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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.

December 12, 2011 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - With the holiday season in full force, a lot of gift-givers are going to be considering one of the new color e-readers that have been introduced recently: Amazon's Kindle Fire, the Kobo Vox and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet.

Many people are still unsure whether these devices should be considered high-end e-readers or low-end tablets. The 7-in. tablets are designed to read books, of course, just like their smaller, simpler e-ink predecessors. They do a lot more as well, including letting you watch TV and movies, listen to music, browse the Web, check email and run apps.

However, they are smaller and not as fully featured as tablets such as the Apple iPad 2 or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. But they are not as expensive either; while both the iPad 2 and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 start at about $499, the Kindle Fire and Kobo Vox each cost $199, while the Nook Tablet runs a bit higher at $249.

After taking an initial look at the three e-readers when they were released in November, I lived for several weeks with them and put them through their paces: reading and buying books, watching TV and movies, listening to music, checking email, running apps -- pretty much anything you'd do with an e-reader. As a result, I was able to come to some pretty definite conclusions.

So if an e-reader is in your holiday plans or beyond, check out my in-depth look at which is the best and why.

(Story continues on next page.)

E-Reader Tablets

Amazon Kindle Fire Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet Kobo Vox
Processor TI OMAP 4 dual core 1GB TI OMAP 4 dual core 800MHz
Internal storage 8GB 16GB 8G
MicroSD card No (cloud storage) Yes Yes
Wi-Fi Yes Yes Yes
3G/4G No No No
Display 7-in. IPS (In-Plan Switching), 1024 x 600 7-in. VividView IPS, 1024 x 600 7-in. FFS+ (Fringe Field Switching), 1024 x 600
Price $199 $249 $200
Android Gingerbread (2.3) Gingerbread (2.3) Gingerbread (2.3)
Memory 512MB 1GB 512MB
App store Amazon AppStore Nook Apps GetJar
Size 7.5 x 4.7 x .45 in. 8.1 x 5.0 x .48 in. 7.57 x 5.06 x 0.53 in.
Weight 14.6 oz. 14.1 oz. 14.2 oz.
Built-in streaming media services Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Amazon Cloud media player, Amazon Prime Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora None
Document formats Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, DOC, DOCX ePub, PDF, LS, DOC, PPT, TXT, DOCM, XLSM, PPTM, PPSX, PPSM, DOCX, XLX, PPTX ePUB (including fixed layout and enhanced)
Media formats Audible (Audible Enhanced AA, AAX), JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, non-DRM AAC, MP3, MIDI, OGG, WAV, MP4, VP8 MP4, Flash, 3GP, 3G2 MKV, WEBM (Video Codecs: H.264, MPEG-4, H.263, VP8), JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, MP3, MP4, AAC, AMR, WAV, OGG (Audio Codecs MP3, AAC, AMR, LPCM, OGG Vorbis) JPG, PNG, GIF, BMP, MP3, AAC, 3GP, MP4, M4A, FLAC, OGG, WAV, MID, WEBM
Content source Kindle Store Nook Store Kobo Store
Battery life (as claimed by vendor with Wi-Fi off) 8 hours of continuous reading or 7.5 hours of video playback 11.5 hours of continuous reading, or 9 hours of video playback 7 hours


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