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Nabi DreamTab merges DreamWorks into a kid tablet

In our first look, we found that this new tablet for children brings fun tools and content, but it's priced on the high side

Published: June 19, 2014 08:00 AM
One of the creativity tools in the Dream Studio Pro app suite.

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The newest kid tablet from Fuhu, the Nabi DreamTab ($270) is the result of a collaboration between the manufacturer and DreamWorks, the studio that brought us “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda.” Young DreamWorks fans will get a kick out of the themed content—games, videos, cool creativity tools, and more. We liked it, too, despite a few minor gripes, including setup difficulties, and the fact that many of the included apps are either “coming soon” or require a purchase for the full version. [corrected 6/23/14]

The DreamTab comes with Nabi’s signature red bumper, with cutouts for speakers, cables, and the stylus that comes with it. The easy-to-press On and Volume buttons are at the top-right corner of the tablet.  

We bought a DreamTab when it hit stores, and here are our first impressions.

Setting up

This isn’t technically part of the setup, but the packaging is very cool, so don't toss the box. When you open the top, you get a popup collage of DreamWorks characters.

Once you charge the DreamTab fully, you connect to Wi-Fi. You’ll have the option to sign into a Google account—handy if you are sharing the tablet with your kid or planning to download  apps from the Google Play store. You also can use Google to back up your apps and settings. The DreamTab can use your child’s name to personalize apps, if you choose.

When I first connected to Wi-Fi, an update was waiting (v 1.1). It included the Dream Pro Studio Draw and Editor Apps suite for drawing and editing video, Shrek and Kung Fu Panda Time Controls video themes, and the Nabi Music App with 50 kid-friendly songs, among other features. Tip: Make sure you keep the DreamTab plugged in for this (or any) update, as updates can really drain the battery.  

The fun starts as soon as you open the box.

Once the update was installed, I landed on the main menu and was pointed toward Play Mode. You can Play Now, Set Up Later (which gives only limited access to preloaded apps and games), or Set Up Now. That lets you access preloaded content and use parental controls to set time limits, check out content, visit the App Zone (kid-friendly apps with one-tap buying), set up your child’s Internet browsing, and more.

Like other Nabi tablets, the DreamTab requires parental consent to comply with COPPA regulations (for child privacy) to get the full tablet experience—access to some apps and games may be missing without consent. You can retrieve a consent code via e-mail, but this option can be easy to miss, since the option to charge your credit card 50 cents is much more prominent.

Once in Parent Mode (a.k.a. Mommy or Daddy Mode—your choice) you can record a video greeting that your child will see when the tablet is turned on. You can also set up multiple profiles if your kids are sharing the DreamTab.

With Time Limits, you can set the amount of time a child can play and track tablet usage. You can limit the entire tablet or individual apps, and set a time for the DreamTab to “go to sleep” and “wake up,” with cute DreamWorks videos. Time Rewards give kids extra fun time in exchange for using educational apps, reading books, and doing chores. You can schedule time for a child to get physical activity and choose from a few themes for wallpaper, videos, and avatars.

The NSA: Nabi Security Administration feature lets you set up friend, chat, and e-mail lists for each kid’s profile. In Nabi Konnect, you create an avatar for the child and choose a fictional name. A “friend code” is generated, and you can add friends to your list by entering their codes.

Check our lab-test reviews of kid tablets for more advice and information.

Content

Besides the included DreamWorks content, the tablet has a lot of other kid-friendly games. When we clicked on many app icons, though, we found we had to download them—so the term “preloaded” isn’t always accurate. And in some cases, when you click on the icon for an app, you'll see a "coming soon" message.  

The included apps have been vetted by TrustE to protect your kid’s privacy; you’re warned that any apps you add yourself may not be vetted. You’ll get a checklist to add (or not) apps that exist on the tablet, which include anything the tablet pulled in from your own Google account. Visit the App Zone store to find new child-appropriate apps by age, category, what’s new, top rated, top free, top paid, and bundles.

Nabi offers its own educational app suite, called Wings Challenge, with educational puzzles and games for pre-K through 6th grade. Kids earn Nabi coins, which they can use to buy apps, videos, and games. Once your child moves beyond a few lessons, though, you need to download new topics at $1.99 each.

A feature called Nabi Create lets kids set up My Channel with favorite clips from DreamWorks movies and kid-friendly videos from ed.ted.com, Sesame Street, and other sources.

The Dream Pen digital stylus is included with the tablet.

I was most interested in trying out the creativity suite, Dream Pro Studio, but I couldn’t find it in Nabi Mode, and it wasn’t showing up in my apps list in Mommy Mode. I called Nabi’s customer service for assistance, and the rep was patient and helpful—and initially baffled, as well. After being talked through a factory reset, I was able to find Dream Pro Studio, all the way to the right as I scrolled through the apps in Nabi Mode. You then have to download each tool individually, which explains why it wasn’t in my apps list in Mommy mode. Regardless, major kudos to Nabi’s customer service for helping me get there.

I really liked Dream Pro Studio, which includes a basic video creation/editing tool, a drawing tool, and an animation tool. You can use the included stylus for detailed drawing. I particularly enjoyed the rather magical animation tool, which makes it easy to create a simple cartoon. This additional content adds to the value of the DreamTab.

As for the Internet, the Maxthon Kid-Safe Browser lets you add only the sites you want your kid to access. But be aware that older and/or tech-savvy kids can easily get around the password requirement for adding sites.

Our take

One of the major draws for parents thinking of buying a kid-specific tablet is the included child-appropriate content—apps, games, e-books, videos, and so on. The Nabi DreamTab has incorporated DreamWorks' appealing movie characters nicely, and the Dream Pro Studio tools are a notch above most creativity apps on kid tablets. The parental controls work well, too—with the possible exception of the easy-to-fool Maxthon browser.

At $270, the DreamTab is a little expensive compared with other Nabi tablets and their competitors—but the DreamWorks content and numerous other apps, videos, and games definitely add some value.

We’ll be testing the DreamTab in our lab: For display quality, we measure screen brightness and size, and our experts judge color accuracy, viewing angle, and readability in sunlight. For battery life, we time the length of operation on fully charged batteries, using continuous Web-browsing activity. And the touch screen interfaces are graded on responsiveness, required pressure, dragging accuracy and speed, and use of multitouch functions, such as pinch-to-zoom. Look for our results here soon.

—Carol Mangis

   

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