Tablet Battle: Amazon’s Kindle Fire vs Barnes & Noble’s Nook

by Khalid Hosein on December 9, 2011

During the holiday season, many tech-oriented shoppers will be scrutinizing the market for the best valued tablet. While most analysts point to the iPad as the pinnacle of current tablet design and functionality, consumers have one big beef with the product: its price. The iPad 2 starts at a whopping $499, a price that most consumers simply can’t afford in this economy. So let’s set aside the iPad 2 and consider some of the more economical tablet options for the holiday shopping season. Of course there are the other most talked about tablets to consider, Barnes and Noble’s Nook Tablet and Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Now that both tablets have been released, analysts expect the competition between the two to be fierce since they come in at similar price points and offer comparable features. But which of these tablets would work best for you, dear consumer?

Amazon’s Kindle Fire

Amazon and tech bloggers did a good job of building up the hype behind the Kindle Fire prior to it’s release in mid November. Even before its formal release, millions of people had pre-ordered the tablet without ever personally seeing it work in real time, and for good reason—the tablet starts at $199.

Amazon was true to their word about the Kindle being a new kind of tablet. Shoppers should note that the Kindle Fire is unlike an iPad in a number of ways. For one, its specs are much more limited than those on the Apple tablet: the Kindle Fire has a 1GHz dual core processor with 512MB of RAM, and 8GB for storage of music, movies, etc. It’s the perfect tablet for consuming mass quantities of digital media—the tablet it built around the user’s ability to download songs, films, or books on Amazon—without too much effort. Silk, Amazon’s newly minted browser for the Kindle Fire, helps users surf the web without taking too much of a toll on the tablet’s functionality. And you’ll need Silk for all the tasks you put to the Kindle Fire. For instance, if you purchase Amazon Prime, you get access to unlimited streaming of the latest television shows, movies, and music for duration of your subscription. You’ll be able to toggle between watching the latest blockbuster, reading your favorite fantasy novel, and listening to a blues album with just a few simple taps. And rest assured, the interface on the Kindle Fire is very simple to understand.

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On the downside, the Kindle Fire has been criticized as being too limited for tablet. True, you can’t do all the things on it that you can do on an iPad, but what do you expect in a $199 tablet? Maintenance on the Kindle Fire is another issue, as there isn’t a physical store where you can have your tablet serviced. Theoretically you’d have to ship the tablet to Amazon if you need it fixed. The device has also been cited as being a little bulky and aesthetically rougher than the iPad.

Barnes and Noble’s Nook Tablet

If you’re not sold by the Kindle Fire but you still want to save money on your tablet purchase, definitely consider the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet. At $249 it’s a slightly more expensive machine, but you get more for your money. For starters, the specs are better than the Kindle’s; it has the same processor, but boasts 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage space. What’s more, the Nook Tablet has a slot for portable memory cards up the 32GB in size, something lacking on the Kindle Fire.

On the hardware and functionality side of things, the Nook Tablet certainly has loads to offer. It features two screens, a large LCD screen for displaying content and a much smaller touch screen to interface with the tablet. This setup stands in contrast to the Kindle Fire’s all-in-one touch screen interface, but fans of the Nook Tablet don’t seem fazed by the difference in design.

The Nook Tablet similarly gobbles up eBooks, video content and music files with the same voracity as the Kindle Fire, but the dual screen feature may entice consumers looking for a more dynamic device. The Nook Tablet will also have the advantage in customer service, since people can go to their local Barnes and Noble store whenever they have a question about their tablet. Some analysts even speculate that the stores will install a type of Apple Genius Bar for Nook Tablet customers, built solely to accommodate their concerns.
While the Nook Tablet has plenty of enjoyable features, consumers won’t be able to tell much difference between it and the Kindle Fire after a quick comparison. It certainly stands alone as its own tablet, but the $50 price differential may sway more consumers to Amazon.

Lauren Bailey writes regularly about accredited online colleges. She welcomes your comments at blauren99@gmail.com.

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