Barnes & Noble announced two new tablets today, the 7-in. Nook HD, starting at $199, and the 9-in. Nook HD+, starting at $269.
The original 7-in. Nook Tablet, released in November 2011 for $249, now starts at $179.
In making the announcement, the bookseller took on the popular 9.7-in. Apple iPad, which starts at $499, noting that the new 9-in. Nook HD+ will be 20% lighter and start at nearly half the price of the iPad.
Both tablets have improved screens, and the smaller Nook HD has the highest resolution display, 1440 x 900, of any 7-in. tablet, with 243 pixels per inch, as well as HD video playback capability of up to 720p. The 9-in. Nook HD+ supports 1080p video and has a 1920 x 1280 resolution.
Nook Video, offering videos and TV shows to customers, and announced Tuesday, will be available to both new tablets. Both tablets also have laminated displays with no air gaps for better clarity and to reduce reflection and glare.
Both tablets come with new Nook Profiles, which allow the user to switch between password-protected personalized profiles on the same device, keeping the content separate.
The HD+ model runs a dual-core 1.5 GHz OMAP 4470 processor, while the HD runs a dual core 1.3 GHz OMAP 4470 (compared to the 1.0 GHz dual core OMAP 4430 in the original Nook Tablet).
Both run a version of Android Ice Cream Sandwich and Barnes & Noble's own version of the Android Web browser. There is a 6000 mAh battery in the HD+ and a 4050 mAh battery in the HD version.
Both tablets have new email apps, which support Microsoft Exchange for the first time, as well as Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, AOL and others. Barnes & Noble officials said they will take advantage of Microsoft's recent $300 million investment in the company, making use of Microsoft's marketing prowess and the addition of Exchange to the devices.
Neither tablet has a camera, a feature promoted heavily in many other tablets on the market. Company executive Bill Saperstein, in an interview, explained that Barnes & Noble was "not trying to be all things to all people" and said the devices were built with powerful processors and high-quality displays to concentrate on consumption of content in books, music and videos, rather than on video chat and photo-taking.
Barnes & Noble officials made a point of noting that Target and Walmart will carry the new tablets, but the stores will not sell Amazon's tablets. Those retailers objected to Amazon's use of ads in its tablets because the advertising competes with the retailers' own advertisers. Barnes & Noble is offering its tablets without "annoying ads as with Amazon's tablets." Amazon requires customers to pay $15 to lose the advertising, which makes the Nook tablets "a better value than Amazon's," Barnes & Noble said.
Content is delivered to the Nook tablets via Wi-Fi, although both tablets also have Bluetooth afor the first time. Both tablets have microSD ports to expand storage to 64 GB.
The 9-in. tablet weighs 18.2 ounces and is 9.5 in. x 6.4 in. x 0.45 in., while the 7-in. tablet weighs 11.1 ounces and is 7.7 in. x 5 in. x 0.43 in. The Nook HD+ comes in a $349 version with 32 GB, as well as the starting $269 16GB version. The Nook HD for $199 has 8 GB, and the 16 GB version is $249.
Barnes & Noble made a quirky design shift with the 7-in. Nook HD by removing the faux caribiner clip seen in the original Nook on the lower left of the tablet body (when held in portrait mode). Instead, the carabiner clip appears only on the 9-in. HD+.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.