On the topic of what you'll actually put on each device, there's no contest: the Nook Tablet pales in comparison to the Kindle Fire. It's night and day in nearly every respect, with Amazon's media empire putting the Nook's offerings to shame.
True, the Nook Tablet offers access to millions of books and magazines, and the prices prove generally similar across platforms.
But Amazon serves up all of that and access to the Lending Library via its Amazon Prime subscription service, which lets users read a book each month free from a selection of 145,000-plus titles.
When it comes to apps, Amazon's selection still comes up short compared to Apple's App Store and the general Android Marketplace, though many top games and apps are available from the attractive storefront.
Nook Tablet, on the other hand, has the requisite Angry Birds entries and Netflix, among others, but beyond a handful of headliners, the selection proves oddly barren. Hit games found on the Kindle Fire and elsewhere are often replaced by cheap knock-offs, with little available variety.
And while the Nook Tablet will run your own media just fine and offers apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus, Barnes & Noble doesn't have a media service – so you can't directly download or stream movies or TV shows. Conversely, Amazon offers a mass of hit films and shows for rental or purchase, not to mention thousands of free movies and TV episodes for streaming via Amazon Prime (for subscribers).
It hardly seems fair to compare the two in this regard. The Nook Tablet still feels like a reader that can run some apps and your own media, while the Kindle Fire was clearly designed as an all-encompassing media device, ready to serve you movies, music, apps, books, and more without hesitation.
Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet: Verdict
No doubt, the Nook Tablet has some distinct features in the $199 tablet race, namely the physical buttons and ability to expand the storage via a microSD card. Plus, a version with double the internal storage is sold for $50 more.
For those who want to load up a device with ample videos and more from their own media collection, the Nook Tablet surely offers more room to play with.
However, beyond those points the comparison proves largely one-sided in favor of the Kindle Fire. It's a much more compact and attractive option, with a refined user interface that makes media consumption, app usage, and web browsing alike a total breeze.
And when it comes to available media and downloads, the Kindle Fire is far and away the best choice, as the Apps marketplace offers a much wider selection of current games and entertainment options, while movies and TV shows are largely absent on the Nook Tablet – aside from apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus, which are also on the Kindle Fire.
Amazon's media ecosystem is second only to Apple's, and it's a towering giant compared to Barnes & Noble's weak approach.
If you're seeking a $199 tablet that can tap into an ample universe of media, from the latest games to both new and classic movies, television series, and books, the Kindle Fire offers the best overall experience.