Rather than surrendering your own tablet to placate your little one, Samsung wants your toddler to get a slate of his or her very own. Enter the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids -- a child-optimized version of Samsung's budget tablet of the same name. Half kiddie software, half Android, is this $199 7-inch Samsung slate the perfect tablet for your child? Read on to see if there's more to the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids than its candy corn-colored exterior.
The most striking difference between the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids and the regular version is its vibrant yellow color, which is hidden underneath a removable rubber orange bumper. This case features cutouts for the devices headphone jack, speakers, rear camera and charger.
With its durable rubber case, compact form factor and bright color, the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids looks attractive yet sturdy enough to handle some abuse. Buyers can also choose to purchase the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids with a blue carrying case and stylus for $229.99.
Otherwise, this tablet looks almost exactly like the standard edition of the 7-inch Galaxy Tab 3. The kid-friendly version sports the same plastic body underneath its rubbery shell, and the same home button and capacitive buttons beneath its display.
Measuring 7.4 x 4.3 x 0.34 inches, the Samsung children's tablet is slightly shorter and narrower than the 7.3 x 5 x 0.35-inch Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7. It's also smaller than the 8.6 x 6.1 x 1.1-inch Fuhu Nabi 2. Weighing 0.7 pounds, the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids is heavier than the 0.6-pound Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 but lighter than the 1.3-pound Nabi 2.
Display and Audio
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids' 1024 x 600 7-inch display is crisp enough for viewing images, watching movies and playing games, but it could be sharper. Text looked a bit blurry when reading articles in standard mode, and high resolution images appeared slightly fuzzy. Other kids' tablets in this price range also have 1024 x 600-pixel screens, like the Fuhu Nabi 2, but the Kindle Fire HD has a sharper 1280 x 800 display.
The trailer for "Frozen" looked clear and colorful when we watched the clip head-on. The snow in the background looked crisp and clean, and we appreciated the detail in Anna's face. However, holding the tablet about one foot to our right, the screen appeared dim and we noticed a large amount of glare.
The Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids' display is brighter than most tablets. At 436 lux, it outshines the 359-lux tablet category average and 162-lux Fuhu Nabi 2, but the 480-lux Amazon Kindle Fire HDX glowed the brightest. The older Kindle Fire HD 7 had the same 436 lux brightness reading as the Galaxy Tab.
Music sounded vibrant and energetic coming through the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids' bottom-mounted dual speakers. When listening to "Royals" by Lorde, the singer's vocals sounded smooth and melodic. We enjoyed the crispy snaps in the background, and there was no hint of tinniness. We were impressed with how deep audio sounded coming out of the children's tablet's speakers, although music didn't get very loud. The slate hit 78 decibels at full volume during the LAPTOP Audio Test, which is lower than the 80-decibel tablet category average but still louder than the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX (77 dB).
Like the Fuhu Nabi 2, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids is split between two main interfaces: Kids Mode and the Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean UI. Kids Mode is a cartoonish user interface that contains all the apps, games and educational programs geared toward children.
Kids can browse through apps in either a grid format or scrollable cards, and the home screen is decorated with welcoming dog and cat cartoon characters. We particularly love the background animations, such as the clouds that drift across the screen and the tiny cat that pops up in different areas of the display.
A menu button in the bottom left corner lets you adjust the volume, edit apps, access the Kids' Settings menu and the parental controls. A password is required to view the parental controls menu, which includes options to switch to the standard home screen, change the 4-digit passcode, manage apps and place restrictions on tablet usage.
The standard home screen looks just like the TouchWiz UI you'd find on any other Samsung tablet. The main screen houses a large time and weather widget that sits at the top of the screen, and just under that you'll find the Google Now search bar. You can add app shortcuts to this main screen by dragging and dropping icons between home screens. The tablet comes with three by default, but you can add up to seven by making a pinch gesture with your fingers on any home screen.
Like most Samsung devices, the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids comes with a slew of quick settings to choose from in standard mode. Shortcuts include Wi-Fi, Screen Rotation, Bluetooth, Driving Mode, Airplane Mode and Power Saving Mode among others.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids lets parents control which apps their child uses, how long he or she uses the tablet, and which buttons the child can use.
The Time Manager option in the Parental Controls menu makes it easy to set time restrictions ranging between 10 minutes and 1 hour and 20 minutes. These restraints can be adjusted in 10-minute increments, which are symbolized by pieces of candy that can be added or removed on screen. If you'd rather block your child from using the tablet during large blocks of time, you can set a specific time range as well. Conversely, the tablet can remain locked at all times or parents can completely remove all blocks for unlimited use. Unlike the Kindle Fire, though, you can't limit specific activities, such as watching movies.
Approving apps for children is simple -- the parental settings menu lets you pick apps that should appear in Kids Mode. It's also important to note that this Kids Mode doesn't include any app stores or Web browsers by default; you must approve access through the app manager first. Parents can also block children from using the back and menu keys while in Kids Mode through the Parental Controls menu.
While we appreciate the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids' flexible settings, other children's tablets such as the Fuhu Nabi 2 come with more robust controls. For example, parents can block access to certain websites and create separate profiles for different kids, which you can't do on Samsung's slate.
The Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids features a bevy of educational apps and child-friendly games out of the box. These include "Toy Story: Smash It!," "Fruit Ninja," and "Toca Train." Samsung also includes a Kids Store that sorts apps into four categories: Learning, Play, Story and Other. Samsung also supplied a child-friendly Gallery and Camera apps for Kids Mode, which allows kids to snap their own photos without gaining access to a parent's camera roll. The Kids Mode camera app also comes with a sidebar that allows you to place funny hats and disguises on your subject.
The standard user interface is largely left blank in terms of its app selection. You'll find the traditional Google apps that are the norm for any Android device, but don't expect an array of preloaded third-party apps. Dropbox and Nook are the only non-Google or Samsung apps that are installed. The Nabi 2, however, comes with iHeart Radio, Skype, Zinio and both the Google Play and Amazon app stores in Mommy and Daddy mode.
The Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids doesn't come with a child-friendly browser, but there are free options available in both the Kids Store and Google Play Store. The Kids Safe Browser from Kiddoware, for example, lets you block websites based on categories and create your own lists of approved or restricted sites.
The Fuhu Nabi 2 has the opposite problem -- there are almost too many browsers to choose from. There's the Maxthon Browser, the Maxthon Kids-Safe Browser, the Fooz Kids Browser and the stock Android browser. Still, we'd rather have at least one option preloaded on Samsung's tablet.
The Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids' 1.2-GHz dual core Marvell processor with 1GB of RAM is more than capable of handling casual games and performing other tasks. During our testing we ran a security scan using the Lookout app while playing "Fruit Ninja" and didn't experience any noticeable lag during gameplay. We also had seven other apps open, including the Google Play Store, Kids Store, Google Chrome, Gallery and Dolphin Reader, and the game ran smoothly.
That doesn't mean we'd call Samsung's children's slate a powerhouse. The Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids scored 3,671 on Quadrant, which is below the 5,497 tablet category average and both the 1.3-GHz Tegra 3-powered Fuhu Nabi 2 (3,964) and the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 (19,924), which runs on a 2.2-GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor. Still, the older Kindle Fire HD 7 (1.2-GHz dual core TI OMAP 4460) scored a lower 2,167.
The case was the same for Geekbench 3, with the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids reaching a meager score of 693 compared with the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX (2,766) and the tablet category average (1,816).
Similarly, the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids underperformed in graphics benchmarks. The Samsung slate scored 1,970 in 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, which is much lower than the 8,117 tablet category average and the Kindle Fire HDX's score of 16,201.
The Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids also took slightly longer than the average tablet to transcode video. Using Vidtrim, the Tab 3 Kids transcoded a 1080p video to 480p in 13 minutes and 25 seconds, which is nearly a minute and a half longer than the 12-minute category average. The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 performed the same task in just 4 minutes and 42 seconds.
The Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids shines as a media consumption tablet for children, but mommy and daddy shouldn't expect it to plow through more demanding tasks.
The Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids' 1.3-megapixel front camera took clear and colorful images. When snapping a selfie, we noticed that our hair looked red and vibrant and our skin tone was accurate. We also didn't notice much noise until we zoomed in. The 3-megapixel rear camera was less impressive. Our image of a Furby next to a Grover toy looked grainy and dull. The Furby's orange fur didn't pop.
One of our favorite features is the Kids Mode camera app. Children can choose to add funny disguises and hats when taking photos with the front camera. We enjoyed cycling through the different options, and were impressed when our hat moved to fit our head as we swayed back and forth.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids lasted for 8 hours and 13 minutes during the LAPTOP Battery Test, which consists of continuously surfing the Web over Wi-Fi with the display brightness set to 40 percent. This is longer than the 7:35 tablet category average and the Fuhu Nabi 2 (8:03), but the Kindle Fire HDX 7 survived a bit longer (8:39). The older Kindle Fire HD 7 lasted a shorter 7:30.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids offers a pleasant child-friendly experience that's sure to keep children entertained. Parents can hand-pick apps and place restrictions on when children use the tablet. At the same time, parents and older children can use the tablet in standard mode to get a typical Android experience.
While we enjoyed using the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids, there are other Android children's tablets that come with more robust parental controls. The $199.99 Fuhu Nabi 2, for instance, lets parents create multiple profiles for kids and comes with multiple child-friendly browsers. Amazon's $229 Kindle Fire HDX is faster and has a full HD screen, as well as a FreeTime mode. Amazon's older Kindle Fire HD 7 also benefits from a sharper display and is $70 less than the Samsung.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids offers an attractive and entertaining experience for kids, but it's definitely worth exploring other options.