I think our regular Android manufacturers missed a huge opportunity this year to sell as many units as possible by releasing not only $500 (or more) tablets but also tablets that come at half the price, while still delivering decent performance for most of the things you’d want to do on a tablet.
This started becoming obvious with the launch of the Nook Color a year ago, when a lot of people bought them for $250 so they can put a custom Android ROM on it. And if that message that was sent by the market wasn’t clear enough, it became even more clear with the HP Touchpad firesale, when a lot of people, all of the sudden, wanted a tablet for a low price, even if they weren’t planning on buying one before that.
If our regular Android manufacturers started offering tablets for $250 or so, they would’ve not only helped themselves gain a strong foothold in the tablet market as a strong Android tablet brand, but they would’ve helped the whole Android ecosystem take off, too. As they’ve learned from the rise of Android smartphones, when Android grows, it raises all the boats. That means it helped everyone involved.
But they missed this opportunity, and at least until next year we won’t be seeing a tablet that cheap from any of the regular Android manufacturers. Until then, it seems that some unexpected companies are going to dominate this segment of the market.
Amazon and B&N will both launch a 7″ tablet each, one at $200 and the other at $250 as early as this month. So for now at least, if you want a tablet this cheap that has a great display and a dual core CPU, you have to choose between the Nook Tablet or the Amazon Kindle Fire. So let’s see what we’re dealing with here.
Nook Tablet Specs
- Processor: dual core 1 Ghz TI OMAP 4430
- Display: 7″ IPS
- Resolution: 1024 (169 PPI)
- Storage: 16 GB + microSD slot
- RAM: 1 GB
- Weight: 400g (14.1 ounces)
- Battery: 11.5h reading, 9h video playback (wi-fi off)
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi only
Kindle Fire Specs
- Processor: dual core 1 Ghz TI OMAP 4430
- Display: 7″ IPS
- Resolution: 1024×600 (169 PPI)
- Storage: 8 GB (no microSD slot)
- RAM: 512 MB
- Weight: 414g (14.6 ounces)
- Battery: 8h reading, 7.5h video playback (wi-fi off)
- Connectivity: Wi-fi only
Both of them have the dual core TI OMAP 4430 . Because of their low price points people may be fooled into thinking that it’s no big deal, but it is. These 2 tablets have dual core processors that can easily handle everything on the device, including HD video and the latest games for Android. And you only have to pay $200-$250 to get that.
Both displays are IPS and both have the 1024×600 resolution that has become standard on 7″ devices. It’s too bad they don’t have HD displays with a 1280×800 resolution, but I think that would’ve added significantly more to the cost of the device, so I’m not that surprised that they didn’t use HD panels. I’m sure they will come in the next-gen versions, though.
The reason why I would’ve liked HD displays is to be able to play HD videos at their native resolution, but also because it would’ve increased the PPI to a crisper 215 PPI (compared to 169 PPI now). Still a way to go until 300+ PPI, though. It won’t be that high until there’s a Full HD resolution of 1920×1200 on these 7″ devices. But I don’t think that kind of resolution will be available on 7″ devices until 2013-2014. By then we should have tablets like these 2 at $100, though.
Mobile RAM is pretty expensive so one logical way to cut costs for Amazon was to use less RAM. I would say 512 MB is not too bad for most people, who probably just browse one page at a time, and it should be enough for pretty much everything else, too. Those of you who are more heavy browser user and like to use multiple tabs/windows in the same time, you may want to opt for a 1 GB (or higher) tablet.
This is another place where Amazon was right to cut costs if they wanted to reach the $200 price point. If you keep in mind what this tablet is for – books, online videos, music, browsing, some apps and games – then 8 GB should be more than enough for the next 2 years or so.
However, if you want a more future proofed tablet, at least in regards to storage, then it’s best you choose the Nook Tablet. It comes with 16 GB on board and you can also expand it with another 32 GB microSD card.
B&N is pretty bold with their battery life claims for the Nook Tablet. Although they use the same processor, B&N says theirs will last for 11.5h for reading and 9h of video playback vs Kindle Fire’s 8h of reading and 7.5h of video playback. The only explanation could come from the Nook Tablet using a better battery or it could be Amazon’s fault for using richer graphics that make the chip work harder and use more power. We should find out the truth soon enough.
Both have their own Android app stores, but Amazon’s store counts apps in the thousands, while the B&N app store has more like a few hundred apps. You’ll also have to decide between their book and magazine selections, and also whether you prefer Amazon’s Prime subscription for movies and shows on Kindle Fire, or Netflix/Hulu Plus subscriptions on the Nook Tablet.
So which of these 2 tablets is the “best”? I don’t think one is so obviously superior to the other. If you just want the cheapest tablet you can get that is still premium quality, and you lucked out on the HP Touchpad, then get the Kindle Fire. Same if you love the Amazon ecosystem and everything they have to offer, and you don’t find the B&N’s ecosystem or Netflix/Hulu Plus particularily compelling.
On the other hand, if you’re not terribly price sensitive, the extra $50 is worth it for the Nook Tablet, at least from a hardware point of view. The specs, increased battery life and design make up for it. It’s also a better option if you plan to root it and use a custom Android ROM on it. You have more storage to play around with and also a microSD slot, which is usually necessary for that whole process.
Both of them are great tablets for a low price. But which one is the best from the two? You decide.