Face-Off: Amazon Kindle Fire vs. Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet
With highly competitive price points of just $199 and $249 respectively, the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet are among this holiday season’s most tempting gifts. Built on Android but with very unique interfaces, both devices have a bright 7-inch screen and a dual-core processor, and each offers easy access to content and apps.
We put the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet through a 18-round death match to determine which device offers the best overall experience.
You wouldn’t be embarrassed to be caught holding either device in public, but the Nook Tablet is just a little bit better-looking. Where the Kindle Fire has classy square black edges, a glossy black screen, and an attractive soft-touch back, the Nook Tablet has a more book-like look and feel. Both devices weigh about the same; 14.2 ounces for the Nook and 14.4 for the Kindle. However, the Nook Tablet is longer and slightly thicker (8.1 x 5 x 0.48 inches vs. 7.5 x 4.7 x 0.45 inches).
With gently rounded edges, pewter-colored frame, and elegant triangle-shaped “nook” hole in the lower-left corner, the Nook Tablet evokes the feeling of a relaxing afternoon spent reading books over coffee at your friendly neighborhood bookstore. You’ll find yourself stroking the The Nook’s luxuriously soft, grippable rubberized back over and over. More important, the Nook Tablet sports a dedicated home button and physical volume controls, two features the Fire lacks.
Winner: Nook Tablet
Both the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire have a bright 7-inch screen with a 1024 x 600 resolution and the capability of displaying over 16 million colors. At 460 lux, the Kindle Fire’s screen is a little bit brighter than the Nook Tablet’s 392-lux display, but that’s not where the story ends.
Because there’s no air gap beneath the fully laminated surface on the Nook Tablet’s VividView display, it provides more colorful images with wider viewing angles. While the Kindle Fire’s uber-glossy display often showed a little of reflections when we tried viewing movies at angles to the left or right, the Nook Tablet’s picture looked great even at 90-degree angles to the left or right.
Winner: Nook Tablet
There’s no comparison between the accurate, loud, and rich stereo speakers that sit on the short right side of the Kindle Fire and the distorted, clock radio-like speaker on the back of the Nook Tablet. When we tried playing music and movies on the Fire, sound was loud enough to fill a room and good enough to replace a low-end stereo. The only problem with sound on the Kindle Fire is that the device lacks physical volume buttons.
Winner: Kindle Fire
Both the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet use Android 2.3, but each has a completely unique UI on top that looks quite different from Google’s OS. The Kindle Fire has an attractive home screen that’s divided into two sections: a carousel that lets you flip through all your apps and recently opened media, and a bookshelf that holds your favorite apps/books/movies/music. Above the the carousel sit a search box and tabs for apps, books, docs, music, the newstand, video, and web (the browser).
While this UI looks great, we found the carousel a little dizzying to flip though. We also were a bit annoyed that the software-based home and back buttons don’t stay on the screen all the time. They get covered by the virtual keyboard and disappear when you’re reading a book or magazine, requiring an extra tap to make them visible.
The Nook Tablet’s interface is not only more attractive, but also a lot more functional than the Kindle Fire’s. A set of three home screens can be customized with your choice of wallpaper and shortcuts to make this device look and feel much more personal.
The home screens provide a plethora of ways to return to other recent activities. A black bar at the top of the screen links back to the last book you read. A pull down “more” menu shows recently read books and periodicals, along with recently watched Netflix movies and recommendations for other movies you haven’t seen yet. A scrollable list of recently used apps and media lines the bottom of the screen, and a menu with buttons for your apps, library, store, and web browser sits below that.
Hitting the physical N button once from anywhere in the Nook Tablet’s OS launches a menu with shortcuts to apps, books, the browser, newstand, and the store. Hitting the N button twice takes you back to the home screen, where you can easily navigate to any other recent task.
Winner: Nook Tablet
Books and eReader
While both devices let users lend books to friends and both platforms support library-lending, the Nook Tablet also supports the popular ePub format that’s used in a number of other stores and free book collections. However, uniquely, Amazon Prime members can borrow one book per month from the service’s Lending Library.
Both devices offer powerful eReading software that saves your place across devices and lets you configure fonts, set bookmarks, take notes, highlight text, and use a dictionary to look up words. However, the Nook’s eReading app is just a bit better. Though the Fire turns pages a bit faster, the turns seem more natural on the Nook because, no matter how quickly you flip, the system never stops to buffer.
Both the Nook and Kindle apps let you share passages you’re reading to social networks, rate books, and like books on Facebook, the Nook app gets you there in one less click.
The Nook app has a share button that lets you post your reading status to social networks, rate the book, and “like” the book on Facebook from within the app. It also has a great “recommend” button that shows similar books.
Winner: Nook Tablet
Face-Off: Kindle Fire vs. Nook Tablet
- Design, Display, Sound, UI, Books
- Magazines,Movies, Music, Apps, Kids’ Stuff
- Browsing, E-mail, Performance, Storage, Verdict