At first glance, a $79.99 price tag for an Android 4.1 tablet with child-friendly features seems amazingly compelling. And even though the D2 Pad 712 doesn't come with the Google Play app store, it's still a 7-inch touch-screen device with an app store, right? Yes, but then you get a good look at the screen and start using the device. And then, that $79.99 suddenly seems much better left in your pocket.
The D2 doesn't feel as cheap as some other sub-$100 Android tablets we've tested. We like the soft-touch back of this slate, which makes for a comfy grip. And, unlike the Coby Kyros, the bezel and screen on the D2 are flush. The blue, pink and white exterior color options will appeal to many children.
Sporting dimensions of 7.6 x 4.6 x 0.4 inches, this tablet is similar in size to the Coby Kyros 7 (7.5 x 4.4 x 0.5 inches). But the D2 is heavier, coming in at 11.2 ounces, which is a full ounce lighter than the Coby.
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Physical buttons for power and volume control sit on the right edge (in landscape mode). Also along that edge is the proprietary power port, microUSB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. You can charge via the microUSB as well. We wish we couldn't see the two screws on the left edge, as they cheapen the overall look.
On the backside a small speaker grille sits near the top right, while a microSD card slot is on the bottom left corner just below a pin-size reset button. The 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera sits above the screen.
The D2 Pad 712's 7-inch display offers a grainy 800 x 480-pixel resolution that's identical to the screens found on other budget tablets such as the Coby Kyros 7 and the Ematic Genesis Prime. We found the capacitive touch screen laggy and often unresponsive. On average, it took at least two taps or swipes to accomplish anything, sometimes up to five or six.
On our light meter, we measured an average lux rating of 253. That's brighter than the Coby Kyros rating of 174 lux, but much lower than the 376 lux category average or the 436 lux of the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7-inch.
The colors on an HD trailer of "Man of Steel" looked muted and dull. Superman's cape looked almost brown. Horizontal viewing angles were terrible, resulting in reversed colors. Also, the resolution is so low the opening credits of the trailer appeared pixelated. Even viewing the home screen proved unpleasant; tiny vertical lines could be seen through the icons and background art, always showing jagged edges.
Switching orientations from portrait to landscape, which is nearly instantaneous on the iPad mini and Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7-inch, took about 5 seconds on the D2 Pad.
The D2 Pad isn't actively marketed as a kid's tablet, but there are features that indicate that children are the target market. For instance, "The Warrior Twin" animated movie that comes preloaded on the D2 Pad 712 tracks the adventures of Lava and Kusa as they master the art of war under the guidance of Sage Valmiki. This would be a nice bonus if you were thinking of gifting this slate to a child -- but we wouldn't do that ever.
In our review unit (which we purchased from Best Buy), the tiny speaker on the back of the D2 Pad was nonfunctional on day one. Without changing a single setting, the speaker worked the next day. When it was working, Jonathan Coulton's "The Future Soon" sounded tinny, treble-filled and flat. We could also barely hear anything coming from the tablet in a small conference room with the volume on medium. At least the headphone jack worked throughout our testing.
Interface and Keyboard
The D2 Pad comes with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which is a fairly recent version of the OS (4.2 is the most recent). Like most stock Android tablets, you'll find Back, Home and Recent App buttons along the bottom left edge. That's in addition to the status icons for such things as Wi-Fi status, battery level and a clock. However, the home screen will fit only three app shortcuts by four shortcuts, despite there being room for five by four rows.
Like the interface, the keyboard is stock Android. However, the D2 Pad was so slow to respond, typing on the gray square keys was annoying.
The child-friendly user interface skin Kido'Z offers music, videos, games, ebooks and apps. To access the skin, you must open the Kido'Z app. While creating a free account, we were asked for our birthday. The oldest year of birth options available start at 2002. Parents can set up a Child Lock, which is used to launch the device into the Kido'Z environment at startup. This limits the time spent on the device and the apps an 11-year-old (or younger) can access. However, when we tried to set up a second child's profile, the UI froze up twice with an endless pinwheel.
The main screen of this UI is separated into slightly larger app-icon buttons for TV, browsing, music, games, ebooks and specific games already downloaded such as "Temple Run." In the bottom right corner is a little icon of people with text printed on top that says Parents. After entering your password, this is where you can download or approve new apps, specify approved websites/TV shows/games, as well as set usage time limits in half-hour increments. An eWallet button appears on this screen, but is currently unusable.
We used the stock Android browser to visit NYTimes.com, Laptopmag.com and ESPN.com in 12, 30 and 33 seconds, respectively. While the downloadable Chrome browser didn't load pages any faster, it does offer syncing with other devices.
There is also a kid-safe browser of sorts in the Kido'Z UI, but there is no address bar. There's only a preapproved list of sites, and those sites can be viewed only in landscape mode. When we tapped PBS Kids, we were dismayed to find it took 45 seconds to load. Also, much of the page is cut off by the Android navigation bar and the top of the browser. We're not sure how patient an 8-year-old will be waiting for every tap to be recognized and the site to be loaded.
The 1Mobile Market comes preloaded on the D2 Pad 712 and offers 200,000 free apps, including a few essentials such as the Chrome browser, the Amazon Appstore, Facebook, Evernote, Netflix and Kindle. There are also a few helpful utilities preloaded, including Dropbox, Lookout Security, Pulse news reader, the SoundHound music service, Kingsoft Office productivity suite and Tango Video. The MeeGenius book store offers tons of kid-friendly ebooks, such as "Pinocchio" and "The Little Mermaid."
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On the games front, D2 offers "Temple Run" and the Wild Tangent game store out of the box. Through Wild Tangent, for instance, we downloaded a free rental version of "Riptide GP" and found other gems such as "Fruit Ninja."
Within the Kido'Z App Store, we found a selection of 35 games, some popular items such as "Angry Birds Star Wars" and others with a more educational bent such as "Kids Numbers" and "Math."
Unresponsive is the one word that comes to mind when describing the D2 Pad 712. That is likely a direct result of the 1-GHz single-core CPU with 512MB of RAM. Not only is the Kido'Z UI sluggish, but it took us 16 seconds to open the Facebook app, and 45 seconds to open the Kingsoft Office app. Once we got the word processor open, it took six separate tries to open a document. Note, these specs are identical to those found inside the Coby Kyros.
Not everything was awful. We played the water racing game "Riptide GP" with only a couple of quick hiccups in the movement. And what video trailers we watched played smoothly.
Our synthetic benchmark testing illustrates the D2 Pad's sluggishness. On AnTuTu, which measures overall system performance, the tablet scored 3,378. That is less than half the category average of 7,996, and less than the Coby Kyros' score of 3,632. However, this showing is higher than the 2,684 scored by the Ematic Genesis Prime.
On Quadrant (CPU, Graphics and I/O performance) we saw a somewhat low score of 2,062, but that's also higher than the Ematic Genesis Prime's 1,346 score. The Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 notched 2,167 and the category average is 1,998.
The typical tablet lasts a little less than 7 hours on a charge. Don't expect that kind of endurance from this slate. The 4-cell 3000 mAh lithium battery inside the D2 Pad 712 lasted just 3 hours and 53 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing over Wi-Fi).
To be fair, D2 claims only 2 to 3 hours of runtime with Wi-Fi on. By comparison, the Ematic Genesis Prime lasted 3:16, but the Amazon Kindle Fire HD can go for 7:30.
It's a safe bet that if you know children between ages 3 and 11, they want a tablet. But they deserve better than the D2 Pad. This Android slate's parental controls and cheap $79.99 price can't compensate for the fuzzy low-res screen, sluggish performance and lackluster battery life. If you're on a really tight budget, consider the Nabi Jr. (if your child is willing to live with a 5-inch screen). Or save up a bit and splurge on the faster, longer-lasting $199 Kindle Fire HD.