Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet unboxing and hands-on (video)

Look what we got in our grubby hands -- it's the new Nook Tablet, Barnes & Noble's attempt to elbow in on this holiday season's crowded tablet landscape. At $249, the slate is being positioned as a direct competitor to Amazon's budget Kindle Fire. Thus far, the device has yet to capture the public's imagination in the same way Amazon's tablet has -- due, at least in part, to the many similarities between it and last year's Nook Color.

Externally, the Tablet is virtually indistinguishable from the Nook Color. It's got the same dimensions (8.1 x 5.0 x 0.48 inches), making for a tall and narrow display. It also rocks that same distinctive bar looping out from its bottom lefthand corner. Barnes & Noble has opted for a lighter silver color scheme here, instead of the Nook Color's dark gray shell, and has managed to shave a bit of weight from the newest Nook -- so it comes in at 14.1 ounces, in spite of its souped-up internals. At 0.48 inches, the tablet is thicker than both the iPad 2 (0.35 inches) and the Kindle Fire (0.45 inches), if only just barely in the latter case.%Gallery-139473% %Gallery-139477% %Gallery-139478%

The display continues to monopolize the majority of the front of the device, save for bezel and a small laminated black area that houses the lowercase "n" home button, which is a little more pronounced this time around. Turned off, this black surface appears large on the Tablet, where it's flush with the display. When turned on, however, an additional small black area reveals itself on the bottom of the Color's screen -- making the two areas roughly the same size.

The power button is located on the top left side of the device, with volume up and down on the right. The microUSB port is located on the bottom of the device, with the headphone jack on the top. Flip the tablet over, and you'll notice that the surface is a bit more textured on the Tablet than the Color, which is no doubt a good thing when it comes to making sure it doesn't slip from your sweaty palms. As with the Color, there's a small speaker grill along the bottom of the back. To its right, pressed up against the bar, is a flap that lifts up to reveal the micro-SD slot.

Fire it up, and you'll notice that the lock screen has been changed slightly -- the new one is far less busy, trading in the Color's book mosaic for a simpler blue design. These two backgrounds have been carried over the home screen. The top bar on the screen from the Color is intact, offering up the name of the book you're currently reading. Clicking "More", however, brings up not only books and periodicals, but also a list of Netflix picks. Multimedia options are also offered up along the bottom bar, including movies (via Netflix and Hulu Plus), music (via the built-in music player and Pandora), and a list of apps. Tapping any of these will pop up the apps currently downloaded on the device, as well as recommendations of others from the store.

Barnes & Noble has souped up the innards in the Tablet with a 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, versus the Color's 800MHz single-core CPU and 512 MB of RAM, and really, the difference is immediately noticeable, even with something as simple as firing up Angry Birds or opening a book. Display-wise, the differences between the two devices isn't huge. The colors on the Color, fittingly, do appear to display a bit brighter, however. The Tablet offers up double the capacity of its predecessor with 16GB of space -- its battery life has also supposedly been improved a bit, offering an extra hour over the Color, though we'll have to do some more rigorous testing before we can draw any conclusions on that front.

On the whole, the Nook Tablet feels far more like an upgrade than a full product refresh, and for that reason, it's hard to get particularly excited about it -- especially in light of the addition of multimedia apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus to its awfully similar predecessor. We'll have our full impressions for you very soon in our upcoming review of the device, so stay tuned.