One of the big Christmas gifts right now for a kid is to have their very own computer. You might not be able to afford an iMac for their pre-teenage years, but a tablet computer specially designed for children is a great way to bridge that gap until they know how to code with a Raspberry Pi.
There are a good number of tablets out there that could be considered suitable for children but we are not looking that far. Instead we are looking at the tablet PCs for kids that are exactly that; built with kids in mind. We are going to compare some of them here, notably the VTech InnoTab 2, the LeapFrog LeapPad 2 and the Oregon Scientific Meep! Tablet.
All three tablets have some redeeming features, but at the same time there are some disappointments as well:
* Easy to monitor a childs educational progress
|* Easy to monitor a childs educational progress
* Rugged and Sturdy with big rubber bumpers
* Mains adapters included
||* No SD Card Expansion
* Too childish for older pre-teens
*Mains Power adapter sold separately
* Requires a USB tether to update and track progress
|*I have to say access to the Google Play Store. Is it encouraging access to cash paid apps to early in a childs educational life?|
(on 27 Nov 2012)
£60.60 No Wifi Amazon UK
|£63.99 Amazon UK
$119.99 Amazon US
£129.99 Amazon UK
|Full Review||Oregon Scientific
Meep! on InfoBarrel
VTech InnoTab 2
Credit: Amazon UKDespite being rugged and easy to drop and play with, the VTech InnoTab 2 comes across as being very much a tablet computer for the younger end of it's tarket market. The controls and casing of the tablet device are child-like in design, but software comes across the age range in both downloadable and cartridge format.
Updating the InnoTab 2 is through the VTech online learning portal, however to make any changes and to upload information on all but the newest (US Only) model parents have to connect the InnoTab 2 to a computer using a wired tether connection. Installations can be stored using the 2GB on-board memory or by installing an SD Card in the built in memory card slot.
A big downside to the InnoTab that I think is essential is that you can use batteries to run the tablet or pay more money for a VTech mains charger. Sorry; that does not bode well with me! I would expect a gadget that is aiming to be used by children at length to come with a mains cable at least, even if then with an option to a rechargeable battery pack.
Leapfrog LeapPad 2
Credit: LeapFrogSimilar to the last device, the LeapFrog LeapPad 2 is also one that can look childish in appearance, but suits children up to the age of 9. Like the VTech InnoTab 2, this kids tablet computer has the option of downloading new content though connecting the USB cable, or by using cartridges you can buy at a range of high street and online retailers.
Something that the LeapPad 2 is missing is the SD Card slot. This is made up for with a larger 4GB of on-board storage but at the same time you can not upload video content other than what is bought through the LeapFrog Learning App. This restricts what you can do with it and especially if you are heading on a long car journey!
Like the InnoTab I am disappointed that to get a charger I would pay more money. It might only be £10 but that makes the cheap tablet less attractive!
Oregon Scientific Meep! Tablet
My favourite of the three devices is the Meep! Tablet from Oregon Scientific. This device is more like a small adult tablet than the offerings from either VTech or LeapFrog but at the same time it still has the looks to appeal to smaller children.
Meep! is a big step forward to the other tablets, it comes with built-in wireless networking (except the InnoTab 2S in the USA, none of the other models do) and children can get access to the Internet directly.
In my opinion the Meep! is also more secure. Until an adult - a parent or guardian - has set up the account and paired it with the tablet; it can not access the Internet or buy apps from the Meep! Store.
Even the Meep! Store is more secure. It is basically a modified version of the Google Play Store (the Meep! runs on Android 4.0) and if your child wants to buy anything then you can set it up so that any purchases must be authorised by the parent account. If that is too strict you can set the account up so that your child can buy apps using any Meep! Coins you buy them and then anything that costs cash from the Google Play Store itself needs authorisation.
Compared to the other two tablets, the Oregon Scientific kids tablet computer is more expensive. It has an RRP of £129 in the UK but sites like Amazon quite often have special offers on this tablet. When you consider that this also includes a mains charger in the box; it suddenly sounds more attractive price wise.
For your child to feel grown up, the Meep! even comes with a mini-HDMI port so that you can even watch content from the childs tablet on most modern TV's
I Would Buy
The Oregon Scientific Meep Tablet
I am sure that you did not need to get all the way down to know what my choice of tablet is. The Oregon Scientific Meep! Tablet is something that makes you think it is a sturdy device for your children and your children will think it is almost a full adult tablet computer. If you are already wanting to order one then be quick; websites like Amazon UK are likely to sell out before Christmas just like they did with the VTech InnoTab and the LeapFrog LeapPad in 2011.