Note: this tablet was updated for 2014, with 42 pre-loaded SchoolZone apps that can work without a Wi-Fi connection. This new version, which is still based on an Lexibook device, is more responsive running on Android 4.4.1. The price has been reduced from $200 to $170. You can download additional apps from the SlideME app store which requires a registration. SlideME contains a selection of both free and paid apps. We were able to get to a browser, get to Google and watch YouTube content.
The following review applies to last year's (2013) edition: School Zone; the Michigan-based publisher known for higher quality flash cards, software and workbooks, now has it's own digital platform, thanks to low cost Android tablets. The Little Scholar® tablet is an adapted Lexibook 7 inch tablet (www.mylexibooktablet.com) with 8GB of RAM and a Micro SD card. There are no surprises on the hardware aspects of this tablet: two cameras,a Micro SD card slot, headphone jack, 1 DC port, 1 Mini HDMI port, and Lithium battery; all housed in a rubber bumper. Note that the specs for 2014 are the same.
Two things set this tablet apart from swarm of similarly-priced Android competitors: the overall ease of the out-of-box experience, second only to the Samsung Kids Tablet, and the quality and quantity of the pre-loaded content, that includes nearly the entire library of SchoolZone digital content that can function without Wi-fi, plus videos, e-books and songs. It's also turned School Zone into a video publisher: they've used the new platform to deliver a series of videos called Charlie & Company™ that feature a dog, with music by Brian Vander Ark.
We liked that there is no registration or credit card required at start-up; no apps to download; no upsells for buying more apps; no cartridges to lose; no lite or partial- version apps; no ads and no worries. This is the anti-Tabeo and it succeeds in giving parents a solid non-Leapfrog, non-vTech alternative.
Weaknesses include no Google Play access (we see this as a big strike against any Android tablet), although additional Android apps can be purchased through the built-in School Zone Market which is provided by SlideMe (www.slideme.org). It is possible to download and install the Amazon Appstore; both require setting up an account, registration and a credit card. We were able to download and make accessible Netflix, YouTube and Angry Birds with no problems from the Amazon Appstore.
This tablet is evidence that a smaller, passionate publisher can use partnerships with hardware producers to deliver gimmick-free content. Details: School Zone Publishing, www.schoolzone.com. Price: $170. Ages: 3-7. Platform: Android. Teaches/Purpose: school readiness, reading, writing. Rating (1 to 5 stars): 4.3 stars. Entry date: 10/28/2013.