Best Tablet for Kids of 2021
If you're looking for a tablet for kids that you can also enjoy yourself once they're tucked into bed, the Amazon Fire 10 is by far our favorite model. The 1080p full HD video playback makes cartoons and nature shows come alive. The screen resolution is amazing, with vivid colors and crisp audio quality. With up to 12.5 hours of continuous video streaming capability, it offers long battery life. It also has excellent storage capacity, holding hundreds of games and videos, making long road trips a little easier to manage. It comes with a one-year subscription to Amazon's FreeTime, which includes a broad array of games and videos, all ad-free. The parental controls are highly customizable and accessible, allowing you to access them from your account, as well as the unit itself. If you feel like your child is watching too many videos, you can have them read for an hour before unlocking games or other non-educational content. Best of all, if you are concerned about placing an expensive piece of technology in a child's hands, know that this device comes with a sturdy protective case.
While the case on the Amazon Fire 10 should help it withstand the occasional drop, it is about an inch and a quarter thick on all sides, which makes it quite bulky considering its 10-inch screen size. It's not the easiest thing to hold when reading an ebook in bed, but the stand sets it up perfectly for watching videos. For kids accustomed to Apple or Android operating systems, it may take a bit more time to get used to. Also, the kid's edition version of the Fire 10 costs more than the regular one; however, it includes the case and a year of FreeTime. Overall, this is our top recommendation and one we appreciate for its customization, storage, and durability.
The Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition is not the least expensive model in this review, but it is a great value purchase. The screen is almost just as detailed and vivid as the Fire 10, and it comes with the same one-year FreeTime subscription. Some of the other 7 inch tablets cost a little less, and their picture quality and screen sensitivity are not nearly as good.
This unit may feel small if your child likes to watch a lot of videos. But it's undoubtedly a good size for younger children, who might find the Fire 10 a little too big and bulky. It is a little challenging to read some children's books on the smaller screen, and we often found ourselves zooming in and out a bit to see the text properly without squinting. The color choices for the cases are a little "genderized". It would be nice to have other neutral options besides blue, pink, and purple. Overall though, there's not much else we don't like about the Fire 7, and we'd choose this model over any of the other 7 inch models. For those seeking a bargain, this is a great choice.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab A Kids Edition is the favorite of our testers ages 9-11, and we can see why. The operating system is set up similarly to a smartphone (which more and more tweens seem to have these days) and is intuitive to use. The screen size is eight inches and is the perfect compromise between the bulkier Fire 10 and the smaller seven inch options. The picture quality is high, and the screen is very responsive, which is key if your child loves to play Subway Surfer or one of the myriad food-ninja games. The eight megapixel rear-facing camera takes better photos than any other model we tested, so if your tween is getting into making videos or taking pictures and doesn't have a smartphone, this device will fill that gap. You can access both the Galaxy Store (which is only useful if you already have a Samsung device) or the Google Play Store, and Tab A comes with a three-month trial to Samsung Kids, which has plenty of content with no ads or in-app purchases.
Once your trial is up, the Samsung Kids app will cost you a monthly or yearly fee; however, the content itself skews younger and doesn't differentiate for an age like Amazon's FreeTime does. The parental controls within the app are robust and very customizable, but there are no screen time limits in the tablet's general settings. The flexible silicone case is on the thin side, and it might protect the device if it lands squarely on the back, but any front-facing fall could spell disaster. We'd upgrade to a more protective case or at least add a glass screen protector, particularly if you are putting it in the hands of a younger child.
The Pritom Quad-Core 7-Inch Kids is a basic Android model (identical on the outside to the Dragon Touch Y88X Pro — even the cases are the same), but it comes with Pritom Kids, which is their proprietary children's app. This app is geared towards preschool-aged children and includes Montesorri-style learning units and plenty of 'ABC' activities. We like the parental controls on the app, which lets you set screen time blocks with mandatory breaks in between, which is better for children's eye health, among other things. There are no extra subscription fees for content, which is nice, and when your child outgrows what's already on the device, you can always access more things on the Google Play Store.
The battery lasts for about 4.5 hours of continuous play, which is not too shabby, but it doesn't seem to hold a charge well. We charged it up, didn't use it, and within 24 hours, it was drained. The screen sensitivity and resolution don't compare to that of the Amazon Fire but are sufficient for the age group. Other models are geared towards younger kids, like the LeapFrog LeapPad, but they cost more and require a subscription to use them. The Pritom Quad Core gives you similar content at a great price!
If your child is a fan of all things Disney, check out the Dragon Touch Y88X Pro. It comes with 18 ebooks and six audiobooks about popular Disney characters (level 1-3 readers mostly), as well as the Kidoz app that has a lot of content. The device runs on the Android system, giving you full access to the Google Play Store. The case is a little less bulky than the Fire 7 and Vankyo MatrixPad but is still highly protective. There's a small stand on the back, which is helpful when propped up for hands-free viewing.
The viewing quality is not the best, and if you think you might occasionally watch a show with your child on their device, the small size will get annoying quickly. But, if you're looking for something inexpensive that you can put in the hands of your Anna and Elsa fans, the Dragon Touch is one to check out.
The Vankyo MatrixPad Z1 Kids comes with a thick, rigid case that is similar to the Amazon Fire; however, it has a carry handle in the back instead of a flat stand. If you know your child isn't the most careful with their toys or has the tendency to drop things (as most kids do), you may want to consider this model. It's also a great option if you're looking for something a little less expensive than the Fire 7. We liked the setup of the Kidoz app, as it comes with a variety of pre-loaded games, videos, and kid-friendly websites, with the option to download many more. Some are free, and others you can get with virtual coins that only a parent can purchase. There's also access to the Google Play Store for games and movies that you can't get on the Kidoz app.
When we first started playing with the MatrixPad, we were interrupted by an ad every few minutes. It took a little digging, but we found a disable sponsored content in the settings, which thankfully did away with the ads. We were surprised that this was even an option. Most children's platforms make no-ads a selling point and not an optional thing. The time limit controls are on the basic side, but it's worth spending some time in the Parental Control section of the Kidoz app before handing it over to your child. Unfortunately, the battery performed the poorest in the group. In our video streaming test, it last only 3.3 hours, so make sure you keep a charger close by. While the video and screen sensitivity on the MatrixPad is not as great as the award winners that we tested, it's still a reasonable option for your child, and the case should help it last a while.
If you're looking for your child's first tablet but want to keep the experience more educationally driven and decidedly more low-tech, the LeapFrog LeapPad Academy is a good choice. The pre-loaded videos are geared towards learning the ABCs (lots of Sesame Street videos), and the parental controls allow for a high degree of customization, from overall time is allotted daily to how much one can play on 'learning' games vs. 'just for fun' games. The attached stylus (touchscreen pen), also helps younger kids with the finer dexterity that is required for some apps (which their little fingers might not yet possess).
Curiously for the age bracket, this unit does not have a complete wrap-around case; rather, there are handle-like bumpers on either side that protect the corners and a bit of the back. However, LeapFrog says that the screen is shatter-resistant, so that may be why they didn't protect it as well as you might expect for something geared towards younger children. We found this device not to be the most ideal for watching movies since the videos only play in a smaller box within the already small screen. The LeapPad requires you to invest in LeapFrog's content, as it's not connected to any other store. After the three-month free trial is over, it will cost you a monthly or annual fee, which is more than the Free Time App. But, the bright colors and carnival-like music is sure to appeal to the little ones.
The Contixo V8-2 is another Android device that is nearly identical to the Pritom and Dragon Touch models but even less expensive, likely due to the thinner case and lack of content. It comes with the Kids Place app, which lets you decide which apps your child can access but does not have any pre-loaded content. Once you've downloaded apps for them in the Google Play Store, you have to allow access to that app within Kids Place, and your child can only exit Kids Place with a pin. While inside the app, ads and in-app purchases are blocked.
However, if you want to set time limits on Kids Place, you have to purchase an upgraded version for a small monthly fee. Note that this doesn't give you any content, just parental controls. The video, screen sensitivity, and camera quality are similar to the Dragon Touch and Pritom models (as in, poor), but in this case, you get it for a little less.
Why You Should Trust Us
We've tested all manner of home and office equipment here at TechGearLab, and we applied our thorough testing standards to this category as well. To determine what makes for the best kid's tablet, we recruited a long-time Senior Editor Cam McKenzie Ring, who is a mother and a past educator. As a traveling mother of two, she has just the right blend of experience and expertise that we look for in our testers. She tested these devices with her kids, and other families while at home and on long road trips around the country.
When we selected which models to test from out of the dozens of options out there, we purposefully chose those geared specifically towards children. This meant they needed to come with a protective case and have some kids-specific content available. Apple and Lenovo were amongst the well-known brands that were left out. While Cam looked at the technical ins and outs of each model, her sons went to "work" playing games, watching videos, and navigating the various operating systems; their feedback was incorporated into the opinions expressed in this review. We also test the picture and camera quality on each, while looking at how each store and packs away. We also look at options that offer a great value, to help you keep your wallet heavy and your spending light.
Analysis and Test Results
A tablet on a long road trip or flight can be a saving grace and an educational tool for your family. After testing each extensively with our testers, we rated each contender across specific metrics. These, we think, are the most important when considering what to buy. Specifically, picture quality, access to content, durability, battery life, user interface, and camera quality. We discuss these in-depth to help you determine which is best for your needs.
Perhaps the most important quality you want in a tablet (for children or yourself) is a high-quality screen that is also responsive to touch. The Amazon Fire 10 has the best picture quality in this review. Animated movies are bright and detailed, and we feel like we are using today's technology and not something from 15 years ago. The Fire 10 has a 1920 x 1200 Full HD screen (224 dpi). While it's not the highest resolution option out there (even the base iPad 7th gen is better with a 2160 x 1620 screen at 264 dpi), this seems more than sufficient for a kid's tablet than a discerning parent might occasionally watch as well.
Note a screengrab from the Fire 10 (left) next to the Contixo (right). Click on each photo to get a closer view of the quality.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab is not too far behind in picture quality with a 1280 x 800 screen and great colors. If you're just looking at the specs, then you might think that the Amazon Fire 7 would be equivalent to the Android models that all have 1024 x 600 screens, but the Fire 7's picture quality is still better, though not quite as good as the Fire 10 and the Galaxy Tab. The Pritom and Dragon Touch often look washed out or out of focus, as does the Vankyo MatrixPad. The LeapPad is our least favorite model to watch on because the videos often pop up in a smaller four inch box within the seven inch screen.
On the left is a screenshot from the Samsung Galaxy tab, while the photo on the right shows the Vankyo MatrixPad.
Access to Content
One of the main selling points of these child-focused devices is that they come with age-specific content and/or give you access to that via a subscription app. As in the case of the Amazon Fire models, you pay more for the "kids" version, but it includes a year of their FreeTime app, which is the most comprehensive content platform in this review. You set the age of your child, and have access to a seemingly unlimited number of games and videos tailored to their age range, all for a small cost after the one-year trial ends.
If you already pay for Amazon Prime, Netflix, or other streaming apps, you may be reluctant to pay for yet another service, but in some instances, it may be worth it. While there is a lot on the FreeTime app, it didn't feel like we were getting much more than what is already available on Prime Video, and there are usually a lot of children's books available in Prime Reading. The benefit of the subscription apps is that they usually include ad-free viewing and no in-app purchases, which we prefer for our child's development and our wallet.
We also liked the content on the Kidoz app that is found on both the Dragon Touch and Vankyo devices. It includes a ton of free videos and games, but you have to hunt around in the settings and 'disable sponsored content' to get rid of the ads. The Dragon Touch comes with some free Disney early reader ebooks and audiobooks as well, which we found to be a nice bonus. The kids app on the Samsung Galaxy Tab had a lot of content as well, but it costs a fee after the three-month free trial, and it skews younger, and our older testers (9-11) preferred to just find free games on the Google Play Store rather than use that app.
The content on the Pritom Kids app is also geared towards a younger, pre-school crowd, but it is all free and requires no subscription. The LeapFrog LeapPad Academy tablet is the most educationally focused option in this review, but it requires a subscription to be functional, as it doesn't have access to any other apps store.
There's nothing more nerve-wracking than putting an expensive device into a three-year-old's hands. The probability that even an older child is likely to drop their tablet is high, so having a sturdy case is key. One of the main characteristics that distinguish the models in this review from other non-kid tablets is the included case. We tested this by putting each tablet into the hands of a child and assessing the protective qualities of each.
The sturdiest and most protective cases are on the Amazon Fire 10 Kids, the Amazon Fire 7 Kids, and the Vankyo MatrixPad Z1. These three cases are over an inch in width, with sturdy foam that wraps around the front edges of the unit. While you can't be sure of complete protection (if you were to hold it at an angle and smack it against a corner of a table, the screen would probably still crack), these cases should protect against most falls, even face-down ones.
Some of the less confidence-inspiring cases are on the Samsung Galaxy Tab A (hence our recommendation that it be best for older children who should be less likely to drop it), and the Contixo V8-2 Kids, which is the least expensive model in this review.
For anyone heading on a long road trip without enough plug-in options in the car or plane, having enough battery life to last for at least a day-long trip is important. If you plan on staying home or are around an outlet most of the day, this may not be an issue, but let's be honest. Nobody wants to have their tablet plugged in all the time. As such, we think it's important to compare battery life across the board.
We tested each battery by running videos continuously to see how long they would last with sustained use. Long weekend family road trips or given the current norms of children and families being at home more, your kids might "plug-in" and not surface for hours. The Amazon Fire 10 had the longest battery life in our tests lasting 12.5 hours, and the Fire 7 for almost ten hours, exceeding the manufacturer's stated battery life listed as seven hours. The Dragon Touch, Pritom, and Contixo models didn't fare as well, lasting around only four hours, give or take. The Vankyo MatrixPad was a little disappointing, lasting only three hours and twenty minutes.
For this metric, we looked at how easy it is to navigate the system in general, as well as how customizable the parental controls are. Digital devices are a largely unavoidable part of our current lives, and developing good habits early on is key to keeping kids active between media breaks. A pre-set time limit can also take some of the difficulty and constant pressure out of enforcing it — the device just shuts off when they've reached the limit! While the overall operating system on the Amazon Fire 10 and 7 is not our kids' favorite, the parental controls are. We can set limits for the total time used daily and the time of day, and then also "insist" that they read or listen to a book before they've "earned" access to unlock the "fun" stuff.
Our kids' favorite operating system is the Samsung Galaxy Tab A, and the parental controls within the Samsung Kids app are equally robust. We also like the setup on the Pritom Quad Core, which recommends breaking their screentime up into chunks with breaks in between. The time limits are also easy to set up on the LeapFrog LeapPad Academy, though the default setting is four hours, which is a lot more than what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for two to five-year-olds.
The controls for the Kidoz app on the Dragon Touch and the Vankyo MatrixPad are not as fancy as some others — you can only set a daily limit and hours of operation, and when we first started playing games on them, we were regularly interrupted with ads. It turns out there is a disable sponsored content feature, and once we clicked that, the ads went away, but it seems strange that this is not a standard-setting. The most disappointing option is the Contixo V8-2, which doesn't include any extra content and requires you to upgrade just to set up time limits, which comes at a monthly cost.
For years, tablets have notoriously had low-resolution cameras, and the latest crop of models is no exception. The standard currently seems to be around the two megapixels (MP) mark, which, when compared to the 12 megapixel (and up) cameras found on most smartphones today, is laughable in its quality. It seems as though manufacturers are assuming that the most you'll be doing with your device is a video call with the camera facing out, and for that, a two MP usually suffices.
However, for those who want to do a little more with their device, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A is the only model with a higher resolution camera that can capture good quality photos and videos. The 8 MP rear-facing camera takes crisp images, and the videos are clear and not pixelated. The Amazon Fire 10 and Fire 7 took slightly better photos than the Pritom and Contixo models, although all had two MP cameras, and the Vankyo, LeapPad and Dragon Touch had the worst quality images. In particular, the Dragon Touch's camera created only dark and blurry images.
This testing metric also allowed us to see how easy it is to get content off the devices, and to compare the resolution of the photos. The Fire 7 and 10 models can share directly to the Amazon Photos feature, via Bluetooth to another device, or via email. The Android models all have easy options to either share with your Google Drive or via email. The only difficulty we had was with the LeapPad Academy, which we had to plug into our computer (gasp!) to access the photos. While you can open a web browser and potentially log into an email service, the browser is exceptionally slow and clunky, so we opted for a wire transfer instead.
Finding a tablet that can stand up to the regular use of a child while offering excellent screen quality and features can be a daunting task. You don't want the device to easily break and you also don't want to spend an arm and a leg. Luckily, we've done the research after purchasing and using each option side-by-side. We hope our research will help you gain confidence in your next purchase.
— Cam McKenzie Ring