Top critical review
1,537 people found this helpful
Nabi 2 vs Leap Pad Explorer 2 vs Innotab 2
on November 6, 2012
Like I think a lot of parents, I was researching which of these tablets to give my child. He turned 2 years old 3 months ago, so he's quite young. But he is very tech savvy, and I wanted a tablet my son would enjoy for years to come which offered both educational and entertainment options, was an "affordable" price, and was very durable. I read tons of reviews, went to the stores, watched YouTube videos, and ultimately selected the Nabi 2. Everyone's criteria is different, but I thought I would share my reasons for choosing the Nabi 2, and my experiences now that we have it because I know other parents are trying to chose between these options.
WHY I DID NOT CHOSE THE INNOTAB 2 OR THE LEAP PAD EXPLORER 2
Because I have no prior experience with either Leap Frog or VTech, I was not predisposed to either platform. I had nearly chosen the Innotab 2s (NOT the Innotab 2) because it has (limited) wireless capability to VTech's site.
However, the Nabi 2 connects wirelessly via Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, so the connection is not only fast, but it won't slow down the rest of my wireless network (your entire wireless network will only go as fast as the slowest device connected to it). In addition, the user interface (UI) is already set up to prevent my son from going to websites not appropriate for him, and is set up to go to sites with videos he would enjoy. The Nabi 2's full wireless capabilities allows me to download apps and videos anywhere in the home, rather than having to connect the device to a computer first and load said items onto it.
SCREEN SIZE AND QUALITY
The Nabi 2 has a 7" capacitive screen with 1024x600 resolution. The Leap Pad Explorer 2 features a 5" resistive screen with 480x272 resolution. I could not find any info on the Innotab 2 screen other than it is 5". If there are only four Atari 2600-esque things on the screen to tap at, then you don't need a particularly responsive or high resolution screen. However, since I had planned on this purchase to last several years, I wanted the option of enjoying better graphics, and the ability to play games that require a more responsive screen. I also wanted nice video quality for watching shows and movies on, and the Nabi 2 had the best screen for all of this.
There are plenty of speed tests on YouTube for the Nabi 2, the Innotab 2, and the Leap Pad Explorer 2 (as well as the Tabeo, and I think the Meep). These tests mainly focus on how quickly these devices turn on, but also include how quickly they switch from one application to another. If you don't think that matters, turn on your phone and pretend you can't use it for a full minute. Feel good? Now pretend you have the patience of a 2 year old. Especially after you've become accustomed to Mom's iPad.
Processing power also affects how well the device responds to the child's input, and how it will run newer games/apps. I'd rather pay $200 for the best tablet processor available (relatively speaking) vs. paying $100 for a processor that is obsolete.
The Innotab 2 has the ability to play videos from a memory card, and the Leap Pad 2 does not. This is an option valuable to me because I can use it to play videos without the need for a separate DVD player nor would I need to install a DVD player in my car. For me this method of watching videos is also less cumbersome to use (i.e rather than a laptop) during long car rides/plane rides.
Because the Nabi 2 is an Android tablet with wireless capability, it plays Netflix, Pandora, and I believe it will play Amazon Prime videos and Hulu Plus (with a the right work-arounds if you already have another Android device). The "pre-installed" videos are actually preset links to child appropriate videos on YouTube, which include Mickey Mouse and Dora the Explorer.
One VERY cool feature the Nabi 2 has is HDMI output, which not even the Nexus 7 has. Why is this cool? Because you can stream children's programs and watch them on a regular TV. I just watched an episode of Dora the Explorer via the Nabi 2 on my 60" plasma TV! I simply connected the Nabi 2 to my TV via the HDMI output, went to Netflix (on the Nabi 2), and there you go! This adds fantastic functionality if you don't already have a Roku, streaming blu-ray player, or a smart TV, or are on vacation and want to watch a movie in the hotel room.
For those of you who are considering this Nabi 2 over the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7, IMO the HDMI output w/o additional wireless equipment also puts the Nabi 2 ahead for MY purposes (YMMV).
APPS VS CARTRIDGES
The ability to get free apps from the Amazon Store (and Google Play via another Android device) IMO adds a lot more value to the Nabi 2.
As of now, my 2YO LOVES the free alphabet apps, and so far have kept him entertained for hours (I don't have a problem with him playing educational apps). The Nabi 2's UI is very child friendly, and my 2YO has no problem swiping the screen to find the apps he wants to play with. I don't anticipate having to spend any money on games/software for a very long time for the Nabi 2.
That being said, the majority of the free games are trial versions or "lite" versions, or even worse, have ads, some of which are for products not necessarily geared towards children (i.e. one game had an ad for Hulu Plus). Since my kid is only 2, he is perfectly fine with these trial/lite game versions. My plan is to keep him on the free stuff for now. When he outgrows them, I can just delete them and it won't have cost me anything. If you want the full games, you'll have to pony up cash for them.
UPDATE 11/9/12: While I think the design of included case (they call it a bumper) could be improved, it is VERY good at protecting the overall unit from drops (there are drop test videos on the Nabi website). Just the other day my son was at the kitchen counter (on his Learning Tower) with his Nabi 2 and he dropped it onto my kitchen floor, so I know it will survive a 3ft fall first hand. My 2YO will literally bang it on the kitchen countertop, and it still functions fine!
I can't imagine purchasing any tablet like device for a child and not also purchasing a protective shell for it because it WILL be dropped. Including this bumper adds considerable value to the Nabi 2 over not only the Innotab 2s and the Leap Pad Explorer 2, but ALSO over the Nexus 7 and the Amazon Fire HD (remember I purchased this for a child). A comparable case for the Nexus 7 and the Amazon Fire HD would cost $50 or more(though they probably include screen protection).
ISSUES WITH THE NABI 2
While I believe the Nabi 2 was the best choice of a tablet for my child based on my personal criteria, it's not quite perfect.
BUGGY PERFORMANCE - UPDATED 12/7/12
Our Nabi will freeze, and the sound will stop working. We have to turn it off and turn it on again. Pretty annoying, especially since it has such a fast processor.
LACK OF GOOGLE PLAY SUPPORT VERY LIMITING
The Nabi folks highly promote adding the Amazon app store in order to access more free apps. This does have its limitations. For example, if you live in Canada, you can't get the Amazon app store, and since Google Play isn't available on the Nabi, it is extremely difficult to get basic apps like Netflix on the Nabi, unless you ALREADY own an android device.
My son still plays with my rooted Nook Color simply because I found apps on Google Play he likes more than the apps available on the Nabi and from Amazon.
PRE-LOADED CONTENT HAS NO REAL VALUE
When I first posted this review, I had stated that I thought the Nabi 2 was a better investment than the Innotab 2s and the Leap Pad Explorer 2, and that was based in part due to its pre-loaded content. There is a video on Youtube from Nabi spelling out the difference in cost between the Nabi 2 and I believe the Leap Pad Explorer 2. However, I no longer believe that the Nabi 2's pre-loaded content is of much value.
The Innotab 2s and the Leap Pad Explorer 2 (which will not play movies off your memory card and does not have WiFi) were both about $100 BEFORE adding any additional games/apps/accessories (as of the date of my review). Granted, both of these units come with some games/books, and my understanding is that these devices are backwards compatible, so if I already had games/books, etc for these units, it would have influenced my decision. With games/cartridges about $5-$25/ea, I think in the long run it would not be too hard to pick up a few hundred dollars worth of cartridges over the years as your child's abilities advance.
The Nabi 2 comes preloaded with what they claim to be $200 worth of "free" stuff which includes: 25 free games, 50 free songs, 30 free books, a free trial of Spinlets TV featuring Cookie Jar TV, and a free trial to Fooz Kids. However, I would not have actually paid for any of the items included.
As I describe later in my review, a majority of the 25 free games are actually free, as in they can be downloaded from Google Play or Amazon for free, because they are lite or trial versions. They cost nothing to download, and if you don't want them anyway, they aren't worth anything.
All 50 of the free songs are from Laurie Berkner's various albums. So unless your child is a HUGE Laurie Berkner fan, the free song selection is rather limited.
The free books are interesting in that they are popular fairy tales and stories, but they are "retold" or "adapted" versions, which means that stories like The Jungle Book or Peter Pan are not the Disney versions. I think some children would enjoy these books, especially since they are narrated, but I question if folks would actually buy these out right. I would pay for the Disney name brand version of these stories, but I would not pay for the "generic" versions that come with the Nabi 2.
The free trial for Spinlets TV is of absolutely no value to me. Spinlets TV costs $2.99/month, which over a 5 year period totals about $180 (actually, it totals $177 with the free trial). I have no intention of ever using it because my child has access to Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Hulu/Hulu Plus, so frankly he doesn't need another subscription service. If you did not have any of these services, I think any of them would be preferable to Spinlets TV because I think it is a poor value. To my knowledge, Spinlets TV can only be viewed on the Nabi, unlike Netflix/Amazon/Hulu, which can be viewed on any smart TV, Roku, Blu-ray player, computer, or tablet with the program to run it.
Fooz Kids is currently free, but as I understand it, Nabi plans to charge $9.99 annually to use it. My understanding is the main benefit of Fooz Kids is the ability to track your child's progress. Leap Pad and VTech offer this service, too, for their devices, and there is no charge for it.
I think the Nabi 2 has definite benefits over a Leap Pad Explorer/Innotab 2s, but its preloaded content does not hold much value. I would have much preferred it come with none of that preloaded content because it takes up space and I'll have to load in the content I want anyway. If you plan on using the Spinlets TV service, add in about $180 to the cost of the Nabi.
BEWARE OF INAPPROPRIATE CONTENT WITHIN SOME APPS
Clearly the Nabi 2 is a real tablet and not a toy like the Innotab 2s and the Leap Pad Explorer 2. So there are many folks comparing it to Nexus 7 (they have the same processor) and the Kindle Fire HD.
The main reason I chose the Nabi 2 over the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD was that the included software and UI were very kid friendly and already blocked inappropriate content and websites. I did not want to spend time reworking an Android tablet to make it safe for my child to use, which is what drew me to the VTech/Leap Pad tablets to begin with. As of the date of this review, I believe that the Nabi 2 is the best 7" tablet that was child friendly/safe with the least amount of work of my part.
However, the Nabi 2's parental controls don't transfer to games/apps that you get from the Amazon App store. One item that was most alarming to me is that if you enable the Netflix app in Nabi mode (the kid screens), your child will have full access to ALL of the movies in Netflix. I wasn't too thrilled to discover that my 2YO could have watched something like Sexual Chronicles of a French Family on his "child friendly" tablet. Don't forget, the "free" games may have ads for products that are not child appropriate.
Of course, any parent should be proactive in supervising and approving ANYTHING their child plays with. With the apps on the Nabi 2, I basically have had to go through each and every one to examine the content and ads to determine which ones were best for my child - hence in some respects I might as well have gone with a Kindle Fire or a Nexus 7. Regarding a Nabi 2 vs. the VTech/Leap Pad comparison, the Nabi 2 required more supervision than I anticipated.
LACK OF REAR FACING CAMERA - UPDATE 12/9/12
The Nabi 2 comes with a very poor front facing camera only. There is no rear facing camera, though Nabi claims a rear facing camera will be an available accessory in the future. This makes it difficult for a child to take photos or video of anyone but themselves.
The front facing camera works very poorly indoors. The images turn out very dark. This is very disappointing, considering that even cell phone cameras take decent photos these days.
MAJORITY OF THE PRELOADED APPS ARE TRIAL/LITE VERSIONS OR REQUIRE PURCHASE TO USE
The following Nabi specific apps that are preloaded onto the Nabi 2 (right out of the box) require the user to make purchases in order to use them:
Spinlets+ Music; Spinlets+ TV; Chore List (see critique below; Treasure Box (though I did find ONE free app)
In addition, according to the Nabi folks, they plan on eventually charging for full access to Fooz Kids University. It is currently free, and in the future only a limited version will be free once they start charging.
Since these are Nabi 2 specific apps, you CANNOT delete them or hide them. This set up basically tempts the children constantly as they have to browse by them to get to all of their other apps.
Here are the preloaded games that are demos or lite versions, which means they include ads to purchase the full version or to unlock the next level:
Bang Bang Racing, Big Top THD,Demolition Demo,Fruit Ninja HD,Hockey Nations Demo,Jett Tailfin Racers Demo,Riptide GP Demo,Bag It Lite,Burn the Rope Lite,Find the Differences Lite,Find the Differences: Pirates Lite,Hang Man Lite
Kids Animal Piano Lite,My First Puzzles Alphabet Lite,My First Puzzles Lite,My First Puzzles Numbers Lite,M-GO Teaser (WHY EVEN BOTHER INCLUDING THIS???), Veggie Tales Spotisodes Demo.
I don't think my list is complete, and the included version of Angry Birds comes with a lot of ads If you compare this list to all the apps the Nabi 2 comes with, you'll see that the only apps that don't have built in ads or are lite versions are ones like the calculator.
I am tolerating this for now, but basically what this means is that the Nabi 2 experience is akin to being in Disneyland - lots of fun, but TONS of temptations to BUY BUY BUY! It is VERY easy to be nickled/dimed to death with the Nabi 2 - there are lots of $1.99, $0.99, and $3.99 purchases to be made with just the preloaded stuff. I understand that children are bombarded with ads on TV all the time, but I find it annoying that the Nabi 2 is advertised as having all this great software only to discover it is fraught full of temptations that you really cannot protect your children from.
At least with the Innotab 2 and the Leap Pad 2 those temptations are kept out of the device.
NO STYLUS INCLUDED MAKES SOME EDUCATIONAL GAMES DIFFICULT
Some of the drawing/writing games/apps are best suited for use with a stylus. After all, in school your child is writing with a pen/marker/pencil/crayon, and unless he or she is finger painting, not with a finger. Both the Innotab 2 and the Leap Pad Explorer 2 come with a stylus (the Innotab 2 has two of them). However, the Nabi 2 does not come with a stylus, and there no way to attach one cleanly. I think this exclusion is a big miss on Nabi's part, and makes the Nabi 2 less attractive from an educational standpoint.
UPDATE 11/22/12: One of the Nabi accessories that will be available is a stylus. It should have been originally included IMO since it is a child's tablet, so I recommend factoring the cost in.
BATTERY LIFE NOT THE BEST
I'm not enamored with the battery life. If you didn't charge it the night before, you may have an unhappy child the next day. Since my son doesn't play with this constantly, it's not the end of the world, but if you're watching a video, then playing some games, or going on a plane/long car ride, make sure you have something else to keep your little one occupied because the battery may not last.
UPDATE 11/20/12: While the battery life is short, I like that the Nabi 2 charges like a regular tablet, and doesn't burn through AA batteries. The Leap Pad Explorer 2 and the Innotab 2 both take regular batteries (the Innotab 2 also has a button cell battery). On the other hand, it uses a proprietary plug to charge it, rather than the more common micro USB. The only replacement is a very expensive $40 car charger set, which is not yet available in stores. If your charger breaks or gets lost, you will need pony up an additional $40 and it may be awhile to obtain a replacement. NOT GOOD!
INCLUDED CASE (BUMPER)IS REALLY GOOD, BUT COULD BE BETTER
The bumper is basically designed to protect the Nabi 2 from drops. Granted, this is probably the most likely way such devices are damaged/destroyed. But there is no protection for the actual screen from scratches, and I think a screen protector should have been included considering this is designed for children.
I also don't like how the port openings are exposed with this case. The Otterbox case for my Nook Color covers up the ports, so it provides protection from dirt, grime, drool, etc. I wish the Nabi 2 case also provided that kind of protection to be rugged enough for children. As its designed, the Nabi 2 case allows dirt and grime in the ports and in the space between the ports and the case.
My son tends to carry the Nabi 2 around by pulling one edge of bumper away from the tablet body and using it as a handle (like when he is carrying it from the living room up the stairs). I actually wish the bumper had an integrated handle. I realize that no other tablet has a handle. But as of the date of this review, the Nabi folks do not offer any sort of carrying case/backpack accessory to help the child carry it,and even those choices are inconvenient because the child would have to take the tablet in and out of said case/backpack. Integrating a handle into a bumper would make the Nabi 2 easier for small child to carry.
The Nabi site does offer a screen protector as an accessory for $25. That's kinda pricey IMO.
SCREEN ANGLE VIEWING POOR
Several other reviews have stated that the screen is very difficult to see if you're viewing it at an angle, and they are quite correct. When viewing the Nabi 2 at an angle, the screen becomes very dark and the colors are washed out. It is most problematic if you are sitting at a table looking down at the screen when its lying flat - you have to hunch forward until you are practically on top of it to make the washed out effect go away. Even sitting back 2-3 inches makes a difference in vibrancy and clarity of the screen.
This is almost a deal breaker for me, but because my intended use is for one child using it exclusively, and not multiple people on it at the same time, the benefits outweigh this negative. It can also be corrected by adding a stand (not letting it sit flat on a table when using it). If Nabi were to offer their UI/software separately, I would be tempted to get a different device because the poor viewing angle issue is pretty significant.
QUALITY CONTROL ISSUES
I just spent the last 3 hours setting up and charging a new Nabi to give as a gift, and this new one has a very noticeable horizontal line that scrolls up on the page whenever I change screens. My son has been playing with is for almost a month. So I have one good one and one bad one, or a 50% failure rate. The Nabi folks would prefer you deal with this as a warranty issue, but I'm taking it back to the store. This is completely unacceptable and it should have been caught by Nabi's quality control.
BACK PLATE FOR ACCESSORIES DIFFICULT TO CLEAN
The back of the Nabi 2 is a raised grid with openings for attaching mystery accessories that have yet to become available. I think it is going to get dirty, and it is very difficult to clean. If your child has a cold and you want to disinfect it - good luck! I don't see how to clean in those little nooks and crannies. I would like to see Nabi get rid of it altogether since the only use for them right now are these very expensive alphabet blocks, and it doesn't even have enough space for the whole alphabet. There are plenty of easels and car mounts on the market for other tablets that don't require such a grid.
LACK OF AFFORDABLE ACCESSORIES
Nabi just released some accessories for the Nabi 2. but get ready to open your wallets! The headphones are $100, the spare power cable set is $40, the screen protector is $25-$40, and blocks for the back grid cost $25 per set. While I can appreciate a good set of headphones, I will likely buy a $10 set from Marshalls and put the $90 in my son's college fund.
Nabi posted on its Facebook page that more accessories will be available for pre-order on 11/27/12. No word on delivery, though.
EDUCATIONAL SOFTWARE AN UNKNOWN TO ME
As I stated previously, I don't have any prior experience with Leap Pad/VTech/Nabi, but I know there are parents who absolutely love Leap Pad and VTech's educational games/software. These companies have scores of parents who are very happy with their products.
It is my understanding that the Nabi folks have been making their software for several years (Fooz Kids), but until I stumbled upon the Nabi 2 (which I did by researching the Innotab 2), I had never heard of them. I feel like I am taking somewhat of a risk that the programs available on the Nabi 2 aren't as good as they seem to be on the Leap Frog and VTech products (though at the end of the day I am getting a cool Android tablet). My opinion of their educational software may change if this product becomes more mainstream.
The software will eventually be a subscription service (with a free limited version available). Again, I don't know if this software is worth paying for.
CHORE LIST ONLY GIVES YOU THE OPTION TO BUY MORE APPS FROM NABI
In the comments, someone had pointed out how much they enjoy the Treasure Box and Chore List. I hadn't paid much attention to them because my 2YO isn't doing chores yet, so I decided to look into them (especially since you CAN'T DELETE or HIDE THEM).
To my disappointment, the Treasure Box and Chore List, as wonderful as they sound initially, are actually just another avenue for parents to buy apps from Nabi.
The ONLY reward available on the Chore List are coins. No big deal, right? However, you have to actually BUY coins FIRST (with real money - get your credit card ready). So the Chore List is basically an additional paid app. You will have to continue to purchase coins to use the Chore List on-going.
The current price for coins is $0.03 each. If you assign 5 chores to your child, and your child completes each of those chores 7 days a week, the Chore List will actually cost you $1/week in apps, $52/year in apps, or $260 over a 5 year period - all spent on apps.
The only way to spend these coins is to purchase apps in the Treasure Box. What this boils down to is that the only rewards available for using the Chore List are additional apps. If your child wanted to stay up a half hour later, or go see a movie, or basically ANYTHING other than apps as a reward, your out of luck. Heaven forbid your child actually want to save up for something really cool (ski lessons?). Nope - not with the Chore List.
I find this extremely limiting; I don't intend for additional Nabi apps to be the only reward my child eventually earns for fulfilling responsibilities, and would love to get rid of the app altogether and replace it with one that we will actually use.
Update 11/25/12: You can now use the chore chart by setting the each chore to earn zero coins. IMO its an aweful solution to not charging parents to use the chore chart because the kids see they get zero coins. There is still no way to customize the rewards to anything other than apps from the Nabi store.
INABILITY TO FULLY CUSTOMIZE THE HOME SCREENS
The Fooz Kids software and icons on the main screens cannot be removed, and cannot even be moved to another section or hidden. This is quite annoying because my son has to pass by them every time he navigates to different apps, and this is a section he is not even using yet. I wanted to organize the icons so his most favorite apps are closer to the window that appears when the device first starts up, but instead they are split up by the Fooz Kids screen. I can see that they may not want the user to remove the programs altogether, but the parents should have the ability to completely control the icons shown on the screens the kids will see and use, and should not be forced to have icons that aren't being used shown on the screen.
This is also a major problem because several of the icons that can't be hidden are for the services/apps that require an additional purchase/subscription to use. If I don't want to use Spinlets TV (and pay $177 to use it), I should be able to delete it, and my child should not be tempted to subscribe to it constantly.
UPDATE 11/9/12: WI-FI ABILITY A MIXED BAG
While Wi-Fi was a main reason I chose the Nabi 2 over the Innotab 2s and the Leap Pad Explorer 2, for a child's tablet it does come with some drawbacks. Since my son is 2, he doesn't understand while some apps that work at home don't work while we're in the car or at a restaurant, so he becomes very frustrated. So unless you have a mobile hotspot, beware that this can be an issue. This will hopefully change in the future as more places offer free Wi-Fi to their customers, and we may only chose to go to restaurants, etc. that have Wi-Fi. As of the date of this review, Disneyland doesn't offer free Wi-Fi while you're waiting in line for a ride or for a parade.
There is one screen in the Nabi home pages that has a Wi-Fi icon to let you know the apps on that page require Wi-Fi. But as more apps are added, it may not be enough space. And my son is 2, so he doesn't necessarily recognize that hey can't use the apps on those pages. I thought I could save my son some frustration by creating a new user profile that does not include any of the apps that require Wi-Fi (i.e. Netflix). Unfortunately this doesn't work because the Fooz Kids apps REQUIRE Wi-Fi and CANNOT be removed or hidden. What this basically means is we'll have to deal with my son getting annoyed until he figures it out, which is totally unnecessary and takes the "child friendly" status down quite a big notch IMO.
NABI'S RECOMMENDED AGE RANGE MAY NOT BE ACCURATE
In the comments, someone pointed out that the frustrations my son and I were having with the Nabi were due to the fact that the Nabi is not geared towards 2YO children. At first I was surprised because on the Nabi Facebook page it states "For Ages 2 - 12." But upon reflection, this person's observation may be accurate. My 2YO doesn't understand why some apps work in the home but not in the car, or why in-app purchases have been disabled, and why is it asking for Mommy's password. This amounts to an unnecessary amount of frustration.
If Nabi is correct that this device is age appropriate for a 2YO, then I believe it needs more work. For this age range a regular tablet like a Nexus or a Kindle HD, or even the Leap Pad and the Innotab may be better because it may be easier to customize them to the specific abilities of YOUR child because you aren't stuck with Nabi bloatware you can't hide or delete.
CONCLUSION - UPDATED 12/7/12
If my son didn't love his Nabi so much, I would return it. The lack of the Google Play store, inconsistent performance, very expensive accessories, and the various methods within the device that Nabi is using to take more of my money is a very big turn off. But its high durability, child friendly UI, and fast processor, plus the BF price I paid, make it a keeper. But if I was planning to pay full retail and didn't want the multimedia options, I would more likely lean towards a Nexus 7.