Unlike many other kid-friendly tablets that use removable silicone cases, the Polaroid Kids Tablet is rugged from the ground up. The entire tablet is coated in a soft-touch rubber material, while the edges and back have built-in rubber bumpers. At about 8.25 by 6.25 by 0.75 inches (HWD) and 1.02 pounds, the Kids Tablet is a bit chunky, but its grippy surfaces, wide bezels, and rubber bumpers make it comfortable to hold. Along the bottom edge is a 3.5mm headphone jack, mini USB port, display lock switch, and full-sized SD card slot. Flanking the screen are Volume, Power, Home, and Back buttons.
The 7-inch LCD itself isn’t anything special, with 800-by-480-pixel resolution. Colors look pretty muted and the viewing angle isn’t great. Everything appears a bit grainy, but not to the same extent as the Tabeo, and the viewing angle is better with the Polaroid. You still get a better display on the non-HD Amazon Kindle Fire, which uses a 7-inch 1,024-by-600-pixel LCD. One annoying quirk here: The display is recessed in the thick bezels of the tablet, making it a bit cumbersome to touch the edges of the screen. This is especially annoying as many Android elements are located along the bottom edge and in the corners of the screen.
This is a Wi-Fi only tablet that connects to 802.11b/g/n networks on the 2.4GHz band only. There’s no Bluetooth or GPS, but there is a rear-facing 2-megapixel camera. Pictures taken with the camera lack vibrancy and are grainy, even in good lighting. They’re perfectly suitable for a child though, and Polaroid includes a fun camera app that lets kids overlay props and costumes in real time. Polaroid also includes a foldable stand for propping the Kids Tablet up.
Performance and Android Customizations
The Fuhu Nabi 2 set a high bar for kid-friendly tablet performance, with a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor. The Polaroid Kids Tablet is significantly less powerful, with a single-core 1GHz processor and 512MB RAM, and it shows. Apps can take a while to launch and scrolling through content can be painfully choppy. General home screen navigation was surprisingly smooth, and while apps could be slow to launch, they didn’t freeze and force close like on many other kids’ tablets.
Polaroid makes some useful customizations to Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” without going overboard. The homescreens use big, colorful widgets in lieu of standard icons, mildly reminiscent of live tiles on Windows 8. The blocky widgets include a carousel for preloaded games like Doodle Jump, shortcuts to content like children’s books and videos, and toggles for parental controls and safe browsing. It makes everything very easy to find for those unfamiliar with Android, and you can always ditch the tiles in favor of standard Android app icons. Polaroid includes a number of simple apps, from simple puzzle games and educational exercises to Dr. Seuss titles like the Cat in The Hat and Green Eggs And Ham. Not only can kids read these classics, but the e-books can also read themselves out loud and let kids interact with the pictures.
There’s no Google Play app store, so you’ll be limited to Polaroid’s preloaded app store or you’ll need to install the Amazon App store on your own, which is as easy as clicking a link in an e-mail. The Polaroid app store only has a few hundred apps to choose from, and it lacks popular apps like Angry Birds. Amazon’s store is much better.
Media support is good on the Kids Tablet. For audio, you get MP3, AAC, FLAC, OGG, WAV, and WMA support. For video, the Kids tablet supports Xvid, DivX, MPEG4, H.264, and AVI files at up to 1080p resolution. In our battery rundown test, which loops a video with screen brightness set to max and Wi-Fi on, the Kids Tablet lasted 4 hours, 45 minutes. That’s less than the Kindle Fire’s 5 hours, 11 minutes on the same test, and pretty low compared with the Editors’ Choice Google Nexus 7, which lasted 10 hours, 50 minutes.
Parental Controls and Conclusions
Parental controls are easy to set up, but they aren’t as comprehensive as those found on Amazon’s FreeTime. You can control which apps are accessible to your children, but not how long they can use them. Taking a page from Amazon’s book, Polaroid uses different color schemes to easily identify when the tablet is in safe mode or unrestricted parent mode. Android elements become sky blue instead of black when in safe mode, making it easy for parents to know what mode the tablet is in. Polaroid included a kid-friendly version of the Maxthon Browser, which allows parents to restrict browsing to approved sites.
The Polaroid Kids Tablet features a comfortable, child-friendly design with easy-to-use parental controls. It’s affordable at $150 and would make a better choice than the equally priced Tabeo, but for just $10 more you can get the refreshed Amazon Kindle Fire with Freetime. If you’re willing to spend $50 more, you can get a far superior tablet like the Kindle Fire HD or the Fuhu Nabi 2, both of which double as full-featured Android tablets for adults.