Kid-friendly tablets are all the rage, and with good reason. Tablets, especially ones that are safe to hand off to children, can be great teaching tools. That's the idea behind the $149 Vinci MV 7. It comes preloaded with apps and content meant to help you inspire genius in your child. Sadly, this slate lacks the brilliant specs, design and parental controls required to compete with larger brands.
The Vinci MV 7 could almost be mistaken for a slightly enlarged HTC One Max, with its white and silver back and black bezel up front. Oddly, the white casing doesn't come all the way to be flush with the screen, instead stopping about halfway up the sides.
The only adornment on the front is a small speaker at the top of the 7-inch display. The back features a 2-MP camera in the top middle of the back, and a second little line of speaker sits toward the bottom right of the back.
Along the top edge (when held in portrait mode) of the MV 7 are microUSB and headphone ports. On the top of the right edge sit a physical power button and a volume rocker. A white panel on the top also pops off to reveal a microSD Card slot, for up to 32GB of additional storage, plus a SIM-card slot.
The MV 7 measures 7.4 x 4.25 x 0.37 inches and weighs 10.58 ounces.
That aligns closely with the measurements of the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch (7.3 x 5 x 0.35 inches, 10.7 ounces). However, the Vinci is smaller and lighter than the Kurio 7s (7.87 x 5 x 0.49 inches, 13.9 ounces), OLPC XO Tablet (7.6 x 4.65 x 0.39 inches, 16 ounces) and Fuhu Nabi 2 (8.6 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches, 20.8 ounces).
The MV 7 also comes with its own white-leather case that doubles as a stand, and features a magnetic closure. However, unlike its competitors, Vinci doesn't offer any rugged design enhancements, such as a rubber bumper or large bezels.
Sporting a 7-inch, 1024 x 600-pixel display, the Vinci MV 7 offers a common resolution for this class of tablet. However, we could clearly make out lines in every image and background on the display, and we were disappointed to notice two air bubbles within the glass of the screen, which are presumably beneath a top coat layer.
A 1080p trailer for "Anchorman 2" stuttered and jerked all the way through. The four newsmen actually froze in midair during a jump at one point. The lines on the screen also proved distracting.
When we measured the brightness on the Vinci's display, we saw an average of 159 lux. That beats the 155 lux on the OLPC XO, but is lower than other slates. The Kurio 7s measured 221 lux, and the Fuhu Nabi 2 got 162 lux. The Vinci is also less than half as bright as the Fire HDX's 480 lux. The category average is 361 lux.
The decibel output of the two speakers on the Vinci MV 7 (78 decibels) is very similar to the Kindle Fire HDX's 77 dB. But volume doesn't necessarily equal quality. Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" sounded tinny and hollow. And we heard quite a bit of fuzz while listening to "The Fox" by Ylvis. The speaker placement (one on the top front and one on the bottom right) probably doesn't help. When we placed the tablet on a table, the sound was very muffled.
The older Android 4.1 OS powers the Vinci MV 7. Because this tablet can work as a phone, you'll find a dialer and SMS app (as well as a speaker where your ear would go). However, we can't imagine what parent would want to give a fully functional phone to a toddler, much less one with a 7-inch display.
Otherwise, the user interface is pretty basic Android, with home screens that can be swiped through. The basic Android browser comes preloaded, along with Skype and Google Play.
Sadly, for a kids' tablet, there are no parental controls. Vinci claims that the MV 7 is meant for children ages 18 months to 9 years. However, there is no way to set up age-specific profiles, set time limits or prevent full access to the Web.
The MV 7 offers full Google Play access, but it also packs plenty of content for kids. This small tablet comes with five Vinci curriculum apps, as well as a sampling of the Curriculum Central store, where individual app packets can be purchased for between $6.99 and $8.99. You can also purchase entire semesters of curriculum from store.vincigenius.com. They come in the form of an SD Card and cost about $50 each.
We were unimpressed by the My Body app, in which a blocky-looking baby invites you to touch to learn names for various body parts. The Tower puzzle game was very simplistic and not very attractive. Sure, simple is a good thing when you're teaching a two-year-old about his or her body or how to count, but that doesn't mean it should be an excuse to cut graphics corners.
Vinci Kids Library Central, another app store, also comes preloaded. It contains hundreds of kid-friendly apps and e-books, but none with which we were previously familiar. You can search by age or by category.
Vinci also preloads 12 music videos, many of which feature the creepy baby from the My Body app. If the display and audio quality on the MV 7 were better, we could see how the song "Greensleeves" set to a baby flying through space in a spaceship could be entertaining for small children.
You'll want to invest in an SD Card if you decide to purchase the Vinci MV 7. Thanks to all the preloaded content, there was only enough space left on the 8GB device to hold a few apps.
Under the hood of the Vinci MV 7 is a 1-GHz dual-core MediaTek 6577 CPU paired with 1GB of RAM. During our testing, we found the MV 7 sluggish and unresponsive. Just changing orientation from landscape to portrait (and visa versa) took a long 2 seconds. Opening Skype took 2 seconds, while getting back to the home page from the open camera app took a second. Gameplay of "Despicable Me: Minion Rush" was jagged and jerky, rather than the smooth experience we're used to.
Loading the graphics-intensive shooter "N.O.V.A. 3" took 18 seconds. That's in line with the 17-second tablet average, and is at least faster than the OLPC XO's 27 seconds.
Transcoding a 200MB, 1080p trailer to 480p on VidTrim took 12 minutes and 13 seconds on the MV 7. That's a bit longer than the average tablet (11:56), but can't come close to the zippy performance from the Fire HDX 7-inch (4:42). The Kurio 7s and OLPC XO, on the other hand, took an agonizing 22:01 and 23:48, respectfully.
On Quadrant, which measures overall performance, the Vinci MV 7 scored just 2,733. Sure, that beats the OLPC XO's 2,272 score and the Kurio 7s' 1,802 score, but the tablet average is 5,192. And the Amazon Fire HDX 7-inch got a whopping 19,924.
Graphics performance, as measured by 3DMark Ice Storm, was terrible. The MV 7 scored just 422, compared with 1,724 for the XO tablet. The MV 7 wouldn't run the more intensive 3DMark Ice Store Unlimited, for which the tablet average is 7,726. On that test, the Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch scored 16,201.
Vinci also includes 8GB of storage, but nearly all of that space is eaten by the preloaded apps and content. To download more than one graphically intense app, we had to install a micro SD Card. Granted, not all tablets have expandable memory, but we would have liked enough space for a child to download a movie or two.
On the MV 7, Vinci included a 0.3-MP front-facing camera and a 2-MP rear camera. A selfie taken with the front-facing camera in our office was grainy and overly blue, with otherwise muted colors.
We took pictures of winter cabbage on a sunny day with the back camera. The purples appeared muddy and dark, while the delicate leaves were fuzzy around the edges. Similarly, indoor pics of a calico cat in low light displayed no definition. We couldn't make out any individual whiskers.
Despite Vinci's promise of 5 hours of battery life from the MV7's 2800 mAH lithium-ion battery, the tablet lasted only 3 hours and 26 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test. (This involves continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi on 40 percent brightness.) That runtime is less than half the tablet category average (7:39), and well behind other kids tablets, such as the Kurio 7s (5:48) and the OLPC XO (6:04). The MV7 can't even touch the Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch's endurance of 8:39.
Kids' tablet or not, we expect a lot more than what the Vinci MV7 delivered for $149. The poor display, sluggish performance and limited amount of memory are bad enough, but the lack of parental controls is a definite deal breaker. The MV7 comes with some interesting kids content (for children ages 18 months to 9 years), but that's simply not enough. We much prefer the faster and more well-rounded $187 Fuhu Nabi 2, or to plunk down an extra $80 and pick up the speedy, more vibrant Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch with Amazon's family-friendly FreeTime feature.