Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet

This Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet review is actually more of a comparison. We’ll break it into three parts -

  1. Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet in plain English. No terminology other than ounces and inches.
  2. Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet – Certain Important Areas. We’ll go into some technical details here but will also explain them in pure English.
  3. Where the $199 Nook Color fits. Because it does have a role to play.

My experience with Tablets:

  1. Kindle Fire – None. It hasn’t shipped yet. Just know the specifications and details Amazon has chosen to share.
  2. Nook Tablet – None. It hasn’t shipped yet. Just know the specifications and details B&N has chosen to share.
  3. Nook Color – Lots. Have had it since launch and use it a lot. Note: It’s good enough to effectively end my use of the iPad. If you are also considering an iPad – Think twice before paying double or triple for a device that does mostly the same things that Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet will do.
  4. iPad – Quite a bit. Don’t use it any more since it’s just not as convenient as a 7″ Tablet. Plus the Nook Color’s 169 dpi screen blows away the iPad 1’s 132 dpi screen.

Let’s start with Part 1 of our Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet review & comparison.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet (Plain English version)

These are both 7″ Tablets.

Here’s how they measure up:

  1. Price: Kindle Fire is $199 which is $50 cheaper than the Nook Tablet’s $249 price.
  2. Screen: It seems that Nook Tablet’s screen will be slightly better. It is supposed to even support HD movies. However, we really need to wait and see how the two screens (which both use stunning IPS technology) compare.
  3. New Books: Amazon has more new books and slightly better prices. B&N isn’t far behind, but it is behind.
  4. Free Books: B&N has more free books in its store (millions from Google). Basically, it’s easier to get free books in B&N’s store. Amazon has more offers on new books but it also does no quality control so there are lots of terrible books amongst these offers.
  5. Prime Program: If you pay $79 a year, then you can join Amazon Prime and get three main benefits – 1 book to read every month out of a few thousand books, 2-day free shipping on any purchases at Amazon, free Amazon Prime video streaming (smaller choice than services like Netflix). Amazon adds in 1 month of this free with Kindle Fire but you shouldn’t factor this in until you include the $79 price.
  6. Movies: Nook Tablet will have Netflix and Hulu+ built-in. Kindle Fire will have Amazon’s Video streaming service built-in and also is in talks with Hulu+ and Netflix. Please Note: These have to be paid for separately. None of these are free, unless you are a Prime Member in which case Amazon’s Video streaming (a limited set) is free.
  7. Magazines: Both seem very good for magazines. No differences here.
  8. Newspapers: Again, both are good for newspapers. No significant difference here.
  9. TV Shows: Please see section on Movies. B&N has an advantage in that it already supports Hulu+ and Netflix. However, Amazon might nullify that soon.
  10. Free Movies and TV: This depends on whether you get Prime. If not, then there’s little difference here.
  11. Music: Amazon has its own store. It will probably also support some services like Pandora. Nook Tablet comes preloaded with Pandora and trials of Rhapsody, MOG, and Grooveshark. These are paid and not free. If you want to load iTunes or Amazon store music – both will work. Kindle Fire will have better integration for music bought from Amazon’s music store.
  12. Weight: Kindle Fire is 14.6 ounces, while Nook Tablet is 14.1 ounces. Given that you might be doing things like Email and reading books and watching movies, a difference of 0.5 ounces isn’t negligible.
  13. Size: Kindle Fire is 7.5″ by 4.7″ by 0.45″. Nook Tablet is 8.1″ by 5″ by 0.48″. It seems that Kindle Fire is a bit smaller and that might be important to you.
  14. Battery Life: B&N is promising 11.5 hours of reading or 9 hours of video with wireless off. That seems almost too good to be true. Kindle Fire promises 8 hours of reading or 7.5 hours of video playback with wireless off. Given that both companies are probably stretching things a bit, Nook Tablet seems to have a significant advantage.
  15. Ease of Use: This is a tough one. Nook Color is very easy to use – so Nook Tablet should be too. Kindle Fire has been getting good feedback from people who have seen it in action. This might be a tie or Amazon might win this one.
  16. Speed: B&N’s Nook Tablet is likely to win this one comfortably.
  17. Speed of Browsing the Net: Kindle Fire uses the Silk Browser and is likely to win on browsing speed. You might have privacy or other concerns with the fact that everything goes through Amazon’s servers but not sure if that’s big enough to nullify the speed advantage the Silk browser will have.
  18. Browsing the Web: We’ve covered speed already. General browsing should be fine on both tablets. I’ve done things like grocery shopping on Nook Color and it’s very workable.
  19. Email: B&N’s Email software is very good. It takes a bit of tinkering in some cases but it works great. Kindle Fire will probably have good email support too. We’ll have to wait and see before declaring one the winner.
  20. Memory: Nook Tablet wins this. Kindle Fire comes with 8 GB memory and 6 GB of that will be available. Nook Tablet will come with 16 GB memory and presumably 14 GB of that will be available. This is one area where I’ll disagree strongly with a lot of the main stream media – Cloud Storage does not make up for less memory. There’s nothing quite like having the file right there with you and not being dependent on WiFi. The difference between 14 GB of available memory and 6 GB of available memory is very significant. Note: B&N tends to reserve some of the memory for B&N purchases – so you might be left with less than 14 GB of available memory.
  21. Memory Expansion: Nook Tablet wins this too. Kindle Fire can only expand into the Cloud. There is no SD Card slot. Nook Tablet has an SD Card slot which allows adding up to 32 GB of memory and also things like easily swapping in a SD Card from your camera to see photos. You can also carry around an SD Card with an Android hack that lets you switch between B&N’s default OS and a version of Android easily. In my opinion, if you’d like to hack your Tablet, then the Nook Tablet’s SD Card slot allows for a lot of convenience (the option to switch between B&N and Android OSes smoothly).
  22. Children’s Books: B&N has made a very concerted effort in books and apps for children. Kindle Fire will probably be close but Nook Tablet will have a slight advantage.
  23. Apps: Amazon’s Android App Store has ‘thousands of apps’ and probably more range than B&N’s App Store which has around 1,100 Apps. The latter is adding apps at a very steady pace and might reach 2,000 apps by end of 2011. Note: Amazon hasn’t yet broken out how many Kindle Fire compatible apps it has.
  24. App Prices: Both stores have good prices. Amazon focuses more on free apps which means you will get more free apps in the Amazon store. In the long term, it might hurt Amazon since the focus on treating apps as commodities and developers as commodities might scare off quality developers.
  25. Cloud Storage for Content bought from Amazon/B&N: Both offer Cloud Storage. Amazon is the world leader in Cloud Storage so its clouds are probably whiter and puffier and have a thicker silver lining. If Cloud Storage is something you care about, Amazon edges B&N.
  26. Display Strength: Amazon seems to have Gorilla Glass for the Kindle Fire. That’s a clear advantage over the Nook Tablet’s prettier but less sturdy display.
  27. Stuff from Outside and Format Support: Amazon will make it tough to get things from other stores. It will add Netflix and Hulu Plus. However, ePub books are not supported and less formats are supported. B&N has the edge here. B&N supports more formats of nearly every type (ebooks, movies, audio).
  28. Hackability: Nook Tablet will be easier to hack and the SD Card slot will make it easy to switch back and forth. You can use the SD Card to easily switch between B&N for ebooks and Android for lots of free games. Note: Hacking will be possible with Kindle Fire too. It just won’t be as convenient. If you’re not tech-savvy but are willing to experiment a bit – then Nook Tablet is a better choice. If you’re tech savvy – then both are the same.
  29. Office Support: Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet will both have apps that support Office documents. Nook Tablet does support more formats straight off the bat. Nook Tablet supports – Excel, Word, Powerpoint. Kindle Fire supports Word. You can get apps for either that support all Office Applications.
  30. Customer Service: Amazon wins here.
  31. Store Customer Service: B&N wins here. Amazon doesn’t have stores.

That was a longer list than ideal. Let’s look at it from another perspective.

Areas where Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are near-identical

  1. Movies. If you’re willing to wait until Amazon gets Netflix and Hulu+, then there is little difference here.
  2. Free Movies. If you don’t care about getting Prime and getting the videos included in Prime streamed free to your Kindle Fire, then there’s little difference here.
  3. Magazines, Newspapers.
  4. Music if you buy from iTunes – no significant differences.
  5. Ease of Use.
  6. Browsing Experience (other than speed). Listing this separately since there are two aspects – what sites you can use it for, how fast those sites are. If speed isn’t very important to you, then both Tablets are equivalent (or rather – should be equivalent).
  7. Email.

It’s interesting to see that Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet is a tie in most of the key areas i.e. movies, music from iTunes, Email, browsing (if speed isn’t a big thing for you).

Areas where Kindle Fire is better

  1. Price – this might be the Kindle Fire’s biggest advantage. Please do see my note on ‘future-proof’ness below.
  2. New Books. Slightly.
  3. Prime Program. This is very specific – If you’re a Prime member, then that might make Kindle Fire very compelling because of the free streaming and the 1 free book a month offer (out of a limited set of movies and books, respectively).
  4. Music, if you buy from Amazon (due to better integration).
  5. Size. Kindle Fire is slightly more compact.
  6. Faster Browsing.
  7. Apps. Note: In the long-term, the B&N store might pull ahead because it is focused on apps for just one device. Amazon’s App Store caters to a lot of different devices and also to Android phones.
  8. App Prices.
  9. Cloud Storage. B&N will have this too but Amazon is best of breed in Cloud Storage.
  10. Display Strength. An underrated advantage.
  11. Customer Service.

The big advantages for the Kindle Fire are – Price, Prime Program (if you get it), Faster Browsing, Apps (though not in the long-term), App prices, display durability, customer service.

Price is the killer advantage and the one that might gift Amazon the #1 spot in the sub $250 Tablet market. Display durability is one very significant advantage that’s being ignored.

Areas where Nook Tablet is better

  1. Screen. Nook Tablet might have a significantly better screen.
  2. Free Books. Easier to get free books on Nook Tablet though you can also get all those books on Kindle Fire (with a little more effort).
  3. It’s future-proof to a much larger extent. More on that below.
  4. Weight.
  5. Battery Life. Significantly better – based on claims of both tablet makers.
  6. Speed. Nook Tablet is likely to be faster for anything that is memory intensive (RAM memory).
  7. Memory for storage.
  8. Memory Expansion.
  9. Children’s Books.
  10. Support from Outside and Format Support.
  11. Hackability.
  12. Office Support. B&N has a slight edge since it supports Excel and Powerpoint natively.
  13. Store Customer Service.

Nook Tablet’s main advantages are – Future-Proof, probably will have a better screen, significantly better battery life, more memory and memory expansion, much better support for formats including ePub and in-built support for Excel and Powerpoint, hackability.

The most underrated advantages are – it’s Future-Proof (explained more below), more memory and memory expansion, hackability, wider format support, wider retail availability.

The common consensus is that the $249 price of the Nook Color means it automatically loses. Unfortunately, people are very focused on the short-term and the pundits might be right about the $50 price difference dooming the Nook Tablet. It would be a pity since -

  • Nook Tablet is much better prepared for the future.
  • The $249 Nook Tablet seems to be as good a buy as the $199 Kindle Fire.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet – What Future Proof means and why you should consider it

If you can’t afford more than $199, then you should disregard Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet and consider Kindle Fire vs Nook Color.

However, if $50 more is something you can afford, you really should think about how long you will own a Tablet and what you would like your ownership experience to be over the life of your Tablet.

Nook Tablet has a lot of features that make it future-proof i.e.

  1. The processor is dual core and 1 GHz. This is the same as Kindle Fire. It’s a very fast processor and very capable of handing your evolving needs.
  2. The memory is 1 GB (this is RAM memory, which is used when apps or video or browser are being run – this is one of the most important determinants of performance). This is double that of the Kindle Fire’s 512 MB. Note: This is used for every thing you do – So it has an impact on everything. Things like reading a book, the difference will be slim to none. However, the minute you jump into watching video and playing advanced games – it will make a difference. With time, the impact will be more. By mid 2012, you’ll be very glad you have 1 GB of RAM on your Nook Tablet.
  3. Space for storing movies and music and apps is more than double on the Nook Tablet. 6 GB of available memory for Kindle Fire and probably 14 GB for Nook Tablet. Note: B&N tends to reserve some of the space for B&N purchases. So you might be left with less than 14 GB of available space.
  4. Memory Expansion. The SD Card slot on the Nook Tablet makes it easy to expand even further. Take the iPad – You could get a 16 GB version for $500 or pay hundreds more for a 64 GB version. With Nook Tablet you can easily expand using just an SD Card (prices of which are constantly falling). Plus you can keep expanding by exchanging SD cards.
  5. ePub support. You can get books from other stores.
  6. More formats are supported. It’ll be easier to keep using Nook Tablet if your usage patterns and needs change.
  7. Slightly easier to hack and SD Card allows easy switching. Another thing that’s insurance for the future – especially if you are not tech-savvy.

Note: If you can follow simple instructions – you will probably be able to hack the Nook Tablet. The SD Card slot means you can run the hack from the SD Card and not interfere with the Nook Tablet OS that is on the Nook tablet’s in-built memory. So #7 is a big advantage for people who are not tech-savvy but can follow simple directions.

My main take-away from doing this Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet comparison – Nook Tablet offers considerable insurance for the future.

That short-term $50 savings might be pretty costly in future. The double RAM memory seems excessive – However, with increasing requirements from games and movies, and ever evolving technology, it’s very good insurance. It’s the same with the 16 GB memory and the SD Card slot and ePub support – these are all real benefits and shouldn’t be swept under the rug of ‘not everyone needs these benefits, my needs are never going to change’.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet – the importance of $50

There might be good reasons why $50 is too much of a difference for you i.e.

Your Gift Budget is just $199. Your budget is just $199. You don’t need insurance against the future (perhaps you plan on buying a new Tablet in 9 months).

There might also be reasons that aren’t really good reasons i.e.

You’d rather save the money for $50 worth of books (which isn’t really worth it if you consider what you’re losing in future insurance).

If $199 is your hard limit, then consider this rough Kindle Fire vs Nook Color comparison.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet – Amazon’s Ecosystem and Amazon Prime

If you are already firmly embedded in Amazon’s ecosystem, or if you find Amazon Prime very compelling, then the Kindle Fire at $199 seems an especially good bet. Here are some pros and cons to be aware of -

  1. You have to pay for Amazon Prime. It’s $79 a year. The ‘Free Prime’ you see is just one month of free Amazon Prime.
  2. Amazon Prime offers free 2-day shipping on things you buy from Amazon. That’s a clear benefit. Amazon Prime comes with free video streaming – However, the number of titles and the range is limited. We aren’t talking about a range like Netflix. Amazon Prime comes with Free Book Lending (1 a month, only 1 out at a time) – However, the number of titles is limited to a few thousand and none of the Big 6 Publishers are participating. The only really big advantage is free 2-day shipping. The others are nice bonuses but not as big as you might think.
  3. Amazon has a big advantage in Cloud services and overall Ecosystem and is likely to continue to expand this advantage.

It’s a very strong dichotomy – If you’re already an Amazon customer, then Amazon is making things better and better for you. If things like Amazon Prime don’t hold much value for you (the free 2-day shipping), then most of these advantages are quite limited.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet should factor in ‘Tablet ecosystem’ and ‘full Tablet lifetime’

Tablet Ecosystem – Benefits of Amazon’s ever-evolving ecosystem. B&N’s ecosystem is still in the emerging phase.

Full Tablet Lifetime – How well will Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet cope as Tablets in 1 or 2 years?

Do you want the benefits of Amazon’s ever-evolving ecosystem OR Do you want the strong insurance against the future that the Nook Tablet provides?

It’s a choice between -

  1. Amazon’s Cloud + $50 + Amazon Prime benefits. Versus.
  2. Nook Tablet’s stronger foundation which better prepares it to be a tablet that can handle the next 2 to 3 years.

The good news is that you can’t really go wrong. Choose the Kindle Fire and you can always point to the benefits of the Amazon Cloud. Choose the Nook Tablet and you can always point to the double RAM memory and more than double available storage.

Additionally, both Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet will have excellent resale value since they are both heavily subsidized. You should be able to get $125 for Kindle Fire and $175 to $200 for Nook Tablet for most of 2012.

Does Nook Color have a place in Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet?

Very roughly, we would say -

  1. Nook Tablet as your best choice if you want a Tablet that can handle the next 2 to 3 years smoothly.
  2. Kindle Fire as your best choice if you want a $199 Tablet with all the Amazon Ecosystem goodness.
  3. Nook Color as your best choice if you want a $199 Tablet that offers memory expansion and ePub support and B&N benefits.

These three Tablets are very, very close when it comes to value for money.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet comes down to what you find important, and what you want from a tablet. Will add in my full recommendation after playing around with Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet in the second half of November. At the moment, both Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet seem dangerous, hungry new Tablets that will bite real chunks out of the Tablet market. My recommendation – you really can’t go wrong with either. If you’re future-focused, then get the Nook Tablet. If you’re Amazon-focused, then get Kindle Fire.

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