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Tech Report – NOOK Tablet

The iPad so dominates the tablet scene that every other new tablet immediately gets compared to the market leader and inevitably comes off second best. That seems to be the case whether the competing tablet is very good (Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1), good ( Lenovo’s ThinkPad Tablet), or a disaster (RIM’s BlackBerry Playbook).

But a new generation of tablets are starting to appear and they compete in the one area that the iPad is vulnerable – and that’s price. Leading the way is Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which is priced so far below the iPad, that a straight comparison really doesn’t make much sense. Record-breaking sales over the Thanksgiving weekend seem to prove the point – people are prepared to forego some of the iPad’s polish and functionality if it means saving $300 or more.

And now into this hugely lucrative secondary tablet market come another newcomer – Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Tablet, which is priced just $50 higher than the Kindle Fire at $249.

To be fair, the NOOK Tablet is not a complete newcomer. For Barnes & Noble, it is a natural progression from the NOOK Color, which was essentially a e-reader but had clear aspirations to be something much more. The NOOK Tablet shares much in common with its predecessor (which remains on the market but at a lower $199 price), including the same 7-inch screen size and resolution.

But the NOOK Tablet has a lot more power under the hood, and a lot more memory) to add and store content. It has full multimedia capability, which means you can read books, watch movies, listen to music, surf the Web, check your e-mail and run apps – in fact everything a tablet is supposed to do.

Like the Kindle Fire, the NOOK Tablet runs a highly-customized version of Android. That means you don’t get full access to the Android Market, but instead are offered a list of “curated” apps. But a lack of volume doesn’t mean a lack of quality. The NOOK Tablet comes pre-loaded with Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora, and thousands more are available through the NOOK Apps store.

The ability to surf the Web and seamlessly run video are great selling points, but of course the big plus with the NOOK Tablet is access to “the world’s largest bookstore.” With over 2.5 million titles, including thousands of children’s books and comics, the NOOK Tablet will never be short on content.

At $249 there are going to be some shortcomings. The NOOK Tablet has no camera, no Bluetooth capability, and no GPS. But what it does have is great functionality, great portability and a great price. It may be no iPad, but who’s comparing?

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