Fuhu is a company that kind of appeared out of nowhere and blew me away with the nabi 2. Its two subsequent tablets – the nabi Jr. and nabi XD – cover age groups on either side of the nabi 2, so the whole family can get in on the fun. While I've already reviewed the 2 and Jr., I've been waiting to cover the XD for one reason: the Play Store.
The first two nabi devices are missing the Play Store, which is one area where both take a hit. Of course, since they're really for school-age children, they get a pass (from me, at least), but it's something I had a much harder time forgiving on the 10-inch XD, which is designed for tweens. I feel like there's a lot more of a need for Play on a device for older kids, as they can just get more use out of it.
Fast-forward to now, and the 32GB nabi XD is available for purchase – complete with Google Play. This is the first Fuhu device to feature access to Google Services, which is a pretty big deal.
Before we get into the bulk of the review, however, I want to discuss the differences between the two versions of the nabi XD. As pointed out in the specs, there are 16GB and 32GB versions, and they vary slightly from each other. It isn't uncommon for Fuhu to change things up on the same device, just as it did with the 4GB and 16GB nabi Jrs.
Thus, here's the short list of differences between the two, itemized for quick and easy parsing:
- The 16GB model has a miniHDMI port, whereas the 32GB model has a microHDMI port.
- The 16GB model's nabi connector is on the side, it's on the bottom of the 32GB model.
- They use different screens, and the 16's looks a lot nicer. The 32's has a yellow tint – it actually reminds me of the HP SlateBook x2.
- The biggest different between the two isn't found in hardware, but software: the 32GB model has the Play Store right out of the box, where the 16GB model is waiting for an OTA that will bring Google services.
The primary reason I point this out in the beginning is to avoid confusion. This review is for the 32GB model. References to the 16GB model will be made where relevant, but the primary focus is on the 32. If you happen to have questions specifically about the 16GB model, drop 'em in the comments and I'll be glad to answer.
With that out of the way, let's get to it.
- Display: 10.1-inch 1366x768 IPS (155PPI)
- Processor: Tegra 3 quad-core
- RAM: 1GB
- Storage: 16/32GB
- Cameras: 5MP rear shooter, 2MP front
- Ports: microUSB, microSD, microHDMI (32GB model), miniHDMI (16GB model), nabi Connector
- Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0
- Battery: 8,000mAh
- OS: Android 4.1.2
- Dimensions/Weight: 11.2x7.3x0.48in./636g
- Price: 16GB – $250, 32GB – $290
- The price. It's hard to beat $290 for a 32GB 10.1-inch Android tablet, much less one with a good quad-core chip and Jelly Bean. This also makes its few downsides easier to justify.
- XD Launcher. There's nothing wrong with Android's stock launcher, but I think the XD Launcher is super cool, and its contextual awareness features just add to that. It definitely makes for a different experience.
- Play Store. On most devices this wouldn't be a big deal. But the 32GB XD is the first Fuhu device to ship with Play Services, so it's definitely noteworthy. No more Amazon Appstore required!
- The display. Like with most cheaper devices, the display took a hit. The coloration is off and the entire thing is tinted yellow. Yuck.
- Android 4.1.2. Fuhu, y u no 4.2?
- Larger and heavier than competing devices. The XD is a pretty big boy – at 636g, it clocks in a bit heavier than most devices, and the increased length makes it even more awkward to hold in one hand.
- Differences between the 16GB and 32GB that aren't made clear. This is what drives me crazy about the XD – the 16GB and 32GB models aren't really even the same device.
Build Quality and Design
The nabi XD is an interesting device with intriguing aesthetics. It sticks with Fuhu's now-characteristic white/red color scheme and uses a few of the same design elements found on the nabi 2, like the little red "buttons" in the corners (these are only visible on the nabi 2 when the bumper is removed). Naturally, it doesn't look as childish or playful as the Jr. or 2, but instead has more of a refined appearance. Still, it manages to retain the slightly whimsical appearance that I've come to love about Fuhu devices over the past year or so.
The front of the device consists of a white exterior with black bezel, along with the aforementioned buttons – all of which sport an engraved nabi logo – in each corner. The 2MP front facing camera is found in the center of the top bezel. In contrast to the white front, the back is actually a brushed aluminum with translucent red plastic at the top and bottom, presumably so the radios aren't blocked. The flash-less 5MP rear shooter is found in the upper left-hand corner (right when looking at the display), and a large nabi logo is dead center in the back. I actually really love the way the back looks – in a world of boring slabs, the translucent red accents are incredibly refreshing.
As I've already stated, there are two different versions of the nabi XD – the 16GB and 32GB – and each one has a slightly different port layout. For example, the headphone jack, miniHDMI port, microSD card slot, and nabi connector are all found on the right side of the unit (while looking at the display) on the 16GB version. The 32GB version keeps a very similar format, save for two changes: the nabi connector – which is used for charging, sync, and accessory input, by the way – is on the bottom, and the miniHDMI is replaced by a microHDMI port. The power and dedicated volume buttons are all found on the top right side of the unit on both devices, and the speakers are found on the bottom edges.
One thing to note about the XD is that it's on the larger side of 10-inch tablets. It's only slightly wider than the Note 10.1 2014 Edition, but comes in at about an inch longer. Similarly, it's not quite as wide as the Nexus 10, but it's still about half-an-inch longer. If you don't have half a dozen tablets laying around to compare it to, however, you probably won't even notice the difference.
Left: Note 10.1 2014 on top of the XD; Right: Nexus 10 on top of the XD
As far as build quality is concerned, the XD feels well put-together, but it probably can't handle very much abuse. The aluminum feels soft, which could be problematic when the device is placed in the hands of a clumsy preteen. To make matters worse, there are no protective cases available for the XD at this time. Hopefully anyone who buys this tablet (or any tablet for that matter) realizes the potential for destruction and uses the device with caution.
When Fuhu first announced the nabi XD, I was surprised to see a 1366x768 resolution on the spec sheet. The announcement came when 1280x800 was still basically the norm for most new tablets, so the increased pixel count was a nice bump. With that said, 1920x1200 is now considered "low," with 2560x1600 becoming the sought-after resolution on a 10-inch slate. Thus, if you're used to more modern displays, be prepared for letdown with the nabi XD.
Like with the nabi Jr., however, I'm not going to slam it too hard – this is still a kids' tablet, after all. Sure, it's for an older age group, but I think 1366x768 is still perfectly acceptable for a preteen. However, the lower-resolution display could cause issues here that wouldn't be present on something like the Jr. Explanation time!
Since this tablet is really designed with tweens in mind, there's a good chance (or at least a hope) that it'll get school-related use, be that for reading or studying. That's where a lower resolution display may start to become an issue: text simply isn't sharp at 155PPI, which in turn makes it harder on the eyes over extended periods. Pair that with the common issues associated with IPS displays – poor color reproduction, yellowish whites, etc. – and it becomes increasingly more difficult to look at for extended sessions.
Top: nabi XD 16GB; Bottom: XD 32GB – notice the color difference?
Speaking of coloration, the XD's display is guilty of all the aforementioned issues. The display reminds me quite a bit of the HP SlateBook x2's screen, which was washed out and had a yellowish tint all over. It's not as drastic on the nabi XD, but it's definitely noticeable, especially when compared to the display on the 16GB model, which is more color-accurate. It's hard to say for certain why Fuhu swapped the displays out, but I'd guess there's a good chance it had to do with cost. It's unfortunate, really.
The XD's speakers aren't the best or loudest I've heard, but they get the job done. However, they're in an awkward spot (the bottom corners of each side) and basically stay covered when you're holding the device. On the other hand, it's OK if the tablet is in a stand or you're not holding it. That's probably only common for watching movies and the like, so you'll have to position your hands at the top of the unit when holding it, which feels pretty weird to me.
They're not all that tinny (or tiny) sounding and aren't lacking in definition. I wouldn't plan on using them for listening to music or the like, but they'll definitely get the job done for causal viewing.
Surprisingly, the XD's rear shooter isn't completely awful. Fuhu didn't add any bells and whistles here on the software side, as it just uses the stock Android interface. Still, it's not as bad as I expected, especially for outdoor shooting. Low lighting/indoor shooting is a bit of another story – it's not the worst I've seen (far from it, actually), but it's still nothing to brag about. Colors are slightly oversaturated, but otherwise it's actually quite balanced.
Color me impressed with this 5MP shooter on a $250-$290 tablet.
Storage and Wireless
On the 32GB model, there is 25.96GB available to the user right out of the box. This should be enough to cover all the apps and games most users will want installed, but there's also a microSD card slot for those who also want to load it down with movies and/or music.
The wireless radios work as they should, as they do with most devices. Nothing really noteworthy here.
When I received the XD review unit, I had just started on the Note 10.1 2014 review so I didn't have a lot of time to mess with it. I got it out of the box, turned it on, signed in, and played around for a minute, then laid it on the table. It stayed in that same place for five days. When I picked it up, it had only lost about 50% battery. This thing has absolutely beastly idle battery time. Its usable battery life isn't bad, either.
The XD has an 8,000mAh battery, which should easily be enough to power through a day of school/work (if that's your thing) and well into the evening/night. On average, I had about 5 hours of display-on time while surfing the web and playing games, as well as a few hours of streaming music from Play Music (to a Bluetooth speaker) before the unit needed to hit the charger. It handled everything like a champ.
XD Launcher and Fuhu Enhancements
The biggest thing worth talking about on the nabi XD isn't found in the hardware or design – far from it, in fact. It's the launcher. The XD's launcher, which is subtly named XD Launcher, is Fuhu's take on how to make the first thing you see when turning the device on an intuitive and useful experience. As I've already said, it actually reminds me quite a bit of Chameleon Launcher, though I think it's actually more intuitive and useful than Chameleon.
With that said, the overall look of the XD launcher is pretty tacky. The skeuomorphic metal-esque app tray is awful looking – it's just really poorly designed from an aesthetic standpoint. Of course, your kid may not mind, but I personally found it to be an eyesore. Skeuomorphism is hopefully becoming a thing of the past (or maybe not), so I'd like to see the XD Launcher get an overhaul sooner rather than later.
On the functionality side, however, it's pretty neat. Everything is aligned to a grid, and each section has a dedicated color for the background regardless of which screen it's on: the left is red, middle is green, and right is blue. Icons can be sorted into folders, each row can be resized, and widgets will auto-fit to take up the right amount of "blocks."
You can sort the homescreens, give them names, and re-arrange the layouts on the Screen Editor. This is also where the contextual awareness settings can be tweaked – you can set specific times and/or Wi-Fi connectivity state to show a particular screen. For example, let's say Screen #3 has Gmail, Calendar, and a couple of widgets that you like to check during your lunch break. You can set that homescreen as the default from 12:00-1:00 PM on weekdays when you're connected to the network work_network or school_network. Thus, automatically changing the default homescreen when the specific criteria is met.
I also really enjoy that every homescreen has static information at the top: date, day, and weather conditions. Personally, this is info that I look at multiple times a day (the weather, anyway), so the fact that it's always there on the XD is incredibly helpful.
The dock can also be hidden simply by dragging it down; pulling it up will show it again. I don't really understand why that's a thing, but it is. It's actually kind of annoying because it sometimes hides the dock when trying to access the app tray quickly. I wish there were a way to disable the action.
Inside the app tray is where you'll find apps, widgets, wallpaper settings, and the screen editor, each one tucked away inside of its own little section. Like I said earlier, this part of the launcher is ugly – the metal lookalike garbage just isn't doing it for me. It should be something light and airy – something that fits in with the rest of the launcher; currently, it's like walking in from a nice cool day to a dark, dank dungeon. The devil's in the details, guys.
Otherwise, the system is fairly stock. Fuhu threw in some apps, of course:
- Animal Park Tycoon
- App Zone
- Babel Rising 3D
- Burn It All
- Burn the Rope
- Fan-A-Tech (Fuhu resource for nabi tips and tricks)
- Fling a Thing
- Fruit Ninja HD
- Granny Smith
- Jett Tailfin
- Kno Textbooks
- nabi Cares (Fuhu support)
- nabi Cloud
- nabi MD
- nabi Sync
- Panic Flight
- PBA Challenge
- Polaris Office
- Puzzle 2
- Rescue Roby
- Riptide GP
Whew. Unlike the nabi 2, which features a lot of educational software, the XD is basically pre-loaded with games. Lots and lots of games. At least there's also a textbook app.
The nabi XD is basically what you'd expect in the performance department – it's not the fastest device on the planet, but it chugs along through most tasks without a problem. Everything is snappy, animations aren't choppy, and gameplay is smooth and fluid. It's basically a typical Tegra 3 device.
The XD launcher purrs along without even a hint of lag in sight. Multitasking is as fast as one can expect it to be with 1GB of RAM. Really, there isn't a lot to say about the XD's performance, which is probably a good thing. It works well, so there's really nothing bad to say. It just does what it's supposed to do. I guess that's kind of remarkable in itself.
So here we are, at the part where I tell you whether or not I think this device is worth your hard-earned moneydollars. I like the nabi XD, and I think it's probably the best device Fuhu has released to date, mostly because it finally has access to Google Play, which goes a long way in making this an excellent device for the money. I also really like the XD Launcher, and the whole tablet looks really cool to me from an aesthetic standpoint. That said, the fact that the 16GB and 32GB models are different really bothers me, specifically because the 16's display has better color reproduction than the 32's. But the 16 doesn't have Google Play (yet), and I don't like recommending hardware with the pretense that some sought-after features will be "coming soon." That just feels wrong.
So, what to do? While the 32GB model may have an inferior display (in my opinion), it's still a good tablet. The performance is there, and the added storage is a plus. I prefer microHDMI to mini, so that's another bonus. I also find the port layout on the 32GB model to make more sense. And, like I've already said, it has the Play Store. At this time, I have to think that the 32GB model is simply a better buy. However, if/when the 16GB model gets updated with Google Play, I'd readily recommend it – especially at only $250. That's a price you can't beat for a good 10.1-inch tablet. At $290, I feel the same way about the 32GB model (though I wouldn't mind seeing it at $275).
And really, your kid's going to love it either way.