The Fire HD 6 Kids Edition is a great value, child-friendly offering from Amazon.
First published: August 2015
Although the tablet is the same as the normal Amazon Fire HD 6, the Kids Edition comes with a tough child proof case (pink or blue) and a handy two year guarantee, for when children try to bounce it off the floor! The tablet also comes with a years free subscription to Fire for Kids Unlimited, giving you access to thousands of books, apps and videos.
Our experts and parents have tested the Fire HD 6 Kids Edition to help you decide if this is the right tablet for your child. Here’s what they thought:
Fire for Kids Unlimited - thousands of apps, books and videos for free!
The feature that makes this tablet particularly stand out compared to other kids tablets for us is the free one year subscription to Fire for Kids Unlimited that comes with the tablet. This puts the choice in the hands of the children offering a huge library of apps, books and videos without any worries about surprise bills from the app store!
As you can imagine children thought this was amazing - it was a bit like letting them loose in a sweet shop! We were delighted to see so many educational titles, however children did tend to go for the leading brands first so we urge parents to steer children towards the educational content too (see 'Controlling the content').
Some parents worried about their children having so much content for free (fearing they would be forced to renew the subscription long term). However, after the one year is up monthly subscriptions start at £1.99 for one child (with Amazon Prime) and go up to £7.99 for four children (without Prime) making this affordable for a service they love.
Some parents also felt this vast library was hard to navigate. Children were not so worried about this but parents would like to see more categories (by age/subject), ratings and other filters to help them steer children to the right content. The 'characters' section is a good start but for some parents this was not enough.
Books: Some children (particularly pre-readers) were disappointed that the Books within the Books section (as opposed to any interactive books downloaded as apps) don't include more features, e.g. narration, recording their own sounds and interactivity/animations. However, we strongly encourage parents to use the huge library to read to pre-readers and inspire children to read for pleasure.
Videos: Whilst the video library is also extensive it is a shame that these cannot be downloaded. This makes use on car journeys, plane ride etc impossible - although hopefully the choice of apps and books will avoid this being too much of a crisis.
Whilst parents and children will get used to navigating the Fire HD Kids Edition quickly, they do need to be prepared for a learning curve as this is not entirely intuitive for a first time user. For example, to exit a full screen game you need to swipe the right side for the home and back buttons to appear.
Navigating between profiles is also not particularly intuitive. Pull down the top menu to exit a child's profile (but not a parent's where hitting the power button twice seems to be the quickest 'exit').
Teen and child profiles
The profiles are easy to set up via step-by-step process and you can create up to four child or teen profiles, all with different parental controls. The Fire HD Kids Edition also allows up to two (password protected) parent profiles, which gives parents access to a full, unrestricted access to a Amazon Fire tablet.
We were pleased to see Teen and Child profiles highlight different content in the Books, Videos and Apps areas, although some pre-school apps were given prominence in the teen area - it would be better if this was more age appropriate. However, we found it strange that the 'Characters' section wasn't available for teens - with age appropriate characters this would still be useful.
We did also notice that if you change an existing 'child' profile to a 'teen' profile whilst the background colours change currently the selection of books, videos and apps does not change which is a shame.
Within a parent profile you can create and manage child and teen profiles by going to 'Fire for kids' (tip: in 'Fire for kids' select settings - top right - to manage the profiles: clicking on the profile will navigate to it not manage it).
Internet access: Whilst we are delighted that you can disable internet access in child/teen profiles, the feedback we had from parents suggested that it would be useful to have the choice to turn on safe internet browsing functionality. Internet access (particularly for teens) is important for homework and other educational reasons and parents worried they would end up giving children their password to use their profile for this (hence defeating the point of the parental controls). Although it's worth noting that hidden in the main settings for parent profiles is another parental control section that can be tailored to restrict things like purchasing even in a parent profile).
We were delighted with the time limit features, this includes: profile specific restrictions for both weekends and weekdays, limits on total screen time or by type of content (books, apps and videos) as well as a ‘Bedtime’ control where you can restrict the times children can use the tablet (so you know they’re not hiding under the covers with it when they should be asleep!). This is exactly what you expect and want from a kids tablet.
Educational goals are also an option. These enable parents to allow children to only see books, apps and videos that are educational until an amount of educational time has been exceeded (from 15 mins to 3 hours) - you can tick the 'Learn First' box to block entertainment content. All books are classed as educational and videos/apps are branded educational only if they have a clear learning goal. We like the idea of this but think it needs a bit more work. We worry it is confusing for children to have content sometimes there and sometime not, and we are uncomfortable about encouraging screen time as a reward for screen time! We're also concerned that this might lead children to think books are boring (as they are classed as educational) whereas reading for pleasure is something we should all be promoting. However, as a mechanism to remove non-educational content from the Fire for Kids section (permanently or for a proportion of their play time) this can be useful.
Controlling the content
Some parents requested more control over the content their children could access suggesting the current controls aren't intuitive or providing quite what is required. Here is what can be done:
- Educational content only: you can use the 'educational goals' to ensure your children only have access to books and educational videos, apps - just set the 'educational goals' longer than the total screen time allowed!
- Remove unwanted content: from within Manage Fire for Kids Settings, this option allow you to prevent your child seeing specific books/apps/videos. However, it doesn't work the other way around - i.e. you can't start with an empty library and hand-pick items within Fire for Kids Unlimited to give your child access to which is a shame. In fact, parents can't see what is available 'Unlimited' within their App Store (in fact if you go to the app store in a parent's profile apps you can get free in a child's profile through Fire for Kids Unlimited are available at a cost). It would be great to have the 'Unlimited' content vs. chargeable content separated in some way.
- Turn off Fire for Kids Unlimited: within Manage Fire for Kids Settings the subscription can be turned on/off at anytime for a specific profile (removing all 'unlimited' content from view)
- Add content: parents can buy any content from the Amazon App Store and then make it available on a child's profile.
Although beware: books and apps are not downloaded to a child's profile (which requires wifi) until you go into each profile and click on the title (downloaded content has a tick) - even if the parent has specifically added it to the child's library. This was too subtle for some parents and children initially and they ended up away from wifi but without the apps/books they wanted downloaded.
Size: 192 mm x 126 mm x 26.4 mm
The screen is somewhat smaller than an iPad mini, hudl or similar but plenty big enough for the children we tested with. The child-proof case is large and sturdy - although we would have liked a screen protector too. A 7 inch screen version HD7 is also available if you prefer a bigger screen.
Weight: 360 grams
Not too heavy for children.
RAM & CPU: 1 GB of RAM, Quad-Core: 2 @ 1.5 Ghz + 2 @ 1.2 GHz
The quad-core means it’s a pretty good speed, although the RAM is lower than higher end tablets but this is fine for children’s use.
Storage: 8GB or 16GB
We tested the 8GB version, and very quickly ran out of space. Our little testers immediately tried to download many apps through their unlimited access to Fire for Kids Children so space is likely to need careful management if you go for the 8GB version, particularly if multiple children share the tablet. However it's easy to remove apps children have downloaded and this in itself provides a good lesson in managing storage! We recommend choosing the 16GB option if you're worried about this.
Battery life: Maximum 8 hours of mixed use (from 6 hours charge)
The battery seemed to last plenty long enough for our little testers. After all a balanced play diet is so important for children so limiting screen time is key.
Wifi and cameras: Wifi, a VGA front-facing camera, and a 2.0 MP rear-facing HD camera
The Wifi is essential, particularly to allow downloading apps, books and streaming the videos. The cameras are plenty good enough for most children's purposes! The camera controls were child-friendly too. It was lovely to see photos children took appear in the parents profile (although equally good that this feature and the camera overall could be turned off in parental controls in case you have a child who takes 100 shots every minute!).
With everything it offers, the Fire HD 6 Kids Edition is definitely worth considering if you are looking for a child friendly tablet at a decent price. There may be a few usability issues to get used to, but overall there are some good features here making it well worth the learning curve, and you can’t argue with the vast amount of content available for free!