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Barnes & Noble Unleashes $250 Nook Tablet, Ready to Play with Fire

At a press event this morning in New York, Barnes & Noble's CEO, William Lynch, officially unveiled the new Nook Tablet, ready to compete with Amazon's earlier release of the Kindle Fire tablet. True to the specs leaked ahead of the announcement, the 7-inch Nook Tablet looks just like the original Nook Color. Underneath the 1024 x 600 color touchscreen display, the device runs on a powerful 1-GHz dual-core processor, and features 1GB of RAM, Wi-Fi, and 16GB of internal storage (with support for microSD, expandable up to 32GB).

Barnes & Noble claims that this is their "lightest, fastest tablet ever with HD entertainment." Unfortunately, just like the rumors portended, the Nook Tablet is also $249 -- $50 more than the Kindle Fire. But with several notable improvements to the specs -- yes, even better than the Kindle Fire -- your $50 might actually be worth it.

It might look like the original Nook, but there are several significant upgrades. Barnes & Noble has partnered with LG to create the VividView display -- a full IPS lamination, giving consumers the lowest reflection or glare of any tablet, and wide viewing angles. It's also got seven times more potential storage than the Kindle Fire (45GB with SD expansion vs. 6GB), and more RAM (1GB vs. the Fire's 512MB). This will help give the user zippy performance, even with multiple apps open. Note, however, that you can't just download any old app you please. As always, the Nook runs a custom UI on top of Android 2.3 -- but they're doing a good job serving up heaps of entertainment content by partnering with familiar entertainment apps like Angry Birds and Pandora -- and even streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu Plus. 

There's interactive content too, as B&N now puts up more than 250 magazine titles from publishers Conde Nast, Time Inc, and Meredith with video embed. Comic collections from Marvel will abound too, as will colorful children's books that had already been part of the Nook Color's original offerings. But now, the Nook Tablet features a built-in microphone, so you can record your own voice reading bedtime stories to your kids when you can't be there yourself.

The less-than-a-pound Nook Tablet can run up to 9 hours of HD video (and supports HD video playback but with no output), as well as up to 11.5 hours of reading time, on a battery that's half the battery size of the iPad. And finally, Barnes & Noble also vaunts a new cloud service and an always free customer support service.

The new device will be available by next week (on or about November 17), with pre-orders starting now. In addition to taking the wraps off the Nook Tablet, Barnes & Noble has announced that the Nook Color will drop to $199, and the Nook Simple Touch will be available for $99 with no ads. Both devices will see over-the-air software updates for up to more than 100 new features, designed to improve their speed.