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Summary:

Both the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet start shipping after mid-week as fairly similar, low-cost options. You can’t go wrong with either 7-inch slate, but one is a better choice for me. Here’s which one I chose and why. Which interests you more?

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This week may go down as a true beginning for the 7-inch tablet market. Both the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet start shipping after mid-week and are similar, low-cost options. Neither is the first 7-inch tablet, given that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab launched a year ago. But each offers more mainstream consumer appeal due to the content ecosystem backing the products.

For tablets, size matters

I bought the Galaxy Tab last December and have been evangelizing the form factor since then. It’s not for everyone, but a tablet of this size provides me a better viewing experience due to the larger display when compared to a smartphone, yet, it’s easy to both tote the device around and use it practically anywhere. It fits in a back pants pocket or a jacket pocket, and I’ve used it in places I’d never try to use a larger tablet.

Although I take the Galaxy Tab nearly everywhere for those reasons, I’ve been thinking of replacing it with either the Kindle or Nook slates. Why? For starters, my tablet has a $40 monthly data plan to use the integrated 3G radio. It’s great when I’m not at home, but I’m traveling less these days. Plus, I have a Verizon MiFi that can provide 3G service for all of my devices. I also want to see how a content provider builds a tablet as well as how well the integrated experience is.

From a hardware perspective, there’s not much difference between the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet. Both use a 1 GHz dual-core processor, a 1024 x 600 resolution display, and Wi-Fi connectivity. The Nook Tablet offers twice as much internal storage capacity and memory — 16 GB and 1 GB, respectively — compared to the Kindle and the storage can be expanded. The Nook Tablet is also expected to run longer on a single charge, too.

What did I buy?

I ended up pre-ordering the Amazon Kindle Fire, however, mainly for four reasons: my prior investment in Amazon’s e-book platform, the potential of Amazon’s Silk browser, the extra value of an Amazon Prime membership and unlimited cloud storage for Amazon content.

To be sure, the Nook Tablet is sure to be a great choice as well; I don’t think anyone can gowrong with either device. I previously owned a Nook Color — the previous generation Nook Tablet — and enjoyed it, although I later returned it. The device worked great out of the box, plus it could be easily rooted and turned into a native Google Android tablet.

Because Amazon entered the e-book market before Barnes & Noble, I have well over 100 Amazon Kindle books. I could easily start buying e-books from B&N and transition over to a Nook Color, but I’m the type that re-reads books several times. I’m also an Amazon Prime customer already, which gets me streaming videos and the ability to borrow books on the Kindle Fire.

The limited and fixed storage capacity of the Kindle Fire may understandably put some off. Bear in mind that the Fire is $50 less than the Nook Tablet, so the extra memory is a healthy premium. And all Amazon purchased content can be stored on Amazon’s servers including: books, movies, music and apps.

A new web experience

In terms of the Amazon Silk browser, B&N doesn’t have a competing offering: The Nook Tablet uses a customized browser, but doesn’t blend the experience between the cloud and the device. Per Amazon, Silk should bring a faster browsing experience:

Instead of a device-siloed software application, Amazon Silk deploys a split-architecture.  All of the browser subsystems are present on your Kindle Fire as well as on the AWS cloud computing platform.  Each time you load a web page, Silk makes a dynamic decision about which of these subsystems will run locally and which will execute remotely.  In short, Amazon Silk extends the boundaries of the browser, coupling the capabilities and interactivity of your local device with the massive computing power, memory, and network connectivity of our cloud.

I’ll have to see if Silk actually works as advertised. Of course, some have privacy concerns about Amazon Silk, since Amazon’s servers will have access to all web traffic flowing through its pipes. For me personally, it’s a non-issue: I don’t mind providing preferences from browsing history or other online activities in return for better personalized services. Others don’t, of course, and that’s fine.

You can’t go wrong right now

Again, I don’t think one could go wrong with either the Kindle Fire or the Nook Tablet. In addition to the features mentioned above, both provide a curated app store and third-party video streaming services, such as Netflix. Plus, I expect that custom ROMs will appear for both devices, making them fun to tinker with — something I enjoy doing with my Galaxy Tab.

If you have ordered one or plan to, let me know which you chose and why. With either product, you’re getting a solid 7-inch tablet; something I’ve been saying is a superb form factor since last year.

  1. I think you made the right choice. I’m dying to get my hands on the Fire but I just don’t understand why Amazon are confining it to the US only. There’s a huge appetite for it elsewhere. When do you think it might arrive here in the UK and why not immediately?

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    1. Not sure why the new Kindle Fire isn’t launching in the U.K. I don’t think there are any licensing issues; IIRC, the U.K. has Amazon’s app store, MP3 store, etc…

      Perhaps it’s to work out kinks with the Silk browser?

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  2. Маг Азин Sunday, November 13, 2011

    another option is lenovo a1

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  3. Kevin, I’d like to know how the Kindle Fire will work as an e-reader compared to the Kindles already out there. I like the e-ink because it’s easy on the eyes. I do so much reading and writing on my laptop that after a few hours, I’m straining. Is the Fire more like the iPad in this way or does it somehow change for reading?

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    1. Allison, the new Kindle Fire uses similar screen technology as the iPad and other tablets / laptops. So it’s not an e-ink screen like the current Kindle devices.

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      1. That’s what I thought, thanks for the clarification. I use my daughter’s Kindle from time to time. I would love to use it more, or get one of my own, but as an academic, I need a) better access to academic books, and b) better note-taking abilities. So, I guess I’ll be sticking to paper books and computers. And eye drops.

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    2. If looking at a computer screen is causing eye strain, it’s unlikely that it’s the result of the screen, and more to do with the size of the font and overall lightening situation in the room. CNET, New York Times and others have spent a lot of time investigating the whole LCD vs e-ink debate, talking to doctors and other experts, and the conclusion is that neither is more likely to cause you eye strain.

      It should also be noted that there are limitations to how e-ink renders graphics, which is important with books like cookbooks. The NYT had an interesting article last month on the new digital version of the “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” and they noted that it looks much better on LCD.

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  4. Join the Premier Kindle Fire community on the web at http://www.kindlefireforums.com

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  5. I just can’t accept Silk. I’m not thrilled with Amazon being a party to every interaction on the internet. You’re effectively providing them access to every single page you view including emails, banking transactions and online purchases including credit cards and passwords. I like Amazon but I don’t trust them enough for that.

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    1. Totally understand, but other browsers can do the same. And you can use the Kindle Fire in a private mode that doesn’t go through Amazon’s servers in what Amazon calls “off cloud” mode.

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      1. I don’t think Amazon uses silk for https connections, they let it pass thru. I am curious to see how different silk is from opera browser as opera seem to do the same thing (for a long time).

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    2. A few points:

      1. Amazon is not cataloging the credit card numbers and passwords of Silk users.
      2. Data is stored in aggregate.
      3. Any website you visit has the capability of using robust analytics to track your path history that brought you to that site, and your activity on that site. Your concern is very 1990 — there hasn’t been privacy on the internet in a very longtime.
      4. You should be more concerned about the security of websites that store your banking and credit card information.
      5. The single biggest threat to privacy online are people who use the same user name and password on more than one site.

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      1. Your lack of concern is very 2011.

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      2. 1. You really have no way of verifying this. Any number or password that you enter via the silk browser gets passed to Amazon first. You just have to hope they delete it.
        2. Which doesn’t mean they don’t analyze before storing it.
        3. No one is talking about analytics or paths here. We’re talking about the ability to retrieve every page before you see it. It’s the difference between knowing that you visit wellsfargo.com and knowing all of the transactions in your checking account. They’re pulling all of that data before displaying it to you. Time to check with 2011.
        4. You’re suggesting a service that provides its own ability to store all of that whether you realize it or not. Again you don’t enter these things on websites, you enter them to amazon and hope they forward to the intended site without reading them.
        5. I’d say a bigger threat is allowing companies to intentionally monitor and control every online thing you do. Hope amazon doesn’t decide to start redirecting BN.com purchases to amazon.com.

        BTW all https connections are still handled via amazon’s man in the middle so they still have access to all of that data.

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    3. Who knew that when Big Brother finally arrived, his name would be Jeff

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      1. Turning off Silk is as simple as tapping one checkbox in the browser settings….. just an FYI. ;)

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  6. Do you think you could go to MLB.com, watch the live streaming games like I do on my computer with either of these tablets?

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    1. maybe….If the Nook tablet has the full android market you could purchase the atbat app and watch games (assuming you have the full mlb.com package too). also the app would have to support the tablet which I might next year who knows. overall, not a for sure like ipad which already does.

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  7. I am currently trying to decide on an ‘ereader’, myself. I personally don’t like e-ink, so it will have to be a color version. I use my phone as an ereader, social media, internet device now. I have a Nook tablet on order but plan to cancel the order because I’ve decided on the new Galaxy Tab 7.0 plus. The higher end color ereaders do most everything, but don’t have access to the google market and they are ebook platform-centric which I don’t like. I’m still trying to decide on one for my mom for xmas. She doesn’t like e-ink either (has poor eyesight and needs backlight). I’m leaning toward the Nook Color because I can get a pre-owned one for $150 from B&N. But the Kindle fire looks interesting too. I wish there was a good, cheaper color ereader.

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    1. I’m considering buying my elderly father a Nook color for the same reason–it’s back lit and easier for him to read. I also saw the pre-owned ones at B&N–makes for a really good deal. Go through E-bates for additional 8% cash back too!

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  8. Hey Kevin now you really have me thinking about the Nook color I am torn between the nook tablet and the samsung galaxy tab 7.0 plus. I would choose the nook tablet for the following reasons SD card slot, built in mic (leaves the door open for VOIP) already a custom rom community built around the nook color

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  9. I love my seven inch Samsung Galaxy Tab. I too am tied to a two year 3g data plan but the new Nook tablet has me very interested (I own and love the original Nook.)

    My qestion is what are the custom ROMs you mention and how do I secure for my Tab?

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    1. Custom ROMs are software builds by enthusiasts that often give additional features or better performance than software from the original manufacturer.

      For example, I used to run this one on my Galaxy Tab:

      http://android.modaco.com/topic/331479-04feb-fr1-modaco-custom-rom-for-the-samsung-galaxy-tab-with-online-kitchen/

      That site and xda-developers are two I’d recommend for further research.

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  10. I’m on the fence but leaning toward the Nook Tablet. I spend a lot of time traveling and like to read or watch movies while doing so. I’ve also been caught in a few situations lately where I was without WIFI for several days at a time. The cloud is cool as long as you have consistent access to it. Otherwise having the extra on-device storage is nice.

    I’m anxious to see them side-by-side to see if the Nook display with it’s laminated feature, is any sharper to less prone to glare than the Fire, realizing they’re both the same resolution.

    There’s been a lot said about the extra $50 for the Nook but to get full use of the Fire will require an annual $80 Prime membership, so that seems like a wash.

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    1. Jerry, if you’re disconnected for a time, I can see why the extra storage would be useful. Thanks!

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