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The Best Tablet for Kids

Kids tablet deviceWhich is the best tablet for kids? New tablet technology is now influencing the way kids learn and play. There are many educational applications (apps) and games available on tablet devices to help kids learn or let them relax while they are away from home. Some of the apps and games are so good that even when kids are at home they choose using a tablet device over other electronic devices.

The Kindle Fire

The Kindle Fire by Amazon is taking the tablet market by storm because of its features and low cost. The $159 purchase price includes a 7" color touch screen display, the Amazon Silk internet browser, built-in wi-fi, and access to a growing number of Android apps and millions of movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, books, and games. The Amazon Silk browser uses Amazon's retail website technology and fast servers connected to an extremely fast internet backbone to provide faster internet use.

For kids, there is alot of content available for the Kindle Fire. Kids electronic books are very popular with parents. There are over 1000 fully color illustrated children's books available for the Fire. Add to that available apps designed for kids and children's movies and TV content and the Kindle Fire becomes a stand alone kids entertainment center. Recently, Amazon added a great feature for kids 3-8 called Kindle FreeTime Unlimited. FreeTime Unlimited provides access to thousands of games, apps, books, TV shows and movies targeted for kids age 3 to 8. Parents can set up an account for each child in the FreeTime application and they can also control the amount of time they are allowed to access each type of content. There is no fee to view or use any of the content on FreeTime, but there is a subscription fee that is very reasonable, particularly for Amazon Prime members. The new Amazon Kindle and Kindle HD tablets come with a free trial subscription.

Pros: The purchase price is the lowest for any Android-based tablet. The Amazon support is very good. Receive additional deals if you own a Kindle Fire and subscribe to Amazon Prime (like Netflix, but more features). A huge library of content is available for the Fire. The Amazon Silk browser is a plus for those who want to use the device to access the internet. Free Amazon Cloud storage is available for Fire owners. Many public libraries have free eBook borrowing available for the Kindle.

Cons: It is a first generation tablet, which typically has bugs to work out. The memory size is half the size of the Nook Tablet. The USB port does not add any functionality for users. The Kindle Fire has no built-in camera.

The Kindle Fire HD

The Kindle Fire HD by Amazon has all the same features as the standard Kindle Fire, but also includes some upgraded components. Upgraded features include an improved display screen, faster processor, more RAM and more internal storage space. The new Kindle Fire HD also features a fast dual band wi-fi feature that improves streaming of content and improved Dolby speakers. The Fire HD is available in the standard 16 GB storage or a larger 32 GB model. The Fire HD has unlimited free cloud space on the Amazon server, so decide how much you will use the device while not near a wi-fi source.

An 8.9" display version of the Kindle Fire is also now available. The larger screen is more comparable to the Apple IPad. If you want a larger viewing area for shows, movies, books and apps, this may be the way to go. In addition Amazon sells a 4G LTE version of the 8.9" display Kindle HD. This is their top of the line tablet which features standard 32 GB or storage or optional 64 GB of storage space. The internet is accessible from almost any location using this tablet and AT&T's wireless internet access. Amazon and AT&T have partnered to offer up to 250 MB of wireless data transfer each month at a cost of only $49.99 per year. This is one of the best wireless contracts available for data anywhere.

LeapFrog LeapPad2

The LeapFrog LeapPad and LeapPad2 are a nice additional to the kids tablet market. LeapFrog specifically designed the LeapPad devices to be an educational and entertainment platform for younger children. The ability for this device to play Leapfrog apps allow it to be expanded over time.

LeapPad Explorer kids tabletThe up front cost of under $100 is very appealing for both the original LeapPad and the LeapPad 2, compared to the Apple or Android devices. What the LeapPads lack is they cannot currently play movies, music or TV shows or access the internet. This may actually be a positive feature for parents of younger children who are trying to provide more educational chances for their child instead of more TV and internet time. The screen size, at 5", is larger than an iPod Touch, but smaller than the 7" screen size of the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet. This screen size is the same as the VTech InnoTab which is the other tablet designed specifically for kids.

One of the best features of the LeapPad is the ability to run ultra eBooks. These digital books enhance kids' reading experience through visuals and game play, teaching kids phonics, word recognition and reading comprehension. Kids can select words and the tablet will sound out the word and tell its meaning. The enhanced digital books are designed for varying reading levels, from reading the story to the child to allowing the child to read every word. Ultra eBooks can be purchased using a $20 app download card which is purchased from the LeapFrog website. The LeapPad2 also adds cameras that can take photos or video on both the front and back of the device. It also is pre-loaded with 5 new apps including the very cool animation program where kids can make their own animated videos.

Pros: Plays all of the old LeapFrog Explorer cartridges and new LeapFrog LeapPad apps. The purchase price of the unit is less than iPad and Android-based tablets. This tablet is designed for younger kids and can be easily monitored by parents. Some good educational software is available on this tablet which is not available on any other device.

Cons: Apps are proprietary and therefore relatively expensive because there is no competition by suppliers. The available apps, eBooks, and games are more limited than the iPad, Kindle, and Nook. Older kids may get bored by the available games and apps so this tablet's life may be limited (although new technology is always being sold, so don't buy now for a future use). Does not currently play music or movies. The tablet is powered by 4-AA batteries. The 5 inch screen size is a little small for electronic books.

LeapFrog Enterprises Inc.

Apple iPad 2

The Apple iPad is the device that created all the fuss over tablets. What the Apple really created for kids was a simple tablet device that allows kids to avoid typing and navigation problems because of a simple touch screen interface that even younger kids can easily use. Now in its second generation, the Apple iPad 2 tablet is the benchmark for all other tablets. The display, responsiveness of the touch screen, and simplicity of the operating system are what sets apart the Apple iPad 2 from other devices.

Pros: The touch screen accuracy and screen display is the best of any tablet. A huge library of existing apps that is growing everyday is available. According to Apple, there are currently over 140,000 apps currently available that were designed for the iPad. It has two cameras for Skype or Facetime (video phone calls). Uses the faster 5 GHz band Wi-Fi with supported wireless routers. The iPad supports bluetooth technology. Control Apple TV from an iPad or content can be streamed from an iPad to a HDTV using Apple TV.

Cons: The iPad does not have support for Flash. There is no USB port or SD card slot. iPad apps are more expensive than iPod touch apps. The initial cost is higher than most other tablets.

Nook Tablet

Barnes and Noble's Nook tablet is similar to the Kindle Fire. The Nook Tablet is the newest offering from Barnes and Noble and should not be confused with the older Nook Color, which does not play movies. It is capable of accessing the internet, email, B&N apps, and millions of movies, TV shows, songs, eBooks, and magazines. At $249 the current price is slightly higher than the Kindle Fire and the iPod Touch, but much lower than the iPad. This tablet device, like the Kindle Fire, is designed more as a consumption device for existing entertainment.

When comparing the Nook Tablet to a Kindle fire it has a few advantages and also a few disadvantages. The Nook tablet has a slightly better 7" display. It also has 1GB of system memory vs. 512 MB on the Kindle Fire. The Nook has a microSD slot which is a huge advantage for users who have alot of their own content they want to load on their tablet device. The Kindle Fire only has a micro USB port which can only be used to transfer files from a computer to the device. The biggest complaint with the Nook is even though it has more internal memory (16 GB), only 1 GB can be used for user content not purchased directly through Barnes and Noble. This is where the microSD slot is important. User content can be stored on SD cards and side-loaded for use on the Nook. The Amazon Kindle Fire has 8 GB of internal storage, of which most can be used for Amazon purchased or user loaded content, but there is no way to expand the storage. Additional content is stored on a computer or Amazon's Cloud server for later use. Keep in mind that one movie takes up about 1 GB of space on a tablet.

Pros: Interactive kids' eBooks are available for the Nook Tablet, which are not available for the Kindle Fire. Families can record reading books and kids can listen. The internal memory size is double the size of the Kindle Fire. The price is less than other Android-based Tablets (except for the Kindle Fire). The microSD card is a great benefit for users with alot of existing digital content. Any eBook Barnes and Noble sells can be viewed for up to an hour for free in any of their stores on a Nook.

Cons: The list price of the Nook Tablet is $50 more than the Kindle Fire. Even though the Nook is an Android device it is designed to use Barnes and Noble apps (although there is a way around this). Loading time for eBooks appear to load slower than on an iPad 2.

Meep by Oregon Scientific

The MEEP!, offered by Oregon Scientific has a low starting price of only $149. It is an Android tablet, but offers parents the piece of mind of full control of the device. All the apps available for the device are very kid-friendly. Oregon Scientific has taken the leap with this tablet o giving parents full-control of the device. Time of use of the tablet, apps, access and other features are are controlled by the parents. This control does limit the amount of apps and material available for the Meep.

Pros: Initial cost, full parental control of the device, very kid-friendly, full-size SD card slot

Cons: No access to Google Play or the Amazon App market, amount of books and apps available are limited to the hundreds instead of the hundread of thousands.

Nabi 2

The Nabi 2 tablet also takes a novel approach to content. The Nabi features parental control of the content with the Monarch OS running over the Android operating system. So basically parents get full control of the device, but will not have full access to the Google Play marketplace. Instead, there are many apps, book, and music selections designed specifically for educating and entertaining kids. The Nabi features Spinlets TV which is a paid ($2.99/Month) kids TV service that host over 700 hours of kids programming. It has shows like Richard Scarry, Paddington Bear, and Strawberry Shortcake.

Pros: Up front low cost, very powerful processor, parental control, microSD slot

Cons: Limited availability of Google Play and apps

VTech InnoTab 2

The VTech InnoTab 2 is the other tablet device that was specifically designed for younger kids. According to VTech, the InnoTab tablet is targeted for kids 4 to 9 years old. The VTech tablet currently is the cheapest tablet available for kids.

Pros: The price is the lowest of any tablet device for kids. The InnoTab plays MP3 music. The cost of apps is slightly lower than LeapPad apps.

Cons: The InnoTab has a pretty slow processor by today's standards. The undersized processor results in slow loading times of apps and games. The tablet is powered by 4-AA batteries. The 5 inch screen size is a little small for electronic books.

Toshiba Thrive

From a hardware standpoint the Toshiba Thrive is the most powerful tablet available, for under $400. The Thrive is as close to the hardware power of a laptop computer as can be purchased in this price range, in a touch screen tablet format. It features the Android 3.0 OS, where the Kindle Fire is an Android 2.3 device and the Nook Tablet is an Andoid 2.1 device. This fact will really not matter for younger kids, but kids who are close to being a teenager, this may be an important factor.

The Toshiba Thrive features a 10.1" color touch screen display, which is the same size as the iPad 2. There are plenty of ports on this tablet. The Thrive as a standard size USB port and a micro USB port. It also include a standard size SD card slot. If you have ever kept a device with a rechargeable battery for more than a few year, you understand that its performance will eventually diminish over time.

Pros: Access to the Andoid marketplace for apps. The Thrive has a full size SD card slot and a standard USB port which can be used with an USB drive or external hard drive.

Cons: The Android operating system can require some tinkering. Parental options are more difficult to set up. The 10.1" screen size is less portable than some of the other devices.

iPod Touch

The iPod touch is a mini-tablet device, and is capable of almost everything a 7" or 10" tablet device can do, but has a 3.5" display. The iPod Touch is available in 3 different internal storage sizes including 8 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB. Like the iPad, the iPod Touch does not have a SD card slot or USB port, but it has Wi-Fi and bluetooth connectivity. Although smaller, the iPod Touch features one of the best touch screen displays available. With the release of the iPod Touch, Apple has evolved the iPod from a music player to a multimedia device capable of games, movies, internet, email, and apps. There are some very good educational apps available for the iPod Touch along with TV shows and movies kids love. The iPod Touch runs Facetime, which is a video phone app which runs through wi-fi. This app is the ultimate kids walkie talkie.

Pros: It is the most portable because of its size. Good value for the available features. The apps for the iPod Touch are cheaper than the iPad apps. Starter apps which are limited versions of full apps are available for free for almost any app. This allows kids to try before they buy. Runs Facetime. A password can be set up for internet use and for adding apps to the iPod.

Cons: Screen size is small.

Nook Color

The Nook Color is the little brother to the Nook Tablet. All of the features included in the Nook color are also included in the Nook Tablet. The Nook Tablet has added capability of playing different movie files and has more system memory. The Nook Color, however, has $50 lower list price for giving up these features.

 

Kids Tablet Comparison Table
 
Kindle Fire
LeapFrog LeapPad 2
iPad 2
Nook Tablet
MEEP
iPod Touch
Nabi 2
Cost
Screen Size
7"
7"
5"
9.7"
7"
5"
10.1"
3.5"
7"
Screen Resolution
1024 x 600
1280 x 800
480 x 272
1024 x 768
1024 x 600
480 x 272
1280 x 800
960 x 640
1024 x 600
Internal Storage
8GB
16GB*
4GB
16GB*
16GB
2GB
8GB*
8GB*
8GB

System Memory

512MB DDR2
1GB
?
512MB DDR2
1GB
?
1GB
256MB
1 GB
Processor
1GHz Dual Core
1.2GHz Dual Core OMAP4
400 MHz
1GHz Dual Core G5
1GHz Dual Core OMAP4
400 MHz
1GHz Dual Core Nvidia
1GHz A4
NVIDIA Tegra Quad Core
Operating System
Android 4.0
Android 4.0
Leapfrog
iOS 6
Android 2.2
Android 2.3
Android 3.0
iOS 5
Android 4.0
Battery Life
7.5 hrs
11 hrs
4AA or AC
10 hrs
9 hrs+
4AA or AC
7 hrs+
8 hrs
USB Port
Micro**
Micro**
No
No
No
No
2
No
micro**
SD Slot
No
No
No
No
micro
Micro
Yes
No
micro
Cartridge Slot
No
No
Yes
No
No
Yes
No
No
No
Web Browser
Amazon Silk
Amazon Silk
No
Safari
Yes
No
Yes
Safari
Yes
Flash Compatible
Yes
Yes
No
No
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Built-in Cameras
No
Yes
2
2
No
Yes
2
2
2MP
Built-in Microphone
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Built-in Video Recorder
No
No
Yes
720p
No
Yes
720p
720p
720p
MP3 Player
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Motion Sensor
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Movie Player
1080p
1080p
Yes
1080p
1080p
Yes
720p
720p
Only Flash movies
eBook Reader
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Plays Netflix Movies
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
No
Parental Controls
Yes
Yes
Yes
Limited
Yes
Yes
Limited
Limited
Yes

* Larger capacity models are available at a higher cost.

** Micro USB ports can only be used to transfer data from a computer. This port is not compatible with direct connect to a USB drive or external hard drive.