If you're considering the purchase of a tablet e-reader, you may safely ignore the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet, the book seller's second-generation 7-inch color LCD touchscreen e-reader announced this morning.
When it goes on sale late next week ("on or about November 17," according to the press release; you can pre-order now), the new Nook Tablet will be priced the same $249 as its predecessor, the Nook Color, or $50 more than the Amazon Kindle Fire color LCD tablet, which goes on sale November 15, next Tuesday.
Barnes & Noble has dropped the price of the current Nook Color to $199 and the Simple Touch to $99 from $139, the same price as the ad-supported Kindle Touch, which goes on sale November 21.
Bottom line: even though I've yet to spend an extensive period of time with either new LCD e-reader, it's hard to justify paying $50 more for the new Nook Tablet. And $199 for the original Nook Color is inexplicable considering that's the same price as the bleeding-edge Fire.
Nook v. Fire Features & Specs
In terms of pure specifications, Nook offers twice the memory of Fire – although a complete tech comparison is difficult because Amazon has yet to release Fire's precise processor speed.
Both color LCD e-readers feature a 1024 x 600 pixel 7-inch color LCD touchscreen with a wide viewing angle thanks to a technology called "in-plane switching" (IPS). Both are powered by a dual core processors to enhance multi-tasking duties, with the new Nook sporting a 1 GHz dual-core engine.
Nook offers twice as much RAM – 1 GB vs. 512 MB on the Fire, which means the more apps you have open, the faster they'll run on the Nook. The new Nook also includes twice as much user storage, 16 GB vs. 8 GB for Fire, as well as a micro SD card slot, which Fire lacks.
All these memory double-ups are important for music and movie storage but have no effect on book reading – e-books are about twice the size of a music track, but you're unlikely to be carrying a thousand books around with you.
Both offer Wi-Fi connectivity for Web browsing and, of course, online shopping. As with all other Nooks, your Nook automatically gets connected when you enter a Barnes & Noble retail store.
Physically, the original Nook Color and its successor are doppelgangers; the Nook Tablet is more of a slate gray while the original Nook is a darker charcoal. Otherwise, all the buttons, jacks and slots are exactly where they were before.
Tablet, however, has slimmed down to 14.1 ounces, 1.7 ounces lighter than the Color and .5 ounces lighter than Fire.
Tablet look & feel
Barnes & Noble also has added five quick links on the home page for faster access to books, newsstand (newspapers and magazines), moves, music and apps. As with the Fire, there's no quick access to any personal information management (PIM) apps such as email, contact or calendar.
And like the original Color, Tablet runs only a limited amount on Barnes & Noble approved apps, of which there are "thousands" – the company wouldn't be more specific. This lack of PIM and broad Android app compatibility (Fire also limits which Android apps it will run) makes its "Tablet" name a bit pretentious.
Tablet runs on Nook's new v1.4 operating system. Upgrades will be available for the current Color as well as the Simple Touch.
How does the new Nook Tablet compare with the Fire in actual usage? Amazon closely guarded its few Fires when they previewed it for the press last month, so all I saw was what Amazon was willing to show.
Nook Tablet reacts more quickly and more smoothly than the original – but then, it couldn't help not feeling faster and smoother since the original was slow and kludgy even when it was new, especially when compared to "real" tablets such as iPad.
Are watching or reading?
Even with its movie and music enhancements – and Nook Tablet still can't conveniently replace an iPod or smart phone – Fire still seems a bit farther ahead than Nook on these non-reading aspects. Amazon already offers more than 13,000 movies and TVs shows from every major studio and TV network, for example.
Plus, Fire features Silk, possibly the fastest Web browser available on any device and on any platform.
But if you're buying an e-reader tablet for its multimedia capabilities, you're buying it for the wrong reason and should eschew both Nook and Fire for an iPad 2.
But if you want a color LCD e-reader, my initial opinion is save the $50 and go for the Kindle Fire.