Apple may be at the top of the tablet game, but that hasn't stopped the world's two biggest booksellers from making their own contenders to throw in the ring. Amazon's Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet are both low-cost alternatives to Apple's popular iPad that pack quite a punch of their own. Both tablets sport 7" displays and perform many of the same tasks as higher-priced alternatives.
Size The Kindle Fire is 7.5" x 4.7" x .45", while the Nook Tablet is slightly larger at 8.1" x 5" x .48". Even though the Nook Tablet is larger is size, it weighs 14.1 oz., slightly less than the Kindle Fire's 14.6 oz.
Data Both the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are wifi-only devices. If you want to use them on the internet, you have to be connected to a wireless network, whether you're at home, a local coffee shop, or work. Some other tablets, including the Apple iPad and Motorola Xoom, offer a 3G data connection option that allows you to download content anywhere you can get a cell signal.
Processor The processor speed of a tablet determines how fast it is able to do things. Both the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire have dual-core processors. The Fire has a 1GHz OMAP4 processor with 512MB of RAM, and the Nook Tablet has a 1.2GHz OMAP4 processor with 1GB of RAM. The advantage goes to the Nook Tablet; however, the differences in speed are close enough that you may not notice a very big difference between the two when performing most functions.
Content With the Kindle Fire, you purchase content you want to play on the device from Amazon, which also makes the tablet. Amazon offers movie rentals, movie downloads, and music for sale, and the company wants you to use Amazon to purchase all of those things to use with your Kindle Fire. If you're an Amazon Prime customer, you can access a lot of free content, including a free book rental each month and instant streaming for some 10,000 movies and TV shows.
On the other hand, Barnes & Noble doesn't offer audio and video downloads, so it has to rely on other services to provide them. That said, the Nook comes preinstalled with popular entertainment services like Netflix, Hulu, and Pandora, which all offer tremendous amounts of content at a low price.
Battery life Barnes & Noble claims the Nook Tablet offers nine hours of video playback and 11 hours of reading time on a single charge. The Kindle Fire offers a shorter battery life at only 7.5 hours of video playback on a single charge. Actual usage, of course, may vary.
Memory The Kindle Fire has 8GB of built-in storage, enough to house 80 apps plus 800 songs, 10 movies, or 6,000 books — plus free access to the Amazon cloud. The Nook Tablet comes with twice the built-in memory of the Fire (16GB) and also offers an SD memory card slot to expand the memory even further.
If you plan on using your tablet to surf the web, enjoy streaming media (including Amazon's Cloud services), and watch a few videos or listen to music while traveling, then chances are 8GB will be enough memory to hold everything you need. If you plan on storing tons of videos and music on your tablet or travel frequently, however, the Nook Tablet may be a better choice simply because it holds more.
Price and availability The Kindle Fire runs $199. Order it directly from Amazon.com, or pick it up at most major electronic retailers starting November 15. Get Nook Tablet, priced only slightly higher at $249, at Barnes & Noble's website, or look for it in stores starting on November 18.
A close look at the specs of the two devices puts the Nook Tablet at a slight advantage. It's a tiny bit larger and a hair lighter, boasts just a little bit better processor and memory, and runs just a bit longer on a single battery charge. But differences between the two devices are minimal. We'll all just have to wait and see which tablet makes itself known as the iPad alternative.
More from Tecca: