Review: Vinci Genius Tablet.

  • September 19, 2011 11:23 am


We rant and rave over the latest and greatest gadgets here at Gadgetsteria. But there’s one thing that 99.9% of all the shiny tech that crosses are doorway lacks — little kid friendliness. If we’re to bring up a new generation of gadget loving minions we need something to properly train them. Introducing: the Vinci Genius Tablet…

Hardware

The Vinci Genius Tablet is now famous for being the first tablet designed exclusively for younger minds. Testing this theory is an in-house 15-month old test subject who has put the Vinci through its paces over the last couple of weeks. So how did a seemingly expensive piece of gadgetry stand up to the toils of a daily toddler’s life?

Physically speaking we’re quite impressed. Between yogurt hands and boogers, the Vinci’s screen while not particularly resilient to smudges did manage to make cleanup relatively easy. Part of the “clinginess” is in part to the plastic outer covering on the display — a sacrifice we gladly accept. Can you imagine an iPad-like display in the hands of a child…

But more important than booger-resistant screens is an overall child-resistant casing. The Vinci’s most striking feature is the bumper guard that wraps completely around the device’s outer edge. Secured by several plastic posts that go deep down inside the device, we weren’t left feeling too terribly worried about the Vinci’s ability to withstand drops. What did worry us, however, is the shallow thickness of the bumper.

While direct drops on the edge of the device are easily deflected, drops on either the back or front sides of the Vinci are relatively unprotected as the bumper lies flush with the device. This means a potential risk of breaking internal components or the device’s display. We’d like to see Vinci employ a thicker bumper, if only a couple millimeters.

Another thing that rubbed us the wrong way are the normal menu, back, search, home buttons on the Vinci’s front. While these are helpful on your traditional Android device, placed where they are on a device geared towards attention span-lacking kids is a bad idea. Keeping the youngster from closing any particular app and being thrust into the app launcher was a constant battle, and a battle we ultimately gave up on. We think these non-essential buttons would be much less prone to accidental presses if they were located along the side of the device like the power and volume buttons.

Currently there are two Vinci tablet options: the VH-2002 and VL-1001.

VH-2002
  • 8 GB of built-in storage (expandable via SD)
  • Game Series: “Explorations” and “The World: Africa”
  • Storybooks: “Ugly Duckling”, “The Smart Ant”, and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”
  • Music Videos: “Sing-n-Dance” and “Lullabies”
  • Battery: 6400 mAh
  • Price: $479
VL-1001
  • 4 GB of built-in storage (expandable via SD)
  • Game Series: “Explorations”
  • Storybooks: “Ugly Duckling”
  • Music Videos: “Sing-n-Dance” and “Lullabies”
  • Battery: 3200 mAh
  • Price: $389

Software

Where the hardware is nearly complete the software needs quite a bit of work. The relatively meager selection of currently available apps are quite deep and entertaining — entertaining enough that younger kids could spend weeks exploring and learning. Still, we can’t overlook the fact that slowdowns, lag, and crashes are frequent. The Cortex A8 processor has been a valid performer in previous devices but at this stage in the game it’s either poor software/coding, underpowered hardware or a combination of both. Either way, we’d like to see Vinci work a bit harder at getting all of their ducks in a row.

With the dirty details behind us, we must say that even our more seasoned minds (we’d certainly like to think so at least) found the “Explorations” apps to be quite enveloping. In “The World: Africa” there are plenty of areas to tap on which in turn activate sounds, questions for kids to answer and nifty little animations. Our miniature tester loved the animal sounds in particular. Again, for the youngsters of the world, there’s plenty to love here.

If you’re looking to go about installing your own software, we’ll note that it technically is possible by side loading apps. By default, however, the Android Market is not installed (for obvious reasons seeing as how it’s a tablet for kids).

Online Membership

One unique aspect to the Vinci tablet is the MyVINCI Platinum membership. If you pick up the higher end VH-2001 Vinci tablet you can score the Platinum membership for a discounted price of $49 for the first year and $99 for each additional year. The perk of the membership of course is unlimited access to all of Vinci’s full library of apps. Owners of the lower-end VL-1001 will have to spend $99 for the first and following years of Platinum membership.

As of writing there are many more interactive games and exploration style apps planned, though launch dates are simply listed as “coming soon”. Even if Vinci didn’t improve software responsiveness and remove bugs, adding more titles would go quite a ways in keeping kids (and parents) entertained.

Conclusion

If you happen to have a miniature human running around your office or home like we do, a small incarnation of yourself (you gadget geek, you) who lunges after every electronic in the room, you need the Vinci tablet. For the purpose it aims to serve — keeping young kids entertained while also teaching them in a new, modern way — it’s a great tool.

At the same time there are some issues. First of all, we think the hardware itself could be a bit more protective of the display in particular seeing as how that’s the only way of interacting with the device. Break the display and you’re up a certain nasty creek without a means of propulsion.

The software side of things is a tad worse off. While there is a small but quality selection of interactive apps, the system overall feels slow. As we touched on earlier, that could be from either aging hardware, inefficient software or a combination of both. Whatever the case may be it detracts from the overall experience.

In short: The Vinci Tablet is a good product that ultimately feels very much like a 1.0 device. We’d recommend waiting until version 2.0 before dropping several hundred dollars on an expensive electronic device for your kid. Still, there’s plenty of potential…

Gadgetsteria’s Rating: 6.5

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Gadget lover, smartphone collector, and beer connoisseur. I've been writing about gadgets for three years now and loving every minute of it. Outside of the digital landscape, I enjoy being active outdoors. I'm always up for a good conversation, so feel free to drop me a line!