This morning Barnes & Noble officially announced its Nook Tablet — its 7-inch, $249 tablet that goes head-to-head with the Kindle Fire. Naturally, we fought the crowds at the launch event to get some hands-on time with the Nook Color successor. So can the Tablet take on Amazon's entry? Read on for impressions and don't forget to check out the hands-on video and pictures.
Design-wise, the Tablet continues to be one of the best feeling devices out there. We say continues because it really is the same as the Nook Color when it comes to look and feel. The rubber-ish grey back is comfortable in hand and the little hook on the bottom gives it some pizazz, at least in comparison the Kindle Fire's all-black, Playbook-like design. Even more impressive is that the Tablet is slightly lighter than the Color, though I really couldn't tell the difference in my short hands-on time. The display is pleasantly bright and the viewing angles as surprisingly nice.
However, the biggest change here comes with the innards. The Tablet has a dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage space, and the speed improvement is noticeable. As you can see in the video, the page turns are quick and a preloaded HD video (we are assuming 720p) fired up and played back without pauses. Unfortunately, they aren't really permitting reporters to play with it, but I did get to sneak in a quick look at the browser and load up The Verge. Both the full and mobile site loaded quickly over the in-store Wi-Fi and scrolling was decently smooth, though I wouldn't say as silky as the iPad.
In terms of the OS, not much has really changed on the interface front. You still have the bookshelf layout (yes, similar to the Kindle Fire) with apps and a carousel of books on the bottom. Double-tapping on the Nook hardware button on the front takes you to another list of core-apps, including the Browser and Settings. We went back to try and get some time with Netflix only to be unfortunately blocked in our efforts — the rep we spoke with wouldn't even open the app for us, citing bad wi-fi connection that would give a subpar impression. She repeatedly assured us that the Netflix UI was optimal (though wouldn't say if it was the same as the general Android app) and that both companies worked together to integrate into the device strongly (i.e. recommendations). As for comics, the representative we spoke with said there will be other publishing partners other than Marvel by launch, but the House of M, X-Men, and Spider-man will be the biggest name at the time.
So what's our takeaway after seeing the Nook Tablet in action? Will it extinguish the Fire, as some are saying? The hardware is still beautiful and the new organs provide a faster experience, but we're not sure at $50 more than the Kindle Fire, B&N's got what it takes to fight Amazon on the content front. However, we'll hold out on making a final decision until we get to spend some more time with both the new 7-inch tablets in the coming weeks.
Update: After repeated attempts we finally got a look at the Netflix app. And yes, it looks just like the Netflix phone app on a 7-inch display. As you can see in the video below, streaming was smooth and you have the standard controls.
Ross Miller contributed to this report.