Winner: Nook Tablet
With physical volume buttons, a microSDHC card slot for adding up to 32GB of storage, and a display that's less susceptible to glare, the Nook Tablet has the edge in physical design. You'll need the extra space, however, since--though Barnes & Noble claims that the Nook Tablet has 16GB of storage--only 1GB of that space is available for users to store their own stuff on (of the rest, a few gigabytes are devoted to the OS, and the rest is set aside for content purchased from Barnes & Noble's store). As a matter of personal taste, I found the Tablet's gray bezel a bit distracting; I'd have preferred a darker bezel like the one on the Nook Color.
I liked the feel of the Kindle Fire more than that of the Nook Tablet, even though the latter weighs slightly less (0.88 pound versus 0.91 pound). But the Kindle Fire's power button is easy to press by accident, its speakers are poorly placed and lack physical volume buttons, and it offers just 8GB of storage (6.54 of them user-accessible), with no expansion card slot; that's amount of space is insufficient for a multipurpose multimedia tablet.
Winner: Kindle Fire
The Kindle Fire is easier to move around in than the Nook Tablet is, largely because of its pleasing, consistent design and menus, and because you can orient it in either portrait or landscape mode.
Consistent navigation elements for home, back, menu, and search options pop up when you tap the bottom of the Fire's screen. The Fire also makes it easy to distinguish between content stored on the tablet and content stored in Amazon's cloud locker. You have to go back to the home screen to jump from one type of content to the other.
All of the Nook Tablet's navigation menus are locked into portrait mode. The effect can be jarring as you move from content displayed in landscape mode to menus that the tablet forces to remain in portrait mode.
Navigating the Nook Tablet did have some positives. When I tapped 'More' on the home screen, I could see shortcuts to books, periodicals, files, movies, and TV shows that I had recently accessed. Various types of content are accessible via a single 'Library' button, subdivided into sections for books, magazines, newspapers, apps, and kids books. I also liked being able to use the 'n' button to call up the pop-up menu overlay with buttons for hopping to different sections on the tablet; unfortunately, the overlay didn't work consistently from within apps, and Barnes & Noble didn't provide a consistent back button or menu button.
Winner: Kindle Fire
If you can get past any privacy concerns you may have about how Amazon's Silk Web browser works, you'll find that the Kindle Fire's browser superior to the Nook Tablet's.
The Fire's browser has tabs, just as the Android 3.x Honeycomb browser does. The Silk browser makes working with bookmarks easier, and it gives you lots of settings for fine-tuning the way it works.
The Nook Tablet's browser works, but it requires more taps to perform tasks, and navigating among multiple windows takes too many steps. On the plus side, text looked sharper in the Nook Tablet's browser than in Kindle Fire's.
Next: Multitasking and Personalization