Barnes & Noble, the country's biggest chain of bookstores, has unveiled its new Nook Tablet earlier today. Meant as an upgrade to its Android-powered Nook Color e-reader, the Nook Tablet offers better specs, better cloud-based services and promises a better overall package for tablet users.

Barnes & Noble may be a major player in the brick-and-mortar bookstore industry, but it's nowhere as big as Amazon in terms of overall e-book and retail sales. Still, this has not prevented the company from constantly keeping Amazon on its toes in the tablet game. Barnes & Noble's original Nook Color beat Amazon to the market by a few months. And now that Amazon is ready to release its upcoming Kindle Fire tablet by mid-November, Barnes & Noble is pulling another trick up its sleeve -- the second generation Nook Tablet.


Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet

Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet comes with Hulu and Netflix integration, as well as the new Nook Cloud storage service

Essentially an Android tablet with a custom Nook user interface built on top, the new Nook Tablet is a big upgrade in terms of specs and services. The Nook Tablet will run on a 1 GHz dual-core processor with 1 GB of RAM under the hood. The LG-sourced IPS "VividView" touchscreen display promises comfortable viewing at almost all angles. The Nook Tablet will also be HD-capable, and can play a 1080p high-definition video for nine hours on a single charge. If you're not planning to watch videos, then the Nook Tablet will last 11.5 hours on a single charge.

Multimedia Content on the Go

Amazon's Kindle Fire -- the Nook Tablet's main competitor -- is banking on content being the main driver of demand and revenue. The same goes with the Nook Tablet, as it comes pre-loaded with Netflix and Hulu applications for on-demand video streaming. B&N promises a better Netflix streaming experience, with a customized application meant just for the Nook. All this will require bigger storage, and the Nook Tablet will not disappoint, with 16 GB of built-in Flash storage, and expansion capability of up to 32 GB via SDHC.

If local storage is not enough, Barnes & Noble gives users additional storage options via the new Nook Cloud service.

How the Nook Fares Against the Kindle Fire

Apple is currently the dominant force to beat in the tablet market. But both Amazon's and B&N's tablet offerings are said to be the potential iPad killers, at least in terms of volume, because of their radically different target market. Instead of targeting the corporate and creative types who aim to create content and be productive with their tablets, these so-called e-reader and tablet crossovers are targeting ordinary folk who mostly want to read e-books, watch videos and do the occasional email and web browsing on their tablets.

As such, both Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are low-duty devices. But that doesn't mean they're low on specs. In most respects, both Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire are almost the same in specifications, down to the dual-core 1 GHz processor, 7-inch display and 1024x600 pixel resolution. But the Nook Tablet has double the storage and double the RAM, and offers an option for local SD card expansion, which for an Android device might be a deal-breaker, especially if users plan to install and run a lot of applications.

But there's more. The Nook Tablet will also come with free Internet access via AT&T WiFi hotspots around the country to compensate for the lack of  3G data connectivity.

However, the Nook Tablet also costs more, at US$ 249, compared to the Kindle Fire's US$ 199. Does the additional storage and memory justify the extra cost? If you'd rather save 50 bucks, the company has just recently reduced the price of the original Nook Color e-reader to US$ 199, and promises to soon add Netflix and Hulu Plus to the platform, as well.

The Nook Tablet is now available for pre-order from Barnes & Noble, and will be released by November 17.