A Tale of Two Tablets
Android tablets come in all shapes and sizes these days, but none are quite like Vinci’s Tab line. With 5- and 7- models, there’s a slate for every early-education classroom and subject, but with the difference that only well-thought out hardware and software can make.
They all have touch-sensitive screens that are accurate, but are curiously a step backwards as far as technology goes. While the Tab II has an 800 by 600 resolution display the Tab III M’s resolution tops out at 800 by 480. Either way, this pales in comparison to more modern designs like the Google Nexus 7, which has a 1,280 by 800 display.
The on-screen keyboard is fine for kids, but feels cramped and is error prone for an adult. While the small Tab III M has cameras front and back, the Tab II only has one in the back.
Overall, the slates feel chunky and are heavier than the competition at 8.7-ounces and 1.5-pounds for the Tab III M and Tab II, respectively. That’s at least 5-ounces heavier than the best that’s out there and the result of VINCI’s excellent silicone bumpers that are sturdier than those on the KD Interactive Kurio 7.
Despite having the handles, unlike the Archos tablets, the VINCI hardware lacks a built-in stand. The company sells a $15 stand that holds it upright.
The slates’ red bumpers don’t block the buttons, make them easier to grip and protects them if they’re dropped. Both have the basic Android on/off, volume, Home, go back and details buttons. On the downside, plugging the larger Tab slate in can be a little tricky because the arm gets in the way. They both come with a small AC power adapter and USB cables.
Despite their differing sizes, these slates are surprisingly similar under the skin with a 1.2GHz Cortex A8 processor, 8GB of flash memory storage and WiFi for getting online. Both have a micro-SD card slot to add up to 32GB of storage space. Oddly, the Tab II doesn’t have a headphone jack.
They differ significantly in terms of software, though, with the larger Tab II having the older Android 2.3.5 software and the Tab III M getting the up-to-date version 4.04 software. Both come with the basics: a Web browser, Skype, Quick Office, PDF reader and email client. I especially like the inclusion of the Astro File Manager and you can load a wide variety of educational apps, from MathLab’s graphing calculator to the JogNog quiz game.
They both provide access to VINCI’s library of early-education software that’s been screened for violence, ads and inappropriate material. There are hundreds of games and stories as well as learning music videos. The lessons are broken down into Science, Knowledge, Math, Language and Thinking Social and are an especially good adjunct to a pre-school program that can stimulate and teach kids from pre-schoolers to those of age 8 or 9. On the downside, there’s nothing for middle- and high-school classes.
The curriculum entries are numbered, which can help get the sequence right, many have a pedagogical explanation at the beginning and integrated assessments. The devices include software for tracking individual progress. My favorite is Block Design, which shows two patterns and gives children the chance to manipulate them to match them up.
There are early-learner toys as well as additional curriculum packs that cost between $90 to $180. Everything can be password protected so that the kids can get to only what the teachers or administrators let them. On the other hand, only the Tab III M allows you to change the password.
My favorite is the unique VINCI Diary, which needs to be downloaded after you register the slate. It works with the built-in Web cam to allow teachers to take photos or videos of a student and attach notes to them, effectively providing a single place to track their development.
Despite having similar hardware and software, the smaller Tab III M slightly outperforms the Tab II with a 3,557 on Antutu’s Benchmark software, which measures all the major parts of the slate’s performance; the larger Tab II scored 3,332. Either way, this is well off the 10,629 pace set by the Nexus 7, but better than the Kurio 7 and Lenovo IdeaPad A-107.
As far as battery life goes, the larger Tab II has a 6,400 milli-amp hour battery that has more capacity than most notebooks and ran the system for 8 hours and 45 minutes of continuously playing YouTube videos. That should be plenty for two or three days of on-and-off school use. The Tab III M is less capable with a 1,800-mah battery pack that goes for 3 hours and 36 minutes on a charge.
Both VINCI slates come with a one-year warranty and are reasonably priced, particularly considering the software. I only wish that Vinci’s competitors would spend as much time developing school software to use on its slates.
+ Excellent early-education software
+ Includes protective bumper
+ Great battery life for Tab II
- No middle- or high-school software
- Some slates use older Android software
- Low-resolution screen