When it comes to getting things done or just consuming a range of media, there's a whole slew of devices aimed primarily at kids, but many can be used by adults as well, at least in a pinch. Here are four in descending order of suitability for grownups:
Lenovo Smart Tab M10
In a year when the homebound masses snapped up virtually anything that could get them onto a Zoom call, Android tablets enjoyed a bit of a rebound. Both Lenovo and Samsung rolled out high-end work tablets while Apple raised the price of the iPad Air as it became a strong rival (though not Apple's only rival) to the iPad Pro.
But for those looking for something a bit less luxe that doesn't send them to Chinese import sites like Banggood and AliExpress, Lenovo offers the "family-friendly" $129 M10 HD, a 10-inch tablet that ships with Android 10, boasts pretty slim bezels, and even comes with a charging stand (which uses microUSB versus the tablet's USB-C connector) that helps it show off its Dolby Atmos audio. This year's version of the M10 swaps the previous version's Alexa display mode for Google Assistant's ambient mode. And for about the price of a Fire HD 10 tablet (without ads), delivers the whole Google Play ecosystem.
Without much protection, it's a grownups (or at least teen)-first device, but an option to set up the new Google Kids Space mode is baked right into the setup process. To use it, you'll have to have a supervised account for the little one(s) set up, so you may want to do that in advance.
I wrote about the Cinemood 360 projector last year for its clever headset-free approach to immersive video presented in small windows as the cubic projector panned a room. The Cinemood team is back this year with Cinemood TV, a vastly upgraded version that is 3x faster, 5x louder, and 5x brighter. It also has twice as many wireless connectivity options with the surprising addition of LTE. Available for preorder at $100 off its $849 price tag, it now vies against some professional projectors. Unlike the Tanoshi Scholar, the Cinemood TV has no Google Play, but the company offers a few video popular video apps such as Netflix and Disney+. It can also project virtually anything else via video mirroring.
Tanoshi's first Android-based 2-in-1 Android tablet earned great reviews on Amazon but had few optimizations for kids apart from its smallish keyboard driven by its 10" screen size. Its successor, the Scholar, has indeed learned a few lessons from that earlier effort and includes a range of new features aimed at kids. The tablet part now has an extra layer of padding around it. The front-facing webcam can be blocked via a sliding switch, and the rear of the device has indicator lights so parents know when the device is powered on and connected to the Internet. At $299, it also gets a bump up of $100 from the original Tanoshi device.
In addition, all the ports on the tablet's left side are protected by an elongated cover. The Scholar has a lot of them for an Android 10 tablet, including two USB-A ports (including one on its keyboard), a MicroSD slot, and the USB-C port for charging. Tanoshi also bundles some STEM-related apps, but the interface is pretty close to stock and not the kind of heavily skinned affair deployed on some kids' tablets so mom and dad can still hop on it in a pinch for whatever boring work stuff they spend way too much time doing.
The Cinemood's case for why it doesn't equate to more screen time is that typical sessions are often more interactive and collaborative than just handing kids a tablet until the battery dies. But there are no such concerns with the Yoto Player, a chunky little agent-free connected speaker that charges on its own magnetic base. It features a small pixel grid that can display the time as well as illustrations that accompany its audio programs, most of which are offered via solid-state Yoto Cards.
These include a range of classic kids' books from major publishers (including Raold Dahl's stories), educational programs, kids' meditation recordings, and classical music playlists that range from about $3 to $13. Parents can also make their own Yoto Cards (a five-pack of recordable cards is $11). Yoto can access some of its own programming via the Internet, though. The company offers a daily bit of exclusive audio content as well as its own kids' radio station.
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