Barnes & Noble stores are still open. Yes, really! And the company is still selling Nook-branded tablets. Yes, really! B&N unveiled a new Nook last month, competing with the largest Kindle Fire, and now they have a smaller option as well.
The 7-inch device, simply-branded “Nook” harkens back to the original Nook Color, with simple Android tablet hardware and standardized software. The screen is a low-res 1024×600 which will suffice for reading text. And unlike Amazon’s Kindles and some of Barnes & Noble’s own earlier offerings, this Nook comes with the Google Play Store for nigh-unlimited Android apps and games.
Wi-Fi, a standard headphone jack, and a MicroSD card slot are included, which is good since the tablet has only 16GB of storage on board. Barnes & Noble doesn’t want to talk about processors, RAM, or Android software versions. A two-megapixel rear camera and VGA front-facing cam aren’t anything to get excited about, but you can’t ask for much more with a retail price of only $50.
Naturally, it’s pre-loaded with Barnes & Noble’s digital Nook bookstore, along with kid-friendly apps and a reading-focused social network called Browsery. But if you’re just looking for an alternative to the cheap Kindle Fire designs that doesn’t rely on Amazon’s Appstore, this will do. Barnes & Noble probably doesn’t appreciate us pointing it out, but there’s nothing stopping you from downloading the Kindle app from the Play Store on the Nook and having the best of both worlds.