Top positive review
Basic Tablet with Great Value
October 5, 2018
Update 10/05/19: After a year of having these I am, happy to report no problems with them and I still highly recommend them. Having the Freetime service is really the best part of these so I bought another pair on Prime day to get another year of subscription and will sell these. It looks like they sell for $60-$80 used, so that’s not a bad deal at all.
I pre-ordered two of these for my 5yo and almost 3yo for an upcoming vacation. I debated between these and getting a couple of used iPad 2s or 3s. Ultimately I was drawn to the 2 year warranty and 1 year of FreeTime Unlimited service.
Out of the Box
The tablets come already installed in their protective cases. One of the tablets was installed backwards, making the power button inaccessible, but removing the tablet and putting it back in was not difficult. The tablets come with a charging cable and transformer/AC adapter. I wasn't sure if the transformer would be included since my Kindle Paperwhite did not include one, this was a pleasant surprise. One of the common complaints about other Kindles is that the charge port stops working. In an effort to prevent this I purchased a set of NetDot magnetic charger connectors. These are similar in concept to Apple's Magsafe ports where the cable is held to the device with a magnet that can brake away without doing damage or putting strain on the port. One of the first things I noticed about the tablets is that the protective case is nice and thick, but not heavy. The bumpers will be good for the kids to grip their fingers around. The case material is slippery, but that's what the warranty is for I guess.
When turned on, both tablets had around 70% charge on them. The first steps are pretty typical, choose a language, connect to WiFi. The update process was surprisingly lengthy for a brand new device that was received the day it released. There were two rounds of updates and all total it was between 15 and 20 minutes of time to install the updates. One very important item of note is that the tablet is pre-assigned for the account on which it was purchased. If it is being received as a gift, make sure that you do not accept the EULA and activate on the purchaser's account because the free year of FreeTime will then be on the purchaser's account. There will be an option to change accounts during the setup. Unfortunately I goofed up because I bought it on my business' account using some racked up rewards points, but meant to activate it on my personal amazon account. A call to customer support had this resolved in a matter of minutes. I did not make the same mistake on the second tablet and everything went smoothly.
You will be prompted to setup Freetime profiles for your children. After setting up the first profile it immediately goes into setting up a second profile, with no obvious way to skip past it. Since I was only doing one profile per device this was a little confusing, but I found that just hitting the back arrow brought it back to the profile list and I could proceed from there. This was a little confusing and a surprising UI blunder on Amazon's part, but nothing major.
Given the price of the tablet and the price of the base HD 8 tablet that uses identical hardware, I wasn't expecting much in terms of processing power, but I was still a little surprised that a brand new device would lag as much as these do just when scrolling through menu items. You would think the software would be designed with the hardware limitations in mind so that the processing demand matched the processing power, but I guess you get what you pay for. I would say it's about on par with an old iPad trying to run the latest version of iOS and showing its age. One of the biggest disappointments about this device is that you can't access videos that have been transferred from a PC to the tablet when in the kids' profiles. I suppose it is a safeguard, but I have a lot of downloaded movies that I wanted to put on for them to watch. Supposedly there is a workaround if you record a video to an SD card, then you can take the SD card out and add your own videos in the folder created by the camera. I haven't tried this yet, but it sounds plausible. That said, with FreeTime there is more than enough content and you can download a decent amount for offline use.
I won't go too in depth with this as it is a service independent of this device and there are plenty of articles about it already. That said, it is really a great service. There are tons of videos, books and games for the kids that would cost a ton to purchase a la carte. Having the ability to put time limits by category is really an interesting feature too. While the white listed internet sounded like a great feature, I'm not sure yet if there is enough sites to be that great of a feature, but it' there.
All in all I'm happy with this purchase so far, we'll see how the performance goes over time. I'm a little concerned that it won't take much in terms of increased software complexity to really strain the ability of the hardware to operate smoothly. In the end these are sort of a throw away device so if they last 3 years I'll be happy considering they were only $200 for the pair.
1 year of FreeTime service worth the extra cost for young kids
Can't play videos copied from PC to device in kids profiles
Slippery case material
Bottom line: Great value for a kids tablet that you don't have to worry too much about getting broken