We've seen netbooks designed for children before, but Toshiba thinks even the younger crowd wants a full-size screen and keyboard. The Toshiba Satellite L635 Kids' PC is the company's first kid-centric laptop and will be available on September 26th from Best Buy for $499. The two companies worked closely to create an inexpensive, yet full-function notebook for children aged 5 to 10 years. The mission: keep kids safe as they surf--and keep the notebook itself from getting too grimy.
While the specs aren't the best you'll find for the money, Toshiba hopes that parents will find real value in bundling features like a wipeable keyboard, kids-friendly browser, and parental control software in one youthful-looking (but not tacky) package. Check out our impressions of this machine and a full video below.Instead of opting for a 10-inch display like Dell's Nickelodeon netbook, Toshiba went with a 13.3-inch display for the Kids' PC, which is good since youngsters can grow into this machine more. You also get an optical drive. On the outside, a few aesthetic and design flourishes indicate the notebook's target audience. The green accents on the keys, mouse buttons and edges look fun without being over the top.
Though the Kids' PC's keyboard isn't spill-resistant, it does have a rubber overlay that keeps crumbs from dropping into the cracks and makes it easily wipeable with a wet cloth. The textured chassis has a nice feel, eschews fingerprints, and is also easy to clean. However, there are no reinforced corners or other rugged features, which is to be expected for the price.
On the software side, Toshiba bundles the Kids' PC with a suite of programs that will both engage and educate while alleviating parental concerns. There's NetNanny, the KidZui browser, the Lego Batman game, and CinemaNow for movie and TV downloads. Toshiba pre-loads Toy Story 2 and The Princess and The Frog to get kids started building a media collection, but you have to sign up for an account and provide your credit card info to access the titles.
As for specs, the Kids' PC offers slightly more power than a netbook, with a 900-MHz Intel Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM inside, and a 250GB hard drive. That's not bad, but right now you can get a 15.6-inch Toshiba Satellite from Best Buy that has the same specs for $150 less. (Keep in mind though that 15-inch notebooks are generally cheaper than 13-inch ones.) Best Buy sells the 13.3-inch T235 with a faster 1.2-GHz Pentium processor, 4GB of RAM, and 320GB hard drive for $80 more than the Kids' PC. That notebook gets over 6 hours of battery life, compared to just 1.5 to 2 hours for the Kids' PC.
What the Kids' PC really promises is not performance but peace of mind. Even parents who aren't very tech-savvy can easily create a semi-protected environment based on age groups. Initial setup should take just 30 to 45 minutes, then parents can feel confident handing over the laptop to both older and younger kids. NetNanny offers multiple levels of content filters, allows parents to monitor contact lists for chat programs, and generates reports on what websites kids are visiting. Kidzui offers a walled garden approach to browsing, keeping kids away from sites that aren't safe. The curated content on the home pages includes games, kid-centric sites, and education-focus content, though we did notice ads.
Does the convenience of having all these features pre-loaded on a laptop make it worth $499 for parents pressed for time? Check out the gallery and hands-on video below, and stay tuned for a full review.