In depth: Using the Kindle Fire vs. the Kobo Vox vs. the Nook Tablet

After testing the 3 top color e-readers, Preston Gralla explains which he likes best -- and why.

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The whole point of an e-reader is to read. Here we take a look at how the three tablets stack up against one another.

Kindle Fire

The Kindle Fire comes with a solid set of reading tools that offers very good controls for changing font type and size, line spacing, margins and what Kindle calls color mode -- three selections that let you change whether you want dark characters against a light background or light characters against a dark background, and the contrast level. Even though you can choose among eight different font sizes, I found them generally too small. But apart from that, the Kindle Fire offers more controls over the display of your books than does the Nook Tablet or Kobo Vox.

As you would expect, you can also make notes and add bookmarks. However, there does not seem to be a way to share book recommendations directly from within books, a surprising oversight.

The Kindle Fire's children's books don't have animations as do those of the Nook Tablet, and there's no feature that allows parents to record their voices reading aloud to their children.

Kobo Vox

The Kobo Vox's reading capabilities are fairly basic and not particularly well done, which is surprising given that it's an e-reader, not an all-around tablet. For example, the Vox gives you more fine-grained control over type size than the other tablets by use of a slider, which should be a plus. But there's no preview or display to show you the type size you're choosing, which makes getting the right font size a hit-or-miss affair. And because the tablet is sluggish overall, I experienced delays when moving from page to page.

As for children's books, it does have a read-aloud feature, but the small monaural speaker built into the Vox is so underpowered that you can barely hear the voice reading. Even when you hold the speaker directly up to your ear, the sound is faint.

However, the social aspects of the reading experience are very well done. You can see comments that others have made about the book you're reading, and even the number of times that the book has been e-read. And you can also share thoughts about the book you're reading via a built-in link to Facebook.

Nook Tablet

Because its screen is the least reflective of all three tablets and shows less glare, reading e-books on the Nook Tablet is easier on the eyes and causes less strain than the Kindle Fire or Kobo Vox. Text and pictures are crisper as well.

I found the reading tools to be excellent; they include choosing fonts and font sizes; searching for text; changing the brightness; adding notes, highlights and bookmarks; and getting suggestions for similar books. There are also simple ways to share your thoughts about the book with others via the built-in Nook Friends app or else via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn links.

I also appreciated the reading icon that sits at the bottom and top of the screen most of the time. Simply tap the icon, and you'll jump to the last page of the last book you were reading.

The font size selection was, in general, better than that of the Kindle Fire. Both allow you to choose from eight different type sizes, but those on the Nook Tablet are larger, and will likely be more useful, especially to those who need reading glasses. If you've got a very young set of eyes that never suffer from eyestrain you may appreciate the smaller Kindle Fire fonts. Everyone else will likely be happier with the sizes on the Nook Tablet.

The Nook Tablet also features an excellent children's book e-reading feature which allows parents, grandparents or others to record themselves reading the book; the kids can later follow along with the reading. Some children's books also feature animations.

The winner

The Nook Tablet's e-reading capabilities are better than those of the Kindle Fire and Kobo Vox. Text is more readable, it's easier to share reading interests and reviews with others, and the children's book capabilities are superior to either of the competitors.

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