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Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet? I bought the…

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This week may go down as a true beginning for the 7-inch tablet market. Both the Amazon Kindle Fire(s amzn) and Barnes & Noble(s bks) 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 (s vz) 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(s nflx). 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.

79 Responses to “Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet? I bought the…”

  1. I’d suggest another alterantive – the HTC Flyer. It’s $299 (so $50-$100 more), has a great 7″ screen; 16gb internal and 32gb micro SD slot; bluetooth; full Android market; available active digitizer (additional cost); front & rear cameras; GPS; access to full Google service (email, maps, etc). You can read both Kindle and Nook books with free readers from Android market. As an Amazon prime member, I get full access to the unlimited movie/TV series service. Granted it only has a single core processor, but at 1.5Ghz it is snappier than the 1Ghz dual cores, and very little software really takes advantage of dual cores. Add to that the unibody aluminum body construction, and its a solid little tank. Just a thought.

  2. Asad Quraishi

    Why are you telling us what you ordered? We only care about the review which will help us figure out what we should order. Thanks to David Pogue I can make that choice. Pointless articles are annoying.

    • Asad, I’m often asked what devices I purchase and what the decision points I used to choose the device. The idea is to get folks thinking about what’s important when choosing a mobile device. Some find that insight helpful. I’m sorry that you don’t.

  3. Jahan Ward-Rashid

    Kevin, I was contemplating the same but for me personally its not a big enough upgrade for what I want over the ageing galaxy in fact is probably more a downgrade. I just keep reminding myself: No Bluetooth, No 3g, No GPS, No Cameras, No expandable memory, Not enough internal memory, Not enough ram.

    The only thing that would have made me definately upgrade over all those is if it would have had a 1280×800 screen.

    The price is great but I think i’ve been spoilt!

  4. I have an iPad, but actually am more excited about the Fire I have on order. It will be here this week. I think the Fire is going to be a great addition, I have a Kindle already and actively rent and purchase TV/Movies over Amazon, that coupled with the size which will allow me to read easier on the go, makes the fire a no brainer.

  5. kevin massingale

    For me its a no brainer, I preordered the kindle fire. We already have prime membership and several kindles at the house. I have a smart phone and plan on using it as a WiFi hotspot to surf with the fire while on the go. You are right about silk security being a non issue. Strong passwords , regularly changed and limited credit card exposure are the key elements here.

  6. Mudassir Ali

    I have ordered Amazon Fire because I have Kindle already and I love it. I missed touch screen and color which Fire is bringing now. I a. Prime Amazon us timer and impressed by their exceptional customer service.

  7. I went with a Kindle as well for a number of reasons. 1) I bought my girlfriend a Kindle keyboard last Christmas and she loves it. So since we’ll be on the same account I can access all of those books. 2) I was at Best Buy looking at both the Blackberry Playbook (essentially identical physically to the Kindle Fire) and the B&N Nook Color (essentially identical physically to the Kindle Tablet) and the Nook looks and feels like a piece of junk. 3) $50 cheaper 4) Amazon ecosystem (cloud services, apps, Prime, marketplace) 5) Silk sounds interesting. To me, the only advantage of the Nook is the RAM. The storage & SD slot don’t really matter for my use since I don’t need a lot of local storage since I don’t have a lot of content that isn’t available to stream.

  8. rick gregory

    “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.”

    This says two things to me:

    First, that we need to be very wary of having all of our ebooks readable only by one company’s ereader (hardware or software). The lockin on something that I’ve ostensibly bought makes me nervous.

    Second, that if someone can afford it, a full tablet’s a better choice since you avoid the lockin factor. My iPad has the iBook, Nook and Kindle readers on it. When I had a Nook Color, I rooted it and had the Nook and Kindle readers installed.

    I never want to become dependent on having to have hardware that matches the soft content.

    • Jenn, downloading e-books doesn’t use up much 3G data, so it’s relatively cheap for Amazon to include it in their older Kindles. The Fire is a different beast though and will use Internet service for far more: movie streaming, music and apps, for example.

      That type of use isn’t cheap on a monthly basis. See 3G smartphones as an example, where it can cost $20 to $50 each month for 3G service. The cost of a 3G radio factors in as well: if Amazon included it, the Fire could be priced at $299 or more, which would scare some potential buyers off.

  9. jmpmbusiness

    I pre-ordered the Fire as well, as I think the “Android Fork” is what I want. Anything to make the Android experience more user friendly. That, and with the Amazon content; 7″ size; and the $199 price–it’s what I want.

  10. I pre-ordered the Kindle Fire a few days after it was announced mainly based on my affinity for the Blackberry Playbook hardware. I would have no nagging second thoughts if it had 16GB or an SD slot. As it is, I am often out of Wi-fi range and foresee having to make tough choices about what to keep on the device. But I haven’t canceled my order because of Amazon Prime (a great deal, especially with a 50% student discount), the Silk browser and a preference for the no-nonsense design over the Nook. So glad to see companies offering affordable options without all the mostly unnecessary add-ons. But a micro-hdmi port, along with more memory, seems in keeping with the Kindle’s role as a media consumption device … I’d be far more likely to purchase or rent a movie from Amazon if I could watch it on my big screen.

  11. I went with the Kindle Fire as a gift for my wife primarily because of the Silk browser. She wants a device to check email and surf the web without having to go to our desktop. Also… Amazon offers 5gb of their Cloud for free, for your own, non-Amazon content. I’ve already loaded it up with her Favorite songs and some pics.

  12. I’m a little confused — if you root the Nook Tablet, you can install the Kindle Android app so you’d still be able to read your Kindle books.

    Personally, I think the Nook Tablet is a much better deal. Not only will it be hackable, but I love the extra storage. There are lots of times when I’m not online — when camping or on a plane — and it’s handy to be able to swap out microSD cards. Plus it’s useful being able to pop the card from my camera straight into the Nook Tablet.

    The extra storage and hackability of the Nook Tablet is well worth the extra $50, IMO.

    • Yup, you can certainly root the Nook and install the Kindle app. It’s just as likely to work the other way as well: root the Kindle Fire and install the Nook app. ;)

      Not sure the Nook tablet will be any more or less hackable than the Kindle though. The Nook already has custom ROM solutions, but it won’t be long before similar options appear for the Kindle. I’m betting by the end of November.

        • You should be able to, yes. We’ll know for sure once the development community gets their hands on the device. And Amazon has already said if folks want to root their Fire, that’s up to them. They won’t get support from Amazon of course.

      • I’m not as confident that the hacker community is going to embrace the Kindle the way that they have the Nook, mostly due to the lack of storage.

        I’ll be honest — the minute I saw that the Kindle only had one gig of onboard storage and no memory card support, it was a no-go for me. That said, I can appreciate how people who have 24/7 access to WiFi and are willing to shell out $79 a year for Amazon Prime might not mind.

        It’ll be interesting what the next few months bring!

      • Damn, I wish it was possible to edit comments! I realize the Kindle has 8 gigs of storage, but that’s still not a lot when it comes to rooting if you want to store any sort of data as well.

  13. Jerry Russell

    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.

  14. Phil Hendrix

    Kevin, curious if either of the following were considerations for you, especially in choosing a Kindle or a Nook vs. a “conventional” tablet: (i) their implementations of Android; and (ii) the apps and apps stores available on each.

    Dr. Phil Hendrix, immr and GigaOm Pro analyst

    • Phil, I’m not a mainstream consumer, so the Android implementation / look and feel of the UI are secondary to me. I know I’ll be able to root & customize if I need to. ;) The same also goes for the apps and stores; I know I’ll be able to sideload apps if needed.

      Although I prefer full access to Google’s Android Market, I will say that it’s nice to have a curated experience so I’m not wading through thousands of crappy apps. Plus I expect all of the major, top-tier apps are or will be in the stores.

  15. 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.

  16. 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?

  17. Eric Rains

    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

  18. Susan Mellott

    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.

    • 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!

    • maybe….If the Nook tablet has the full android market you could purchase the atbat app and watch games (assuming you have the full 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.

  19. 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.

    • Seth Levi

      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.

      • 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 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 purchases to

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

  20. 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?

      • 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.

    • Seth Levi

      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.

  21. 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?