Face-Off: Amazon Kindle Fire vs. Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet

Magazines

When it comes to periodicals, the Kindle Fire simply has a lot more titles available in its store, currently stocking 324 magazine titles to the Nook’s 196, and 148 newspapers to the Nook’s 35. In the entertainment category alone, the Kindle Fire has 96 titles listed to the Nook’s 19. In the tech magazine category, both have 18 titles, though the Nook has the barely relevant Cycle World listed here, while only Kindle has Wired. When both stores have the same title, they usually have the same price as subscriptions to Popular Science, The New York Times, and USA Today all cost the same amount in both stores.
Nook Newstand 

Kindle Fire Newstand

The Nook Store has some magazines with interactive features such as video built right in—for example, the current issue of Parents Magazine has a video cover. The Kindle store has some magazines that are actually apps, such as the Wired app. These offer a host of dynamic features, though it’s annoying that they end up being listed in the apps section of your library. When we were viewing magazines, the Nook Tablet had smoother page turns than the Kindle Fire.

Overall, a much larger selection of titles puts the Kindle Fire over the top in this round.

Winner: Kindle Fire

Movies

Both devices offer the Hulu Plus and Netflix apps for streaming videos from those services, but only Amazon has a library of thousands of the latest movie and TV releases available for on-demand purchase and download. Want to watch one of America’s top 20 DVD rentals? Chances are that you can rent it from the Kindle Store, but won’t find it at all on the Nook, which has no video store of its own.

Kindle Fire Videos

Of the 20 titles from the week of November 13th, only one—Red State—was available on Netflix streaming, but all were available from Amazon. Better still, Amazon rentals can be watched offline, while the Nook requires streaming. As an added bonus, Amazon Prime members get access to a streaming library of over 10,000 movies and TV shows.

To the Nook Tablet’s credit, Netflix videos looked much sharper on its screen; scenes from The Expendables showed noticeable pixelation on the Fire. Still, without an offline movie option or a way to get the latest titles, the Nook Tablet isn’t even a video contender.

Winner: Kindle Fire

Music

Not only does music sound better on the Kindle Fire, but there’s also a lot more of it to choose from. Where Amazon’s music store has more than 17 million songs available for purchase and download, the Nook doesn’t even have a music store.

Kindle Fire Music Store

If you attach headphones or can bear the tinny speaker on the Nook Tablet, your only options are streaming from Napster/Rhapsody (the two are merging) and Pandora or side-loading your own MP3s. The Kindle Fire has all the same streaming options plus Slacker Radio, which is not available on Nook.

Winner: Kindle Fire

Apps and Games Selection

Neither the Nook Tablet nor the Kindle Fire has access to Google’s Android Market. Instead, the two companies provide their own scaled-down app selections. The Nook Store has more than 1,000 apps, while the Kindle Store has an undisclosed number which Amazon lists only as “thousands.”  No matter the totals, Amazon’s selection is simply superior.

When you page through the different app categories, the Nook always falls way short both in terms of quality and quantity. When searching for calendar apps, for example, we found just two in the Nook’s store. Amazon had more than 60 different types of calendar apps, including specialized calendars for holidays and for managing health issues. The Kindle Fire has a ton of social networking apps, including HootSuite, LinkedIn, TweetCaster, and Twitter. On the Nook Tablet, we only found Seesmic and IM+, both of which are also in the Kindle store. 

Nook Tablet CalendarsKindle Fire Calendar Apps

If you plan to do any real gaming, forget about the Nook Tablet. A Barnes & Noble rep told us that the company doesn’t want to focus on gaming, and its weak selection of titles makes that clear. While the Nook store has three versions of Angry Birds, its most graphics-intensive game is Raging Thunder racing. Most titles are simple board games or light arcade fair such as Ms. Pacman Instead of the real Fruit Ninja, Nook’s app store has a rip-off called Fruit Samurai.

Meanwhile, the Amazon store is stocked with 15 subcategories of games, including 10 multiplayer games, 30 racing games, and 83 sports games. It even has more than 100 games in its action section, including some quite intense titles such as Gunship 3D.

Kindle App Store Games Area

If you can’t find the app you want in the Amazon app store, the Kindle Fire lets you side-load apps from other stores. The Nook Tablet doesn’t allow side-loading without some kind of hack.

Winner: Kindle Fire

Search and Discoverability

Both the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire have prominent search boxes in their library and shopping sections. When you’re in the library on either device, the search box only looks within the store of content and apps you own. And when you’re in the shopping section on either platform, the search function turns up a list of relevant items available for purchase.

While the simple search boxes look quite similar, there’s one huge difference between search on the Fire and search on the Nook Tablet: specificity. No matter where you search on the Nook, the software does not make a distinction between apps, books, and magazines. So if you’re in the apps section of the Nook store and you search for Facebook, you get hundreds of books that mention Facebook mixed in with the two apps that actually let you post to Facebook.

 Nook Tablet Search for Facebook

 Kindle Fire takes the opposite approach, restricting your search to just the area of the library or store you search from, no matter how granular. So if you’re in the Apps >Games >Adventure section of the store and search, you will only find adventure games, not other games or books and music about them. When you’re on the home screen and search, the Kindle Fire looks through your entire library of content and apps, but the results it gives are clearly divided up into sections for apps, books, movies, and music .

Kindle Fire Search

We much prefer Amazon’s search approach because it allows users to find exactly the type of content they are looking for, rather than throwing everything on the screen in a giant mish-mash like the Nook.

Winner: Kindle Fire

Kid-Friendliness

If you want the best eReader for kids, the Nook Tablet wins hands down. With more than 700 kids’ books and counting (1,000 by end of 2011), the Nook Tablet has a better selection than the Kindle Fire, which currently lists only 282 books in its shop. Though the Kindle Fire has some interactive books apps and audio-enabled books such as Cat in the Hat, nothing we’ve used matches the richness of Nook “Read and Play” books such as Awesome Man—which lets you change the main character’s costume colors—or Pete the Cat, which lets you add strawberries to a page of its story. 

Nook Read and Play on Pete the Cat

Every kids’ book on the Nook Tablet supports Read and Record, a feature with no equivalent on the Kindle Fire. Using the Nook Tablet’s built-in microphone, parents can record themselves reading each page of the book, and then kids can listen to their parents’ voices as they flip through the book. Though not a substitute for active parenting, this feature could be incredibly helpful for parents who travel a lot or often need to work late.

Nook Read and Record

If you’re going to hand your device over to a child, you’ll want to feel confident that he can’t run up your credit card bill, communicate with strange people online, or consume inappropriate content. While neither device allows you to stop your kids from viewing age-inappropriate content, at least the Nook Tablet allows you to block web-surfing and social features, and it requires a password to buy things from its store. The Kindle Fire only lets you set a PIN for in-app purchases, but it leaves the door wide open for unsupervised children to buy anything they want from Amazon’s books, movies, music, or app stores.

Winner: Nook Tablet 



Face-Off: Kindle Fire vs. Nook Tablet

AUTHOR BIO
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. DAn Says:

    Fire is just better, cooler and more funtional. Bye Bye B&N the Fire is your swan song. Selling the nook under cost your last profit stream is gone.

  2. Gree Roberts Says:

    Can the Fire be used as a laptop? Can you do the same things with it that you could with a laptop such as Word doc., excel, and so forth?

  3. Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director Says:

    @Gree, The Fire is definitely not a replacement for a laptop. It can’t even really replace a full-fledged tablet like the iPad 2 or ThinkPad Tablet.

  4. Ash Says:

    @DAn: a swan song is the last hurrah before demise, therefore if B&N went down after the NOOK Tablet’s release, that Tablet would be their swan song…not the Kindle Fire… It was a good try at making an awesome reference, though.

    I used both devices for extended periods for a review and comparison. The NOOK’s display is far and away better, and the hardware design beats Kindle Fire easily. Kindle Fire feels better, IMO, in your hand and looks sleeker. Its lack of hardware controls is super shitty and can be annoyingly distracting; furthermore, if you want to use it as a regular tablet the Kindle Fire’s main downfall is its lack of expandable memory. :/

  5. Justin Says:

    Your chart on the “linpack score” is inconsistent with the text.

    text:
    Nook scored 42 Kindle scored 36

    graphic;
    Nook scored 36 Kindle, 42

  6. Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director Says:

    @Justin. Our bad. Fixed.

  7. tvfeet Says:

    I don’t see how the Kindle Fire can be considered all that enticing when the only way it betters the Nook Tablet is by adding on pay services, like Amazon Prime ($80/year) and storage for your music from Amazon ($20/year) so you can stream it back to the Fire. At least with the Nook Tablet you can dump up to 32gb of music/movies onto a card and stick it in the slot for use any time you feel like it, rather than just when you’re on wifi.

  8. Errrrmmm Says:

    Really at the Value section?

    It’s not ok to spend $50 extra for that HUGE upgrade on the nook ( double CPU memory, and onboard memory + expandable SD slot and the fact that you do become a Barnes and Noble member for FREE ) for cash strapped shoppers yet it’s okay to spend $79 per year on amazon prime service? Bullshit much?

    Please, do an unbiased comparison

  9. Ben Says:

    Well turns out you can add other marketplaces w/o rooting the Nook: http://www.theverge.com/2011/11/17/2568172/nook-tablet-can-sideload-android-apps-no-root-required

    Amazon sells their music as DRM free .mp3. You can purchase mp3′s from amazon and listen to them on your Nook. (You can probably even buy mp3′s from amazon directly on your Nook’s web browser.)

    I’d be curious to see how hard it is to rent amazon movies on Nook, but I’m guessing someone smart will figure it out, since amazon’s movies are compatible with other android devices. But if you are really hard up for the latest movie. Buy the DVD and side load it onto your Nook (or load a few onto an SD card for that road trip. The extra storage is a big advantage when you are away from Wi-Fi).

    Nook is better hardware. And in the unlikely event that B&N goes under before the next great device comes out, then you can still root your Nook and have a far superior android device to the Kindle. Besides, if you’re clever, you should be able to get at most of Amazon’s content on your Nook anyway.

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