Amazon Kindle Fire Technical Specifications
Dimensions 7.5 × 4.7 × 0.45 inches
Weight 14.6 oz
CPU 1 GHz dual-core processor
RAM 512 MB
Display 7 inch 1024 × 600 at 169 pixels per inch (PPI)
16 million colors
OS Android 2.3 (Customized)
Storage 8 GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi and USB 2.0
Battery Life 8 hours (Wi-Fi off)
Price US$199

Which is Better: NOOK Tablet or Kindle Fire?
As we mentioned earlier, the tempting 'price tag' that these tablets come with is undoubtedly their USP as it is bound to attract all those people who are a little hesitant about spending a huge amount on buying tablets. In this case, the Amazon Kindle Fire with a price tag of US$199, i.e. $50 less than the NOOK Tablet, comes up as the winner. In the world of tablets, being smaller is also an advantage as carrying it around becomes a lot easier. Though the difference is marginal, the Kindle Fire excels over the Barnes & Noble tablet in this case as well. NOOK Tablet does have a customizable UI, but on the flip side this can make navigation a bit difficult unless you are well-versed with customization. On the other hand, the simple UI of the Kindle Fire adds to the user experience of this tablet.
Amazon's tablet also has the advantage in the storage department with Amazon Cloud Drive to its credit. Even though the NOOK Tablet does boast of more on board memory, one can't ignore the fact that B&N has only made 1 GB of this memory available for non-B&N content. On the other hand, with Fire you get access to Amazon's cloud storage, wherein 5 GB of cloud storage is absolutely free and you can add up to 1000 GB if you are willing to spend more. Even the much-talked about Silk browser introduced by Amazon taps the company's cloud storage system, though there is not much difference in the browsing experience between the two.
While Amazon started as an online book retailer, it is not restricted to books anymore. There is no dearth of digital content in the Amazon content ecosystem, and you get access to all this content when you choose the Fire tablet. While options like Netflix and Hulu do exist on both, accessing movies on the NOOK Tablet is not an easy task - or at least not as easy as it is in the Amazon content ecosystem. Similarly, the Amazon App Store has somewhere around 9000 third-party apps to offer, while Barnes & Noble (though it does promise more in the future) just has around 1000 apps to offer as of now, and that again is advantage Kindle Fire! All these things have to be taken into consideration when choosing between Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet and Amazon Kindle Fire.
IN CONCLUSION
In exchange for the extra US$50 you pay for the NOOK, you get another 8 GB of on board storage, and the option to add an SD card. However, with only 1 GB available for user content, it does not really make sense. The Fire gives you a free 5 GB cloud storage option, which is better as all content downloaded from Amazon can be stored to the cloud, always ready for you to access. This leaves you with the 8 GB on board storage relatively free for other content. The US$50 does give you an extra 512 MB RAM, though with both devices sporting 1 GHz processors, this might not be as useful as you are led to believe. Remember the iPad has 512 MB RAM as well, and we are yet have to hear of any bottlenecks or lagging in the user experience.
The rest of the features of both the devices are more or less similar, and it should be kept in mind that these are primarily e-book readers that double as tablets, and not the other way round. Considering that the majority of the users or consumers of these 'tablets' will be 'readers', the extra RAM, and the higher memory of the NOOK Tablet almost fades into inconsequence. The Fire also has more apps available should you get bored of that book or magazine, and feel like taking a break from reading. At the end of the day, keeping in mind the primary use of the device, we would suggest that US$50 dollars makes a huge difference, therefore, opting for the Fire would be a better deal.
PS: No doubt, the NOOK Tablet (which happens to be Nook Color look-alike) looks better than the Fire, but at that price point we are ready to forgive Amazon for not doing such a great job on the Fire. That being said, the Fire is robustly built and there are actually no problems with the look of the device. Think PlayBook-esque.