Nook Tablet: It's Like the Nook Color on Speed (Updated: Hands On Impressions)S

The $250 Nook Tablet isn't a completely new product or a radical overhaul of the Nook Color. It's still a 7-inch tablet packing wi-fi and 16GB of storage. But in addition to making it thinner, and lighter, they've crammed in a 1GHz dual-core processor as well.

The Nook Tablet using the same 1024x600 display as the Nook Color and is rumored to be running a TI OMAP4 processor. It packs 1 gigabyte of RAM, weighs less than a pound, and has 11.5 hours of battery life. The Nook still uses a custom UI built on top of Android 2.3, which means that this isn't an all-purpose, run-any-app tablet, but one geared towards very specific functions (books, magazines, email, web-browsing, videos, etc.). But they've partnered with select developers to create specialized apps for the device. So it will run games (yes, Angry Birds), in additon to music and video services like Netflix and Pandora.

Briefly seeing the Nook Tablet in action, it's hard to image what the dual-core CPU and gig of RAM are being used on. I wasn't expecting mind-blowing performance, but I've seen lesser spec'd devices with more polish. Barnes and Noble handlers didn't allow me to play around with the device on my own, but watching it in action, the sluggishness of the UI and browsing was noticeable. Menu and app transitions, along with page turns and scrolling looked choppy and somewhat unresponsive. The homescreen UI wasn't as affected as, say, the web browser, but I was hardly wowed by what I saw. Pages seemed to render quickly enough, but that could have been a cached page. Web pages, especially, panned and zoomed with the fluidity of a first generation Android device.

After the event, I got a chance to play with the Nook Tablet some more. Maybe the first device was glitching or running too many apps in the background, but the second unit was much more fluid and responsive. It still had some lagginess, and web browsing wasn't amazing, but it was definitely better. eBooks and magazines especially. Long story short, it was much more in line for what's expected in a $250 device.

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Media and gaming apps seemed to fare better. Netflix videos, streamig in HD, looked fluid, with only a hiccup or two over the course of a minute-long clip. Bejeweled, admittedly not a game that would tax the Nook Tablet hardware, looked as smooth as it would on other devices.

And of course, they're serving up books, comics and magazines. Barnes and Noble says that over 235 magazines will be available this year, and will offer the largest selection of Marvel comics and graphic novels.

Barnes and Noble will also offer a free cloud service with the Nook Tablet, which will store your purchases and downloads, allowing you to delete and redownload content on a whim (provided you have a wi-fi connection).

Barnes and Noble is very much positioning this device against Amazon's Kindle Fire, claiming their Nook tablet has a superior screen, and touting the fact it is lighter and has more RAM and storage. But those bumped up specs comes at a higher price. The Nook will be available next week for $250 at Barnes and Nobles stores, along with select retail partners.

But those aren't the only updates. The Nook Color and Nook Simple Touch each received $50 price cuts, now costing $200 and $100, respectively. [Barnes and Noble]