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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.