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Fuhu Nabi 2 Tablet review

TabletsReviews
8/10
by Eugene Kim, 16 Nov 2012Reviews
Fuhu Nabi 2 Tablet review

Until recently, kid-friendly tablets have been held back by cripplingly slow hardware and half-hearted ecosystems built for children. The original Fuhu Nabi Kids Tablet was no exception. Fuhu has learned something the second time around, however, and has made great strides with its successors slate, the Nabi 2 (£149.99 direct from the online Nabi shop).

Powered by a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor and preloaded with plenty of compelling children's content, the Nabi 2 is fast, responsive, and a joy to use. It bests the other kid-friendly tablets we've seen, but it's also a great fully-featured Android tablet that has the chops to take on the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD.

Design and features

From the front, the Nabi 2 looks a lot like the original Nabi, complete with its signature red bumper with large rounded corners. Measuring 155 x 29 x 220mm (WxDxH) and weighing 595 grams, the Nabi 2 is actually quite thick and heavy for a 7in tablet. To put that in perspective, the new 9.7in Apple iPad is 9.4mm thick and weighs 652 grams. A very small child might find the Nabi 2 a bit unwieldy to carry.

That added heft comes courtesy of a new customisable back plate, with three rows of square pegs to which you can attach little charms for personalisation. None come with the tablet, but you can buy a pack of Kinabis for £24.99 – these are non-toxic silicon squares that feature colourful letters that snap easily on and off the Nabi 2's back panel (see above). Fuhu also plans on releasing additional accessories like a kickstand and a car headrest mount that attaches to the back grid.

The bumper itself is thick, but it's easily removable, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how curious your kids are, and how much extra protection you need for the tablet. Even without the bumper, the Nabi 2's white plastic body feels solid and able to withstand some abuse. You can also buy replacement bumpers for £24.99 each in a variety of colours, including one that glows in the dark.

On the top edge are Volume and Power buttons, while the bumper adds raised rubber covers for easy access. Along the right panel is the 3.5mm headphone jack, mini HDMI and micro USB ports, microSD card slot, and a connector for the included AC adapter. For a kid's tablet, it's a very generous selection of connectivity options, outdoing even full-featured tablets like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD, which lack HDMI and microSD. All the ports are exposed, though, which is good for easy access, but also leaves the tablet vulnerable to liquid or other debris – and the microSD card could present a choking hazard for a small child.

The 7in 1,024 x 600 resolution display is on a par with the screen on the original Kindle Fire slate. Newer tablets, like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD, feature higher resolution 1,280 x 800-pixel displays, but the Nabi 2 still looks bright and sharp. Viewing angles, however, leave something to be desired. When viewed off angle, at about 45 degrees, the screen begins to darken substantially.

Above the screen is a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. In my tests, photos were typical of front-facing tablet cameras, which is to say pretty underwhelming, with plenty of image noise and poor colour reproduction. The camera is fine for Skype video chats, though. There is no rear-facing camera, but Fuhu says it's working on a camera accessory that will attach to the back panel and add augmented-reality games to the Nabi 2.

As far as connectivity goes, the Nabi 2 connects to 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi networks on the 2.4GHz frequency. Bluetooth 3.0 is also integrated, and worked fine with a pair of wireless headphones. The tablet comes in a single 8GB model, of which 4.49GB of the built-in storage is free – but of course, you can always up that with an SD card. The mini HDMI out worked fine for playing videos on an HDTV at up to 1080p resolution.

Performance and content

In a world of typically anaemic tablets designed for children, the Nabi 2 is a revelation, powered by a beefy quad-core 1.3GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 processor – the same chip found in the Nexus 7. The Nabi 2 is fast and responsive, and gaming performance is in line with other Tegra 3 tablets. The bump in speed and performance over the original Nabi and kid-focused competitors like the Kurio 7 (which is also £150) is significant. Where those two tablets can be frustratingly slow or unresponsive, the Nabi 2 simply flies through any task thrown at it, from media playback to high-end gaming.

In our battery rundown test, which loops a video with screen brightness set to maximum and Wi-Fi switched on, the Nabi 2 lasted an impressive 7 hours and 42 minutes. That's not quite up to the 10 hours and 37 minutes turned in by the Nexus 7, but it is certainly a very respectable result, exceeding the 7 hours of the Kindle Fire HD.

Fuhu's child-safe Android ecosystem, dubbed Nabi mode, runs on top of Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich and looks similar to the interface found on the original Fuhu tablet. Nabi mode features bright and colourful backgrounds with big icons front and centre. The home screens are grouped by content type, so you have all your games in one place and all your learning tools in another. It looks good and is easy to navigate, regardless of Android experience. You also still get a "Mummy" or "Daddy" mode, which is stock Android. In the adult mode you can create new accounts for kids, toggle which apps are available, and control web filtering.

The Nabi 2 comes with the Fuhu App Zone 2.0 app store, which offers about 500 approved apps to choose from that are separated into categories like entertainment or education, and can also be filtered by age. There's also access to the Amazon App Store, which offers more than 30,000 apps. Fuhu is currently working to get Google certified, which would also mean access to Google Play and its hundreds of thousands of apps.

Preloaded content is a strength for the Nabi 2. For games, you'll find staples like Angry Birds, DoodleJump, and Fruit Ninja. There are also some demos of graphically intensive games like Riptide GP and Jett Tailfin Racers, which both played smoothly on the Nabi 2 thanks to its Tegra 3 processor.

For music and videos there are two Spinlets+ apps, which offer kid-friendly content. You'll have to purchase content from Spinlets, but the prices are in line, or in some cases, less expensive than alternatives like iTunes. There's also a Videos app in Nabi mode, which is largely composed of Youtube videos and links to videos embedded on various websites. The preloaded MeeGenius app comes with 30 preloaded children’s books with audio tracks for reading along.

In Nabi mode, kids only have access to a restricted Maxthon-based browser. It comes with ten approved websites preloaded, and parents can customise the list of approved sites. Web access is limited to those sites alone, which means you'll have to manually add sites your kids want to visit. A lot of the icons within Nabi mode also just take you to specific web pages. Many of these sites, however, were not optimised for mobile use and were either cumbersome to navigate or didn't work correctly.

Fuhu includes four primary educational apps: Maths, English, Social Studies, and Science. They all feature colourful and easy-to-navigate interfaces – head and shoulders above the educational content offered on the Kurio 7. Maths and Science offer activities and quizzes for kids from pre-school through to the end of primary, while Social Studies is broken down into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. An online interface allows parents to check in on their children's progress.

Parents can edit and control a Chore List, which outlines weekly schedules and offers rewards for completed tasks. Kids earn Nabi Coins, which they can spend on new apps for their tablet. Parents can vary the coin rewards and kids can browse apps on their own, but must also get final parental approval before installing.

Nabi Sync and Nabi Cloud are two new services that allow parents to wirelessly sync and back up data on the tablet. Nabi Cloud comes with 2GB of free storage.

Verdict

With FreeTime – a sandboxed environment on the Kindle Fire tablets – being introduced by Amazon over in the US, and likely coming over to the UK at some point, the already weak kid-friendly tablet market was looking decidedly shakier.

That is, before Fuhu introduced the Nabi 2, a remarkably fully-featured tablet in a kid-friendly body. It's ruggedly built to withstand the rigours of playtime, and comes with a bevy of genuinely compelling games, educational apps, and useful tools for parents.

On top of that, it's built with the same components used in higher-end tablets, and even beats some with the inclusion of both a microSD card slot and mini HDMI out. Add in future access to the Google Play market, something missing on Amazon tablets, and you have a top-notch slate that will not only occupy your kids now, but has the potential to grow with them in the future.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Device

Fuhu Nabi 2 Tablet

Flash support

Yes

Operating System

Google Android 4.0.4

Dimensions

155 x 29 x 220mm (WxDxH)

Weight

595 grams

Video Chat

Yes

Video Formats

AVI, DivX, MPEG4, WMV, QuickTime, H.264, XVid

Battery Type Supported

Rechargeable

Music Playback Formats

AAC, FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, WMA, Protected WMA

Storage Capacity (as Tested)

8GB

Networking Options

802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n

Battery Life

7 hours and 42 mintues

Email Access

Dedicated email app

Web Browser

Yes

Processor Speed

1.3 GHz

Camera(s)

1 front-facing

Screen Size

7in

CPU

Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core

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