Tablets are hot -- even for tots

December 9, 2011 4:31:27 PM PST
Tablet computers are taking the US by storm. Market researchers say more than 62 million tablets will be sold to consumers just this year.

And tablets aren't just for grown-ups. Researchers say more than half of moms share theirs with their kids. Now a whole new set of tablets aimed at children are on sale.

Tablets are really hot this holiday season, and plenty of new ones are just out. There are also a bunch of tablets made just for kids. Consumer Reports just sized up four made for the younger set.

To test tablet computers made just for kids, Consumer Reports brought in the "experts." More than a dozen young testers played with tablets from Fisher-Price, Leapfrog, V-tech, and one from Vinci, which most resembles an adult tablet. The kids read books, took pictures and played with the tablets for several days.

Carol Mangis with Consumer Reports said, "They do mimic tablet computers, but they don't have nearly as many features. And they also don't have access to the Internet. Now, that's a good thing because they're for such young children. But that means parents will have to help with downloading content."

Back in the lab, testers got serious with their evaluation. They used a device to make the tablets stay on in order to measure battery life. They also evaluated display quality and how easy a tablet is to use.

The Vinci, for ages four and younger, has the best display, touch-screen interface and the largest hard drive at eight gigabytes. But that's not the only reason it stood out.

"The Vinci has a large screen, and it did well in our tests," Mangis said. "But our model cost $480. That's a lot of money to spend on a device for a toddler!"

For far less, testers recommend the $80 Innotab by V-tech for ages four to nine. It has a smaller screen and hard drive, but it's loaded with features like an art studio, e-reader and mp3 player.

The crowd pleaser with the children turned out to be the $100 Leappad Explorer, also for ages four to nine. Its camera, photo-editing feature and art studio had kids beaming.

The fourth tablet tested, the $80 Fisher-Price IXL Learning System, didn't have as many fans, but one aspect of it was a standout. Consumer Reports says it had an especially long battery life, clocking in at 13 hours. That's longer than even most tablets for adults. The battery life for the other three kids' tablets was three to seven hours.

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