The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids is a 7-inch Android tablet specifically designed for children. Looking more like a toy than a tablet, it boasts advanced parental settings, a dedicated kids mode, a handful of pre-loaded educational apps and an optional grip cover. But is it actually any better for your kids than the similarly priced iPad Mini?
Finding an affordable tablet that’s suitable for children can be a surprisingly difficult undertaking. Do you buy something that's cheap and fragile in the knowledge that it will probably need replacing? Or is it smarter to fork out for something more durable and expensive that can withstand your kids' roughhousing?
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids attempts to provide the best of both worlds: the standalone unit (essentially a re-skinned Galaxy Tab) costs $299, while an optional rubber-rimmed Carrying Case will set you back another $69.95.
The Carrying Case is arguably the Galaxy Tab 3 Kids' main claim to fame: in addition to protecting against minor knocks it also comes with an inbuilt stand, handle and jumbo-sized stylus which sets it apart from most other tablets.
In other words, if you want to provide your kids with the full Galaxy Kids experience, you're looking at a total asking price of nearly $370; around $30 more than Apple's non-Retina iPad Mini. This is definitely something to bear in mind.
Design & Handling
We feel Samsung should be commended for putting so much effort into the GALAXY Tab 3 Kids’ appearance. It could have just slapped a few stickers onto its existing Tab stock, but instead it plumped for an all-new bright yellow colour scheme.
In fact, it could be argued that the company was a little too successful at designing something for kids. The device looks so tyke-friendly -- especially with the Carrying Case attached -- that kids begin treating it like a cheap plastic toy. On several occasions I had to sternly remind my daughter that the device in her hands was a delicate computer that shouldn't be tossed around the room. (By contrast, she always treats 'proper' tablets with the utmost care.)
The Galaxy Tab 3 Kids handles well in both Kids and Standard mode (which we'll get to in a moment). In Kids mode, the icons are extra large which is sure to be a boon for smaller children. Likewise, the optional stylus accessory has similar dimensions to a jumbo crayon. It also has a soft rubber tip to protect the screen against overzealous tapping.
Features & Software
The Samsung's Galaxy Tab 3 Kids shares much in common with the Galaxy Tab 3 7. When it comes to inner hardware it's basically identical, with the same dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal memory and 1024x768 pixel screen running on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. It also comes with a 3-megapixel rear-facing camera, a front-facing 1.3MP camera and an SD memory card slot for additional storage.
These are all fairly run-of-the-mill specifications for a tablet in this price range, although the chief selling point actually has to do with its redesigned software.
Unlike most other tablets, the Galaxy Tab 3 Kids comes with a dedicated Kids Mode which has its own home screen, app store and UI. The Kids Mode comes pre-loaded with a healthy amount of free children's content including games, e-books and educational apps. (My daughters fell in love with the charming Hair Salon 2; it was pretty much all they played during the reviewing process.)
There's also an inbuilt time management tool which allows parents to lock the screen after a set time period has expired. This helps to keep kids from overindulging in apps and games when you're not around. All in all, we were quite impressed with Kids Mode: it's attractive, user-friendly and ensures they can only access appropriate content at a time of your choosing.
At any time, parents can revert the tablet to a fully-fledged Galaxy tablet, which is handy if you have older kids as well. Mind you, we suspect a lot of teens will probably balk at the bright yellow finish (on the plus side, at least they can detach the carry handle and crayon-like stylus.)
In setting out to create a kid-friendly tablet, we think Samsung was mostly successful. The Kids Mode is a godsend to parents whose kids are constantly looking at stuff they shouldn't, while the addition of a Standard Mode means adults and older kids can get full use out of the tablet.
Our only reservation has to do with the price and the fact that the toy-like design could invite rough treatment from kids who don't know any better. Nonetheless, if you're looking to set your children up with their first tablet we think this is a pretty neat solution.