Review of the InnoTab3 & InnoTab3s Wi-Fi Learning Tablets from VTech

Disclosure: I received a sample of the InnoTab3 and InnoTab3s Wi-Fi Learning Tablet from VTech to facilitate this review, any opinions are my own.

Over the last three years, the children’s toy department has grown to include learning tablets geared for children ages 3-9. Some of these tablets include the InnoTab series from VTech. This year alone, VTech debuted 2 new upgraded tablets,  the InnoTab3 and the InnoTab3s.  Both tablets have similar platforms but given that the 3s has wi-fi capabilities and access to an even larger database of educational content, pay close attention to the details listed below because if you choose to buy in-store, it might be easy to get confused if you are trying to make a decision quickly in a chaotic holiday environment.

@VTech InnoTab3
@VTech InnoTab3

I completed a full review of the InnoTab3 on several months ago. The InnoTab3 has a 4.3″ inch screen touch screen, that’s primarily held in a vertical orientation. There is a d-pad and tilt sensor  to use when playing games. The InnoTab3 utilizes a 2.0 megapixel rotating camera for pictures and video. 15 on-board apps are included with the original purchase as well as 1 free downloaded app, plus the Read, Create and Play cartridge.  There is 2 GB of memory storage on the device. Connecting it through the computer to the Learning Lodge Navigator with a USB cord, parents have access to download over 600 games, e-books, songs of paid content. This device retails for $69.99. A rechargeable battery power pack can be purchased as an accessory for this device, otherwise it can use standard “AA” batteries. Over the years, I’ve used all of the generations of the InnoTab with the children at school, and they all seem to enjoy the camera, art studio and cartridge e-books and game software.

The InnoTab3s includes some of the similar options of the InnoTab3, with more features, given it’s more expensive price tag of $99.99. The InnoTab3s has the same 2.0 megapixel rotating camera. Upgrades include 4 GB on-oboard storage with the addition of secure wi-fi accessibility for ease of downloading apps from the Learning Lodge Navigator. On this tablet, given the wi-fi, children can also view and interact with pre-selected and parent-approved websites.  Using a new app, Kid Connect, children are able to send text messages and stickers from their device to a friend with an InnoTab3s or a parent or sibling who has one of these devices: iPhone 4 or above, IOS 5.x or above; Android 2.3.3 or above with 320×480 minimum resolution. The touch screen is larger than the InnoTab3 at 5 inches, and though the screen can flip from horizontal to vertical, I think it’s easier to hold the device primarily in a horizontal orientation, rather than a vertical one like the InnoTab3, especially when viewing pages on the internet via the wifi connection. Out of the box there are 20 apps, including a few games like the Magical Bean Stalk game and H2O Go! game, as well as the Read, Create and Play cartridge. Using the wi-fi kids or adults can peruse the Learning Lodge Navigator and develop a wish-list of apps they would like their parents to purchase by sending them an email. Once approved, the app downloads wirelessly. The InnoTab3s also arrives with a rechargeable battery pack with a wall adapter for charging ($35 value).

@VTech InnoTab3s
@VTech InnoTab3s

Both devices, I find to be very slow with a lot of wait time after selecting the app while the screens load, on the average I’ve counted about 6-8 seconds at times. Once the game or e-book is fully loaded through the app or the cartridge, play tends to move faster and its less noticeable. However, when using the 3s Web Browser, maybe it’s because I’m an avid iPhone/iPad user, but it can take 20-30 seconds to load a website. Then, if you mistakenly chose the wrong website, the child needs to repeat the process all over again. When viewing websites, the font is generally pretty small and difficult to read. It can be zoomed in, but this process takes even more time. I like that there’s this option, but some children could get really frustrated by it.

The camera is 2 megapixels and very difficult to use in low light situations. I haven’t been able to take a viewable picture inside our home, with the lights on. Outside and in the car, the pictures are much clearer though. It took about 20-30 minutes for me to install the Learning Lodge Navigator on my computer, download the Kid Connect app for my smartphone from iTunes, complete the firmware updates on the 3S and find an app for my free download. Setting up the wi-fi is simple, if you have a network that’s easy to get on/off. Our network is extremely secure and I tested the wifi content at the library because it was easier to connect to. When browsing the web, there were 9 websites pre-loaded. I added Disney Junior myself through the parent portal, just make sure you type in the url for the website exactly. After it loaded, the website itself prompted a screen upgrade for flash, which I couldn’t upgrade for this device, rendering this popular kid’s website useless. So if you are planning on using the wifi, I’d probably stick with the pre-loaded content from VTech out of ease. The plan from what I can tell is to   continue to add more content to it as time progresses. One of the best features of this device is that in the parent settings, there is a way to monitor and set parameters to how much time your child is allowed to spend on the device daily, as well as providing them certain hour time blocks that they are allowed to use the device.

The rechargeable battery pack is awesome and I would highly recommend it, out of the box it didn’t need to be charged and it has survived all the installing time as well as a lot of playtime, without needing to be plugged in. If your child is asking that Santa deliver one of these devices, I’d highly recommend the elves work out the network nuances and install all of the content prior to the holiday, rather than unboxing it they day of and hitting some roadblocks, especially related to the wifi with the InnoTab3s.

If you have the financial capability, and are a fairly tech-savvy family with a good wireless internet connection or frequent access to one, to me the obvious choice, no matter what the age range between these 2 devices, is to purchase the InnoTab3s. One major reason is that it includes the rechargeable battery pack ($35 value) in the purchase. Even though the InnoTab3 retails for less, if the rechargeable battery accessory was purchased in addition to the InnoTab3, then it would make the devices about the same price, just with that one additional feature. Plus it can hold more games with the added 2 GB of on-board memory.

Given that the 3s also has a larger viewing screen, wi-fi compatibility for internet browsing and the Kid Connect app for text messaging,  I think the 3s includes a lot more value. Don’t expect the internet to be like your iPad, iPhone or Kindle tablet.  I wouldn’t rely on the internet as your child’s sole source of entertainment, definitely plan to budget for additional gaming cartridges and/or apps. The downloadable content in the Learning Lodge Navigator for both the InnoTab3 and InnoTab3s is the same in terms of price for both devices, the wish list and the wifi of the 3s will just allow the new apps to be downloaded to the device from your email, rather than having to manually connecting it every time with a USB cord.

Disclosure: I received a sample of the InnoTab3 and InnoTab3s Wi-Fi Learning Tablet from VTech to facilitate this review, any opinions are my own.

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