The revamped Nook lineup

Today B&N announced a lower-cost version of its Nook Tablet, the “reader’s tablet” with a 7″ color LCD screen, which I’ve discussed before here. This new version matches Amazon’s Kindle Fire pretty much spec-for-spec and dollar-for-dollar by reducing the price to just $199. It also reduced the memory to match the Kindle Fire, now with 8 GB of internal storage (instead of 16 GB for the $249 Nook Tablet version) and 512 MB of RAM (instead of 1 GB for the $249 version).

A quick re-cap of the specs of both Nook Tablet versions (different specs in italics):

Nook Tablet:

  • $249
  • 7″ VividView IPS LCD touchscreen display with 1024 x 600 resolution
  • 1 GHz dual-core processor
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 16 GB of internal storage (plus SD card slot)
  • 14.1 oz
  • battery life: 11.5 hours reading / 9 hours video

Nook Tablet “Lite”:

  • $199
  • 7″ VividView IPS LCD touchscreen display with 1024 x 600 resolution
  • 1 GHz dual-core processor
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • 8 GB of internal storage (plus SD card slot)
  • 14.1 oz
  • battery life: 11.5 hours reading / 9 hours video

Probably a good move on B&N’s part to match the sub-$200 price of the Kindle Fire competition — I think many people would rather save $50 as a trade-off for the slightly reduced specs.

B&N also still offers the older-generation Nook Color (lowering the price by $30, to $169) and the e-Ink-based Nook Simple Touch (for $99).

The big news in the e-reader device world this year is the introduction of the Kindle Fire, a 7″ touchscreen LCD tablet that goes head-to-head with the new Nook Tablet, and undercuts the larger, more expensive Apple iPad 2. There is also a new generation of e-Ink-based e-reader devices, mostly focusing on adding touchscreens to the reading experience. And prices have come down fairly dramatically from last year, with sub-$100 e-readers fairly common.

Click on the device names in the bullet point lists for my more detailed posts about each model.

E-Readers

On the e-reader side, Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Sony all have new e-Ink based offerings, each offering touchscreen models. Prices have come down to about $100.

Amazon's new Kindle Touch

Amazon Kindle

Amazon has an array of new 4th-generation Kindles this holiday season, starting at just $79 for the simply-named “Kindle,” which is their basic e-reader, lacking a touchscreen and keyboard (the 3rd-generation models are now called “Kindle Keyboards”). They make up for lacking these features with a small size, low weight, and very low price, starting at just $79 ($109 without “special offers“).

Amazon also offers the Kindle Touch, which adds a touchscreen and starts at $99 ($139 without offers). Both models come with Wi-Fi connectivity. If you want to add 3G, the Kindle Touch 3G is $149 ($189 without offers).

Black Friday Deals:

Find the Kindle Keyboard 3G (normally $139) for just $89 at Best Buy. Target is offering it for $85 in-store on Black Friday.

Staples offers the $79 Kindle (with offers) with a free $15 gift card. Radio Shack does the same with a $10 gift card.

Of course, $79 for the basic Kindle is hard to beat — and you can order from Amazon or buy it anywhere without waiting in Black Friday lines.

UPDATE: The 9.7″ Kindle DX is $120 off, just $259 from Amazon until Monday.

Nook Touch

Barnes & Noble Nook

Barnes & Noble’s Nook Simple Touch has the same 6″ e-Ink Pearl screen as the Kindles, and (as the name implies) comes with a touchscreen. It is 7.5 ounces, has Wi-Fi, and adds an SD memory card reader. It retails for $139.

Black Friday Deals:

The Nook Simple Touch is just $79 for Black Friday, matching Amazon’s non-touchscreen Kindle, even without “special offers.” Alternately, Target offers a $30 gift card with the purchase of the Simple Touch for $99.

Kobo Touch

Kobo Touch

Kobo offers its $99 Kobo Wireless and $139 Kobo Touch, both of which have the same 6″ e-Ink screen as the B&N and Amazon models. Both models offer Wi-Fi connectivity, and the more expensive Touch (as the name implies) adds a touchscreen. They have only 1 GB of storage, but do include an expandable SD card slot, and come pre-loaded with 100 free public domain books.

Black Friday Deals:

Kobo is offering its Touch e-reader with “offers” for just $99.

Sony PRS-T1

Sony PRS-T1

The latest Sony e-reader, the PRS-T1 (also called the “Reader Wi-Fi”), continues Sony’s touchscreen tradition (while the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo are recent touchscreen converts, Sony e-readers have had touchscreens for years). Like the other 3 above, this model also comes with the 6″ e-Ink Pearl screen and Wi-Fi connectivity. The Sony touts itself as the lightest 6″ touchscreen e-reader (just 5.9 oz) and, like B&N, takes aim at Amazon’s ad-supported “special offers” models by calling itself “Awesomely Ad Free.” Sadly, at nearly double the cost of Amazon’s entry-level model, Sony maintains its tradition of overpricing.

Black Friday Deals:

I haven’t seen any yet, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled and update this post if I find any.

Tablets

Amazon and B&N’s new 7-inch offerings highlight the new tablet/e-reader hybrids, and Apple’s iPad 2 continues to be the top-selling tablet by a wide margin.

Amazon's Kindle Fire

Kindle Fire

Amazon’s Kindle Fire boasts a 7″ LCD touchscreen, a dual-core 1 GHz processor, and 8 GB of storage for movies and other content. More impressive than the hardware is Amazon’s custom software (including its cloud-computing-accelerated Silk Browser and unlimited cloud storage for Amazon content) and content ecosystem, which includes Amazon Video on Demand, the Amazon MP3 store, the Amazon Android App Store, and of course the Amazon Kindle Store with over 1 million e-book titles.

Probably the most impressive thing about the new Kindle Fire, however, is the price: at just $199, it undercuts B&N’s tablet substantially and is well under half the cost of the least expensive iPad 2.

Black Friday Deals:

I haven’t seen any yet, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled and update this post if I find any.

Nook Tablet

B&N Nook Tablet

B&N’s Nook Tablet is an update of last year’s Nook Color, and is of similar size to the Kindle Fire, with the same 7″ LCD touchscreen (although B&N boasts a laminated & bonded “VividView” display that is said to reduce glare and improve readability).

Its hardware specs are a little better than the Kindle Fire, with double the RAM and internal storage, although B&N only allows users to access a paltry 1 GB of that storage for their own stuff — the rest of the space is kept free to buy stuff from B&N. B&N lacks the large content ecosystem that Amazon has created, although it does have a healthy e-book store, interactive children’s books, magazines, and a small but growing app store.

Black Friday Deals:

If you’re OK with last year’s tablet model (the Nook Color), you can get it plus a $30 Target gift card for $199 at Target stores.

Apple iPad 2

Apple iPad 2

Apple’s iPad 2 is still the 900-pound gorilla of the tablet world (no, that’s not a crack about its weight), outselling all other tablets by a considerable margin. The smaller, lighter, cheaper Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet might be its first serious competition. However, the iPad counters their low prices with a larger 9.7″ LCD touchscreen, an external video camera, GPS, Bluetooth connectivity, available 3G connectivity, and a much more robust App Store.

On the down side, the iPad 2’s price ranges from $499 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi model, all the way up to $829 (plus data fees) for the 64 GB Wi-Fi + 3G model.

  • Apple iPad 2 ($499 from Apple): Wi-Fi (3G avail.), 9.7″ LCD touchscreen, 21.2 oz., 16-64 GB

Black Friday Deals:

Apple will be knocking $41 to $61 off the price of the iPad 2, so the 16 GB Wi-Fi model will sell for $458.

Conclusion

If you’re not sure which tablet you want, check out my Kindle Fire vs. Nook Tablet comparison post here. Whatever you decide, good luck with your holiday shopping, and please be sure to come back and comment if you find a better deal, or to let us know how you like your new e-reader or tablet!

Slotted as hybrid devices somewhere between full tablet computers like the iPad 2 and pure e-Ink based e-readers like the Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook Simple Touch, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have unveiled “e-reading friendly” tablets just in time for the 2011 holiday season. So let’s take a look at Amazon’s $199 Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s $249 Nook Tablet.

Both devices use 7″ LCD touchscreens, not the easier-on-the-eyes e-Ink screens of the Kindle. As such, they are designed for full color and video, including watching movies, playing games, surfing the Internet, and reading magazines.

In fact, these mini-tablets seem ideally suited for consuming content: movies, web pages, magazines, music, games and apps, children’s books with audio, and plain text e-books. To that end, Amazon has made it easy to consume lots of content: e-books from the Kindle e-book store, movies from Amazon’s video on demand service, music from Amazon MP3, and apps from Amazon’s Android app store. In fact, Amazon users who purchase Amazon Prime get access to a selection of thousands of free streaming movies and TV shows, as well as a selection of free apps, and a library of free e-book titles as well — and this is in addition to the free 2-day shipping on purchases of Amazon’s physical goods that the $79 Prime subscription already buys users (30 days of Prime is free with the purchase of a Kindle Fire). Amazon also leverages its cloud computing power to offer the Silk Browser (which speeds up Internet surfing by rendering webpages on Amazon’s supercomputers before sending it to your tablet), unlimited cloud storage for Amazon digital media purchases, and WhisperSync, which allows you to resume reading (or watching) when you switch from your Kindle Fire to your Kindle Touch, iPhone, or computer. (For my standalone post on the Kindle Fire, click here.)

B&N is also moving away from the “reader’s tablet” marketing of the original Nook Color and seems to have designed the Nook Tablet (which is really the “Nook Color 2”) as less of an e-reader and more of a tablet computer (the new name is a dead giveaway). To that end, they’ve beefed up the specs with a more powerful processor, and added apps (like Hulu Plus) more prominently to the device. Similarly to the Kindle Fire, it is designed as a content-consuming mini-tablet, able to stream movies, check email, surf the Internet, and display specially-produced multimedia children’s books (where narrators read the stories aloud and kids can interact with items on the screen). At $249 ($50 more than the Kindle Fire), it offers twice the RAM and double the internal memory of the Kindle Fire, and still costs only half as much as Apple’s iPad 2. (For my standalone post on the Nook Tablet, click here.)

The Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet, and Apple iPad 2.

The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are really more similar than different. They both share a 7″ IPS LCD touchscreen of 1,024 x 600 pixels, and both connect wirelessly through Wi-Fi. They are both similar in size and weight, with the Nook Tablet being slightly larger (0.6 inches taller) but lighter (by 0.5 ounces). They both sport identical 1 GHz dual-core Texas Instruments OMAP 4 processors. They are both based on customized versions of the Android operating system, and come with software that allows for email, web browsing, movie playback, listening to audio, running Android apps, playing games, and reading magazines and e-books. They are both significantly smaller and lighter than the iPad 2, and are less than half the price, although they give up a few of the iPad 2’s features (like webcams, GPS, and Bluetooth).

As for differences, a couple jump out as critical. First, the Kindle Fire sells for just $199, compared to $249 for the Nook Tablet (and $499 for the cheapest iPad 2). Second, your preferred content provider — Amazon or Barnes & Noble — will heavily influence your choice here. If you’re already a Kindle user with a library of Kindle e-books (or movies or MP3s from Amazon) or an Amazon Prime member, it will be hard to argue against the Kindle Fire. Similarly, if you have a vast library of B&N e-books and prefer the in-store support at B&N stores, the Nook Tablet is the more likely choice for you.

The Nook Tablet also sports twice the RAM (1 GB compared to 512 MB in the Kindle Fire), which should lead to slightly better (but not nearly twice as fast) performance. The Nook has double the memory (16 GB compared to 8 GB), but B&N only lets you use 1 GB of the 16 to store your own stuff; they force you to leave the rest free to buy content from them. Considering that Amazon lets you use all 8 GB how you want and stores all Amazon purchases in the cloud, this would be a loss for the Nook if not for the built-in MicroSD card slot, which can add up to 32 GB more memory (so factor an additional $15-40 for a MicroSD card into your pricing). The Nook also has a built-in microphone, which allows you to record your own voice on certain children’s audiobooks. The Nook’s screen also boasts a “VividView” lamination and bonding process that is supposed to reduce glare and improve readability.

The Kindle, on the other hand, offers the superior software, including the Silk Browser, cloud storage, and WhisperSync. It also has an advantage with a larger Amazon Android App Store, compared to B&N’s App Store, which has a more limited selection of games and apps. The Amazon Video on Demand library, free e-book library, and free content that comes with a Prime membership is another plus.

In the end, both tablets seem to offer a promising content consumption experience, with impressive hardware specs and easy-to-use software. The Nook gets the slight nod on the hardware side, while the Kindle Fire seems to have slightly better software and content. In the end, I think the similarities outweigh the differences, and your affiliation to either Amazon or B&N will likely determine your choice. Barring that, the $199 Kindle Fire likely wins by virtue of being $50 less expensive, which will allow you to start filling up your new tablet with movies and e-books.

New Nook Tablet from B&N

Posted by Always Write at 6:14 PM Tagged with: , ,
Nov 072011

B&N's new Nook Tablet, a 7" tablet for $249

Today Barnes & Noble updated its Nook Color “reader’s tablet” with a new version (which I’m calling the “Nook Color 2”) with a faster processor and the same $249 price. B&N, in keeping the tradition of using overly-descriptive but not very helpful names that eschew numerals (like the “Nook Simple Touch” for the Nook Classic 2), is calling it the “Nook Tablet.”

It comes with the same 7″ LCD screen as its predecessor (the original Nook Color). LCD screens are backlit (like those on your computer or cellphone), and aren’t as easy on the eyes or energy-efficient as the e-Ink displays used on the Kindle or Nook Classic e-readers. On the other hand, they do allow for color and video, and the “VividView” laminated, IPS, LCD display of the Nook Color (and Nook Tablet) is said to be quite good.

The new name shows that B&N is positioning the Nook Tablet as more of a tablet than a reading device, as more of a multi-function device that can play videos, browse the Internet, display magazines, offer interactive children’s books, and run a small selection of specially-curated apps (like Angry Birds and some of the popular ones, but not the thousands of apps on the Apple App Store or Android Market). Being a general-purpose tablet (as opposed to a single-purpose reading device like the Nook Classic or Kindle) means it’s competing against Amazon’s new Kindle Fire ($199), as well as Apple’s larger (and more expensive) iPad 2 ($499+).

The new Nook Tablet looks very similar to the original Nook Color; the changes are mostly under the hood. It comes with a faster processor and more RAM: a dual-core 1GHz Texas Instruments OMAP 4 CPU with 1GB of RAM. It sports 16GB of internal storage, plus an SD card slot for expansion.

By contrast, the Kindle Fire comes with a similar dual-core 1GHz processor, but only half the memory: 512MB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. Both devices use a 1024 x 600, 7″ LCD touchscreen. Of course, the Kindle Fire’s $199 price undercuts the Nook Tablet by $50. The Nook Tablet weighs 14.1 oz (compare to 14.6 oz for the Kindle Fire and 15.8 for the old Nook Color) and claims a battery life of 11.5 hours of reading or 9 hours of video (compared to a claimed 8 hours of reading and 7.5 hours of video on the Kindle Fire).

To recap, the Nook Tablet’s specs:

  • $249
  • 7″ VividView IPS LCD touchscreen display with 1024 x 600 resolution
  • 1 GHz dual-core processor
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 16 GB of internal storage (plus SD card slot)
  • 14.1 oz
  • battery life: 11.5 hours reading / 9 hours video

Certainly an interesting contender in the 7″ tablet arena. On paper, the specs are a bit better than the Kindle Fire, although Amazon counters with its super-fast Silk browser and by offering to store all your media purchases in the cloud, ameliorating the lesser memory of the Fire. I think Amazon’s $50 price advantage may be the most important difference to many buyers. In any event, both $199 and $249 certainly look good when compared to the iPad 2’s $499 starting price.

© 2010 David Derrico