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So far loving the thing, and finally I'm un-tied from just a single source for eBooks -- I can continue to enjoy my ample NookBooks library, and now expand it with Kindle Books, Google Play Books, and pretty much anything else!
And I can now enjoy playing The Simpsons: Tapped Out on a 7" HD screen! As Homer would say, "Woo-hoo!"
So why buy the Nook HD rather than, say, the Kindle Fire HD? Or, I dunno, the Samsung Galaxy Tab?
Number one consideration was cost. The 8GB model I'd planned on buying only costs $129. (I actually ended up with the $149 16GB version, but I had a coupon that netted me that model at Fred Meyer for only $119, with the purchase of a pair of jeans I desperately needed anyway.) Galaxy Tab (and damn near everything else) is out on this one; Kindle Fire HD, though, is only $10 more. [Okay, upon further review, the Galaxy Tab is actually closer in price than I thought, but it is still $50 over the Nook HD.]
Number two is size; I didn't want a "full-size" tablet, just something for reading. My 6" Nook Simple Touch is actually a great screen for reading, so I didn't have to go with a 9" screen; the 7" screen is just the right size (actually an upgrade!), but it's also the same size screen as the Kindle Fire HD. However, this soundly eliminates all the other low-cost tablets out there, as they greatly sacrifice size to get down into a comparable price point.
Well, let's compare specs:
Physical Size: Nook is slightly taller, but just as wide and as thick, and slightly lighter, however the differences are negligible -- you really wouldn't know without holding them side-by-side. Draw.
OS: Both run a customized version of Android, however the Kindle's is locked down so that you're forced to side-load or jailbreak it in order to get apps not on Amazon's App Store onto your device; the Nook, however, once updated includes Google's Play Store, so you can get just about any app out there -- including the Kindle reader app! Advantage: Nook.
Storage Capacity: Both are available in 8GB and 16GB models, at roughly the same price point, and both offer unlimited cloud storage for content purchased from their respective stores; however, only the Nook sports a MicroSD card slot for expansion. Advantage: Nook.
RAM: Both sport 1GB. Draw.
CPU: The Kindle has a dual-core 1.5GHz CPU; the Nook also has a dual-core CPU, but the 8GB model's is only clocked at 1.3GHz (although the 16GB's is 1.5GHz). While a fairly negligible difference in reality, I nonetheless have to recognize: Advantage: Kindle.*
Screen: Both sport a screen of identical size, both laying claim to "HD", however the Kindle's resolution is 1280x800 compared to 1440×900 on the Nook. Quality (brightness, clarity, glare) is comparable otherwise. Advantage: Nook.
Battery: The Nook claims a 10.5-hour reading duration, compared to only 10 hours on the Kindle. That's a pretty negligible difference, though, especially since that would be dwarfed by variation owing to simple usage habits/patterns. Draw.
Charging: The Nook claims to charge in 3 hours, compared to 6 hours for the Kindle. However, the Kindle uses a standard Micro-USB plug for charging, whereas the Nook uses an insane, iPhone-esque 30-pin connector on the end of an otherwise perfectly normal USB cable (WTF is the point of having 30 pins on one end, but only 5 on the other???). Sorry, Nook, but I hate stupid cables like this, so that invalidates your 100% advantage here. Draw.**
Available Library: Let's be frank, I'm buying primarily an e-reader here. Everything else is just icing. The Kindle may have a larger library than the Nook, but the Nook HD's inclusion of the Google Play store means I can easily access both libraries, and then some that neither typically have access to. Plus the Nook natively supports a broad range of formats for side-loading books directly, compared to only a few on the Kindle. This one's a no-brainer: Advantage: Nook.***
So in the end the score is 4-1 (plus 4 draws). Winner: Nook.
Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I do have an affinity for Barnes & Noble, and the Kindle has a (perhaps unjustified) bad rap in my mind owing to the heavily ironic purging of 1984 from Kindle users' libraries a while back; additionally, the simple fact that I do have a sizable NookBook library and that the Kindle does not (easily, anyway) allow me access to that probably would have been enough on its own to lead me to the Nook. Nonetheless, I tried to be as objective as I could in comparing these two -- and the Nook HD handily beats the Kindle Fire HD in almost every measure where they aren't equals.
In fact, the reality is that not all of these points are equal. My first two criteria -- cost and screen size -- dwarf everything else, and the last point I awarded -- library size -- is probably the most important of the remainder. For my purposes, anyway. I only presented these on equal basis for anyone else -- apply your own priority/weight to each point as appropriate, and come to your own conclusion of which is best for you.
There's also a point I omitted above, because it's frankly not a consideration I made, and that's on-demand streaming. Both devices have access to Netflix, however only the Kindle has an app for streaming Amazon Video. While the Nook should be able to do so via the Chrome browser (although I haven't tested this yet), the ease of access here would give a point to the Kindle -- if you care about Amazon On-Demand, however (it's how [private] and I keep up with Doctor Who, so we care a lot -- just not on my e-reader).
Ultimately, I have to conclude that the Nook HD is quite simply a superior device to the Kindle Fire HD, be it as an e-reader or even as a tablet in general.
*You may be wondering why I awarded the point for CPU to the Kindle, given that the Nook HD 16GB that I ended up buying has the same specs as the one in the Kindle. Well, it's simply because when I was making my decision, it was based on the 8GB model I wanted to buy; I only bought the 16GB because of the coupon, and even still I probably would have stuck with the 8GB (and saved the full $30 from what I expected to pay, rather than only $10) if Fred's carried it (they only carry the 16GB Nook HD). So while this point is clearly a "Draw" when comparing the 16GB models, I awarded it to the Kindle because my decision was based on the 8GB models.
**It might seem overly harsh to effectively annul the fact the Nook charges in half the time of the Kindle on the basis of the cord used. That should tell you how much I hate non-standard cords and such!
***While it may look like I gave the Nook 2 points for being able to access the Kindle library without working around the OS, in truth the first point is on the principle of the OS being not locked down, with the access to the Kindle library being just an example of that; only the second point is in fact for being able to access the Kindle library.