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Whether adult or child, everybody these days wants a tablet. While iPads top more wish lists than any of its competitors' devices, each release of a new Android-powered tablet holds ever-greater promise of unseating the iPad as their hardware, operating systems and selection of apps improve.

For the most part, the features and capabilities that make a tablet the right choice for parents apply equally to kids. A great display, responsive performance and excellent connectivity are essential. So are the right apps to customize the devise to the user's needs. So what makes a tablet especially well suited to the needs of the younger set? Read on for our take on the Karuma PlayBase Plus.

 

A Tablet Just for Kids

We were struck by a number of the PlayBase Plus's rugged features that you'll likely appreciate if you're considering a tablet for a youngster. First, it's compact. Weighing in at about 11.5 ounces, it's lighter than most others. It measures 0.4 inches thick, putting it on par with other tablets, and its 8 x 4.8 inch profile is well sized for small hands. Of course, that also means that it can accommodate just a 7-inch screen but that shouldn't be a big drawback.

The PlayBase also seems sturdy, with a metal back plate that we think will hold up better to the kid test better than a plastic alternative. The laminated glass screen also seems up to any challenge it's likely to encounter. Uniquely, the manufacturer says that the screen is made using Silver Seal technology that disperses silver throughout the touch panel, which is said to greatly impede the growth of bacteria. We don't have a way to verify the claim, but silver has been used for centuries for is antimicrobial characteristics, so we'll take them at their word.

In addition to Silver Seal, the PlayBase comes with a medical-grade silicone back cover to help prevent the spread of germs. Unfortunately, the cover is rather loose fitting and awkward, which we suspect will result in its removal. Surprisingly, though, the integrated rubber kickstand works remarkably well to position the tablet for viewing videos.

 

What You Get, and What You Don't

Unless you're willing to hand over a $500+ iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab to your child, some compromises will be necessary. The PlayBase Plus will set you back a comparatively modest $229. The question becomes, "Is the low price worth what you give up?"

With a 1.2GHz, single-core processor, you shouldn't expect a device that will compare very well to current devices that boast dual-core chips. Still, it seems adequate for many applications, and the 1GB of RAM is respectable. It includes 8GB of internal storage that is expandable to 32GB with a microSD card.

Videos play very smoothly on the device, which is something of a surprise given that many applications are sluggish in their response. It is easy to make a Wi-Fi connection, but downloading webpages and online navigation are slow compared to other devices with an identical connection.

Overall, though, the display is disappointing, with a resolution of just 800 x 480 pixels. Indeed, we feel that Karuma chose old technology as an economy measure. That was our reaction as well to the dreadful 0.3MP front-facing camera. While it can be used for video chat with a Skype application, color is poor, images are distorted and it's extremely slow to react. With no rear-facing camera, it's almost unusable for anything but self-portraits.

PlayBase runs on Android 2.3 but has enough RAM that, at some point, it could be updated. Despite claims on the company website, the device has very few child-oriented apps pre-installed. We're particularly fond of NetNanny parental software. PlayBase states on its site that the device ships with it installed; in reality, it's simply available as a download.

The Karuma PlayBase Plus makes a strong first impression. It's rugged and appropriately sized for children. Its performance, however, falls short of expectations on a number of issues. While it may be the right tablet for your kids, there are better competitively priced options.

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