Innovative Dreams Interface; Access to Google Play ; Protective silicon case included; Inexpensive
Dim display with limited viewing angles; Limited parental controls; Poor camera; Below-average battery life
One Laptop Per Child's noble vision of empowering children worldwide brings its Dreams software to the 7-inch XO Tablet, but it has some flaws.
The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project brought netbooks to less-connected regions of the world to empower children with modern technology. To keep that philosophy up-to-date, OLPC is bringing its proprietary Dreams dashboard to the $129 7-inch XO Tablet. The first bilingual (English and Spanish) kids tablet on the market, is the Google-certified XO Tablet the stuff dreams are made of?
Wrapped in a removable bright-green bumper that has a quarter-size loop sticking out of one corner, the XO Tablet looks like one of the aliens in "Toy Story." The tablet itself is unassuming, with a glossy black front, silver band around the bezel and a dimpled, dark-gray plastic back. A 1.2-MP camera sits above the center of the screen when the tablet is held horizontally.
The back of the XO Tablet features embossed XO and Vivitar logos, and a 2-MP camera on the left side (when held in portrait orientation). Along the bottom edge are microUSB and HDMI ports, a headphone jack, reset button and microphone. On the left are the volume and power buttons, while a microSD card slot sits on the right.
At 7.6 x 4.65 x 0.39 inches, the XO Tablet is smaller and slimmer than kid tablets like the Kurio 7s (7.8 x 5.0 x 0.49 inches) and the Fuhu Nabi 2 (8.6 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches). At 12.6 ounces (1 lb. with case), the XO is also lighter than both the 1.2-lb. Kurio 7s and the 1.3-lb. Nabi 2. The ASUS MeMo Pad HD 7 is also slightly bigger, at 7.7 x 4.7 x 0.4 inches, but a lighter 11 ounces.
The XO Tablet's screen is dimmer than most, measuring just 155 lux. That's lower than the Kurio 7s (221 lux), Nabi 2 (162 lux), MeMO Pad HD 7 (358 lux) and tablet category average (363 lux). A 1080p HD trailer for "RoboCop" (2014) was reasonably vibrant, but viewing angles were limited, making it hard to see on-screen action when we tilted the tablet away from us.
When we played "Best Song Ever" by One Direction, the solo speaker on the XO Tablet's back was barely able to fill a small bedroom. While we could hear drumbeats and strumming-guitar notes, the music was noticeably tinny and somewhat muffled. Vivitar recommends using kid-safe headphones ($19.99 on Walmart.com) with the slate.
On LAPTOP's audio test, which involves playing a tone on the device on max volume and measuring it from 13 inches, the tablet registered 74 decibels, below the tablet category average (83 dB) and the Kurio 7s' 81 dB.
The child profile opens to the Dreams dashboard, a collection of 15 career paths, or "Dreams," such as Photographer, Programmer and Doctor. Tapping each round badge brings up a new screen with a set of apps associated with that Dream, organized by skill level (Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced). A small icon in the upper left reveals a list of books related to the category.
The very first icon in this interface, which has the child's name, brings up profile information, such as My Files, My Books, Digital Passport and XO Usage. Tap the icon (four small colored dots) at the top right, and you'll see all the apps available in this account.
The tablet can also be set to work in Spanish from the Dreams interface; in that mode, all settings, Dreams, and even the base Android skin and keyboard, are displayed in español.
Parents can also monitor the progress of a child's account by tapping on the top-left icon in each account's Dreams dashboard. We saw that our kid profile had made more progress on XO Programmer (15 percent) content than on other categories, such as XO Writer (10 percent), XO Mathematician (5 percent) and XO Artist (5 percent). When we tapped each category, it showed a weekly histogram of when that content was accessed. XO Usage is also available as an app in the parental account.
Although it's not a child's tablet, per se, the Amazon Kindle HDX also has more robust parental controls via its FreeTime feature. You can set up profiles as well as manage usage time.
Unfortunately, a number of these lesser-known apps look simplistic and dated, like "PickMe Fruit," which does nothing but prompt users to tap on fruit on a stand and displays basic information about each fruit. Some of the items are trial versions of apps, such as Bridge Architect and "Andor's Trail."
The tablet also packs some interesting apps, such as Terminal Emulator, Pedometer and Cardiograph. The latter reads your pulse by asking you to place your finger on the camera, while the Pedometer app was somewhat inaccurate, measuring a 0.4-mile distance (as measured on Google Maps) as 0.158 miles. Terminal Emulator launches a command-prompt screen for aspiring programmers.
Google Play can be accessed in the parent account or kids' profiles that have access. We downloaded apps like "Angry Birds: Star Wars II," "Fruit Ninja" and Facebook in the parent account and enabled those apps in the child accounts, where they then showed up.
The XO Tablet scored 2,272 on Quadrant -- better than the Kurio 7s (1,802) but below the tablet category average (3,449), the MeMO Pad HD 7 (3,414) and the Fuhu Nabi 2 (3,964).
The Tablet took a whopping 23 minutes and 48 seconds to transcode a 1080p video into 480p on VidTrim. That's longer than the Kurio 7s (22:01) and more than twice as long as the average tablet (10:44) and the MeMO Pad HD 7 (11:23). We don't expect children to transcode videos, of course, but these numbers provide an overall picture of the XO Tablet's performance.
On graphics test An3DBench, the XO Tablet's score of 6,638 was well below the tablet average of 7,392, and less than the Nabi 2's 7,386, the MeMO Pad HD 7's 7,139 and the Kurio 7s' 7,167.
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Within the XO Photographer category, camera apps such as PicsArt, CamTimer and AsciiCam, offered fun additional functions but took the same low-quality images.
XO says the tablet is expected to provide up to 8 hours of battery life, but in our test (Web surfing over Wi-Fi), the slate lasted 6 hours and 4 minutes. That's lower than the tablet category average (7:06) and the Fuhu Nabi (8:05), but longer than the Kurio 7s (5:48).
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Parents looking for greater control over their kids' learning will prefer the $179 Fuhu Nabi 2, which provides longer endurance, a better display and a host of modern kid-friendly apps. But the XO Tablet's interface will help your child learn in a more structured environment.
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|CPU||1.6GHz dual-core ARM iMAPx820|
|Storage Drive Size||8GB|
|Storage Drive Type|
|Camera Resolution||2 MP|
|Front-Facing Camera Resolution||1.2MP|
|Card Reader Size|
|Warranty / Support|
|Size||7.6 x 4.65 x 0.39 inches|
|Weight||1 pound with cover, 12.6 ounces without|