I received the following free or discounted in the hopes that I would share my honest opinion. All opinions are my own.
Ours is a family that knows their technology and how valuable it can be as an educational tool, so we were thrilled when VTech reached out to us and offered us a chance to review their Innotab MAX tablet for kids. They sent us one for free, but (as always) the opinions expressed here are all our own. We received it in blue, but it is also available in pink.
It’s priced at about the same price that an average 7″ Android-based tablet sells for these days, but this tablet has features that make it uniquely suited to kids. Two of these features are particular favorites of mine. The first feature is the Kid-safe Wi-Fi and Web Browser so kids can explore online games, videos and websites that have been pre-selected by VTech. You can also approve additional sites. The web browser alone gives Xander so much more freedom to explore the internet without us constantly over his shoulder. He loves all the games and videos… we love that we don’t have to worry about what he’s doing. The second feature I really, really love. VTech has created a kid-friendly family messenger called VTech Kid Connect. The Innotab MAX has a copy of this app and then parents and loved ones can download an app to their smartphones, input Xander’s unique ID, and chat with him just like an instant messaging app. Even though Xander cannot yet spell, he’s able to use pre-made sentences that can be read out loud at a tap, emoticon stickers, and voice recordings to communicate with all of his family in real time. It’s so much fun!
I do wish that this allowed for downloading apps from the Google Play Store because it would allow Xander to use a wider variety of apps and continue to use some of his favorites. The Learning Lodge app store does offer a really great selection of apps… many of which feature popular children’s characters. Their apps can be quite costly compared to similar apps on the Play Store, but these come with progress logs to let you know how your child is doing. It’s a great way to let your kids learn independently but still keep tabs on them. When you register, you get credits to download a couple of free apps and an app bundle, so it gives you a great collection of apps to get your child started without immediate additional cost. The Innotab MAX also uses Innotab cartridges.
It appears to be built quite ruggedly and should hold up to most daily use. I’m not overly thrilled with the cover attachment… it seems like a weak point in an otherwise strong design… but the cover itself is built well. It is removable, but it has been too handy as a stand to remove. There is a handle for carrying that can be folded into the back plus an attached stylus. The screen is HD and multi-touch. The memory can be expanded. No Bluetooth is a bummer. It’s rechargeable, so no worrying about batteries. They’ve even added an HDMI port, so your child can display pictures, video, and music on your TV. Count on them showing off some of the movies they create with that awesome Movie Maker app and the rotating camera lens.
Overall, this is a solid tablet that has been carefully thought out. I found a couple minor negatives, but they are far outweighed by the positives. The Innotab MAX and accessories are on sale right now through November 23, 2015, so be sure to check here if you’re looking for a great deal. Trust me, this would be a wonderful surprise under the tree this year!
Update on December 4, 2016: Things went downhill quickly after I published the original review. The company dealt with a major security issue and essentially froze all the accounts. It was no longer possible to update existing apps, download new apps, or use the messenger feature. After many months and delays they offered a fix… which did not work for us. By the time the system was usable again it lost the ability to recharge. Xander has not been able to use it for months and it is destined to join other dead electronics at our town’s next recycling event. It went from an epic win to an epic fail in under a year. So disappointed! We would now rate this a one-star… and that’s being generous.
Pros: Built for kids! Great educational apps with progress reports. Kid-safe internet. Parental controls. Expandable memory.
Cons: Apps limited to VTech’s app store. Cover attachments seem weak.
Updated Overall Rating
VTech, the creator of the Electronic Learning Products (ELP) category and the award-winning InnoTab, MobiGo, and V.Reader handheld toys, is a world leader of age-appropriate learning products. Since 1980, VTech has been developing high-quality, innovative educational products that enrich children’s development through fun and smart play.
InnoTab® MAX uniquely combines an expert-supported learning library with carefully selected educational Android apps. Powerful dual-core CPU. High resolution 7″ multi-touch screen. Kid-safe internet, parental controls, and more! Designed for ages 3 to 9. ($99.99)