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How the new Barnes & Noble NOOK shapes up against Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet

by Marty Gabel

The new Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet was officially revealed just a few days ago. The device is clearly gunning for Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet, which is expected to start shipping out to customers who put in pre-orders on November 15.

Question is, will the new Barnes & Noble device be able to successfully take on the mighty behemoth which is the Amazon Kindle Fire? Demand is high for Amazon’s new 7-inch tablet, with over 50,000 pre-orders a day. The online retailer also ramped-up production to meet this need. In addition, DigiTimes (always a great source for tech-industry rumors), is speculating that an 8.9-inch Kindle Fire could soon be on the cards, too.

Tech specs aren’t everything

On paper, the new Barnes & Noble tablet certainly ups Amazon’s offering when it comes to power specs. Both share a similar speed processor, but the NOOK is a lighter device. It also offers 1GB of RAM over the Kindle’s 512MB and an SD card slot for expanded storage.

As ever though, specs do not tell the entire story. The NOOK does run a version of Android, but doesn’t allow access to the Android Market. Instead, customers will be left with Barnes & Noble’s own dedicated app store. It also doesn’t offer the same integrated multimedia experience that Amazon’s Kindle is pushing with video streaming from the cloud or the ability to play your music collection remotely.

The big picture

Though it may sound naive to generalize too much, it’s clear that the NOOK is a great e-book reader which happens to offer some excellent tablet features to improve your general reading experience. The Amazon Kindle fire however, unlike previous Kindle devices, seems to be aimed more at the general tablet market. Sure, it offers all the usual e-reader fun, but Amazon is clearly pushing its multimedia, web-browsing and cloud capabilities equally as much, and that’s why it is already catching on.

If the NOOK tries to go head-to-head with the Amazon, it may come up short. It is still a powerful device with a lot to offer. Potential buyers will appreciate the ability to go to an actual Barnes & Noble store to try it out and the physical support offered by staff. So far, the company has really only boasted about its specs to the public, talking-up how it’s a more powerful device than the Kindle Fire. Perhaps Barnes & Noble would be wiser to focus on what it truly offers compared to other e-readers, tablets and even the iPad, instead of merely boasting about how it packs a more powerful punch.

On the other hand...

However, while the Amazon Kindle Fire seems to offer a full, self-contained experience for prospective purchases, it’s also a little bit of a ‘closed shop’. You’ll need to use and rely on Amazon’s offerings, not third-party ones. This is all fine and dandy if that’s what you need, but say you’re already a Netflix or Hulu user, then the third-party offerings that the NOOK is likely to support could make it a better choice. Though the Kindle is $199 compared to the NOOK’s $249, once the hugely competitive holiday shopping season hits, expect discounts on the NOOK especially.

Whichever one you choose, Android tablet fans should be excited that better devices are emerging every day. Though there’s still plenty of talk about dual-core processors, memory, screen-size and storage (which are important of course), both of these new devices are being released with much more thought about how they will be used and the overall experience they offer, and that’s an encouraging thing.