The simplest way to sum up Barnes & Noble's new Nook Tablet is this: It costs more than Amazon.com's rival Kindle Fire -- and you get less.
Fewer apps are in the Nook application store. Getting music or videos on the Nook Tablet isn't as easy as Kindle Fire. Although the Nook Tablet has more storage space than Kindle Fire, less is available for storing movies and songs.
The Nook Tablet is a better-looking device and has a few notable features that Kindle Fire lacks, such as a microphone and physical buttons. The features, though, aren't worth the $50 premium you would pay over the $200 Kindle Fire.
The Tablet looks a lot like its predecessor, the Nook Color. I really liked that device when I reviewed it in January, calling it the best e-reader available on the market. I liked that Nook Color was more than an e-reader because it has a version of Android and can run applications -- it was essentially a low-cost tablet.
Amazon has taken that concept and extended it with the Kindle Fire and, in the process, raised the bar for what a low-cost tablet should include.
The Fire's no iPad, but it does offer a lot of bang for the buck, especially if you're an Amazon fan. The device is closely connected to Amazon's Kindle e-book, MP3 and digital-video services, allowing you to buy songs and books easily or access those you have stored on Amazon's servers.
Although the Nook Tablet is a more satisfying computing device than the Nook Color, it doesn't reach the level of Kindle Fire.
The Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire have a lot in common. Just like Amazon's device, the Tablet has a 7-inch screen. Like the Fire, it runs a heavily customized version of Google's Android operating system. And the Tablet's user interface is much like the Fire's.
Just as on the Fire, the Nook's home screen displays a "shelf" full of recently opened applications, books or magazines that you can browse through by swiping left or right. And like the Fire, the Tablet has text links that direct you to particular types of content, including books, periodicals, movies and music.
One feature that I like about the Nook Tablet is that -- unlike the Kindle Fire, which has only one physical button -- it has physical volume control and home buttons, making it easier in some ways to control. The Tablet also has rounded edges and a thinner case than the Fire, giving it a better feel in the hand than the blocky Fire.
Regarding books and periodicals, the Tablet works similarly to the Fire. Users see thumbnails of recently accessed books along with a link to Barnes & Noble's store, where they can purchase more. …