As much as adults love tablets, children may just love them even more, as many parents can verify. When we first started testing tablets made specifically for kids, in 2012, they were more like toys. But today’s kids’ tablets have some very grown-up features—especially with the entry into the market of such companies as Amazon and Samsung.
Our labs just completed testing a new batch of kids’ tablets, which are included in our first-ever Ratings of kids' tablets: the Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition (7 inch), Fuhu nabi DreamTab HD8, LeapFrog LeapPad 3 and Ultra XDi, KD Interactive Kurio Xtreme, and vTech Innotab 3 Plus, 3S Plus, and Max. And we found that they run the gamut of product sophistication.
How we test
Our tests focus mostly on the quality of the hardware. Some of the features we test in kids’ tablets are portability, battery life, and ease of use. We also check durability (whether or not companies make specific claims for it, because these product are meant for kids!) with a 2.6-foot drop test, using our lab’s tumbler. Tablets that come with cases or bumpers are tested with them.
For display quality, we measure screen brightness and size, and our experts judge color accuracy, viewing angle, and readability in sunlight. The touch-screen interfaces are graded on responsiveness, required pressure, dragging accuracy and speed, and use of multitouch functions, such as pinch-to-zoom.
What is a kids’ tablet, exactly?
Most have comprehensive, robust parental controls. Nearly all tablets for kids include controls, filters, and browsers that keep kids safe online and let parents regulate how, when, and for how long children can use the tablets. These tools vary in the amount of control they give to the parent, and also in how easy (or not) they are to use. Our lab testers try out and evaluate these features.
Of course, you can use or add parental controls to many "adult" tablets, too. For example, the Apple iPad lets you password-protect specific apps and features, content types, and game features. Amazon and Barnes & Noble tablets let you set up individual user profiles for up to six people, controlling which content they can access, and whether or not they can go online. Other Android tablets let you password-protect the Google Play Store, so app purchases can be made only when your PIN is entered.
Beyond all this exists a plethora of third-party apps, some free, that can make regular tablets more kid-friendly—from locking them down entirely (for really young children) to blocking inappropriate apps and sites, and setting time limits for various activities. But the built-in controls on most kids' tablets give you these kinds of protections out of the box.