Tuesday, 10 September 2013

13 Inch Tablets for Families

FamilyPad 2 8 GB Tablet - 13.3" - ARM Cortex A9 1.60 GHz - BlackLarge 13" tablets are starting to appear on the market. We've got one and have had chance to try it out. Does it make sense for a family with kids to have a 13" tablet? We'll take a look at the potential for families to make use of larger tablets.

We have the Archos Family Pad 2, but in this article we'll look at the large tablet category in general and how they may become common items in family homes.




I'll cover our experience of using a larger tablet and what to consider if you are planning to buy one for your family.

Image: Archos FamilyPad 2 8 GB Tablet - 13.3"


I often spend time with my kids using a tablet. We do things together. This might be playing a resource management, hidden object or puzzle game collaboratively, reading an interactive eBook together or playing a turn-based board game. For these shared activities, having a larger tablet makes a lot of sense, it's easier for everyone to gather round and there's more room for fingers on the screen.

Collaborative Play


We've found that our 13" tablet is brilliant for shared gaming, whether it's a hidden object game where we all get to see better or a board game like backgammon where the board is almost as big as a physical one.

The kids have also had lots of fun playing big Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. They tend to play together with one of them being in control and the other helping when needed.

You need to consider the viewing angle of a 13" tablet - this is much more of an issue when multiple people are playing together.

Reading eBooks


One of the things I had hoped that a big tablet would be good for is reading colorful eBooks. In some cases this works really well. The big tablet is excellent for reading web pages and some app eBooks work very well.

My younger son still enjoys books that have plenty of pictures. My older son loves information books which tend to be packed with pictures as well as text. They also enjoy kids magazines which are increasingly making it into digital format.

In our experience there's huge potential for using a large table to read these sorts of books and magazines.

But we've found that a lot of eBook apps and websites don't make the best use of the screen and the results vary depending on the technology used to present the books. Basic web pages work very well and many apps are good enough. Others look blurry though.

We've got good results from Kindle eBooks using the Amazon Kindle reader app for Android. (Except for text embedded in images which is sometimes unclear.)

The resolution of the tablet screen matters a lot here though and just doesn't compare to an iPad or Kindle Fire HD yet. It does compare well to a laptop screen though.

Kids PC and Web Browser

Another great use for a big tablet is as a mini PC for kids to use for browsing the web, playing videos, word processing etc. For this you will probably want a physical keyboard which will be connected via either bluetooth or a USB mini cable. You'll also want a good stand to allow the tablet to be used in an upright position.

We've found that a large tablet makes a great portable PC for kids.

Points to Consider when Choosing a Large Tablet

  1. Viewing angle is very important if multiple users will be sharing a large tablet. It's not going to be much fun if it's difficult for more than one person to get into a good viewing position.
  2. Screen resolution is also very important if kids are going to be reading eBooks. There are cheaper 13" tablets on the market that compromise on resolution (we have one.) While they are good for entertainment, you can end up with fuzzy text in some reading applications. Some of this is due to the interaction with software that wasn't developed with such tablets in mind and will improve over time, but I thinks it's worth investing the extra to get a good resolution if reading is important.
  3. You may want to connect a keyboard and mouse and possibly other peripherals to your big tablet to create a mini-PC, check what inputs and outputs are available.
  4. How and where will you use it? 13" tablets are big and heavy. We use ours either sitting together on the rug, or snuggled up together on a big bed. You will want to consider a laptop tray or similar to put the tablet on so it doesn't overheat. A coffee table also works well for some things. You may also want a stand for use in a vertical position.

Summary


I think there's a huge potential for 13" and bigger tablets to become common for families. A big tablet on the coffee table makes a lot of sense.

There's been lots of criticism about kids spending too much time using their tablets and smart phones on their own and not interacting with other people who are in the same room. A big tablet has much more potential for shared experiences. I've really enjoyed teaching my son to play backgammon on a digital board and we love playing games collaboratively.

There's lots of potential for a big tablet for reading young kids picture books, information books, comics and magazines for older kids and text books and graphic novels for tweens and teens.

We're also starting to see hybrid tablet / touch screen PC devices that can be used in tabletop or upright mode.

I think we've going to be seeing larger devices in family homes. We are going to need good quality devices though. I can see a real market for a 13" (or even 15") tablet with a retina quality screen.

There have been rumors of 12.9 inch iPad for 2014. Now that would be interesting. Clearly it would be a premium device and not affordable for all families, but in our experience a family would get a lot of use out of such a device. It could double up as a PC for kids which makes it more affordable.

An Android device with a great screen and viewing angle would also be very welcome and likely to be more affordable. An 13" Kindle Fire HD would be brilliant. Great for reading media-rich books.

Honestly, I think next year will be when these tablets start to be relevant for a large number of families. They are superb value for money, but I'd actually rather pay more money to get an even better experience.

If you can accept the limitations of the current generation 13" Android tablets then you get definitely have some fun with with one for what it is. They are  great value for money and brilliant for playing games, watching videos, reading books with pictures and as mini PCs.

It's just that they don't yet have screens than can compete with an iPad or Kindle Fire HD and the specifications tend to be on the low side generally.

There are also hybrid PC / laptops but these tend to be much more expensive and are more in the price range for business travelers than home use with kids.

13" Tablets






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