If you read my post comparing the Kindle Fire to the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, you probably think you know how this particular matchup is going to end. After all, the Nook has many of the same limitations as the Fire, including limited hardware and app selection.
However, the Nook has some benefits over the Kindle Fire that make it a better choice for some consumers, even over the Tab 2.
Still, Samsung’s tablet has some distinct advantages and costs the same. Which one is best for you or the person on your gift list? Read our detailed comparison below to find out.
Note: The bulk of this comparison uses the original $249 Nook Tablet.
Software and Interface
The Nook Tablet runs a version of Android, just like the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, but Barnes & Noble designed an interface for the Tablet that simplifies the operating system. Unless you happen to know, it’s not apparent from looking at the Nook that Android is behind the scenes. This has major appeal for consumers who aren’t comfortable with Android or tech in general.
The simple interface is easy to use and guides readers almost every step of the way. It’s also very attractive and includes some fun extras like the ability to add book covers to the Home screen and resize Home screen icons.
The drawback is that B&N restricts the Tablet. One restriction that even novice users will notice is that you can’t load any Android app, only those found in the App Shop. Many core settings are hidden, which means no sideloading apps.
The Tab 2 runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich with a interface/skin over it called TouchWiz. TouchWiz changes the look of Android a little and makes it a bit easier to use by tweaking features and functions. However, the experience you get is pretty much the same as with most Android devices.
You’ll also get the benefits of the newest Android operating system — one that’s made specifically to work on large displays. Samsung doesn’t place any extra limitations on the apps you can download or sideload.
Both tablets have 7-inch displays with a 1024 x 600 resolution and both offer rich colors, true blacks, and plenty of brightness when you need it. They also both offer wide viewing angles.
The Nook Tablet’s IPS display has some advantages over the Galaxy Tab 2 when it comes to outdoor viewing. In sunlight, the display is readable, especially at 100% brightness, but in a different way than the Tab 2.
Since the Nook is all about eReading, the display essentially makes text stand out from lighter backgrounds in a more natural way. Thus you can turn the brightness down to 50% or even 25% and still read comfortably.
Viewing the Tab 2 in sunlight is possible at high brightness levels, though the backlight is very harsh looking and not great for long reading sessions.
Apps and eBooks
Barnes & Noble designed the Nook Tablet primarily for readers, as the display suggests. This also comes through in the design of the apps for reading books, magazines and comics. Readers have a myriad of options for fonts, text size, color themes and more. It’s easy to both immerse yourself in the text and flip through to find the section or information you’re looking for.
In addition to the content above, B&N also has an extensive library of enhanced children’s books. These titles include Read To Me, interactive elements that enhance reading skills, and even fun animations to keep them engaged. Some titles even allow an adult to record their own voice reading the book.
This focus on eReading also informs the selections in Barnes & Noble’s app store. Currently, there are about 3,000 apps available compared to over 450,000 in the Android Market/Google Play Store. The Nook’s app selections tend to those with a literary theme, casual games and puzzles, productivity and utilities.
If your primary focus is on reading, the small app selection isn’t a big deal. Same if you’re looking for a really simple tablet. Plus, all of the apps available for the Nook have been tested to ensure they work on it, unlike the Wild West of the Google Play Store.
Though the Nook Tablet can read eBooks from almost any store that sells the ePub format (Sony, Kobo, Google) including libraries with digital lending, it can’t read Kindle eBooks. The Galaxy Tab 2 can.
You can find apps for most major eBook sellers in the Google Play Store, including apps for Nook, Kindle, Kobo, Google Play and Sony plus indie eBook apps that aren’t tied to a specific store. Library lending is possible, too. The only one missing is iBooks.
The Nook app for Android offers a similar experience for eReading as doing so on the Nook Tablet itself. You’ll be able to read books and magazines with a full layout on the Tab 2 and access most of the same settings for reading. The only content the Nook app doesn’t have access to is enhanced children’s books.
Avid readers may want to weigh the benefits of the Nook’s better display against what the Galaxy Tab 2 brings to the table. However, the access to multiple store’s apps is also a major favor.
Reading is the Nook Tablet’s raison d’etre, but it also aims to satisfy the media itch as well. Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora all come pre-loaded. And users can play their own music and Android-compatible videos through the Music and Gallery apps. Just load it on the Tablet or a microSD card.
What the Nook seriously lacks is a way to purchase media from the device. There are hints that something along these lines is coming, though no official word.
Samsung pre-loaded the company’s Media Hub and Music Hub on the Galaxy Tab 2. These hubs offer access to movies (rent or buy), TV episodes, and the newest album releases. While the offerings aren’t as extensive as iTunes, the apps make it simple to discover, purchase and watch media.
Hardware and Design
Hardware is another area where the focus on a tablet for readers comes out in the Nook. The Tablet lacks some components other tablets have by default, such as front and rare-facing cameras and a Bluetooth radio. Unlike the Kindle Fire, which has a similar sensibility, the Nook does have a microSD card slot that takes cards up to 32GB.
The micro USB port on the bottom is only good for charging and transferring files to and from the computer — no attaching a keyboard or other accessory.
At 8.1 x 5.0 x 0.48 inches and 14.1 ounces it’s larger and a little heavier than the Galaxy Tab 2 (7.6 x 4.8 x 0.41 inches, 12.2 ounces). Both are still small enough to fit in even small bags, but the lighter weight of the Tab 2 makes it a little more comfortable for long-term reading.
Inside, the tablets both have a dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, meaning they perform well, especially when multitasking. The Nook Tablet can boast twice as much internal memory — 16GB to the Tab 2’s 8GB.
Despite that shortcoming, the Galaxy Tab is a better piece of hardware since it does have all the features and components tablet shoppers expect. In addition to cameras and Bluetooth it also ha a GPS radio. Samsung also has some accessories that attach to the port on the bottom.
I should also mention the $199 8GB version of the Nook Tablet. It has the same design, display and dual-core processor as the 16GB version. However, in addition to half the internal storage, it also has half the RAM (512GB). Most users will only notice the difference if they have a bunch of apps open at once and try to switch between them.
Thus, the $199 Nook Tablet has the same pros and cons as the 16GB when compared to the Galaxy Tab 2. Being $50 less will influence a lot of decisions, but spending extra on the Tab 2 gets you far more features and fewer limitations.
The Bottom Line
I would recommend the Nook Tablet to people who aren’t tech-savvy or who just want a simple, easy-to-use tablet device who are also big into eBooks and eReading. For that audience, it’s still a great device.
For everyone else I recommend the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. For the same price you get access to more apps, portals for buying media, all the features and extras one expects in a tablet and the latest Android operating system. It’s the best tablet you can buy at this price right now.