Kids love tablets. They also love Toys “R” Us. But those two worlds don’t combine well in the Tabeo ($149.99 direct), a kid-friendly Android tablet made by Archos for the toy giant. The Toys “R” Us brand name is about the only thing going for the Tabeo, which is plagued by a disappointing display, sluggish performance, and poorly implemented parental controls. The Tabeo is definitely inexpensive, but for $50 more, the Fuhu Nabi 2 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD with FreeTime offer better hardware, more polished interfaces, and more comprehensive parental controls. And for only $10 more there’s the Amazon Kindle Fire, which might not be as feature-rich as the Nabi 2 or the Fire HD, but still easily beats the Tabeo.
Design and Features
The Tabeo is an unassuming all-plastic tablet wrapped in a protective rubber bumper. At 8.8 by 5.6 by 0.5 inches and 13.4 ounces, it’s smaller and lighter than the Nabi 2, but by no means a thin and light tablet. The all-plastic construction feels sturdy enough, though the bumper is easily removable. All ports and buttons are along the right edge when held in landscape orientation. You get a mini-HDMI out, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a microUSB port, a microSD card slot, and a Power button. There are no hardware volume buttons, which is a bit of a nuisance as the software volume buttons built into Android aren’t immediately apparent in every app.
The 7-inch 800-by-480-pixel screen is subpar, with noticeably jaggy text and an ever-present grain that washes out colors and saps detail. It’s made worse by its very narrow viewing angle and relatively low brightness. The displays on both the Nabi 2 and Kindle Fire HD are much sharper, with 1,280-by-800-pixel resolution, and feature more vibrant colors and a wider viewing angle.
This is a Wi-Fi only tablet that connects to 802.11b/g/n networks on the 2.4GHz frequency only. There’s a front-facing camera, limited to 320-by-240-pixel images. The Tabeo comes in a single 4GB model, but you can expand storage by 64GB via microSD card.
Performance and Parental Controls
The Tabeo is powered by a single-core 1GHz ARM Cortex A8 processor with 1GB RAM. As such, don’t expect blazing performance. In fact, don’t even expect smooth performance—in my tests, the Tabeo rendered choppy animations, stuttered while scrolling simple Web pages, and suffered from generally lethargic performance. You’ll be able to play less resource-hungry games, but even Temple Run felt choppy and unresponsive.
Toys “R” Us went with a relatively light skin on Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich,” which is a bit surprising as most kid-friendly tablets employ heavy-handed modifications. Instead of a sandboxed kid mode and full-featured adult mode, there’s simply one mode with a toggle for parental controls. Unfortunately, it’s painfully confusing to set up the parental controls. You need to create an account with Mobile Parent Filter, an included app, and then it’s not obvious how to enable restrictions and what apps they affect. There are time restriction controls, and filters for adult content, but all of these only apply to the browser. The Tabeo lacks Google Play, so at least there’s little chance of kids downloading inappropriate apps. Both the Nabi 2 and Kindle Fire HD both employ multiple, sandboxed modes to keep a tighter limit on how kids use the tablets.
Like most kid-friendly tablets, the Tabeo is preloaded with games and educational content. Angry Birds and Cut the Rope are both included. There are educational apps and ebooks, but they fall short of Fuhu’s offering on the Nabi 2. You’re also limited to the Tabeo app store, which has only a few hundred apps. You can sideload APKs, but many parents, especially those unfamiliar with Android, could find that too difficult. The Nabi 2 has access to Google Play, and the Kindle Fire has the Amazon App Store, along with Amazon’s vast media selection.
Media support is good on the Tabeo. For audio, you get MP3, AAC, FLAC, OGG, and WAV support, but no WMA. For video, the Tabeo supports Xvid, DivX, MPEG4, H.264, and AVI files at up to 1080p resolution. Mirroring onto an HDTV worked fine using a mini-HDMI cable, but performance was very sluggish. On our battery rundown test, which loops a video with Wi-Fi on and screen brightness set to max, the Tabeo lasted a pitiful 2 hours, 52 minutes. The Nabi 2 lasted 7 hours, 42 minutes and the Kindle Fire HD lasted 7 hours on the same test.
The Tabeo enjoys the strength of the Toys “R” Us brand name. Unfortunately that amounts to nothing but a name, as the Tabeo is frustratingly slow, uses a subpar screen, and doesn’t have great content or parental controls. There’s also a legal battle between Toys “R” Us and Fuhu, the latter claiming that Toys “R” Us stole Fuhu’s intellectual property to bring its own kids tablet to market. Given the results here, perhaps Toys “R” Us should have just stuck with Fuhu. Compared with competitors like the Nabi 2 or the Kindle Fire HD, the Tabeo falls flat in every respect. If price is your biggest factor, spend $10 more and get the original Kindle Fire, a much better tablet than the Tabeo.
|Screen Resolution||800 x 400 pixels|
|Operating System||Google Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)|
|Dimensions||8.8 x 5.6 x 0.5 inches|
|Processor Speed||1 GHz|
|Screen Size||7 inches|
|CPU||ARM Cortex A8|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||4 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc