Barnes & Noble announced a new line of tablet devices Tuesday that are poised to rival Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet line, the Google Nexus 7, and the widely expected iPad mini slated for later this year. The 7-inch Nook HD and 9-inch Nook HD+ feature an all-new design and start at US$199 and $269, respectively.
In designing the new products, Barnes & Noble wanted to both differentiate the look and feel of the products from other competing tablets as well as offer equivalent or better technical specifications.
An example of the results of this desire were illustrated by Barnes & Noble in a head-to-head comparison Tuesday between the Nook HD and the recently launched Kindle Fire HD. The Nook HD’s 7-inch display has a 1440-by–900 resolution for a pixel density of 243 pixels per inch (ppi), beating the Kindle Fire HD’s 1280-by–800 resolution and roughly 216 ppi density.
Further, the Nook HD’s OMAP 4470 1.3 GHz processor beats the Fire HD’s 1.2 GHz OMAP 4460. Barnes & Noble also claims GPU improvements of up to 80 percent over the Fire HD, but no independent testing can yet confirm that claim. Both tablets have 1 GB of RAM.
The Nook HD departs from some competing tablets and does not use edge-to-edge glass for the display. Instead, a rubberized textured coating surounds the bezel and back of the device, making it easier and more comfortable to hold.
The Nook HD is available for preorder now in “Snow” and “Smoke” colors and will ship November 1 with two capacities: 8 GB ($199) and 16 GB ($229).
The Nook HD+, with its 9-inch display, is targeted directly at the larger Kindle Fire HD 8.9 and iPad. Its 1920-by–1280 resolution is nearly the same as the 1920-by–1200 display found on the Fire HD 8.9, but falls short of the iPad’s 2048-by–1536 specification. When factoring in the iPad’s extra 0.7-inches in display size, however, the relative pixel density is very close: 256 ppi for the Nook HD+ versus 264 ppi for the iPad.
The Nook HD+ also has different dimensional proportions. The iPad popularized a 4:3 aspect ratio in the tablet space, and other manufacturers have moved to ratios closer to 16:9, but Barnes & Noble elected to go with a 3:2 ratio on the Nook HD+.
The larger Nook tablet is using the same 1.5 GHz dual-core OMAP 4470 processor found in the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 and has 1 GB of RAM.
The Nook HD+ is also available for preorder in a single “Slate” color, with a ship date of November 1. Capacity options include 16 and 32 GB for $269 and $299, respectively.
Both Nook tablets are running custom versions of Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich operating system that has been tuned to take advantage of Barnes & Noble’s content ecosystem; prominently displaying books, magazines, and video.
Alongside its hardware releases, Barnes & Noble announced the forthcoming release of a new video service, dubbed Nook Video. Television and movie content from major studios will be available for Nook tablet customers to download or stream from B&N’s cloud-based storage service.
An exciting feature of the Nook Video store is compatibility with UltraViolet, the studio-backed digital content streaming service. Nook customers with existing UltraViolet movies in their account can simply sign in to the service from their tablets and gain instant access to cloud-based versions of their purchases and UltraViolet-converted DVDs.
“As one of the world’s largest retailers of physical video discs and digital copyrighted content, our new Nook Video service will give our customers another way to be entertained with a vast and growing digital video collection, as part of our expansive Nook Store,” said William J. Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble. “The launch of our new digital video service with our long-time studio partners allows us to bring award-winning current and classic movies, TV shows, documentaries and more to millions of customers’ screens, coming soon.”
UltraViolet compatibility will help B&N’s video service stay competitive with Amazon’s Prime Instant Video, which lacks UltraViolet but contains far more content.
Nook Video will be available in the United States this fall and in the United Kingdom by the end of the year. The service will offer individual purchases (in addition to UltraViolet access) at prices “competitive with other leading services,” but it is unclear if there will be a streaming service to compete with Amazon and Netflix.
Like Amazon, Barnes & Noble is pushing hard on the price issue. While neither company can match the application ecosystem of the iPad, both are offering capable hardware at price points hundreds of dollars below Apple’s targets.
Amazon, and now Barnes & Noble, do have compelling content in the digital reading space, and with Android compatibility they have the opportunity to tie into a vast array of Android applications. If the video services of both companies can remain strong, and if other crucial tablet functions such as Web and email are well crafted, Apple may find the future tablet market, especially within the 7- to 8-inch space, much more competitive than in past years.
|Kindle Fire||Kindle Fire HD||Kindle Fire HD 8.9||Nook HD||Nook HD+||Nexus 7||iPad|
|Wireless Options||Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi / 4G LTE||Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi / 4G LTE|
|Built-In Storage||8GB||16GB / 32GB||16GB / 32GB / 64GB||8GB / 16GB||16GB / 32GB||8GB / 16GB||16GB / 32GB /64GB|
|Processor||Dual-Core OMAP 4430 1.2 GHz||Dual-Core OMAP 4460 1.2 GHz||Dual-Core OMAP 4470 1.5 GHz||Dual-Core OMAP 4470 1.3 GHz||Dual-Core OMAP 4470 1.5 GHz||Quad-Core Tegra 3 1.2 GHz||Dual-Core A5X|
|Advertised Battery Life||8.5 hours||11 hours||TBA||10.5 hours||10 hours||10 hours||10 hours|
|Dimensions (inches)||7.44 x 4.72 x 0.45||7.6 x 5.4 x 0.4||9.45 x 6.5 x 0.35||7.65 x 5.0 x 0.43||9.46 x 6.41 x 0.45||7.81 x 4.72 x 0.411||9.5 x 7.31 x 0.37|
|Weight||0.88 pounds (399g)||0.87 pounds (394g)||1.25 pounds (567g)||0.69 pounds (315g)||1.14 pounds (515g)||0.75 pounds (340g)||1.44 pounds (652g)|
|Price (USD)||$159||$199 (16GB) / $249 (32GB)||$299 (Wi-Fi) / $499 (4G)||$199 (8GB) / $229 (16GB)||$269 (16GB) / $299 (32GB)||$199 (8GB) / $249 (16GB)||
$499/$599/$699 (16/32/64GB Wi-Fi)|
$629/$729/$829 (16/32/64GB 4G)