The problem with having twins is that when one has something, the other one also wants it. When it comes to tech, my kids are just as freaky as their dad. Having just one tablet isn’t enough. Pairs, it is, then.
Tablets geared for kids is an emerging market. Although the prices of tablets are dropping overall, I feel less guilty if one of the children destroy a “kid” tablet as opposed to something made by Amazon, Apple, or Google. I don’t care so much about price as I do the principle, even for twenty bucks or so. So for a second tablet for the kids (I swear, I’ll get my own sooner or later), I needed tough, easy, and a bright screen for reasonable outdoor use.
Design & Android
The Oregon Scientific Meep! X2 tablet is built in such a way that no additional case is needed. It is its own case, which is definitely a plus when so many other tablets have cases as a separate purchase. There is a slight upward curve to the right and left edges, making it easier to pick the Meep! X2 off of flat surfaces. It also holds quite nicely in the hands too.
When it comes to tablets, this one is considered rugged for sure. The plastic and hard rubber come together to protect the embedded screen. You can set it face-down and not worry about the screen gathering scratches. There is almost an inch of space from the screen edges to the nearest side, too. This tablet takes (adult) chest-high drops and corner hits like a champ. It’s also splash proof, and dust and dirt wipe off easily.
There are no external volume buttons on the Meep! X2 tablet, just the on-screen ones. With the exception of the power button at the top, all the ports are located on the bottom. I wish they were put on the top instead, since it’s easier to have the tablet propped up while connected to power and external speakers. Of course, flipping the tablet works, but still.
What’s interesting is the HDMI port; my kids don’t prefer to share content to another screen. But it’s still available for when they might change their mind. There’s also a dedicated microphone port for an external mic to record voice or maybe sing with.
One of the best features (I think) about the Meep! X2 is the Bluetooth wireless. If you want to type or chat easier, simply pair up a Bluetooth keyboard and you’re set. It definitely makes browsing and filling in page forms a whole lot faster. Plus, you can connect the tablet to any Bluetooth speaker or headphones you have for better movie and music audio.
The backbone of the Meep! X2 is a skinned Android 4.2 Jellybean OS. The layout is very different from typical tablet navigation. Two columns on the home screen organize access to games, music, videos, etc. There is only the home screen too; you can’t add pages or rearrange the layout. One can freely access the tablet’s settings menu to modify simple things, but the options are limited in that there really isn’t much a kid can screw around with.
I really like how the access is limited to the good stuff kids want to focus on. There’s no calendar app, clock, downloads section, voice search, or any of those other marginally-important things. The presentation is streamlined for fun by keeping nonsense out.
Parents can create a login in order to access the parental controls. This is where you can view notification and message activity, access the Google Play store, and implement time limits for apps, games, movies, or music. While the parental controls help manage the use and content of the Meep! X2 tablet, it won’t block all offensive content. I was able to pull up YouTube videos of Tourettes Guy in all his foul-mouthed glory. However, the native YouTube viewer is much different from the app or browser.
All downloaded apps are placed in the Apps/Games box in alphabetical order. There’s no sorting, and the app icons are all generic looking, unlike the icons for Meep-downloaded content. There is no file manager app, so if you’re looking to move content back and forth to the device, you’ll have to get it from Google Play first. With the meager space available, it’s just better to use the SD card slot or flash drives connected via OTG cable.
When I connect a flash drive with my OTG cable, the video files show up in the main folder. However, the tablet pops up a message claiming the files can’t be opened. But I have no problem opening and playing those same movie files if I access them through a file manager app. So. File manager it is, then.
The Meep! X2 screen has excellent brightness and contrast. Although it’s only 800×480 pixels, the colors and brightness help to make up for the lower resolution. If you look close, you may notice some faint horizontal lines across images, but I doubt the kids will. Images appear a little more pixellated, though movies run smoother simply because of the movement. Either way, the colors pop and the gradients are good.
Despite the resolution, reading text and webpages isn’t so bad. Sure, the letter is not quite as sharp as screens that pack more pixels, but brightness beats out resolution for daytime reading. I’ve had no problem scrolling through news articles or Kindle pages at all, even without tweaking the text size to find the sweet spot.
The screen’s refresh is fairly speedy, as there isn’t much lag from entering or exiting apps. When you unlock the tablet, everything just appears instead of loading piecemeal. The colors are accurate (or at least what I consider accurate) and deeper than some other kid-friendly tablets that are too light and lead too much with red. The colors and brightness don’t get thrown off that much when you’re looking at the screen at an angle.
It takes a bit of getting used to the Meep! X2 touch sensitivity. Light touches won’t register as a press, but will scroll the screen instead. This gets a little frustrating when you’re trying to click an icon to run an app. If you’re moving too quickly or are not deliberate with strokes, it feels like every touch is fat-fingered. It doesn’t take too long to adjust, but it certainly is less precise than what I’m used to. As for the kids? They can deal with it.
Storage & Apps
Right out of the box, the Meep! X2 tablet comes loaded with apps, games, ebooks, and even a couple albums of kid songs. This is something that you can hand over to your kid and not worry about a lack of content to keep them entertained. Though if you or your children have favorites, you’ll have to load them through the Google Play store separately.
Because of all this preloaded content, you’re not left with much space; all that’s free is a smidge more than 1GB. It does seem a bit strange that the Android system will show you that there’s 2.23GB of total space, yet the box claims the Meep! X2 has 4GB total. Uninstalling most of the preloaded games won’t even get close to freeing up a gigabyte of space. Whatever the reason for discrepancy, it’s still quite misleading. So, again, it’s back to loading content on the Micro SD card or external storage media.
Access to the Micro SD card slot involves sliding one of the back panels off. Better remember which side, or you’ll be opening both to find that only one has it. It’s only a nuisance if you’re continually swapping cards.
One thing I noticed is that Chrome is a bit choppy when loading pages with images. Not slow, but choppy. Slow would be the built-in internet browser. Although part of the reason is due to content filtering, the time you spend waiting while it loads makes it not worth it. It would be faster and more effective to teach your kid about inappropriate content.
All of the pre-installed games on the Meep! X2 tablet run perfectly fine. I wouldn’t consider them terrible resource-intensive anyway. There hasn’t been any system or screen lag with any of them. This changes when you run and play other games, depending on the game.
Fruit Ninja does not have the smoothest of frame rates, but the touch response is pretty good. You’ll miss more frames in multiplayer mode, but the kids still play it and have fun. My wife can’t really tell the difference, but I have gamer eyes and it’s totally obvious to me.
Hungry Shark Evolution definitely highlights the tablet’s lower resolution (like the shark), but it’s surprisingly playable. The game falters here and there, when more objects (marine life, mines, etc.) suddenly appear, but not to the point of disorientation or zero control. While the touchscreen is fine with movement, it doesn’t seem to register a second touch for the turbo boost. But overall the touch controls are pretty fluid.
Monster Shooter sports mostly smooth gameplay. The biggest drawback with playing this game on the Meep! X2 tablet is delayed commands. There is a split-second delay from pressing fire to when it actually comes out. Sometimes these pauses extend to the point of not registering character movement, too. The game is playable, but the controls and experience feel a bit mushy.
Wireless & Battery
The Meep! X2 tablet gets as good a connection as any other mobile device I have on my home network. I used the SpeedTest.net app, and the ping, download, and upload results were right there with everything. So as long as you’re in range and have a solid connection, there’s no limitation with browsing or streaming through the internet.
Battery life is another matter. The Meep! X2 battery only has 1000mAh capacity. Roll that around in your head a bit. Most smartphones pack 1500mAh or greater, and any respectable tablet has at least 2.5 times that amount. 1000mAh doesn’t last that long at all in tablet-land. When you take into consideration how bright the Meep! X2 screen gets, which is typically the number one energy sink in mobile devices, this tablet is good for hours only.
The kicker is that the battery information is neither on the packaging nor on the manufacturer’s websites. I found out by installing the Battery Monitor Widget App to see for myself. Just like with the lack of available space on the tablet, it’s sadly misleading.
So when it comes to watching movies, one is about what you can get. With a full battery, max volume, max screen brightness, and with Bluetooth and wireless turned off, the Meep! X2 delivers 1 hour and 35 minutes of video. Give or take a few minutes. You’ll get one low-battery notification at 15 percent battery life; the tablet shuts off without warning when it hits zero. While this works for most kid movies, you’ll be sorely disappointed if you think you can sneak off and enjoy The Dark Knight Trilogy in some cozy corner.
The Meep! X2 has a lot of features that make it a great choice for kids. It’s designed to be tough, withstanding daily punishment of drops and tumbles that toys can take. The interface is fun and easy, and the preinstalled goodies make it instantly accessible right out of the box. Although the screen resolution is not as high as some other tablets, the brightness is fantastic. You can use this tablet outside without the screen washing out as quickly as with other devices.
The parental controls are good. They’re not perfect, but being able to set time limits on apps and gaming makes it easy to reign in your kids’ use. I like how the Google Play store is hidden under the parental settings, and the kids prefer having only content they want. Other Android tablets often have icons/apps for “boring” things (calendar, address book, etc.)
While the Meep! X2 tablet is awesome for regular at-home use, this isn’t something I would bring for a car ride. Maybe for games, yes, but not for watching videos. They battery life is far too short; you’ll be lucky to see one Pixar movie through the end. On top of that, the volume doesn’t get high enough to compete with road noise. Even with having it plugged into my car’s audio system via 3.5mm auxiliary cable, max volumes isn’t enough.
While it’s kind of a bummer that a 4GB tablet only has 1GB available, the Oregon Scientific Meep! X2 is still a good tablet in its own way. It’s easy to pick up and use, and handles games pretty well. It’s got the entertainment value down. When it comes down to price, that’s where it gets a little tricky. Depending on sales and timing, one could spend $20-$40 more and get a different 7″ tablet with more space and battery life.