VTech InnoTab hands-on

We think it's safe to say that there is no faster growing sector in the wonderful world of gadgets and gizmology at present than tablets. The meteoric rise of the iPad and equivalent Android devices has been nothing short of spectacular - especially considering the cost and the fact that we're still clawing our way out of a global recession.

Even kids are getting in on the act, with some as young as 3-years-of-age happily swiping, prodding and smearing their way through applications on their parents' tabs, pads and slates. However, as a parent you may be slightly reticent to leave your £400 pride and joy in the hands of your 40-pound pride and joy. So the idea of a kids-centric tablet comes as great news...

Like with the LeapFrog LeapPad, the VTech InnoTab is a tablet device designed specifically for the kiddliwinks. It has a 5-inch LCD touchscreen, G-sensor control to interact with motion-based games, auto rotation to present the screen in portrait and ladscape modes, and an SD card slot to store pictures, new applications and the like.

The tablet comes with 128MB of storage in-built (mainly to service the pre-installed software and apps), players for MP3s and video files, a display stand on the rear, and a little stylus, although a finger can control many of the less intricate functions.

In addition, it comes with plenty of apps already installed, so that the InnoTab has instant fascination for even the most demanding of children straight from the box. Two games are included, as are apps for drawing, colouring-in (with eight stencils), a calculator, ebook reader, the aforementioned MP3 and video players, notebook, calendar, and more. It's a packed bundle, that's for sure.

More apps can be downloaded from VTech's own iTunes-style online store, the Learning Lodge Navigator, and uploaded via the supplied USB cable through the software loaded onto a PC or Mac. Initially, after registering for the first time, you will get three free downloads, and then each subsequent application will cost £2.99. VTech promises that over 100 apps will be available on its service by Christmas time.

As well as apps, the InnoTab has a proprietary cartridge slot for licensed games bundles sold in normal stores. Each compatible cartridge costs around £25, but come with three games, an ebook and extra activities. And, as they feature such big themes as Cars 2, Scooby Doo, Mickey Mouse and more, they'll no doubt be very popular.

Build quality of the VTech is very impressive. While we wouldn't advise it, we'd expect it to take quite a bashing and still work just as well. Unlike the LeapPad, the bezel and surround that border the touchscreen is wide and chunky, and although it's still smaller than an iPad (for example), it's still big enough to fool younger kids.

The VTech InnoTab will be out in September at the price of £80. The general release version is white with blue trim, however, a white with pink version will also be available, albeit exclusively through Argos.

We also understand that VTech plans to accompany it with kid-friendly headphones sometime in 2012.



>