"More tablet, less toy." That's how Fuhu describes its $99 nabi Jr. tablet. Aimed at children from ages of 3 to 6, the 5-inch nabi Jr. is 2 inches smaller than its larger nabi 2 counterpart, but comes packed with a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 Cortex-A9 processor, 720p camera and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. For $100 less than the nabi 2, is the Fuhu nabi Jr. a bargain, or should you splurge on the full-sized version?
The Fuhu nabi Jr. may look more like a toy than a tablet, but it's certainly prepared to take a beating. Fuhu outfitted its 5-inch, child-friendly device with a soft, reddish-orange, rubber bumper to protect the tablet from toddler tumbles. This removable rubber casing frames the back of the device and guards the four corners surrounding the tablet's display.
The nabi Jr.'s bezel is comprised of a white outer layer paired with a grey inner border that frames the tablet's capacitive touch screen. Below the display, you'll find a blue Home button, and in the upper right corner, just below the rubber bumper, you'll find a green power button.
The nabi's 720p, 2-megapixel camera sits at the top of the device and is encased in a red-orange plastic barrel that rotates 180 degrees. This means you can switch to face the front or the back of the tablet at your leisure. The speaker grills are also situated on either side of this camera in the tablet's upper left and right corners.
Along the nabi's right side, you'll find white volume-keys that blend in with the white portion of the bezel, while the left side houses a headphone jack, a microSD card slot and a slot for the tablet's charger.
The rubber case covers most of the device's rear, except for the tablet's center, which features raised, square pegs arranged in three rows of two. These tiles are called Kinabis and can be used to personalize the tablet by spelling out a child's name. There's also a holster for a stylus neatly stowed away on the rear left corner. The unit that comes in this slot isn't an actual stylus, however, but rather a placeholder. You'll have to purchase the real stylus separately.
Measuring 7 x 4.5 x 1.3 inches, the Fuhu nabi Jr. is noticeably smaller than the 8.6 x 6.1 x 1.1-inch nabi 2. At 13.4 ounces, the Jr. is also lighter than the 1.3-pound 7-inch nabi 2. By comparison, the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD weighs 13.9 ounces and measures .4 inches thick, but that's without a protective case.
Display and Audio
The Fuhu nabi Jr.'s 800 x 480 display may have a low resolution, but the screen still rendered video and images clearly. When streaming cartoons from the nabi Jr.'s Spinlets+ TV app, we found that animations looked bright and vibrant. Viewing angles were also impressive. We tilted the screen to the right, so that it almost completely faced the wall at nearly a right angle, and we could still watch "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog" with little to no glare.
We also watched the trailer for "Pacific Rim" to see if the nabi Jr. could handle movies for Mom and Dad, and found the results to be decent. While the nabi Jr. didn't deliver mind-blowing visuals, we enjoyed viewing the trailer's bright, fiery explosions on the nabi Jr.'s 5-inch screen. Dark scenes, however, were way too dim.
Measuring 241 lux on our light meter, the nabi Jr.'s screen falls below the 373 category-average, but still surpasses the nabi 2's 162-lux display.
The nabi Jr.'s dual, front-facing speakers impressed us during our testing. When listening to Laurie Berkner's "Rocketship Run," one of the children's songs that comes with the tablet, audio came through loud and clear. Both the vocals and melody sounded crisp, vibrant and deep. The nabi Jr.'s speakers are more than loud enough to play your toddler's favorite songs on repeat.
The Fuhu nabi Jr. runs a version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but just like the nabi 2, this tablet comes with two separate interfaces, optimized for either children or adults. The parent mode, known as "Mommy" or "Daddy" mode, looks just like any other stock Android tablet's interface. You can scroll through apps and widgets, surf the Web, manage settings and parental controls, and download apps.
The child-oriented interface, called nabi Mode, sorts apps by category, and arranges these genres in colored tiles laid out across the screen. You can only use this quilted design in landscape mode, however. If you want to stay in nabi mode but don't want to use the tiled interface, you can tap the app icon on the top right corner to view apps in thumbnail view.
Parents can add unlimited individual profiles for their children and customize settings for each child. When in nabi Mode, pressing the Menu button at the top of the screen will launch a submenu with options to switch profiles, launch the camera app, go to the settings menu, switch to Daddy or Mommy mode, or open the Chore list. You can also place password protection on certain requests, such as switching among interfaces.
With the nabi Jr., parents can literally handpick the apps they want their child to be able to access. In the Daddy/Mommy Mode dashboard, selecting the Add Apps button will launch a menu listing all the apps installed on the tablet. From this menu, you can check off which apps will be included in the child-friendly, nabi interface.
You can also use the tablet to keep track of your child's household responsibilities with the Chore List app; you can add tasks specific to each child in the app's calendar.
The nabi Jr. comes with more than 30 apps and games to entertain the little ones. Out of the box, you'll get educational games ranging from puzzles to activities that teach counting, the alphabet, colors and animals.
In addition to apps, the nabi Jr. comes preloaded with Spinlets+ TV, which offers full episodes of children's shows, such as "Paddington Bear," "Madeline," "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog" and more. The service boasts more than 700 hours of children's cartoons for $2.99 a month, but you get the first 30 days for free. The nabi 2 also comes with Spinlets+ Music, which gives kids access to more than 9,000 children's albums from Nickelodeon, Kidz Bop and Disney, among others.
The nabi's App Zone divides apps into six categories: Create, Entertain, Learn, Play, Read and Bundles. These genres are arranged in a tiled format, and each category has its own inspirational tagline underneath. For example, the Read tile says, "A Good Book Has No Ending."
Below these categories, you'll see the featured apps for each section. Once you select a genre, you can sort by age group or other filters, such as Character, Brand, What's New, Top Rated, Top Free and Top Paid.
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Unlike the nabi 2, the nabi Jr. doesn't come with Amazon's app store in addition to Fuhu's own App Zone marketplace, which only offers a selection of 400 apps. Fuhu suggests that parents sideload applications from the Amazon app store in Mommy or Daddy Mode.
Unlike the nabi 2, which comes loaded with four different Web browsers, the nabi Jr. only comes with the stock Android browser, which is only available in Mommy/Daddy Mode. The nabi Jr.'s larger cousin has Web browsers catered to safe Internet browsing, such as the Maxathon Browser, the Maxathon Kids-Safe Browser and the Fooz Kids Browser. These browsers aren't available in Fuhu's App Zone store.
The nabi Jr. offers the same browsing experience you would find on any other Android tablet. The basic browser features a black URL bar along the top, next to a button that displays any open tabs in thumbnail form. Next to this button, you'll find a drop-down menu that allows you to add bookmarks, share pages and more.
We found the stock Android browser to be fairly swift. Laptopmag.com loaded in 4.1 seconds; CNN.com loaded in 6.5 seconds, and Yahoo took 3.6 seconds to load, making for an average load time of 4.7 seconds.
The nabi Jr. has a 2-megapixel, rotating camera, and we found that images came through crisp and clear. We snapped a test photo in a mix of natural and fluorescent lighting, and the image looked detailed, sharp and well lit. The 720p camera also rotates, so you can switch between front- and rear-facing orientations.
The Fuhu nabi Jr. offers better performance than many other sub-$100 tablets. Its dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 Cortex-A9 CPU with 512MB of RAM notched a remarkable 6,766 score during the ANTuTu benchmark test, which measures memory, CPU, graphics and I/O performance. That showing blew past the $79 Ematic Genesis Prime (which scored 2,684) as well as the Coby Kryos (3,632).
In everyday use, the nabi Jr. performed fluidly and smoothly. We played the graphics-intensive Animated Puzzle, which is essentially a floating puzzle that layers images over a moving backdrop, and we did not experience a single hitch. Even while running eight other apps, we experienced no noticeable lag during gameplay.
The nabi Jr. didn't perform as well on Quadrant, however, which measures CPU, graphics and I/O performance. The tablet scored 2,638, which falls below the 3,240 category average and the 7-inch nabi 2's benchmark score of 3,964. Still, the nabi was far better than the Coby Kryos, which mustered an anemic 1,055.
If you're looking for a tablet to keep your child occupied for hours on end, the nabi Jr. isn't the best choice. During the LAPTOP Battery Test, which consists of continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi with the brightness set to 40 percent, the nabi Jr.'s 2,350mAh battery lasted 4 hours and 42 minutes. This is significantly less than the larger nabi 2, whose battery lasted an impressive 8:05 during the same test.
The nabi Jr. also failed to meet the 7:03-minute category average for tablets. The Ematic Genesis Prime, another budget tablet, turned in a shorter runtime of 3:16, but the Coby Kyros lasted a longer 6:41.
Configurations and Warranty
The nabi Jr. comes in two different configurations: 4GB for $99.99 and 16GB for $139.99. The 4GB version, the kind tested in this review, comes with an Nvidia Tegra 2 Cortex-A9 dual-core processor, 512 MB of RAM and a 2,350 mAh battery; it runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
The 16GB comes with slightly higher-end specs, such as an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core mobile processor, 1GB of RAM, a 2,500 mAH battery and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
Fuhu offers a one-year warranty for buyers under the conditions that the tablet isn't malfunctioning due to "improper or unreasonable maintenance, failure to follow operating instructions, accidents," or other potential scenarios.
The 5-inch nabi Jr.'s dual-mode functionality, parental controls, robust selection of kids' apps and cheap price tag definitely make it a child's tablet worth considering. The nabi Jr. may not have as many preloaded apps as the 7-inch nabi 2 or provide access to Amazon's app store like the larger version does, but this smaller tablet still comes with a deep educational ecosystem and Nvidia's Tegra hardware. If you're looking for a child-friendly tablet with a price that's easy to fit into the family budget, the nabi Jr. is definitely worth a look.