Last year’s battle for the best tablet for children is set for a rematch as VTech’s InnoTab 2 meets Leapfrog’s LeapPad 2 Explorer tablet head-on for the great Christmas gadget gift choice.
In the run up to Christmas last year the InnoTab and LeapPad both sold out in toy shops across the country as parents snatched up these most popular new kids’ gadget gifts. See also - Group test: Best tablets for children and Best headphones for children
Now VTech has updated its children’s tablet with the InnoTab 2, just weeks after Leapfrog’s new LeapPad2 hit the shelves. It costs £84.99, and is available in blue or pink models. See InnoTab 2 review.
Review: What’s new about the VTech InnoTab 2
As we noted in PC Advisor’s New Products section the InnoTab 2 improves on the original VTech InnoTab in several significant ways. Take a look at the LeapPad 2 vs InnoTab 2 children's tablet comparison review.
The most noticeable difference is the built-in 1.3-megapixel camera with a rotating ‘self-portrait’ lens so children can switch easily between taking a picture of someone or something else and then themselves – a popular feature of VTech’s Kidizoom camera.
Kids can take their own picture, use the editing suite to add special effects to it and then use their photo in various games and apps.
We love the rotating camera, which feels robust enough to take a mauling. There’ll likely be a few mistaken pictures of the user’s face until the child (or parent!) gets the hang of it, but it’s a neat idea that gets around the problem of taking photos of things and yourself.
One of the original LeapPad’s major benefits over the InnoTab was its camera, even if it was a feeble 0.3-megapixel snapper. Kids didn’t really care about the lack of clarity in the images, but the LeapPad2’s new 2-megapixel camera is a great upgrade.
See also: Leapfrog LeapPad 2 tablet review
(While we didn’t recommend LeapPad 1 owners upgrade to LeapPad 2, InnoTab 1 users will revel in the new functions and features.)
While children weren’t too bothered by the low-resolution camera images, having a decent camera on a kids’ tablet means they’ll be more interested in taking lots of snaps, and the extra storage capacity also comes into play here.
The InnoTab 2’s 1.3-megapixel camera is a dash lower quality than the LeapPad2’s 2-megaixels but it’s ample for what the kids will use it for. And it finally makes the InnoTab a real contender against the LeapPad.
(Previously I suspect VTech tried to keep its camera limited to the Kidizoom but a tablet without a camera just doesn’t make sense.)
The VTech InnoTab 2 also features a built-in microphone for enhanced gameplay and video recording.
Children love the multimedia features of these tablets, and it’s what should differentiate a tablet from other forms of kids’ play.
Nothing’s better for a child’s creative play learning than a pad of paper and some pens and pencils, and parents are rightly wary about merely replacing these with a tablet art app for drawing and colouring in.
Apps and games that truly make use of tablet features such as still/video cameras and microphones are fun activities and skills a child is unlikely to get without some help from kid-friendly technology.
It’s not just educational, of course. Everything’s wrapped up in fun. The Camera app, for instance, lets you add the ‘wacky effects’ to pictures by clicking on the Wand icon in the top left corner.
The InnoTab 2 looks much like the first InnoTab model, with a 5-inch screen, and equipped with video player, art studio, tilt sensor for motion game play, MP3 music player, e-reader, calendar, friends list, and notes app.
We like the InnoTab 2’s pull-out stand, which means the tablet doesn’t have to be held by the child all the time.
The InnoTab 2’s internal 2GB memory is up from the original version’s paltry 128MB, and can be expanded via its built-in SD card memory reader. While the LeapPad 2 has twice the capacity it lacks this opportunity to add external memory.
Each InnoTab 2 can be personalized for up to four users with photo wallpaper, user name and avatar, a voice greeting and typed greeting.
VTech InnoTab 2 review: games and apps
The new children’s tablet comes with a software cartridge ‘Read, Play & Create’ featuring three apps: an eBook What’s That Noise, colouring art app Colour & Pop, and augmented reality game Alien Rescue.
Also pre-installed: Face Race, a motion-sensitive tightrope-walking games; and Art Studio (which you get as soon as you register the device).
It also comes with two free games tokens. When you install the VTech Learning Lodge Navigator on your computer you can download two of a large range of games, normally priced around £3. This is also where you buy, download and transfer apps and games (from 99p) to your InnoTab.
VTech has launched a range of new InnoTab software cartridges (sold separately), including Pixar’s latest Brave, Hello Kitty, Thomas & Friends and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
InnoTab 2 Software cartridges are priced at £19.99, with each gaming cartridge coming with an animated e-book, three learning games and two creative activities.
To further differentiate it from the Leapfrog offerings VTech has also signed partnership agreements that will give InnoTab owners access to a library of videos of TV programmes, mini e-books and music content.
The content, from VTech’s online Learning Lodge Navigator boasts hundreds of downloads including TV shows, music and e-books featuring a bunch of children’s favourite characters and artists such as Peppa Pig, Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Thomas & Friends, as well as a host of famous artists from the Sony Music catalogue.
Kids’ tablet age range
The VTech InnoTab 2, like the LeapPad2, is aimed at 3-9 year olds. Three-year-olds won’t have much problem playing with the tablet, but children over 7 or 8 might find it little toy-like and prefer something more adult. The LeapPad is a little more stylish than the InnoTab, and smaller too, despite also boasting a 5-inch screen.
An Apple iPad or iPod touch might suit the older child, or any of the latest 7-inch Android tablets would be suitable. Note, though, that such tablets have access to the wild world of the Internet, and so you should consider proper child-friendly restrictions when left with a young one.
There are children's versions of Android tablets becoming available. We weren't impressed with the Arnova ChildPad, which uses an interface that's not at all child-friendly but does have decent parental-control software. We like the look of the Kurio family Android tablet, which we'll be reviewing soon.