Vinci MV 7 review

The Vinci MV 7 is an Android tablet geared toward families with children, but it's sluggish and too expensive, and its educational apps aren't captivating enough.

With access to hundreds of videos and apps from its own educational curriculum, the Vinci MV7 ($199.99 direct) is, in theory, a good match for parents and their children. But this expensive-for-its-class Android tablet suffers from numerous issues, including a low-quality display, a high-priced app suite, and a lack of parental controls. Curiously, the MV 7 comes equipped with dual SIM card slots, meaning you can technically use it as a phone, but we wouldn’t recommend that. Our Editors’ Choice for Android tablets is Google’s Nexus 7, which is available for just $30 more than the MV 7 and offers a lot more bang for your buck. Unfortunately, the MV 7 seems to be trying to appeal to everyone at once, and ends up pleasing no one. Those looking for comprehensive parental controls should check out the Fuhu Nabi 2 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD, both of which outperform the MV 7.

Design
The MV 7 isn’t ugly, but it’s not a looker either. Measuring 7.4 by 4.25 by 0.37 inches (HWD) and weighing 10.5 ounces, it’s a featherweight compared with the 22.4-ounce LeapPad Ultra. Smooth white plastic borders the device, and the slightly raised display creates the illusion of a two-piece design. The majority of the back is covered in faux-brushed-metal plastic with white plastic panels flanking either end. The upper white plastic panel houses a cutout for the camera, and while there’s no battery access, you can pop that piece off to reveal the microSD card slot and dual SIM card slot. On top of the MV 7 is the headphone jack and micro USB port. On the right is the volume rocker and Power button.

The 7-inch, 1,024-by-600-pixel display boasts only 169 pixels per inch. It’s a low-resolution display compared with the 1,280-by-800-pixel resolution on both the LeapPad Ultra and Fuhu Nabi 2. As for viewing angles, don’t expect anything spectacular. Colors vary greatly depending on your viewpoint, with colors like orange shifting from deep red to green with a tilt of your wrist.

Connectivity
What’s interesting about the Vinci MV 7 is its range of connectivity. Not only does it offer GPS, Bluetooth, and basic 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, it also has a dual SIM slot, one with 850/900/1800/1900MHz GSM support, the other with 850/1900/2100MHz WCDMA support. You’ll have a speedier connection on AT&T’s network since the MV 7 doesn’t support T-Mobile’s faster 1700MHz 3G band. And yes, you can make calls with it, though its sheer size will make you think twice.

In my tests on T-Mobile’s network in New York City, call quality was subpar overall. Plenty of static emerged whenever I spoke, but noise cancellation functioned fairly well, blocking out honking cars and loud bystanders. During speakerphone use, the rear-facing speaker was too quiet, and though noise cancellation was still working properly, my voice was still somewhat unintelligible because of the static. Pairing with Bluetooth devices like the Jabra Style was simple enough, but some of the same audio issues were present.

In our battery rundown test, which loops a video with screen brightness set to max and Wi-Fi on, the MV 7 lasted only 3 hours and 28 minutes, which is 4 hours shorter than both the Kindle Fire HD and the Fuhu Nabi 2, and right on the border where we’d consider a tablet even usable at all.

Performance, Gaming
Inside the MV 7 is a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor clocked at 1GHz with 1GB RAM. As for software, it’s running Android 4.1.2 with a little bloatware inside. It comes preloaded with access to Vinci’s library of videos and apps for children, along with some sample apps and videos to get you started. Both Adobe Reader and Flash Player are also installed, as are Skype, Quickoffice, and an FM radio app; almost all of these apps can be removed.

Casual Web browsing performance was good enough, but there was the occasional moment where the MV 7 would choke when displaying a gallery of photos. High-performance graphics take a backseat here. In the graphics benchmark test GFXBench, the MV 7 ran at a rather sluggish 3.4 frames per second. That bears out in high-end games like Asphalt 8, which was too choppy to play. Lower-end games like Subway Surfers, Fruit Ninja, and Temple Run 2 ran well enough. Vinci’s in-house apps also ran smoothly (more on these later).

Media support is pretty robust. The only files the MV 7 couldn’t play were FLAC and WMA audio files. The rear-facing speaker is predictably tinny and fairly quiet. There’s 3.7GB of free space on the MV7, but only 1.97GB dedicated to app storage. You’re better off getting a microSD card, which the MV7 supports up to 64GB in size.

Education Apps, Camera
Vinci wants the MV 7 to function as a gateway into its world of educational videos and apps. The Vinci Kids Library is an ad-free store with apps and both animated and live-action videos. The education-centric Curriculum Apps library is divided into three levels, targeted toward toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners. Apps range from $6.99 to $8.99, though you can buy them all at once in packs (the cheapest pack is the Curious Toddler Program for $89.99).

Vinci starts you off with 5 of its Vinci Curriculum apps, some of which are interesting, but production values could stand improvement almost across the board. There are apps for almost every subject from learning about the human body to counting to the rules of etiquette. Buying into Vinci’s ecosystem can get pretty pricey, although most kid-specific app stores are similarly expensive. But when you couple that with the short attention span of kids and their gravitation toward more popular characters rather than Vinci’s mascot (a big-headed baby) its large library of apps may not have lasting appeal. Google, Amazon, and Fuhu all have a large offering of children’s apps in their respective app stores at lesser price points, with content from bigger players like Disney and Nickelodeon.

The MV 7 also lacks integrated parental controls, unlike devices like the LeapPad Ultra and Fuhu Nabi 2, making it less suited for monitoring or regulating your child’s activities online. Amazon’s FreeTime subscription service lets you schedule time limits and provides unlimited access to age-appropriate apps, books, and movies for $4.99 per month.

As with most tablets, the cameras are mainly there for show. The MV 7′s unimpressive rear-facing 2-megapixel shooter produces equally unimpressive photos. Most shots lacked color saturation and were noisy indoors. The front-facing 0.3-megapixel camera is similarly unsatisfactory. Video recording didn’t fare any better. At just 480p, its highest recording resolution, the MV 7 maxes out at 16 frames per second, and doesn’t handle moving objects well.

Conclusions
While Vinci is pushing the MV 7 as a children’s tablet, it’s really just a generic device with access to Vinci’s app store. And at $199, the price is tantalizingly close to what’s considered the gold standard for Android tablets, the $229 Nexus 7, and with a few childproofing apps you can easily turn that tablet into a versatile kid-friendly device. Better yet, even the aging Kindle Fire HD easily outpaces the MV 7 as a standalone tablet and kid-friendly tablet, and it costs substantially less at $139. Unless you’re already heavily invested in Vinci’s ecosystem, I’d pass on the MV 7. If you’re looking for a tablet with content from companies you’re familiar with, such as Disney and Sesame Street, LeapFrog’s LeapPad Ultra is still our Editors’ Choice for toy tablets, and is $149.

Specifications
Cellular Technology UMTS, GSM
Service Provider Unlocked
Storage Type SSD
Additional Storage MicroSD
Screen Type TFT LCD
Wi-Fi (802.11x) Compatibility 2.4GHz
Screen Size 7 inches
CPU ARM Cortex A9
Ports micro USB

Verdict
The Vinci MV 7 is an Android tablet geared toward families with children, but it's sluggish and too expensive, and its educational apps aren't captivating enough.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc