Last fall, Barnes & Noble unveiled its Nook Tablet in a very distinct way. Instead of matching the Kindle Fire’s $200 price, the CEO systematically trashed the Fire with an entire slide show full of ways that the Nook Tablet was superior to the Fire (spec comarison here) and worth its more expensive $250 price tag. Among its vital advantages was double the storage (16GB) and RAM (1GB) of the Fire. Compared to these specs, the Fire underpowered and slow, the B&N argued. It’s only been a few months, but oh how things have changed. Today, B&N unveiled a new version of the Nook Tablet with the same RAM and storage as the Kindle Fire. The price: $200.
To be fair, even with the drastic cut in specs, the Nook Tablet does still have a few advantages over the Kindle Fire. We were never able to obtain a Nook Tablet for review, but from our impressions at the launch event, the ‘VividView’ display on Nook is much better and the microSD slot for expanded storage is nice, if you need it. But the cut in RAM will likely mean that the tablet will lose that quick responsiveness that separated it from the sluggish Fire. With lowered specs, its power will be more in line with the original Nook Color, which was (and is still) an underpowered device. The Color is now available for $170, though we recommend you poney up a few more bucks to get a better model.
With the Kindle Fire selling millions over the holidays and snagging somewhere between 13 and 20 percent of the tablet market, it’s clear that the Nook has lost its momentum. Before the Fire, it was the second best selling tablet. Now, it is swimming in Amazon’s wake.
Will matching the Fire’s price really help? Amazon has a distinct brand and content advantage over the Nook. Though the two are on roughly equal footing where it relates to books, Amazon’s video and music services are tightly integrated into the Fire and are a much more holistic solution than media on the Nook Tablet, which relies on Hulu Plus and Netflix for video and services like Pandora for audio. Also, though the Nook has 8GB of storage, according to B&N’s own comparison, only 1GB of that space is available for Nook Store content and 4GB is available for everything else.
Of course, for those of you who want a good tablet experience, it appears that Barnes & Noble will still offer the 16GB Nook Tablet for $250, though it’s difficult to say how long that model will stay on the market. The 8GB version is available in stores and online starting today.