Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids review

Looks and feels right, but it's slow and full of freemium apps

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids
The Android tablet that's safe for kids to use

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The Galaxy Tab 3 Kids does some things right and some things very wrong. The rubber and hard cases are top quality, Kids Mode is a fantastic interface that was easily usable by my three-year-old, plus it comes with what at first appears to be a decent range of pre-loaded apps.

But those apps are not exclusive to the Galaxy Tab 3 Kids, plus several of them are money-with-menaces freemium options that soon have kids asking for credit card details to unlock extra features, which is quite an affront in a device aimed specifically at youngsters without access to their own ready supply of money.

We liked

The standalone Kids Mode home screen is a clever thing. It's an entirely new launcher, with PIN-protected, clearly labelled parental control options that let mum or dad easily choose which apps kids can have. And there's a timer too, for ensuring kids stick to a certain use limit.

Samsung's selling it with two cases, a rubberised case and a very impressive flip stand that doubles as a carry case -- and includes a fat stylus in the hinge. Both are thick and sturdy, and worth paying a premium for to protect the tab.

In fact, the build quality is superb throughout. Samsung's tablets always have a solid feel to them, and you wouldn't worry too much about this taking bashes and knocks even outside of its protective cases.

The stylus is fat and chunky. My son loved using it, as it adds a level of accuracy to presses and, as a parent, it's nice to see younger kids learning pen control as a side-effect of gaming and generally playing around.

We disliked

The screen resolution is a low 1020 x 600. This is fine on Kids Mode where everything's chunky and colourful, but back on the standard Android side of things it makes text look blocky and Samsung's grey and bland TouchWiz interface appears even more depressing than usual.

Also, when being used in standard Android mode, it's slow. The Galaxy Tab 3 has morphed into Samsung's equivalent of the budget models offered by others, and its 1GB RAM and 1.2GHz dual-core processor make it ponderous and glitchy. It's not a complete disaster, but Hudl and the new wave of cheaper budget tabs are much faster and slicker.

App choice is terrible. For a start, many aren't even pre-installed -- the shortcuts on the Home screen prompt you to download 70MB of data. To make matters worse, some are 'free to play' apps, which will ask for money to unlock stuff.

The app choice is so poor that even my three-year-old got bored of everything on here within an hour. If it wasn't for Google Play stalwarts like Toca Hair Salon and Train he'd have lost interest even more quickly.

Kid's verdict

"I like the train game. Can I be the train driver again?"

Dad's verdict

Kids Mode is great, with big, simple icons leading the way. The problem is, there are no exclusive games or learning tools on offer, with Samsung simply sticking on some popular free and 'free' games from Google Play.

This means that most games on here contain in-app purchases too, meaning buyers might be faced with the nightmare prospect of handing their child a brand new tablet to play with, only to be badgered for £1.50 in-app purchases by a talking dog with an American accent after just ten minutes of play.

I can't help but be disappointed that Samsung hasn't used its mass of talented coders to knock up a range of exclusive toys and learning apps to go on the Galaxy Tab 3 Kids. If it was packed with great, properly free and exclusive apps, that'd be a huge selling point.

My three-year-old enjoyed counting to ten by clicking on farm animals with the chunky stylus, but daddy wasn't best pleased when this app - obviously aimed at toddlers - then asked for permission to install Samsung's own IAP buying tool and coolly demanded my credit card details and £1.50 to open up more mini games.

It shouldn't be on here, and makes you think the Galaxy Tab Kids is a Trojan horse, designed to get kids badgering their parents for more money and Samsung's in-app purchasing tools in as many homes as possible. Not what you want from a gadget with an inflated price tag to start with.

As it is, with the apps sourced from Google Play and tablet hardware that was slow and crappy enough when TechRadar reviewed the standard Galaxy Tab 3 a few months ago, all you're really paying the premium price for here is the case and the Kids Mode interface.

Kids Mode is indeed a very nice interface, but it's poorly used, and my son quickly grew tired of the majority of the disappointing pre-loaded apps. A Hudl, a cheap case and a selection of apps installed yourself would do the job for less -- and would run grown-up Android better too.