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.

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  • faye

    thank you for your research on tablets really appreciated it has help me decide what to buy you are the santa info 411

  • Samuel Sze

    Here is the issue with the Kindke fire vs. the nook tablet though: I understand the downloadable video and music content, but for me personally, I subscribe to Netflix which has way more selection and the option to get DVDs which included anything I might want to watch, and although I have prime, I rarely use amazon’s video services because what you get free on streaming is very limited, and the rest of it requires you to pay per view (rent)… The nook has Netflix integration in the device (where amazon will only have the android app) and the nook tablet can stream HD and has better screen and video playback quality in side by side comparisons… You can also sideload any movie onto the nook tablet from a DVD. Regarding music, I use my iPhone and can’t really see myself switching to amazon or any other 7″ tablet for that matter since the phone is already a better form factor IMHO for listening to music (it fits in my pocket and will always be with me)… My phone doubles as an iPod basically, so music on my reader is kind of a non issue for me, and I can always sideload my collection… Regarding books, the nook can read standard ePubs which gives me flexibility, the built in ereader on the Kindke fire does not support ePubs… Also for magazine content, the book tablet performs better… It’s article view is much more developed vs. the kindle fire’s “text view”, and in page view, on the Kindke fire, resolution is blurry when you zoom in, whereas on the nook tablet, zooming in the text is crisp enough to read cover to cover… I never used to read much magazines but since getting the nook tablet, I’ve started reading them alot, the always immediate subscriptions and portability and durability, and free 2 week trials make magazines on the ereader a big plus IMHO, and the nook performs better as a magazine reader. Before you write to Santa, I recommend going to beat buy and doing the side by side comparison of magazine reading on the two devices, it’s really apparent the differences…. Last point ( and I know I’m biased being a nook owner) re: bookstores, and Borders, etc. going under… It’s true online shopping and the ebook revolution are changing the bookstore landscape, but for me, I still value the bookstore bricks and mortar experience… It would basically suck if Barnes and Noble went the way of Borders… I was kind of bummed out when Borders started closing shop, and I was totally guilty of Browsing the Borders only to “one click” on my phone to purchase online with 2 day shipping to my home… I think most readers would regret it if physical book stores ceased to exist so I am making a stand and throwing my hat in with the physical bookstores… Barnes and Noble has reinvented itself, is far more of a tech company now with $220 million business in nook, a better design and device than its competitor IMHO, and you can read any ebook in store for free, and get in store support on the device… I think, while they are the underdog, they have made the right investments in technology and are moving in the right direction. There *will* be downloadable movies and music coming up on the book as well, and I’m willing to wait for that. I’m hoping they continue to develop their bricks and mortar store experience to be the ebook store of the future… Go B&N! 🙂

  • Hey guys… there are other browsers on the samsung galaxy 10.1 that you can download. I did a test of them all and Opera scored the highest using HTML 5. The native browseer scored the lowest

  • Lee

    I’m sure you could end up with a dozen or more alternate suggestions – here’s mine as something to think about:

    Vision VTAB1008 – i’ve generally felt a 10″ tablet is too big but a 7″ tablet is too small… I ended up with the Vizio tablet which has an 8″ 1024×768 display. Has built in IR and universal remote capability. Seems to work nicely for me… And has a nice long battery life (but no cellular data) and was pretty cheap at both Costco and BJs at under $200

  • Eileen Dover

    Are the employees at Best Buy calling you BY name or calling you A name? LOL

  • JMR

    The superiority of Amazon’s content ecosystem is a legitimate consideration, but one that matters little to me because (1) I already subscribe to Netflix, and (2) I have uploaded my 12,000-track iTunes music collection to the Google cloud, for free. I can play that music (and also buy new music, if desired) from any device with Web access.

    The concern about B&N’s likely support for the Nook Tablet, compared to what the author expects from Amazon, strikes me as what the computer industry used to refer to as FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). Perhaps if I were planning to invest $1,000 or more in a device that might be bricked in the near future if its manufacturer went bankrupt, I might worry. But paying $250 for a small tablet that will still be usable as a small tablet, even if B&N disappears from the face of the Earth, is not a FUD-worthy action.

  • Hey Everyone,
    Thanks so much for commenting! You have all added to the conversation with insights and/or humor and I really appreciate you taking the time to comment!

    Hope everyone has a great holiday season!!

    • tina

      i don’t understand your preference. In almost every area in this report you have scored the kindle fire as the worst. I think if price is the only issue don’t buy a tablet rather then buying the worst & telling people to buy that one. I guess I would understand if any other reason except for the fact you like amazon. Therefore making this comparision seem VERY bias.

  • Thane

    Couple of clarifications:

    You can sideload all the Amazon Kindle apps onto the Nook Tablet – so that’s a draw.

    The Nook is a better device – more ram and upgradeable memory via sd card.

    So . . . unless you are a real newbie, the Nook is a better longterm purchase than the Kindle.

    Beyond that, its the Ipad. If money isn’t an issue, no tablet competes.

    If $$s matter, its the Nook.

  • GMC

    Hi Jen,
    Was there a consideration between Samsung Tab and Asus Transformer? I really like the transformer and the fact that I can add the keyboard, but I can’t seem to find any comparison between the two. I would really like to know 🙁

  • @GMC- I did not take a look at the Asus Transformer. I honestly don’t remember seeing one at my local Best Buy. However, if I’m over there this weekend (and I’m sure I will be), I’ll try to take a look and post my observations in the comment section here.

    Thanks for reading!

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  • Fred Webb

    What about the Toshiba Thrive, it has some nice features such as a SD slot, USB std and mini, and the ability to usa a keyboard and mouse if so desired.

  • l33ted

    You obviously didn’t spend enough time with the tablets. Nothing under 10″ is going to sell. People was to SEE the content that they pay for….
    I’ve been reading for ages (ages in the technology world), and nothing out there is selling like the 10″ iPad, and second Samsung 10″ Tab. Even the Touchpad was 10″. I’ve used the TouchPad, Fire, iPad, and Tab for a while… and even had a Droid. I could go into a long list of reasons why the iPad is the best… but the proof is in the sales.

    Here’s the REAL ranking: iPad then Tab 10″. Nothing smaller will make it, so they aren’t even listed.

  • Ken

    The 10″ comment is true if you have no consideration for compactness. The 7″ers take up much less room in your case or bag, and in a pinch can fit in a large pocket. The nook looks like the best if the 7″rs. However, the fire’s price is amazing. If you actually want to watch movies and SEE them, then I’d go Samsung, since I don’t have any apple products, but DO have android apps galore, some I even paid for. (or am I mistaken that the Galaxy will use Android apps?)

  • 7″ is a bit too less for tablets if you want it for reading books. iPad has hit the right size, wish nook and kindle fire came with a bit bigger screen !

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