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First impressions: Nook Tablet is the value tablet to beat

Melissa J. Perenson | Nov. 8, 2011
The US$249 Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet may look like its predecessor, Nook Color, but that's where the comparisons stop.

Where are the Apps?

While Nook Tablet calls itself a tablet, it still lacks many tablet features and access to the wide swath of apps on Android Market. Apps need to come from B&N's own, growing app store. But there is some good in B&N's curated approach, though. Through B&N's store, you'll get apps that are specifically tailored for use on a 7-inch tablet without a camera or GPS or phone, for example. In practice, this is actually a pleasant switch-up from the messy Android Market experience (hint, Google: Please fix the Market), from which I've downloaded plenty of apps onto 7-inch tablets only to have them crash and force-close on me or not stretch properly to fit the tablet's screen.

What Barnes & Noble Missed

Add in the basic features. Nook Tablet is missing Bluetooth, stereo speakers, a GPS, and front- and rear-facing cameras. Beyond the basic processing specs, those are the features that Nook Color omitted, and that Nook Tablet--now that it's actually crossing into the territory of calling itself a tablet and trying to compete with tablets--should have added.

They're basic specs of dedicated competing tablets. Granted, some of the "value" competition lacks Google services and cameras, too, but Nook Tablet shouldn't be trying to compete with those tablets--it's core specs are good enough for it to play in the big kids' sandbox, alongside Honeycomb 7-inch tablets from the likes of Samsung and Toshiba. If Nook Tablet had added the competitive feature set.

I would have liked to see B&N step up the display's resolution. I'm totally sold on B&N's bonded and laminated VividView display's qualities, and I know B&N says it has done optimizations on top of Android to improve text rendering, but in some fonts I could still see pixelation in the text. I prefer the smooth text rendering of higher-resolution displays, such as those offered by Toshiba's 7" Thrive and T-Mobile's SpringBoard, both of which have stepped the resolution up to 1280 by 800 pixels.

While B&N clearly missed a few opportunities to forge ahead of the pack, these omissions were trade-offs that were likely made in the name of achieving the Nook Tablet's attractive price. And attractive it is: At $249, Nook Tablet is a veritable bargain compared with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus (shipping now) and the Thrive 7" (shipping in December), both $399. (T-Mobile hasn't announced pricing for the SpringBoard yet).

Stay tuned for our full-review of Nook Tablet next week.

 

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