UNBOXED: Reviewing the PBS Kids Playtime Pad+
PBS Kids has long been a household name as a television program parents and kids turn to for content that is both entertaining and educational. Since its beginnings in the ‘90s, PBS Kids has added several new characters, a kids gaming website, an e-commerce website, social media channels, apps, e-books, a streaming stick, and more. As each generation of kids evolved, PBS Kids truly did as well.
In 2016, PBS Kids partnered with Ematic and released the 7” HD kid-safe tablet, the Playtime Pad. The pair recently boosted some of the specs in the Playtime Pad+ including the tablet’s operating system and processor. The bright green tablet features a 24/7 PBS Kids live-stream and offers over one million apps and games, thousands of movies and books, and millions of songs that reinforce literacy, math, science, reading, and social skills. The Playtime Pad+ runs on Android 8.1 (Go Edition) and requires password-approval from a parent before kids can add new apps—except of course if a parent enables access to the Google Play Store itself then kids have free reign to download as they please. Apps that come pre-installed though don't require subscriptions and no in-app purchases are available.
The Playtime Pad+ comes with 16GB of internal storage and has a microSD card slot to add up to 32GB in total. But even without downloading additional apps, the tablet comes packed with tons of videos and games right out of the box. The home screen features an interactive wheel with different PBS Kids characters. Users can spin the wheel to access videos and games related to each specific program with the exception of a few, including Mr. Rodgers, which only has videos.
The wheel actually turned out to be the feature I had the most issues with. It’s not as smooth as one would expect and it was often difficult to reach the characters I wanted. One area that pleasantly surprised me though was the camera, which had a decent quality. My son currently owns the Amazon Fire Kids tablet, and by default, I compared many of its functions to the Playtime Pad+ including the camera. Though it may not be of the utmost importance to a child, the camera quality on the Playtime Pad+ is far better than the Fire.
Even though PBS Kids put their own programs at the forefront of the Playtime Pad+, kids can truly create their own unique experience by downloading age-appropriate and parent-approved apps in the Google Play Store. Each child has their own profile where they can save their favorite apps, add an avatar, and set a background to really make their tablet their own—even if they have to share with a sibling. Parents can ensure their children are not exceeding their daily screen time by setting limits on the tablet that can be changed at any time. They can also block certain games, videos, and movies that they feel are not appropriate.
PBS Kids says that you can use the tablet without Wi-Fi to access some of the content but since they didn’t provide a list of what was accessible offline, it was really a matter of trial and error. Even when connected to the Internet, the tablet doesn’t necessarily run at lightning-fast speeds, but compared to the Amazon Fire, it actually stacks up pretty evenly. Sure videos and games took a few seconds to load, but once they did, I didn’t experience any buffering or lag.
All in all, I have to say the PBS Kids Playtime Pad+ is a solid kids tablet, and one that should hold up pretty well in a some often-clumsy hands. The PBS Kids Playtime Pad+ also has to be one of the most affordable kids tablets on the market at just $79. And all proceeds benefit PBS Kids’ mission of providing educational content to a young audience, which is definitely something I can get behind.