FIRST LOOK

Amazon Fire HD7 Kids Edition is not just for kids

It's a true Fire HD tablet, with extra protections built in for children—but you pay a bit more for them

Published: October 29, 2014 10:15 AM
With FreeTime, parents can create up to four profiles on the HD7 Kids Edition.

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Amazon's recent product announcement included its first tablet just for children, the Fire HD Kids Edition. This standard 6- or 7-inch Fire HD tablet comes with two extras that should give parents some peace of mind: a rugged case and a two-year “worry free” guarantee. If the tablet stops working for any reason, Amazon will replace it. The Kids Edition also includes a free year of FreeTime Unlimited (after that, $2.99 to $4.99 a month with Amazon Prime membership), which provides access to more than 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games geared to kids 3 to 10 years old. 

Amazon has offered FreeTime on its Fire HD tablets for a couple of years. It’s a feature of the Fire OS that lets parents create up to four profiles on one tablet and control the content that’s available and usage times for each profile. So the company’s not offering much that’s different from standard models, beyond the extra protection—but we think most parents will appreciate it.

This tablet for kids goes for $150 for a 6-inch version, and $190 for a 7-inch. That's $50 more than their regular Fire HD6 and HD7 counterparts, but not out of line with competing kid tablets, which can cost up to $250. And potential buyers may find their perceptions changed about what constitutes a tablet for kids, which, for the most part, have been less sophisticated or powerful than “grown-up” tablets.

We bought a Fire HD Kids Edition as soon as it was available. We’ll be putting it through our tablet lab tests soon, but here are our first impressions.

Getting started

Make no mistake: This is a real tablet. Inside is a quad-core processor and 8GB of storage, and it features a crisp, vivid HD touch screen (either 6 or 7 inches) and front- and rear-facing cameras. Amazon promises up to 8 hours of battery life.

We found setup to be fairly simple. Charge the tablet, then register it. You start with creating your own profile, and you can then set up profiles for each kid who’ll be using it. Enter a name, sex, and birthday, and choose either Amazon FreeTime (recommended for children 8 and younger) or Teen Profiles (counterintuitively, for kids 9 and older). You can add a photo if you choose.

With FreeTime, you’re asked to “Share your library with [kid’s name].” That lets you select book titles for the child from those you already own—that is, if you already have an Amazon account. You then set up daily time goals and limits: Bedtime (hours during which the tablet can’t be used) and Educational Goals (the amount of time reading books, watching videos, and using apps). You can also choose the Learn First option, which lets parents “Block entertainment content until all daily educational goals are met.” Tough love!

Setting up a Teen Profile was a similar process. Make sure to set up individual screen-lock passwords for each profile so younger kids can't get into older kids’ profiles.

The very rugged bumper case comes in green, blue, or pink.

Using the tablet

As you enter a child’s profile screen, you can scroll through and select books, videos, apps from those you’ve added as well as the vast library Amazon offers. You can also filter by characters: Choose from, say, Disney, PBS Kids, Dr. Seuss, dinosaurs, or horses and ponies, and all topic-related content appears.

When you first tap on a book, app, or video icon, give it time to download to the tablet. There’s no indication that’s what is happening, but you’ll be able open it within a few moments, depending on how large it is.

If you’ve never used an Amazon tablet before, we recommend that you take a bit of time to learn how to use it. Swipe down from your own homepage and click on Settings, Help, and then User Guide. You’ll get tips on how to navigate—it isn’t always obvious, especially when you’re inside a book, video, or app—and how to add content to your various profiles. You’ll also find basic troubleshooting information. (This Fire HD model doesn’t offer the Mayday button, which connects you to a live customer service agent right from a tablet screen.)

Bottom line

The Fire HD Kids Edition can be a great option for a tablet that families can share. It’s got the sophisticated features parents want when they use a tablet, and FreeTime Unlimited gives them lots of kid content as well as granular control over what content each child can and can’t access, when they can use the tablet, and for how long.

But there are limitations that may prove vexing. For one, within a FreeTime profile, kids can’t surf the Web—not even a curated version [edited 12/16/14]. Some kids, especially older ones, will not be pleased. Also, 8GB is not a lot of memory to work with, and there’s no card slot to increase it. Parents may find themselves helping kids to delete stuff so they can download new content. Another potential problem: Parents can’t restrict access to any of the content that's included with FreeTime Unlimited, even if they feel it’s not appropriate for their child.

Check back for our lab-test results soon, and take a look at our other reviews of tablets for kids.

—Carol Mangis

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