Innotab 3S Plus kids' tablet review

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The Innotab 3S Plus makes it easy and fun for children to stay connected with their parents throughout the day with Vtech's proprietary KidConnect software (Photo: Lakshmi Sandhana/Gizmag)

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The latest kids' tablet to join Vtech's Innotab line has some notable additions that make it an interesting starter tablet. The Innotab 3S Plus boasts exclusive software designed to appeal to youngsters and help them learn in a fun way as well as get in touch with their creative side. We got to spend a bit of time with the tablet so read on to see if the tablet holds its own in the increasingly crowded kids' tablet arena.

Build And Performance

The Innotab 3S Plus has the feel of a device that's been built to withstand the harsh treatment doled out by youngsters. Small impact-resistant rubber bumpers grace each corner of the tablet's solid frame and it feels like it could handle a few decent bumps without any trouble. All the physical controls are very easy to find as they are arranged around the screen.

Two slots in the back hold proprietary rechargeable batteries that come with the Innotab 3S Plus and they conveniently charge within the unit itself, but you can also use 4xAA batteries.The batteries do add a bit of weight to the tablet so it does seem like it might get heavy for small hands toting it around. However the battery life is excellent, averaging around 8-9 hours.

The 5-inch touchscreen display was slightly disappointing when it came to sensitivity, as on numerous occasions I had to swipe on an icon repeatedly for it to register a touch. That might be an issue for very little kids who are just beginning to develop their motor skills. It's a low resolution (480 X 272) display, so it can also look pixelated at times, but the colors were fine. Two styli are included, which could come in handy if one gets lost or if two people want to play at the same time. There is also a bit of lag when booting up the device or switching between apps, so be warned if your offspring is the impatient type.

One really neat feature here is the 180-degree rotating camera, which allows children to roll the camera forward and backward to take selfies and photos of objects in front of them. It's a 2.0-MP camera so the image quality is just adequate, but we can see children having a lot of fun with the swivel feature. Snaps can be stored on the 4 GB of built in memory, which can be expanded to 32 GB with a microSD card.

Software

Setup is very easy and you have the option of setting up to four profiles, with an extra guest profile, too. Once you're in, you're helped along by easy to follow voice instructions. We weren't impressed with the amount of pre-loaded content as you only get 16 apps with the tablet and most of them are familiar inclusions, such as Notes, Clock, Calculator and more. However, an extra two apps are available online for free when you register with Vtech's Learning Lodge.

There's just one game within the games area called Globe, which lets kids explore country facts, languages and a world map and frankly, isn't likely to hold a child's attention for long. An additional game called My Magic Beanstalk found on the home screen is more interesting, teaching kids how to take care of a growing beanstalk and collect beans.

You get one limited sample book with the e-reader called What's that noise?, which you'll have to purchase if you want to complete reading. The e-reader lets kids scroll through individual pages and choose one to read. Each page has animated scenes and an accompanying voice over that reads out the text.

We liked how you could learn the definition of difficult words by clicking on them to access a story dictionary. Overall though there's not a lot of content in either the games and e-reader sections. Parents who want to offer their children more games to play or books to read, will have to invest in more content right away.

However, there are a few pre-loaded apps on the Innotab 3S Plus that are excellent and are likely to keep kids engaged for hours. We loved the Wondercam app, which lets children accessorize their photos with frames, props, altered perspective and other special effects.

The tablet also has an age-appropriate Movie Maker app that is easy to operate. Children can take a photo and add it as a movie frame.The previous photo/frame is superimposed on the current one so it's easy to see the progression as they take photos. Once it's done, they can view or delete specific frames, view the entire movie and save it if they like it. The final movie clip is showcased as being directed by the child, which is a nice touch.

Children should also enjoy Vtech's proprietary KidConnect app, which makes sending and receiving chat messages with family members a colorful, exciting affair. Kids can see funny interactive avatars of themselves and the person they're chatting with and send them photos, art they've drawn, voice recordings, a variety of cool stickers and text. Parents can send messages back throughout the day via a companion app that's available as a free download for both Android and iOS devices.

The kid-safe web browser on the Innotab 3S Plus is also quite handy. Parents have the option of setting up a list of approved sites for kids to browse in the browser area itself. It's totally secure as you can only add new sites by entering your email and password for your Learning Lodge account.

Parental settings are separately accessible via settings, but we think tech-savvy kids aren't likely to have too much trouble getting access to this area as holding down the question mark button will permit them entry. However, there isn't much they can do here even if they find their way in, as the parent settings are fairly limited. You can only check on the Wi-Fi, memory usage, game records and make sure content isn't accidentally deleted. There aren't any kind of time controls here to limit tablet usage.

Adding music, new games or videos requires installing the Learning Lodge application on your computer and connecting the tablet via a USB cable before doing the transfer. Once you're connected, you can also take a look at what your child has been playing in the application's progress log area and check their learning progress.

The software tracks and keeps records of their learning achievements in games that deal with language development, mathematics, reading and more, all at the selected curriculum level. So it's easy to see at a glance that they've been playing games involving letters for instance and see how much of each game they've played through. You can also view statistics on things like game playtime duration and the number of questions they've correctly answered. The progress log can help parents determine where their child needs to focus more. For example, you can buy more math games if you think they need help in that area.

Conclusion

The swiveling camera, Movie Maker and chat features should be a hit with kids, but the Innotab 3S Plus doesn't have a lot of content out of the box, so expect to pay for additional apps. These are generally inexpensive, though, starting at US$2. Also, the tablet will run all InnoTab game cartridges, so if you're already a part of the Innotab ecosystem, your existing library will still work.

Overall, the Innotab 3S Plus is a good tablet for parents who want children to dip their toes in the tablet waters with limited, safe access to the internet, apps and chat. The Innotab 3S Plus is targeted at three to seven year-old kids and at a price of $80, is definitely worth considering as a starter tablet and around $20 cheaper than the LeapPad 3.

Product Page: Vtech

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