The VTech InnoTab Max is a tablet made specially for kids, with built-in “child-safe” Wi-Fi, video camera and player, MP3 functions and a bunch of fun, educational and creative apps.
Unlike its rival, Leapfrog’s LeapPad, you can add your own movies and music to the InnoTab Max, which will interest parents. There’s also an engaging Kid Connect messaging tool that links with a parent’s smartphone and tablet app. See:
Best kids tablets.
On the negative side we did find the tablet to be frustratingly slow to load games and app, or even switch between them. Read on for our full review.
The Innotab Max is up against
Leapfrog’s LeapPad3 and LeapPad XDi as one of this year’s most popular Christmas gifts.
The InnoTab Max costs £109.99 but you can find it much cheaper online; we saw it as low as £55. Check out the bottom of this review for the latest, best InnoTab Max prices.
It’s well built, and available in the obligatory Pink and Blue. The cover protects the screen when not in use and also doubles up as a stand for a better viewing angle when watching videos or photo slide shows. Or you can remove the cover altogether if you prefer the more classic tablet look.
VTech believes the InnoTab tablets are suitable for ages 3-9. We think that kids over the age of 7 will find some of the supplied games a little simplistic or childish for their now sophisticated tastes, but for children aged 3-6 kid-specific tablets like the InnoTab and LeapPad are great choices as a little person’s first computer.
Kids love to feel like this is their own device, rather than forever pleading to borrow mum or dad’s phone or tablet.
The InnoTab Max is actually based on Android but has an interface that’s designed for kids. It’s simple to use, and features a 7-inch touchscreen (1,024-x-600 pixels) that can be operated by finger or the supplied stylus.
The fact that it’s powered by Android (4.2 if you must know) means that you can download more than 200 educator-endorsed Android games and not be limited to VTech’s own 650 software titles. It still lacks the wealth of apps you get from a normal Android or iPad, and there’s plenty of games that feature well-known kids movies and TV shows. Yes, there’s a Frozen game (£4.99) and other Disney/Pixar-branded stuff.
It ships with 18 installed apps, two of which you have to download from the VTech Learning Lodge app store after registering. There wasn’t a great deal of choice in which two free apps these would be, however.
The apps you get straight off include the Wonder Cam Max, which lets kids create funny faces and add photo frames, over 60 special effects and “kaleidoscopic creations”.
The Movie Maker app is great fun and will keep kids entertained. With some adult supervision and guidance this can be an interesting creative tool.
There’s also an Art Studio for drawing, painting and adding stickers. Young kids love adding sticker, as any parent can tell you.
The 2-megapixel camera is neat as it can rotate to take photos or video either front or back. Picture quality is not what you’ve come to expect from your compact camera or smartphone but it’s just about acceptable enough for kids to play with. This is true of the LeapPad too, and it would be nice if one day a kids’ camera took decent photos.
The tablet has 8GB of internal storage to keep all those photos, videos, music and apps. We like the ability to expand this storage up to 32GB with a microSD card.
You can buy extra video content, such as Charlie and Lola, Pingu, Octonauts and some Disney shows, although these aren’t cheap.
There’s an E-Reader with Story Dictionary, which can help kids learn to read. I’d have preferred there to be more than one eBook included, although there are free books to download, too.
The built-in Wi-Fi means you can download games straight on to the tablet rather than having to hook up to a parent’s PC, which has been a frustration with earlier kids tablets. It’s also there for the InnoTab’s web browser.
VTech claims that the browser is “kid safe,” and there’s a bunch of vetted websites for children to browse. This makes it much more of an Internet experience than its rival, the LeapPad from Leapfrog, that has a browser that is little more than a series of fairly random videos for kids to watch.
While extremely limited we did find the LeapPad browser to live up to the kid-safe badge better than the InnoTab Max.
One of the pre-linked websites is the excellent HowStuffWork, which is full of fascinating facts that will entertain and educate children, but also features a section on Sexual Dysfunction. While there’s nothing obscene or pornographic there parents might prefer not to have their young ones read about “How to fire up your sex life” or answer questions about “Herb Sex Boosters”.
Clearly there are such risks even on otherwise innocuous websites such as the above, and so it’s great that concerned parents can easily add or remove sites from each child’s approved list using the Web Browser Controls.
Parents should remember when handing their young kids their phone or tablet that unless they’ve properly set up parental controls their child can quite quickly browse to inappropriate material. The parental settings on the InnoTab Max should make it easier to limit such risk.
If you want zero risk, the LeapPad’s very limited browser is pretty much fool/parent/kid proof.
One Wi-Fi feature we really did like is Kid Connect, where children can send and receive text and voice messages, photos, stickers, and drawings to InnoTab-owning friends and family members who install the Kid Connect app on their iPhone or Android smartphones.
Kid Connect also features family group chat, multi-player games and Family Bulletin features. The Kid Connect mobile app lets you manage your child’s contact list.
Older kids especially enjoy the messaging function, although I found the set up to be confusing and had to ask another InnoTab-owning parent to help.
Security’s pretty good as a parent has to approve each friend, and it’s easy to use even for a 4-year-old.
Parental settings include time controls so you can limit the amount of time your child is allowed to play with the tablet. This is an excellent idea. Even with educational tablets such as the InnoTab parents should restrict the amount of time spent on such technology.
How much screen time is safe for children.
We also like that you can connect the InnoTab MAX to your TV via a mini-HDMI to HDMI cable – also known as an HDMI type A to type C cable. You’ll need to buy this separately, though.
The InnoTab MAX can play most cartridges designed for earlier InnoTab models. However, because of its larger screen, in order to play these older cartridges, you must first download updated versions to the tablet.
VTech InnoTab Max performance
We found the InnoTab Max to be slow at loading (at times very slow), with the spinning Loading icon on show for frustratingly long times. If you’re used to a speedy iPad or Android this is bound to annoy you, although I suppose it teaches kids the value of patience! Strangely, even the iOS and Android Kid Connect app mirrors the slow loading times.
Other apps include a Clock, Calculator, Calendar, Notes, and Music player.
With some adult supervision the VTech InnoTab Max will help your child with basic maths )counting, addition, subtraction), and English (handwriting, spelling and reading). Other games could improve a child’s spatial sense, observations and pattern recognition.
Thankfully the battery is rechargeable (via the supplied Micro USB cable) so it won’t cost you a fortune in batteries.
Downloading new games and apps can be expensive, however. As with the LeapPad extra software isn’t cheap, with new games averaging £3-5 – which is a little cheaper than from Leapfrog.
VTech InnoTab Max: Specs
- Android 4.2
- 7in (1024×600)display
- 8GB memory
- up to 32GB microSD card
- 2Mp camera
- lithium?ion battery