Kid-friendly Android tablets are sprouting like beanstalks -- even the Amazon Kindle Fire HD has parental control features. So in this increasingly crowded market, how does the Arnova ChildPad, made by tablet veteran Archos stand out? One way is to offer the device for $149, about $50 less than the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7. Unfortunately, this is another case of you-get-what-you-pay-for.
There are no physical buttons on the front of this plastic device, which is meant to be used in landscape mode, as indicated by the ChildPad logo printed along one edge.
The right edge houses the power button, microUSB port, miniSD card and headphone port, along with a space filler for what looks like a miniHDMI port. We wish there were physical volume controls, too. When the power cord is plugged in, the green/red battery indicator LED glows straight through the white plastic.
At 8.8 x 5.6 x 0.5 inches, the Arnova ChildPad is bulkier than the Kurio 7 (7.7 x 4.9 x 0.5 inches) and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD (7.6 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches), but slimmer than the Fuhi Nabi 2 (8.7 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches). Weighing in 13.4 ounces, the ChildPad is heavier than the 12.5-ounce Kurio 7, but is a hair lighter than the 13.9-ounce Kindle Fire HD and is much lighter than the 1.3-pound Nabi 2.
Display and Audio
The glossy screen was reflective, but didn't pick up fingerprints. Viewing angles were pretty terrible, too. This is definitely a one-child-at-a-time device. On our brightness test, the ChildPad measured 230 lux, which is better than the Kurio (147 lux), but well below the tablet average of 356 lux and the Kindle Fire HD's 460 lux.
Even at full volume, audio from the single speaker was weak and tinny. On the YouTube clip, we had to hold the speaker up to our ear to hear Billy Crystal's voice -- but then we couldn't see the screen. "Brave New World" by Wes Burden sounded considerably louder, but was still soft. Plus, the guitar sounded full of static and lacked depth. You'll want to be sure your child has a good pair of headphones.
The same stock keyboard we've seen on other Ice Cream Sandwich slates appears on the ChildPad. The plain gray keys offered an accurate typing experience. Typing produced typewriter sounds, but you can turn this effect off in settings.
Once logged in to the parental controls area, you're presented with several tabs of customizable Web filters, including Forbidden Categories, Forbidden Languages, Allowed Sites, Forbidden Sites and Forbidden Time Slots. You can also disable all Web surfing here by tapping No Search Engines.
When we searched for Katie Holmes, a Google search returned a "Wall Street Journal" article about her appearance during Fashion Week, but before the page could open the URL redirected to an error page, which oddly appeared in French. The browser effectively blocked AshleyMadison, Cosmopolitan, HuffingtonPost, NYTimes.com and YouPorn. It also prevented us from loading pages that resulted from searches for "Big Boob" and "Naked Girls." However, we were able to load Craigslist, Salon.com and TheStreet.com.
There are 31 languages you can set as filters, such as Arabic, Irish, Japanese and Lithuanian, but we're unsure of how restricting content by language would be particularly helpful for parents.
We think it would have been easier to type in the times and days, rather than manually selecting the six boxes between midnight and 6 a.m. on each of the seven days of the week. We also wished the parental controls for the ChildPad extended beyond the Web browser. Once you've set all your preferences, you'll know the controls are active when you see the four-colored icon appear in the bottom right of the screen.
We preferred the Techno Source Kurio 7's method of parental controls, which let you set up a completely separate environment for several different children. Within each profile you can restrict apps and Web browsing, as well as screen time with the whole device. Amazon's FreeTime feature for the Kindle Fire HD works similarly in setting up a separate kid-friendly environment, which limits apps and screen time.
The Magic Doodle drawing app automatically saves junior's final creation as well as a video of how it was made. You can also record and play back musical creations using the Mini Piano Lite app. When we tried to play Escape, we were asked if we wanted to enable OpenFeint to play with friends online, but we couldn't get past the log-in screen. The app crashed during multiple attempts.
Le Conjeur is an interesting language learning app for teaching kids French, but seems to be for advanced students who would already know some verbs in order to brush up on their conjugation.
The AppsLib Store version found on the ChildPad is a third-party Android app store that's been curated to only offer "hundreds of games." We would have preferred the full AppsLib store or Google Play, but you can sideload the Amazon App store. From the overly basic home page, you can search, sort by categories or review your installed apps. We couldn't find any commonly popular apps, including Aldiko, CNN, Facebook, Kindle, Lookout Mobile Security and Antivirus, Nook, Quickoffice Pro, Pandora, Pulse, Twitter or YouTube. Many of those missing apps could be found on the full AppsLib Store.
The default Android browser on the Arnova ChildPad is reminiscent of Chrome, complete with tabs we could drag to re-order. The ChildPad frequently dropped its connection, both in our home and at our office. When we had a solid Internet connection -- which didn't happen very often -- Web pages loaded slowly. Space.com took 18 seconds to load. The mobile version of ESPN took 6 seconds to load, while NYTimes.com took 14 and Laptopmag.com took 10 seconds.
The Kurio 7's 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera made us look grainy and yellowish, and its awkward placement made it difficult for taking self-portraits. There was no rear-facing camera, as is found on the Kurio 7. A video shot with the device of our apartment was blurry and pixelated. Since Skype isn't available in AppsLib, we can only assume the camera is meant as a toy for kids to play like mom and dad. The preloaded Camera app has no special features, except to let you share your pic via email.
With its 1-GHz Cortex A8 CPU and 1GB of RAM, the Arnova ChildPad performed below average on synthetic benchmarking tests. However, during our hands-on time, we didn't note any serious lag in opening apps.
On Linpack, a test that measures CPU power, the ChildPad scored just 13.4 in the single-threaded portion and 10.7 in the multi-threaded test. Not only is that far below the 38.6 and 59.2 averages, but it's even below the Techno Source Kurio 7 scores of 14.7 and 14.2. The Google Nexus 7 scored 128.3 and 46.6, respectively.
Similarly, on Quadrant, a benchmark that measures overall performance, the Arnova ChildPad scored just 1,486, far below the 2,711.5 tablet average and below the Kurio 7's 1,775. The Amazon Kindle Fire HD scored 2,167.
On the graphics-oriented AN3DBench, the ChildPad returned a score of 6,053, which doesn't look good next to the 7,293 tablet average, the 7,783 Kindle Fire HD score or the Kurio 7's 7,123 score.
Archos claims the battery on the Arnova ChildPad should last 7 hours. On the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing over Wi-Fi), the ChildPad lasted 4 hours and 53 minutes, which is 2 hours less than the average Android tablet, but is an hour and half longer than the Kurio 7.
VerdictAmazon Kindle Fire HD, we'd recommend the Techno Source Kurio 7 over the Arnova ChildPad.
|CPU||ARM Cortex A8|
|Storage Drive Size||4GB|
|Storage Drive Type||Flash Memory|
|Front-Facing Camera Resolution||0.3|
|Card Reader Size||32GB|
|Warranty / Support|
|Size||8.8 x 5.6 x 0.5 inches|