Despite the relative technical differences between the new Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet and the Amazon Kindle Fire, I think that it is fair to say that Amazon’s product offers more right out of the box. For the layman user, somebody with no stake in a particular platform and no desire to have to jump through hoops to pull the greatest possible performance out of their electronics, the available content and overall experience of the Fire is immediately superior.
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that you are not that user. Even more, let’s assume that you are considering buying one of the new $200 Tablet PCs being released by these eReading giants with the sole intention of rooting it and making it into an all purpose generic Android Tablet. It doesn’t take huge amounts of work under most circumstances. Andrei already posted instructions to this Blog on how to root the Kindle Fire and there is a great deal of headway being made on the Nook Tablet. Custom Android ROMs are sure to follow in the near future. In the end, chances are good that the only prerequisite will be a willingness to spend the time and effort to go through a list of instructions.
Under these circumstances, the most important factor is the hardware. Here, the Nook Tablet is the way to go. It has twice the RAM of the Kindle Fire, as well as twice the internal storage space. The expandable memory slot is a big incentive as well, of course. Other than those bits, the processors, screens, size, and weight are all either exactly equivalent or so close that it won’t factor in much. Probably the only other relevant difference is the fact that the Nook has some external volume controls that come in handy from time to time. Before making any real decisions on this matter, however, I recommend taking both devices for a test drive.
While the Nook Tablet‘s initial setup has some major flaws, from locking up the majority of the storage space to simply lacking a halfway decent app store, it is still pretty smooth and comes equipped to take on most third-party video purchases. You also get the added advantage of easily accessible support at every Barnes & Noble location nationwide.
The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, offers deep Amazon integration. At a glance this is troublesome and a blatant attempt to lock customers in, but they have gone out of their way to keep the platform pretty open. Competitor apps are in their Appstore (itself less well populated than the Google Marketplace but far better policed) and it isn’t hard to install things acquired elsewhere. Even the Nook reader app has no trouble. The interface is smooth, looks good, and performs better than most people would expect. Really the only complaint here is the lack of video format compatibility, which is why it was worth mentioning for the Nook.
Either way you’re getting a good device, but keep in mind what is being bought. These are not really intended to be all purpose tablets the way the iPad is and to treat them as such will likely disappoint. If you do decide to break away from the cultivated experiences provided then the minimal hardware might be more apparent than it otherwise would be. Personally, I had intended to ditch the Amazon firmware on the Kindle Fire after testing it out just enough to write about it knowledgeably. It was good enough to change my mind and might do the same for you.