Google Nexus 7 Vs. B&N Nook Tablet

Google Nexus 7 and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet successfully address a market segment (sub $199 Tablets) that was ignored by Apple. We always suspected that there was a market for low-cost tablets, but everyone else was busy competing against the iPad. Now, Nook Color and Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire and Galaxy Nexus 7 have blown away the illusion that ‘there is no Tablet market, there is only an iPad market’.

The introduction of these two tablets and the Kindle Fire signifies a mini revolution. Barnes & Noble was the first vendor to successfully introduce a low-cost tablet (something for which it seems to never get credit) and Google Nexus 7 is the first Tablet that is a fully functional, low-cost tablet with advanced hardware capabilities and full Android app access.

It makes sense to do a Google Nexus 7 vs B&N Nook Tablet comparison as they are, in our opinion, the two most advanced 7″ Tablets (they also are the two latest). We get a chance to see where they stand with respect to each other.

While you might be tempted to decide that the Google Nexus 7 is the better among these two options, there are certain considerations that make B&N Nook Tablet a worthy competitor for certain groups of users.

Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet

Important Specifications:

  • Processor: 1 GHz TI OMAP4 Dual Core Processor
  • RAM: 512 MB/1 GB (Two models)
  • Built-in Memory: 8 GB/16 GB
  • Expandable Memory: MicroSD Slot, Up to 32 GB
  • Price: $199/ $249 USD. There was recently a $50 off coupon on the 16 GB $259 one and there might be more such offers.
  • Dimensions:  5″ x 0.48″ x 8.1″ (W x D x H)
  • Weight: 14.1 Ounces
  • Display resolution: 1024 x 600 pixels
  • Wi-Fi: Built-in, IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
  • Speakers: Mono speakers
  • Camera/Microphone: No/Yes
  • Headphone jack: 3.5 mm standard headphone jack

Striking advantages of the Nook Tablet:

  1. If you are already a regular user of the Barnes & Noble book store and your application is primarily to read eBooks with occasional usage of tablet features, you might want to invest in a reader-and-tablet device manufactured by B&N.
  2. Nook Tablet is a boon for eBook readers who primarily want a reading tablet and also want to use the same device for other uses. One can buy and read books from the Barnes & Noble store, listen to music from Pandora, watch movies from Hulu/Netflix, play games, access important apps from the B&N app repository to extend the device functionalities. B&N is focused on reading and if you want a Tablet focused on reading then Nook Tablet is still the joint top option (tied with Nexus 7 for reading in our opinion).
  3. The expandable memory slot (up to 32 GB) is something that everyone wants and both Google and Amazon have ignored in their respective tablets. But B&N Nook Tablet got this right and many people have bought this tablet exclusively for the expandable memory option. To Google & Amazon: There are times when people don’t want to, or can’t connect to the Internet. This is perhaps the biggest advantage of the B&N Nook Tablet after the fact that it’s the best choice for B&N customers.
  4. B&N’s Nook Tablet is easier to understand and use. Nexus 7 is a bit of an adventure (and not necessarily always in the good sense) when it comes to the user interface.
  5. The Nook Tablet has one of the best anti-reflective screens among all the eReader/tablet devices. The company seems to know how much a reader is affected due to glare. Nexus 7 does a good job but not as good as Nook Tablet.
  6. The battery life of the Nook Tablet is slightly better than what is available with the Google Nexus 7. We can attest to the fact that playing games on Nexus 7 results in battery life times less than claimed. B&N’s Nook Tablet holds up better.
  7. Though Android app usage is regulated/restricted, B&N still has a good collection of all the important apps required by tablet users. Some of them come preloaded with the device. Barnes & Noble has an exhaustive collection of eBooks, magazines and it has partnered with the top content providers for audio/video streaming (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, etc).
  8. If you have problems you can call up B&N customer service or visit a B&N store and get help.

In summary, if you’re a B&N customer or you want a ‘Reading Tablet’ or you want more memory (via SD Card or via the 16 GB model), then waiting for the next Nook Tablet (and there definitely will be a next sale) is a good option.

In stark contrast, B&N is not a good choice if you want ‘the default Android Experience’, want all the apps from the Android Play Store, or want a Tablet that can handle the latest 3D tablet games at great speeds.

Striking limitations of the Nook Tablet:

  1. Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet does not use stock Android – it uses a customized version of it. Hence, only the apps made available for this device (by B&N) are available to people. Users don’t have access to the Google Play app store. Users also don’t have access to other Play offerings like movies and music.
  2. People cannot use the Nook Tablet to read books/magazines from Amazon/Sony/Kobo/Google or other ecosystems. The device is tightly locked to the Barnes & Noble book store.
  3. The device does not have GPS (location/directions), Camera (video chat), Bluetooth (sharing files, syncing with mobile).
  4. Lower screen resolution (when compared to Google Nexus 7). The device is not made to play high-end 3D games. Please Note: It does super well with the general Angry Birds and Cut the Rope type of games. It just won’t run Infinity Blade (not available anyways) as well as Nexus 7 (not sure if Nexus 7 has Infinity Blade either).
  5. The device is not available outside the US. This is a big flaw that B&N need to fix. It reduces sales and thus reduces market size for developers and thus leads to fewer apps being added to the store. That in turn makes Nook Tablet less competitive. Fixing this would perhaps double sales and help make the app ecosystem a lot more vibrant.
  6. Out of the 5 GB/16GB of available space in the built-in memory, 1 GB/12GB is reserved for Nook store content. That leaves very little for storing general purpose files. But the expandable memory slot is always available. Please Note: You can go to a B&N store and have the hard drive repartitioned. However, B&N should have been more generous with how much memory space it allocated to non B&N content.

Some of these limitations might be deal breakers for you.

Google Nexus 7 Tablet

Important specifications:

  • Processor: Quad-Core Tegra 3 Processor
  • RAM: 1GB/1GB (Two models)
  • Built-in Memory: 8 GB/16 GB
  • Expandable Memory: Not available.
  • Price: $200/ $249 USD (may vary depending on where you buy)
  • Dimensions: 4.72″ x 0.41″ x 7.81″ (W x D x H)
  • Weight: 12 Ounces
  • Display resolution: 1280 x 800 pixels, HD display
  • Wi-Fi: IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
  • Speakers: Yes
  • Camera/Microphone: Yes (1.2 MP)/ Yes
  • Headphone jack: Yes
  • Android version: 4.1, Jelly Bean (latest)
  • Bluetooth/NFC: Available
  • Additional features: Accelerometer, Magnetometer, Gyroscope

Striking advantages of Google Nexus 7 Tablet:

  1. High capacity processor, 1 GB RAM even in the entry-level model. Please Note: If you get Nook Tablet on sale then you still get 1 GB RAM. However, the processor on the Nexus 7 is still much better.
  2. Excellent hardware specifications – Value for money. Google Nexus 7 is really outstanding value for money.
  3. Front facing camera for video chat, Google+ hangouts. A big advantage if you video chat.
  4. Latest Open 4.1 Jelly Bean Android OS. Full access to all Android apps and Google app store. This is a big advantage if you want the latest OS, the full Google Play Store, or want an open device.
  5. Higher screen resolution, can display HD movies and other HD content with better clarity.
  6. NFC (Near Field Communications) and Bluetooth to transfer files/pairing with other devices. This is something that might be very important down the line.
  7. Easier access to and integrated with all Google services like Gmail, Google Chrome, Google Talk, Google Docs, Google Cloud storage, etc. If this is important to you, then Google Nexus 7 clearly does a better job here.
  8. GPS + Google Maps to get directions while driving. Since the device is WiFi only this might not make the most sense. However, it’s a good feature.
  9. Users can access Google Play, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony and other ecosystems (through apps). A big advantage.
  10. Available in US, Canada, Australia, UK. Expected to be available in more countries around the world shortly. Another big advantage.
  11. Good choice for playing 3D, Simulation based high-tech games.
  12. Light weight, thinner, easy to hold & carry. The Nook Tablet feels better in your hand. However, the textured grip of the Nexus 7 and the lighter weight and the thinness make it a better device for holding long-term.
  13. Includes Google Now which is a predictive personalized helper for identifying the nearest restaurants, bus stations, etc.
  14. Comes bundled with a voice recognition app.

From this list it should be clear that for the majority of people the Google Nexus 7 is going to be the better choice.

Striking limitations of Google Nexus 7 Tablet:

  1. No expandable memory option (Micro SD slot). Not everyone is comfortable with cloud storage, cloud streaming, cloud everything.
  2. Even though Google Nexus 7 tablet users can access B&N ecosystem through an app, the experience does not equal the native integration of B&N store with the Nook Tablet.
  3. The battery capacity is slightly lower than the Nook Tablet. This will not matter much to you unless battery life is a big requirement.
  4. The screen is relatively glare-inducing. This is a definite disadvantage.
  5. The user interface is not very intuitive.
  6. It’s a device optimized for gaming. If you aren’t into gaming then it makes sense to wait and see what Kindle Fire 2 and Nook Tablet 2 look like.

There are not very many limitations. It’s just a beautiful and solid device.

Google Nexus 7 vs B&N Nook Tablet Decision Tree

  1. If you can’t wait and must get a Tablet Now – Choose B&N Nook Tablet if you’re a B&N customer or must have an SD card or are looking for a ‘Reading Tablet’. Please wait for it to be on sale.
  2. If you can’t wait and must get a Tablet Now – Choose Google Nexus 7 for most cases.
  3. If you are willing to wait till August/September – See what Kindle Fire 2 is like.
  4. If you are willing to wait till October/November – See what Nook Tablet 2 and Kindle Fire 2 are like.

In most cases you will not go wrong if you buy the Google Nexus 7. In our opinion it’ll hold up well even against Kindle Fire 2 and Nook Tablet 2. B&N is promising a new LCD technology in the Nook Tablet 2 and content never available before on Tablets. If they deliver, then Nook Tablet 2 might be the best Tablet option for Holiday Season 2012. However, at the moment it doesn’t seem like anyone will be able to beat Galaxy Nexus 7 (unless an iPad Mini comes out in September/October).

10 Responses

  1. I’m guessing the Nexus 7 is also your choice if you have Bluetooth peripherals you want to use with your tablet. I’ve surprised myself, how much I use a BT keyboard with my iPhone. It’s so much easier to bang out an email, or even write a story (or a scene) into Evernote. And “Cut the Rope” — omg, my 2yo grandkid is addicted to that game! He used to swipe my phone just to see if I was paying attention, now he does it with a purpose in mind. Anyway, if the Nexus can pair with a BT keyboard, it could replace a lot of things that people use ultralite netbooks for now.

    • Yes, with some caveats. I don’t know much about Bluetooth and have never used it with any Tablet or with Nexus 7. So I’d recommend checking with someone who’s tested Bluetooth peripherals with the Nexus 7.

  2. Great review! As a B&N employee, it’s a relief to read a review in which the Nook is given the credit it deserves. The importance of the microSD card slot isn’t always obvious to customers, but there’s no excuse for the brushoff that professional tech reviewers usually give us on that count. I work at a small store in Ohio, and lemme tell you, our customers OFTEN don’t have constant access to wifi or smartphones with hotspots in order to access their content.

    I do have a couple corrections for you regarding compatible formats.
    The Nook devices accept lots of different formats, if you are willing to sideload your content. Is it true that the Nook is “locked down”? That depends on what you mean by locked down. I consider a device locked down if it WILL NOT accept a certain format. No compatibility.
    Lots of people have experience loading up iPods and other mp3 players, so sideloading their content isn’t a big deal. Libraries and 3rd party websites are treasure troves for free, compatible ebooks, as well as other ereaders’ stores. And, access to Google books is built into the shop function on Nooks, side-by-side with Nookbooks. Here’s a link to B&N’s specs page for developers. Please note the myriad compatible text formats:

    https://nookdeveloper.barnesandnoble.com/product/nook-tablet-specs.html

    And here’s a quote from a wikipedia article on ebook formats:

    “The only notable device lacking integrated support for the EPUB format is the Amazon Kindle, although there has recently been speculation that the Kindle will soon support this format.[4]”

    I will concede that the necessity to sideload doesn’t constitute full functionality in my book, but I felt that it was an important point to mention.

    In that vein lies my next correction, which is regarding the bluetooth. It is there, as it is in the Nookcolor, but it isn’t activated. It’s a combo chip with the wifi radio. I gather that the combo chips are cheaper than wifi only chips, so there you have it. But in this instance, unlike sideloading, it takes considerable technical skill to root the device and access this functionality. Hopefully the company will use this ace up their sleeve soon!

  3. Excellent review and comparison. I’m a B&N fan, and a Nook freak. I have a Nook Tablet, and bought the Nexus 7 because I thought I wanted something more. I was wrong. B&N has the best reading experience around, and that’s what I want first with the web surfing, games, and other glitz after the fact. Returned the Nexus 7, and rolling with B&N. I’ll wait for the Nook Tablet 2 because although it’ll be great hardware, I know the reading experience will still be top notch.

  4. Hi I’m just wondering…….. I want to gr a tablet for my mom who wants it more for reading, but the nexus 7 also says it has many reading apps. Every time I go into the store the people say of course this one is better (nook hd or nexus 7) no one really seems to know. So if I may ask if any knows how the reading selection are compared and really which one is better I would really appreciate it!!!!! Thank you “)

    • Heather, I haveboth and Nook HD is much better for reading. The screen is much better. It has 1440 by 900 resolution and 243 pixels per inch.

      Nexus 7 has 1280 by 800 pixels and 216 pixels per inch.

      Downside of Nook HD is that you can only read books bought from Nook or Kobo or any company that sells in ePub format.

      With Nexus 7 you can read Kindle ebooks also.

      • Thank you for replying!! Pardon my non smart self but may I ask how do you go about getting the books? Do you have to pay and which has a better selection? I’m very non tech and everywhere I look people just comment on the quality and not the books itself. I’m sorry but thank you again :)

      • Heather

        All ebook stores have paid books and free books.

        Nook you can get free books from

        1) Sites like Gutenberg.com.
        2) Library.
        3) B&N STore itself has a lot of free books.

        However, Nook Store does not have as many free books from indie authors as Kindle Store.

        Nexus 7 you have access to free books from all stores.

        Paid Books range is very similar in all the major stories. Amazon tends to have lower prices on some books.

        B&N, Amazon are both good in general.

        Major advantage of getting a Nexus 7 is you can pick either Amazon or B&N.

        Major advantage of getting Nook HD is that the entire device is focused on reading and reading related things and magazines and such.

      • Thank you very much for your feedback, I greatly appreciate it. It actually helped me a lot!!!! It’s nice to get some real help ^_^

      • My pleaseure Heather. Best of luck with your purchase.

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