Barnes & Noble has released details of its new Nook HD range of Android tablets, which are aimed squarely at Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD line and Google’s Nexus 7. The new tablets are on pre-order now and will start shipping in late October. These are aggressively priced, with the 8GB 7 inch Nook HD selling for $199 (just like the Kindle Fire HD). But of more interest is the 16GB 9 inch version which starts at just $269, compared to $299 for Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD 8.9″.
Looking at raw specs, the Nook HD comes with 8GB or 16GB of built-in storage and an extra 32GB can be added via the microSD Card slot — something you can’t do with the Kindle Fire HD. The 7-inch display has a better resolution than the Kindle Fire HD and packs in 243 pixels per inch to give a resolution of 1440 x 900. The battery life is 9+ hours and it is powered by a dual-core 1.3GHz OMAP 4470.
The Nook HD+ is a 9-inch device, with either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage and again the same ability to add an additional 32GB via the microSD Card slot. It has a 1920 x 1280 pixel resolution display (256 PPI) and is powered by the same CPU as the Nook HD but running at a faster 1.5Ghz. The 32GB 8.9 inch Kindle Fire HD costs $369 while the 32GB Nook HD+ costs just $299.
In terms of the pricing, it is clear that $199 is about the lowest any of the big (non-Chinese) companies can go for a 7-inch device, but the Nook HD+ pricing is much better than Amazon’s (for both the 16GB and 32GB versions) and way cheaper than anything Apple has to offer.
The Nook HD and HD+ use a customized UI on top of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Like the Kindle, it is designed to focus on the content available for purchase on the platform. Barnes & Noble are launching a new video service “Nook Video” which promises blockbuster movies, classic films and original TV shows from the major studios including HBO, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, STARZ, Viacom and Warner Bros. The service will launch concurrently with the shipment of the new products in the USA and is expected to hit the UK in time for Christmas.
In an attempt to differentiate itself from the competition, Barnes & Noble is highlighting the fact that the new tablets are the lightest on the market. The Nook HD weighs only 11.1 ounces (315 grams) and is just 5-inches wide. That makes the device 20 percent lighter and nearly a half-inch narrower than the Kindle Fire HD. The Nook HD+ weighs just 18.2 ounces (515 grams) compared to the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ which weighs 20 ounces.
For customers outside of the USA, the new Nook tablets will be also available from the uk.nook.com store (and I guess can be shipped to the EU from there) starting at just £159 which is the same price as the Amazon Kindle Fire HD in the UK.
Another interesting aspect of the NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ is that the pricing is not supported by Ads. As Barnes & Noble put it, “customers can enjoy their favorite content and personal photos, not annoying ads as with Amazon’s tablets.” This makes the “always ad-free NOOK tablets” better value than Amazon’s, which charges customers an additional $15 to remove the ads.