Amazon Review by John Ryan
5384 people found the following review helpful
UPDATED REVIEW: Amazing value, two years accidental damage cover and FreeTime. Read on for a plain English review.
I've owned several iPad's and tested and reviewed numerous inexpensive (sometimes cheap and nasty), 7 and 10 inch tablets for kids, and was impressed by this - as was my 3 year old granddaughter.
As I work in IT, I’m aware just how confusing technology can be, so I’ll try to avoid references to jargon, and focus instead on the experience. Ive broken the review up into sections so you can skip the bits youre less interested in.
With a years subscription to FreeTime and its huge library of age appropriate videos, books and games, a two year replacement policy and a great tablet, this seems pretty good value.
Although not as sharp as the more expensive competition, the screen is clear, bright and colourful at almost any angle, and a pleasure to watch video or play games on. It is highly reflective, and pretty useless in bright sunlight, but otherwise great. While the low resolution makes reading very small text difficult, most text in FreeTime books is large and clear, and as a video player its a joy.
Web performance is certainly fast enough, and it ran the graphically intense Real Racing 3 with ease (so even good for older kids). Sound quality from the mono speaker was impressive, and at 7 hours, the battery life is pretty respectable.
A bluetooth connection at this price is a surprising bonus (means you can keep the older ones happy with a bluetooth speaker), although the front and rear cameras are basic, as is the low 5Gb of usable storage. At least you can add a huge (up to 128Gb) Micro-SD card to store more stuff.
In conclusion, for a child from 3-12 year old this is a non-brainer. Four times cheaper than an iPad mini, and all the functionality. Note: If you think $99 is a bit much, scroll to the end for other buying options, and to see just whats included in the package.
9/10 - Value for Money.
9/10 - Designed for Children
8/10 - Design and Build Quality
8/12 - Screen (Very impressive
7/10 - Web performance
8/10 - Gaming Performance
9/10 - Sound
5/10 - Camera. (Basic)
6/10 - Storage and Expansion (5 Gb)
6/10 - Battery
7.5/10 - Overall very impressive.
Clearly, Amazon have made some compromises, to hit the magic price point. Heres the details:-
Value for Money 9/10
While this is double the price of the standard Amazon Fire 7 Tablet, youre still getting a terrific deal. In addition to an impressive tablet and cover, you get two years accidental damage cover, and years subscription to Amazon Free Time.
Designed for Children 9/10
Amazon FreeTime gives every child their own profile and personalised login, content and bookmarks. You can give each child access to age appropriate games, videos and books (all selected by Amazon) without concern, after which they can discover for themselves what they like. The parental controls extend to the ability to limit the total time or by media type. For example, you can limit videos to one hour a day, but give unlimited reading, and shut down at 7pm.
Personally, Id delighted my 3 year old can discover what she likes within a password protected environment, and as she grows, so can her library of books and movies. The fact its kid proof and indestructible (or replaced free or charge) is a bonus.
My only gripe, is theres no physical home button like the Apple iPad (admittedly at 2-6 times the price plus a case), and its sometimes a little difficult to hit the exact spot on screen to press a virtual button. This means either a very young child will get frustrated, or theyll learn useful hand-to-eye coordination. Not a show-stopper though - even for my little one.
Update 20-Oct-15: Understand there’s some quirks you need to know about. While “FreeTime” is great as limits your kid’s access to inappropriate stuff, it also prevents them downloading movies unless you actually “buy” them. Not normally an issue until you’re going on a 10 hour flight with a bored 5 year old, and they want to watch the Prime movies you’ve downloaded in advance. You can of course download selected Prime Movies in the adult" (ie. outside "FreeTime) area, but you’ll need to manually control access as your five year old is needs to watch them in the “Adult” tablet world. Also if you’ve “bought” the movie - it appears in your “Library” and can be downloaded. Hope that makes sense.
Many thanks to RadoBikeNBeer for the info. Please comment if Amazon fixes this and I’ll update this review.
Design and Build Quality 8/10
At 406g in the snug fit cover its a little heavier than Id expected, but certainly light enough for a 3 year old, and the soft rounded edges make it easy to handle. Outside of the case, its very similar to the Kindle (reader), with the rear finished in matt black plastic, and while it doesnt have the classy aluminium back of the iPad mini, its certainly a step up from the generic Android tablets Ive reviewed at the same price. Ive tried a few drops from six feet (as its covered by the replacement policy for two years), and its bounced every time, and still working fine.
Screen Quality 8/10
At 1024 x 600 pixels, youre not looking at an HD screen (so no point paying extra to rent films in HD), and small text is sometimes difficult to read. Having said that, text on FreeTime books is fine, and games and video great.
For your money, you get the same IPS display technology as an iPad, which means it has a wide viewing angle. On similarly priced budget tablets without this, Ive found the screen and colours fade as you tilt the device left/right or up/down. This may not seem much of an issue until your child is playing a game where they constantly tilt and turn the tablet to navigate a race course - in which case it gets really frustrating.
The screen is not made of the tough Gorilla Glass of the iPad or Nexus, but surprisingly it feels like glass. The screen is however a real fingerprint magnet, and is quite reflective so its useless in bright sunlight.
Having said all that, colours are bright and clear, and video from Amazon Instant or YouTube is just terrific. As a way of keeping the kids happy on a long journey, this is a terrific device.
As an aside - if youve a Fire TV or the cheaper Stick you can start a film on this, and send to your TV - a great bonus.
Web Performance 7/10
While your children wont be on Facebook, I tested it anyway for speed. I therefore navigated to a series of web sites including News sites, Facebook and the incredibly rich text and photographs of the Mail Online. This is a terrific test for a budget device as the pages are packed with text, graphics and photos, and if a tablet can handle this, it will handle almost anything on the web.
Pleased to say once the page loaded (a tad slow), the device scrolled smoothly with none of the jittering or multiple screen refreshes Ive witnessed on some budget devices. While its not as blisteringly fast and smooth an an iPad Air, its impressive for the price. Certainly great for little ones.
Gaming Performance 8/10
To check gaming performance I tested a series of Apps including Angry Birds, Temple Run and the graphically challenging Real Racing 3. Again, unlikely content for very small children, but it shows this is a capable device, and suitable for older kids.
I was less interested in the time taken to install or start the game, as whether it displayed graphics clearly, and was responsive to twists and turns. Pleased to say all games worked well, although Real Racing took AGES to download, and graphics showed a few jagged edges. However, game-play was smooth and fast, and it was a real pleasure to use.
As a comparison, graphics seems about the same as an iPad mini 1 - which despite being three year old technology still sells for nearly four times the price.
Sound Quality 9/10
This device has a mono rear speaker which is typical of budget devices, however because of a clever case design, the sound is actually better in the case than without it. Really impressive. I was certainly surprised by the quality and clarity of music and game sound effects. Certainly OK for everyday use, and youve also a bluetooth connection for a separate wireless speaker.
One of the biggest compromises, theres a basic front and rear facing camera to shoot pictures or video. I gave these a rating of 5/10 as they are about what Id expect at this price point. Video and photo quality is acceptable, but not outstanding, although the front facing camera (to shoot selfies or video calling using Skype), is basic and quite grainy. While you can see and hear the other person clearly, its definitely the weakest point in the device.
For a child or occasional use, this shouldnt be an issue.
Storage and expansion 6/10
This is a budget device with only 8Gb of storage of which only about 5.5Gb is actually available for Apps, photos and videos, and youll probably want to add more.
Thankfully, this is easily remedied, and unusually you can add a micro SD Card (a bit like a mobile SIM card, but it holds data instead). You can fit a card up to a whopping 128Gb (Gigabytes). Id advise you add a 32 or 64 Gb card. Heres a quick capacity summary:-
32Gb = 11,400 JPG photos or 65 SD or 32 HD movies or 8,000 MP3 songs
64Gb = 22,800 photos or 130 SD or 64 HD movies or 16,000 songs
128Gb = 45,600 photos or 260 SD or 130 HD movies or 32,000 songs
Even 32Gb of storage will hold thousands of photos or apps, but video uses the most space, hence the benchmark above. I bought a 64Gb myself.
Update: 1-Nov-15. Amazon had a bug whereby although you can download content to the SD card, but you still need a WIFI connection to access it. Duh!? This is now fixed. I downloaded a movie to the SD card, and played it in Airplane mode. Once you start watching a movie it will automatically be blocked after 48 hours after which youll need to go online to automatically unlock it. I guess this avoids the potential copyright issue.
Battery Life and Power 6/10
The battery life is only 7 hours, and watching YouTube videos over WIFI with the screen at maximum brightness will drain the battery faster so you might only get 6.5. During the past two few days testing, I typically managed just over six and half hours. Having said that, I was really thrashing it.
Other Buying Options
At $99.99 this is double the price of the standard 7 tablet, but still great value. Why? Whats included in “the package”?
- The $49.99 7 Kindle Fire Tablet (yes, the exact same device - right down the orange packaging)
- The $19.99 soft blue/pink bumper case (sold separately on Amazon)
- Two year accidental damage cover (sold separately for $29.99)
- A year subscription to Amazon FreeTime Unlimited ($2.99 per month if you have Prime, $4.99 without).
Youre therefore getting up to $160 of stuff for $100, after which youve the option to extend your first years FreeTime subscription. This does of course mean you can mix-and-match, and (for example) buy the device for $50-65 and case for $20, and save money up front.
The Amazon App Store
Firstly an App is a small Application a program which runs on a tablet, and there are thousands available including games and educational programs. According to Statisca, Amazon had 400,00 available (July 2015) compared to 1.6m and 1.5m in the Google and Apple Web store which means you wont find EVERY app on Amazon, but you should find the most popular ones including Real Racing, Temple Run and "Cut the Rope. I couldnt find my favourite (Air Wings) which runs on Apple devices.
Worth noting, you cant run Apps from the Apple or Google App store - they run on Apple or Android devices only. This means if youve bought a game on your Android Smartphone, you may need to buy it again for this device (annoying but true). Having said that, many thousands are free or Ad supported, and Amazon Underground even has a selected set of normally paid for Apps (on Google/Apple) which they give for free - all part of making this tablet a success.
No doubt in time theyll catch up. Meanwhile, if youve a particular deal breaker, some app you cant live without - search for it on Amazon. You can see which Amazon Apps are available - theyre all on Amazon.
As a life long iPad fan (since the first version in 2010), Im surprised to report this is a really impressive device for the money. The combination of a years subscription to kids FreeTime, an almost indestructible tablet and a guaranteed replacement within two years make this a no brainer.
Ive tested and reviewed several similarly priced budget kids tablets for sale on Amazon. And this is the first Five Star tablet that was truly inexpensive without being cheap. I love it, my granddaughter loves it, and her mums happy too.
Thanks for reading!