PROS / No sharp objects make this a good choice for the youngest users.
CONS / Complaints about optical quality are of concern.
VERDICT / Not the best quality but not a bad choice for younger kids.
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The Smithsonian brand’s entry into the kids microscope set lineup left us a little flat. This kit is just OK. It seems a little expensive based on the reputation it has. We like that the Smithsonian 900x provides an option for the younger range of explorer, however. There are no sharp objects to worry about. Other kits include scalpels, glass, slicers and all sorts of sharp and pointy objects for parents to dread. This one has nothing more dangerous than tweezers.
That does tip the scale over to the mostly toy side, but that is not the downfall here. The downfall would be the faulty optics and light bulbs.
The Smithsonian 900x should stand the test of time with its sturdy die-cast construction. Whether or not it will perform well is another thing. We read reports of distortion in the views, short-lived bulbs and difficulty extracting items from the carrying case.
Also, this set includes a hatchery but nothing to put in it. You can buy eggs to put in it, but one of the points of a kit is not to have to buy anything else.
It does include two vials, two pipettes, a magnifying glass, a color filter, five cover slips, a Petri dish, 12 blank labels, blank slides, tweezers, prepared slides and an extra bulb. The color filter wheel is always a lot of fun for creating a variety of views.
We like the kids microscope kits that include projectors, and this one does as well. It gives children the chance to share discoveries.
Aside from the die-cast body of the instrument itself we have our doubts about the longevity of the components of this kit.
There are some features designed to make it easy to use though. There is a durable plastic carrying case and a lens cover to protect the eyepiece. The weighted base should help make the discovery process a little smoother by removing some of the potential for toppling the scope.
A detailed instruction manual should keep your discoveries on track. It’s not very flashy but it does include information about how a scope works and the instrument’s history. The learning aspect is almost as important as the actual tool when you are dealing with scopes for children. More color and illustration would have made the booklet better.
Smithsonian products have no customer support to speak of. That matters, but it’s not the end of the world. We would prefer to be able to ask questions easily of the manufacturer, but without exception, the dealers we could find for this product were excellent. Companies like Amazon.com, Discover This and others offer pretty great customer service and easy return policies. This kit especially is simple enough that you should not need too much technical advice.
This kids microscope is not our favorite but it scores points for die-cast construction and convenient carry case with clear window. We think the Smithsonian 900x might work well for the younger explorers thanks to the lack of sharp objects. For a more advanced set, look at our higher-ranked products.