Last year, market research firm Smarty Pants published a list of kids' top 50 brands, and Apple's tablet trumped even the most iconic kid-based brands, including Nickelodeon, Crayola, and Eggo. "In just five years, the iPad has risen from ranking 109th to being kids' favorite brand," Wynne Tyree, president of Smarty Pants, said in a statement. "Early on, it captured the hearts of tweens and middle- and upper-class families, but [the] iPad is now an indispensable part of childhood for the masses." But the iPad is not the only tablet on the market that will appeal to your tech-savvy toddler, tween, or teen. There are a number of Android-based slates that won't break the bank, Amazon has a kid-focused Kindle Fire, and toy manufacturers are turning their attention toward rugged tablets that can withstand a few drops, crashes, or throws. If the child in your life has been begging for a tablet, or keeps stealing yours, check out our list of the top tablets you should consider.
Amazon Fire Kids Edition
In September, Amazon introduced the new Fire Kids Edition, which comes with a year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, a child-proof case, and a two-year "worry-free" guarantee. The follow-up to last year's Fire HD Kids Edition $119.99 at Amazon, the new model has more than 20,000 age-appropriate websites and YouTube videos, and a cheaper price tag—just $99. As of this writing, however, the 7-inch tablet will not be available until Dec. 22, which means it might arrive for Christmas if you're a Prime subscriber. But if you don't want to take that bet, last year's 6-inch Fire HD 6 Kids Edition is still on sale and available now.
If you don't need a kid-specific device, Amazon has an even cheaper tablet. The 7-inchAmazon Fire $49.99 at Amazon doesn't offer high-end specs or the latest apps, but it's the best way to put a wealth of multimedia content at your fingertips for an almost unbelievable $50 price. With FreeTime, you can set up a child's profile on the tablet, and give them access to Disney, Nickelodeon, and Star Wars apps and shows. A single child's subscription costs $2.99 per month.
Amazon Fire HD 8
It's $100 more than the Fire tablet, but theFire HD 8 $149.99 at Amazon has better specs. The slightly larger 8-inch display has a resolution of 1,280 by 800 and a quad-core up to 1.5 GHz. There are also several color options: Black, Magenta, Blue, or Tangerine.
Apple iPad mini 4
If you're really looking for top-of-the-line specs, the iPad mini 4$389.00 at Abt Electronics is the way to go. It's not cheap, especially for smaller hands that might drop its delicate frame. But for older kids who know how to take care of their gadgets, the iPad mini 4 is a top-notch small-screen tablet with unparalleled build quality and app support. And if the mini 4 is too pricey, theiPad mini 2£198.00 at Amazon is still an option.
Apple iPad Air 2
If you're feeling generous, the iPad Air 2 £369.00 at Amazon balances seamless ease of use, app abundance, and raw power in its ever-so-slender frame. It's slimmer and more powerful than its predecessor (and comes in gold), but also fragile, so make sure you get a case.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids 7.0 is a playfully designed, engaging Android tablet geared toward children. At launch, it was a little pricey, but you can now find it for under $200.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0
Samsung this fall upgraded theGalaxy Tab S2 8.0 £300.00 at Amazon tablet from the original Galaxy Tab S in just about every way, including a premium new design, top-of-the-line performance, and a very good camera. To see how it stacks up against iPad mini 4, see our spec comparison.
Asus ZenPad S 8.0
The Android-based Asus ZenPad S 8.0 £169.99 at PC World strikes a good balance between price and features, with performance on par with more expensive Android tablets.
The 7-inch LeapFrog Epic, revealed in August, is intended for 3- to 9-year-olds. The $128 Android-based slate runs a 1.3GHz quad-core processor and includes 16GB of memory and an expandable SD port. There are front and back cameras, as well as a video recorder, and support for Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n. There's a shatter-safe LCD screen and removable bumper for security in pink or green, as well as 20 apps from LeapFrog's best games and eBooks.
LeapPad3 Learning Tablet
For something a little smaller, last year's LeapPad3 has the 5-inch (diagonal) capacitive touch screen, Wi-Fi, and a 1000MHz, quad-core CPU. Both the front and back camera are 2 megapixels, and offer 480p video recording. The rechargeable battery lasts six hours on a single charge, according to the company. The LeapPad3 comes in green, pink, and teal and is currently about $88 on Amazon.
Fuhu nabi Pass Tab
For something a little different, Fuhu - maker of the Nabi 2 £93.99 at Amazon tablet introduced a subscription service earlier this year, called the Nabi Pass Tab. It offers its tablet and content for $9.99 per month (two-year commitment) or $14.99 per month (one year). If your kid breaks the tablet, Fuhu said it will replace the slate, no questions asked.
Asus VivoTab Note 8
If you want a device a little bigger than an iPad mini with a full-power Windows experience, consider this 8-inch Asus running Windows 8.1$288.00 at BeachCamera. Parents can install commercial parental controls, and it even comes with a stylus for those little hands ready to try some handwriting. Microsoft Office is installed for older kids who need to get work done.
Google no longer offers the Nexus 7, replacing it last year with the new 8.98-inch Nexus 9£283.99 at Amazon. It's a well-built Android tablet with a powerful processor that got the Marshmallow upgrade in October.