As a parent of five kids, I’ve learned the hard way that sharing electronic devices with my children isn’t always the best idea. We’ve lost phones, tablets, and you name it.
High-quality devices certainly aren’t immune to the cracks, scratches, or charging issues that kids often cause.
For that reason, my wife and I decided to get our kids their own tablets. Here are a few things we learned along the way, as well as a list of the five tablets we feel offer the best value for what you pay.
Kids’ Tablets: Terms to Know
IPS vs TN Screen
I cover this topic in more depth in my post on the best laptops for college students by budget. If you’ve ever looked into the specifications of a tablet, you might have seen IPS or TN next to the screen’s resolution. Generally, if it’s not mentioned, you can assume it’s a TN screen. As far as tablets are concerned, IPS displays have wider viewing angles and are typically better quality overall. Whether or not a tablet is IPS does not necessarily mean that it will be more responsive. Although not listed, Apple’s Retina Display is an IPS display.
For resolution, the higher the number the better. For example, 7″ tablets go from around 1024×600 all the way up to the 2048 x 1536 resolution for the iPad mini 4’s 7.9″ Retina Display. The higher the resolution, the crisper the screen will appear. That being said, even 1024×600 displays look good on a 7″ display and will likely be good enough for many kids.
Storage is a big factor for me, as many kids’ tablets come with 8GB to 64GB of capacity, with no micro SD card to be able to expand that storage. Unless you plan on actively managing your child’s tablet, it’s a good idea to find a tablet that can offer additional expansion. This is especially true if you go with some of the smaller capacity models.
I regularly write about computers so processors are something I analyze often. With the varying processors you find in more generic tablets, it’s difficult to understand exactly what you’re getting. All of them list a Quad-core processor at a certain level of GHz, but with so many brands, the quality of processor can vary greatly even if it looks like it has the same specifications.
For that reason, you’ll want to read customer reviews to see how cheaper tablets deal with more modern apps. In addition, as older models also linger on retail sites, it’s also important to go with newer release models that are often available for a similar price. If that’s confusing, I’ll give you an idea of some of the better options available below.
2017’s Five Best Tablets for Kids
5. Dragon Touch 7-Inch
If you’re looking for a cheap and good Android kids’ tablet in the $50 to $100 range, I like the Dragon Touch 7-Inch IPS right now. For $65 you get a tablet with a 1024×600 IPS screen, dual camera, HDMI and Bluetooth, and a pre-installed Zoodles Parental App.
As I mentioned above, knowing exactly what the Draqon Touch’s MTK Quad core 1.3GHz processor will do is somewhat difficult without having it right in front of you. As far as performance, it does a good job and better than many other tablets in this price category. Is it as fast as your $300 tablet? No. Is it fast enough for your kids’ games, e-books, and more? Most likely, yes.
Overall, the Dragon Touch is a good value for what you spend and even comes with a Silicone case that protects it from bumps and bruises. Be sure to go with newer models that offer more for just about the same price as the old models.
4. LeapFrog Epic 7″
LeapFrog made a huge step up with the LeapFrog Epic when they decided to incorporate Android 4.4.
While parents still don’t have access to the Google Play Store, the operating system is more responsive and allows for more games than you could previously get on LeapFrog’s tablets. What’s more is that it’s easy to setup and get started. With a kid-friendly, out of the box setup and 20 preloaded apps, your kids will get going right away.
In addition, the Amazon App Store is available, which allows for a lot more flexibility than parents have had before.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about the LeapFrog Epic. It’s more durable and kid-friendly than other tablets in the category and gives access to LeapFrog’s highly educational, albeit expensive, games. On the flipside, the LeapFrog Epic doesn’t incorporate an IPS screen and is a bit thick and heavy.
3. iPad Mini 4
If you’re willing to pay up and have a child that isn’t reckless like mine, consider the iPad Mini4. The screen, performance, camera, and battery life, are about as good as you’ll find.
The Apple iPad Mini 4 is about as smooth of a device as you can come across. Unfortunately, it doesn’t allow expansion through a MicroSD card. So, if you need expansion you’ll need to pay up for the 64GB or 128GB versions. In addition, you’ll need to install parental control apps and purchase a kid shock-proof case separately.
If you want to stick with Apple but don’t want to pay up, consider going with the Apple iPad Mini 2 for around half the price. It’s still a great performer despite its late 2013 release.
2. Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite Kids Edition or Samsung Galaxy Tab 4
I wanted to give you two options here when it comes to Samsung tablets, as I feel that one is distinctly better than the other. For around $120 you can get the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids edition with a nice case and somewhat slow processor. The device is nice for some, as it comes with parental controls out of the gate and some fairly good features.
Skip the Kids Edition and go for the Galaxy Tab 4.
You could also go with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4, get a kid case compatible with the Galaxy Tab 4, download a few apps, and have a much better experience overall for a price tag of around $160 (after the case).
The Galaxy Tab 4 features a 1280×800 WXGA resolution screen, a quick 1.2GHz quad-core processor, and 8GB of internal memory that’s upgradeable to 32GB with a microSD card.
If you’re tech-savvy at all, the Galaxy Tab 4 is probably the most attractive tablet for kids in the $150 space. It has a great screen, runs all modern apps, and has a great camera as well.
1. Kindle Fire 7″ 5th Generation
Towards the end of 2015 Amazon released its 5th generation Kindle Fire for $50 and its Kid’s Edition for $100. This tablet has a lot to offer, including an IPS screen and a processor that’s very capable of handling modern apps. For the price, you won’t find better.
Kindle Fire 7″ What You Need to Know Before you Buy:
There’s a reason that the Amazon Kindle Fire offers more than other tablets. It’s because Amazon has the potential to make a lot of money from you through its own website.
A Few Caveats:
In order to be able to make that money, Amazon uses it’s own version of the Android Operating System that doesn’t allow you to download the Google Play Store. This means you’ll have to use the Amazon App store for your favorite apps. In addition, Amazon also incorporates advertisements on its lock screen. These advertisements can be removed if you pay $15.
If you’re tech-savvy, then there are ways of getting around both of these. Scripts through various websites will take you easily through the process of both removing these advertisements and installing the Google Play Store. Even if you aren’t tech-savvy, there’s still a lot to like about the Kindle Fire’s performance as long as you understand it’s caveats.
Should You Buy the Kids Edition?
At twice the price, you may be wondering whether the Amazon Fire Kids Edition is worth it or not. The basic difference between it and the standard version is that it comes with a silicone case, a 2-year accident worry-free guarantee, and a year of Kids FreeTime Unlimited.
FreeTime Unlimited is a service which allows your kids up to 10,000 free books, TV shows, apps, and games. The cost structure is below.
With OverDrive and free apps available to the general public and to Prime Members, Freetime Unlimited certainly isn’t required. It’s definitely an option for those who want safe options with their kids without having to think about it.
Overall, the Kindle Fire not only has the best performance in its price range, it also has some of the best parental control features available. In my opinion, it’s well worth working with Amazon’s stipulations for all the benefits you receive. Ultimately, my wife and I were able to get 4 of these on a Black Friday deal for $35 a piece, outfitting all our kids with tablets for the price of $140. If one breaks, at least we don’t have to mortgage the house to get another.