We can thank Amazon and Barnes & Noble for making tablets more affordable. B&N created the cheap seven-inch tablet with 2010's Nook Color. Amazon took the concept to new levels with last year's Kindle Fire. Now the two companies are back with improved models. How does the Nook HD compare to the Kindle Fire HD? Let's take a look.
Things are more confusing this year, as both tablets have siblings. A slightly upgraded Kindle Fire 1 is still on sale, and a larger (8.9") Kindle Fire HD is coming soon. The Nook HD also has an upgraded twin called the Nook HD+. For now, we're only focusing on the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD and standard Nook HD.
So how does Amazon's Kindle Fire HD compare to the Nook HD? Read on.
Proportions are similar. The Fire HD is a bit wider, and the Nook HD is a smidge thicker, but the devices have a lot in common.
This is a big advantage for the Nook. 79 g is a big gap in weight, and your hands will probably feel the difference.
The Kindle's display is good, but the Nook HD comes out ahead. Its 243 pixels per inch (PPI) are the highest among budget tablets. Text and images will be crisp and sharp.
There aren't any drastic differences here, as both tablets run Texas Instruments OMAP chips. The Nook has a slight advantage, but it might be too subtle to notice.
Overall performance might be similar, as both devices tote 1 GB of random-access memory (RAM).
Perhaps this is where Barnes & Noble skimped to afford that great display. Amazon packed 16 GB of storage into the base Fire HD, while B&N went with only 8 GB.
The Nook HD, however, has an ace up its sleeve: you can expand its storage with a microSD card. Fire HD owners have no such luck.
Neither device is sold with cellular capability. You'll need to connect to a Wi-Fi network in order to browse the web or download apps.
This was another cost-cutting area. The Kindle Fire HD only has a front-facing camera, and the Nook HD has none. Video chatting is out of the question on Barnes & Noble's tablet.
These are manufacturers' estimates, so take them with grains of salt. Considering the batteries have similar capacity, the two hour gap looks surprising … that is, until you consider that the Nook's battery is powering a display with almost 300,000 more pixels. The edge here should go to the Fire.
Neither device runs a traditional operating system. Both technically run versions of Android's Ice Cream Sandwich, but it's well-hidden. Each device serves as a digital storefront for its respective company.
So if you have a large library of Kindle books and subscribe to Amazon Prime, you might be better off with the Kindle Fire HD. Likewise, if you've built a collection of Nook content, you may prefer the Nook HD. Both run a variety of third-party apps, though, so there is some wiggle room.
The Kindle Fire HD ships by default with advertisements. To lose them, you'll need to plunk down an extra US$15. The Fire also ships without a charger, so you'll probably need to pay extra few bucks for that.
Both tablets give you a lot of bang for your buck. Amazon and Barnes & Noble make little or no profit on the hardware, as they're banking on digital sales. The tradeoff is that their operating systems aren't in the same league as other tablets'.
The biggest question you need to ask is whether you're okay with buying a virtual shopping mall. If so, then these tablets can save you a few bucks. If that thought makes you cringe, though, you can check out other options in our tablet comparison guide.
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