Tablet Comparison: Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet, iPad 2, Samsung Galaxy Tab

Posted by · December 5, 2011 5:00 am

As you may or may not know, I, like millions of other people will be asking Santa for a tablet for Christmas.  (Although, rumor has it that Santa might not be real.)  Last week, I did a video review of the Amazon Kindle Fire and this week I reviewed the Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet.  I’ve also spent some time playing with the iPad 2, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Motorola Xoom.  (The employees at my local Best Buy are starting to call me by name.)

After becoming extremely frustrated with the Xoom’s lack of touch responsiveness, I eliminated it from my list, leaving me with four tablet possibilities:  the Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet, iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1. The main things I want to do on my tablet are browse the Internet, read books, play games and watch video, and all of these tablets do those things well, so my decision was actually much more difficult than I anticipated it would be.

Here are four factors I considered when weighing my tablet options:

1.)    Price- Whether it’s because it was the first tablet on the scene or because Apple products are just that good, the iPad is definitely the leader in the tablet space.  When I think tablet, I think iPad; but I also think expensive.  With both the iPad and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 retailing for between $499-$549, the Kindle Fire ($199) and Nook Tablet ($249) are definitely the most attractive options when it comes to price.

2.)    Touch responsiveness-  While the Kindle Fire is the cheapest tablet I considered, it’s also the device that was least responsive to my touch commands.  About two out of 10 times, the Kindle Fire required me to touch an icon two or three times before it would perform the action I wanted it to take. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 came in second for least touch-responsive tablet with its failure to recognize my touch command one time out of 10.  Both the iPad 2 and the Nook Tablet had a 100% touch-response rate, with a slight speed advantage going to, believe it or not, the Nook Tablet.

3.)    Browser speed- The name of Amazon’s “Silk” web browser makes you think that browsing the web on the Kindle Fire will be smooth—and fast— experience.  Unfortunately, the Kindle Fire pulls up websites about 2-3 seconds slower than the iPad 2 or the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and about 3-4 seconds slower than then the Nook Tablet.  (I know. The Nook Tablet surprised me there too.)

4.)    Content library- This is where the Nook Tablet and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 turned up to be the biggest losers.  While the Nook Tablet has native Hulu, Netflix and Pandora apps preloaded on the device, Barnes and Noble itself is all books, all the time.  So, to purchase music or download movies, you’ll need to use your browser to access Amazon or download iTunes.  The Galaxy Tab 10.1, boasts the  Samsung Music and Readers Hub with millions of songs and books to download but nothing for web video.

All I want for Christmas is…

A Kindle Fire. Truthfully, if price was not an issue, I would have chosen a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. While Apple still has slightly better support for games, apps, music and most importantly movies (iPads run HTML5, not Adobe Flash), I’m more familiar with the Galaxy Tab 10.1’s Google-esque interface.  Plus, I feel confident that Samsung will course correct and release updates that provide better support for HTML5.

Since price is an issue, though, I chose the Kindle Fire.  Why the Kindle Fire over the Nook Tablet? For starters, the price of the Kindle Fire cannot be beat.  Second of all, the Kindle Fire is extremely easy to use.  It was the first tablet I tested out and having never used a tablet before in my life (I’m weird. I know.), I instantly knew how to navigate my way around the device.

Additionally, owning a Kindle Fire gives me access to Amazon’s library of content and a place to store it.  There are a number of free books, movies and tv shows available for download through Amazon Prime, and every Kindle Fire owner receives free cloud storage for Amazon content. The Nook Tablet’s native content is not nearly as robust and content must be stored on the device or a third party cloud application.

Finally, when I compared the companies that make the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, I simply felt more confident that Amazon would provide the level of support needed to make their tablet a success.  In the December issue of Wired, Jeff Bezos told senior writer Steven Levy that he doesn’t consider the Kindle Fire a device, but a “media service.” And I, for one, feel confident that a man who has kept his company viable–and continually innovating–for 15 years will do what it takes to make his media service one of the best on the market.

Barnes and Noble, on the other hand, is first and foremost a bookstore.  Sadly, we all know the path that bookstores seem to be on (just ask Borders), and I’d hate to wake up one morning and own a device that is manufactured by a company that no longer exists.

I’m not saying that buying a Kindle Fire does not come with trade-offs.  I’m sure I’ll have occasional moments of frustration with slower browser speed and touch disfunctionality, but to me, that’s a small price to pay compared to the thousands of hours of enjoyment I’ll spend watching movies, listening to music and reading books on my new device.  Besides, there’s a reason people say you get what you pay for, and for what I, er, Santa, is paying for it, the Kindle Fire is exactly the tablet I want.