With a little help from Samsung, Barnes & Noble is finally back in the tablet market.
The two companies launched the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook on Wednesday, after first announcing the co-branded tablet in a couple months ago. It's available from Barnes & Noble's store and website for $179, after a $20 instant rebate.
In terms of hardware, as expected the new tablet is identical to Samsung's Galaxy Tab 4 7.0, which launched in May. It has a 7-inch, 1280-by-800 resolution display, a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, 1.5 GB of RAM, a 3-megapixel rear camera, a 1.3-megapixel front camera, a 10-hour battery, GPS, and Bluetooth. Weight and thickness are also the same, at 0.61 pounds and 0.35 inches, respectively. For storage, the Tab 4 Nook has 8 GB on board, plus a microSD card slot.
The differences are all in the software. While the layout looks similar to stock Android, it also includes a reading shortcut button and a home screen widget for quick access to Nook books and magazines. Barnes & Noble claims the device is "optimized for reading," probably because of these software features.
Barnes & Noble is also throwing in $200 worth of content, including three books (Freakonomics, The Wanderer and I Am Number Four), a $5 Nook Store credit, and a 14-day trial to four magazines, along with the previous 12 issues of those publications.
The launch comes nearly two years after Barnes & Noble's last tablet release, with the Nook HD. Amid leadership changes, the company had gone back and forth on whether to keep designing its own hardware, before declaring in June that it had partnered with Samsung. Over that time, the low-end tablet market has become increasingly cutthroat, making it harder for Barnes & Noble to stand out with budget pricing. (It's worth noting that the Tab 4 Nook is the same price as Samsung's standalone version of the tablet.)
Barnes & Noble and Samsung also have a 10-inch version of the tablet in the works, according to SEC filings spotted by The Digital Reader. That tablet will likely launch in two months, but the companies haven't announced specifics.