After September's Kindle Fire announcement from Amazon.com, it was only a matter of time before rival bookseller Barnes & Noble retaliated with a new e-book-friendly tablet.
Update, November 18 at 1:12 p.m. PT: CNET's rated reviews of the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet are now available. The following text has been updated to reflect the observations made in these reviews.
Bearing a striking resemblance to Barnes & Noble's previous effort (the Nook Color--which remains on the market at $199), the Nook Tablet outguns the Kindle Fire in a few key specs.
The most notable differences are the amount of system RAM (1GB on the Nook Tablet, versus 512MB on the Kindle Fire); the amount of integrated storage (16GB versus 8GB on the Kindle Fire); and the inclusion of microSD memory expansion on the Nook Tablet.
Unfortunately, the improved specs of the Nook Tablet come at a $50 premium over the $199 Kindle Fire. Then, there are the details that are not easily broken down on a spec sheet. Once you get past the silicon, these tablets are essentially windows into different storefronts and services. When you add up all the e-books, apps, music, games, and videos, there's no question that Amazon has more of its own content offerings to dive into. Its cloud technology infrastructure also happens to be one of the most robust systems in the industry, and its tablet reaps the rewards in terms of improved Web-browsing performance, media lockers like Cloud Player, and Cloud Drive file backup.
The other big advantage--or, some would say, caveat--to the Kindle Fire is Amazon Prime. In addition to free two-day shipping for most of Amazon's physical product offerings, Prime offers members access to a growing library of Netflix-style on-demand streaming movies and TV shows (a subset of Amazon's full catalog), plus the option to borrow some e-books for free. Of course, all of that "free" stuff comes at a price: $79 per year. Many find it to be the retail deal of a lifetime, but--like Xbox Live on Microsoft's game console--it does mean you need to factor in a yearly premium to fully unlock the value of Amazon's tablet. … Read more