A Hybrid Tablet/Computer for Pre-Teens and Younger Teens
As internet safety and digital literacy advocates, we are constantly asked by parents and caregivers about appropriate technology for pre-teens and younger teens. This is especially true when it comes to cellphones (1) but more recently, parents have been asking us about appropriate desktop computers, laptops, and tablets for pre-teens and younger teens as well. The most common products that we are asked to comment on are Chromebooks and iPads.
As a result, we decided to look at products that were specifically designed for youth between kindergarten and grade 6. Although both Chromebooks and iPads can be used by youth, we feel these options are costly, too overpowered for this age group, and do not have the durability to protect the device against the foreseeable physical abuse that often accompanies youth in this age cohort.
So, we began our search and came across a product called the “Tanoshi” computer (2). To be honest, we first heard of this product on the TV show Sharks Den several years ago, but didn’t pay it much attention. However, since the Sharks Den episode, Tanoshi has further developed their product, and now offers a laptop/tablet hybrid device that they call the Tanoshi Scholar.
After learning about this new product, and reading some online customer reviews, we decided to reach out to the co-founder and CEO of Tanoshi, Brad Johnson, to see if he would be interested in sending us a Tanoshi Scholar for testing and evaluation. As most of our followers know, before we recommend or endorse any product, we like to vet it ourselves to ensure it does what the vendor says it does. To Tanoshi’s credit, they agreed to ship us a unit, and welcomed our review. We made it clear to Tanoshi that we would be making our review public, and would be sharing any strengths and weaknesses identified in our testing and evaluation. Again, Tanoshi welcomed such a review.
Within a week of connecting with Tanoshi, they sent us their new Tanoshi Scholar for our testing and evaluation. The packaging of this device was impressive and reminded us of the robust and protective packaging that Apple uses, but definitely more colorful from a branding standpoint.
Upon opening the box, we found:
- An Android 10 tablet with a 10.1-inch-high definition touch screen.
- A detachable keyboard with track-pad
- When both the tablet and keyboard are paired, the combined device measures 10.5 inches x 7 inches x 1 inch”
- A USB-C charging cable, and
- An AC adaptor, and
- A Quick Start Guide
What makes the Tanoshi Scholar different from a Chromebook or iPad, it doesn’t use Chrome OS or Apple’s iOS as its operating software, rather the Tanoshi Scholar uses the Android 10 mobile platform, also known as Android Q. It’s the same software that you will find on many Android phones.
The technical Specifications of the Tanoshi Scholar include:
- 10.1-inch-high definition touch screen
- Full “kid-size” QWERTY keyboard with hotkeys and trackpad
- 2GB Ram
- 32GB storage that is built into the device
- Micro SD up to 32GB
- USB port
- Dual-Band Wi-Fi
- Standard 3.5 audio jack
- Single Audio Mic
- Dual speakers
- Front-facing camera 2.0 MP
- Rear-facing camera, 5.0MP – with a unique built-in privacy cover
- On our scale, it came in at just under 3 lbs
Tanoshi Set up:
Getting the Tanoshi up and running was a breeze, thanks to the included “Quick Start Guide” that came with this product. All a parent needs to get the Tanoshi up and running is a Wi-Fi connection, and a parent’s Google account to register and download the software that comes with the Tanoshi. Getting the Tanoshi up and running from start to finish, took us approximately 15 minutes to complete. Although Tanoshi uses an Android operating system, the only way to connect it to the internet is via Wi-Fi, you cannot connect it directly via a SIM card data plan. However, you can hotspot the Tanoshi to a cellular device, like a cellphone, via Wi-Fi to get internet access.
As mentioned, the Tanoshi is built upon the Android 10 operating system and has 30 preloaded apps and programs, including many Google applications such as:
- Google Docs
- Google Sheets
- Google Chrome
- Google Meets
Upon testing this product, we found the Tanoshi HD touch screen to be clear, crisp, and very responsive to touch. The sound from the built-in speakers was good but tinny. However, we did find that the Tanoshi was slower in the start-up/boot-up process, and was slower to respond in web browsing when compared to a Chromebook or iPad. However, context is everything specific to this issue. Remember, the Tanoshi is specifically designed for pre-teens and younger teens, and NOT adults, therefore it is our opinion that the responsiveness will likely not be a significant concern to the age group that this product is marketed to.
NOTE – Given that there are going to be parents and youth who will not be aware of how the Android platform works, we would recommend that Tanoshi include video and written tutorials on their website that show a parent how to navigate the Android platform on the Tanoshi; something they do not presently offer. Unitl then, here’s a YouTube video that parents can use as a starting point for those who have never used the Android 10 operating platform (3).
Tanoshi Battery Life:
Tanoshi advertises that their product can run a full six hours on a fully charged battery. We found this to be fairly accurate in our testing, depending upon how many apps you may be running at the same time on the Tanoshi. Recharging the battery was easy with the included charging cable and AC adaptor. However, accessing the charging port was challenging and something that we address later in this article. We also found that it took several hours, in our testing 4 – 5 hours, for the battery to fully recharge – much longer when compared to a laptop or iPad. This can be offset by the fact that the Tanoshi can still function during the re-charging process. The Tanoshi also comes with a battery meter in the “settings” tab that gives you a “time remaining” estimation.
Note – Many, not all, of today’s schools, are integrating technology into the classroom, and given that the average school day is around 6 hours, the battery life that the Tanoshi provides may not last the full school day. However, this may not be an issue in lower grades where it has been our experience that most classrooms do not require students to use a digital device for more than a couple of hours if that. Again, the context of use is important when it comes to device choice.
Parental Controls: Monitoring, Filtering, Privacy
Given that Tanoshi uses a parent’s Google account to register its product, it allows the parent to also use Google’s “Family Parent Link” and its parental controls to help monitor and filter what a child is doing online, or how they can use the Tanoshi to access the internet. The benefit to Google’s Family Parent Link, it is free, but we have identified several challenges with this feature including:
- It has limited options compared to other parental control apps such as Boomerang
- It doesn’t log website activity or search history
- No SMS texting and call monitoring, and
- No messaging apps monitoring.
Given that Tanoshi uses the Android 10 operating system, we decided to download a parental monitoring and filter product that we have reviewed and recommend for Android devices called Boomerang (4) We love Boomerang and the full robust parental monitoring and filtering options that it provides to parents. Another benefit – it’s not cost-prohibitive (approximately $16USD for a 12-month subscription for one device) The other benefit to downloading Boomerang onto the Tanoshi, it comes with a “free” web browser called the “Spin Browser”. The Spin Browser does a really good job at automatically filtering millions of inappropriate websites with content ranging from drug use, alcohol use, suicide, pornography, and nudity to occult and hate speech that a pre-teen or younger teen could land on by accident, or even by choice. The Spin Browser also allows a parent to purposely block social media platforms and blogging sites that are not age-appropriate. Another benefit to the Spin Browser, it blocks unfiltered search engines like Google Chrome. This can all be done remotely from a parent’s Android phone, or even an iPhone.
Our recommendation – once you have the Tanoshi up and running, download the Boomerang App (which comes with the Spin Web Browser) from the Google Play Store (5), and use it as your primary parental control, filter, and web browser on the Tanoshi. Use the features of Boomerang to now block the Google Chrome Browser, and any other app, like the Google Play Store, that comes with the Tanoshi that you do not think would be appropriate for your child. This is exactly what we did on the Tanoshi that was sent to us for testing and evaluation, and the Boomerang app worked flawlessly during our testing.
The new Tanoshi Scholar, compared to its predecessor, has been ruggedized to help protect it against drops and accidental spills from drinks, and also comes with a tempered glass blue light filter screen protector. This is an advantage that the Tanoshi has direct out of the box, when compared to a Chromebook or iPad that require the owner to purchase after-market product(s) to do the same thing. We must say, we were impressed with the design of the Tanoshi which felt solid in our hands, and not a cheap plastic toy, which it is not. Tanoshi advertises that this ruggedization of their product makes it “semi-durable” against drops, and “splash proof” from accidental liquid spills, both are real concerns with pre-teens and younger teens use of technology in their everyday lives.
We decided to conduct both a drop test, and a spill test, to see if what Tanoshi advertises specific to its durability, was in fact accurate.
The drop test was done from 30 inches, which we believe would replicate the Tanoshi being accidentally dropped from a desk/table, or from the waist height of a youth if being carried. We did this on a carpeted floor, wooden floor, and asphalt. These drop tests also included the Tanoshi hitting the ground both flat, and on its side edges. The results:
No damage and the Tanoshi worked fine
No damage, tablet did separate from the keyboard but was easily reconnected, and the Tanoshi worked fine
Slight chips to one of the corners that hit the asphalt, tablet did separate from keyboard but was easily reconnected, and the Tanoshi worked fine.
We also noted that the glass protector screen that lays on top of the touch screen had actually cracked from the Tanoshi being dropped on an angle. Although some may see this as an issue, it was in fact a positive because it did what it was designed to do – protect the touch screen which was not damaged! This protective screen was easily removed and a new protective screen could be added if a parent chose to do so
NOTE– Tanoshi does offer a protective carrying case, at an added cost, that can be used when transporting the Tanoshi from home to another location such as a school, friend’s place, or while travelling with the family on a holiday.
We used a glass of water that we spilled over both the keyboard and tablet. We left the liquid on the Tanoshi for two minutes, given that we believe in most instances such an accidental spill would be cleaned up within this time frame.
After leaving the water on the keyboard for two minutes, it still functioned without any issues. After drying the Tanoshi, we could still see that there was liquid inside the keyboard, which suggests to us that there is no liquid membrane barrier between the keys and the inside components of the keyboard. We shook the keyboard outside, using centrical force, which cleared any of the water that was still inside the keyboard. After allowing the keyboard to airdry for about 5 minutes, all the water had evaporated. Upon reconnecting the keyboard to the Tanoshi Tablet, it worked with no apparent issues.
NOTE- We used water for this test. A question that we can’t answer, “what about a sugared drink or soda like a Coke?”. As most of us are aware, when such a spill is wiped up by a cloth, or via evaporation, there is often a sticky residue left behind. Could this residue interfere with the functionality of the Tanoshi keyboard? We don’t know. However, we would also suggest that this issue would also be an issue with a Chromebook.
There were no negative consequences to the tablet experienced in our liquid testing.
NOTE- no device is indestructible, but in our opinion, the ruggedization of the Tanoshi Scholar definitely helps to makes it more durable against accidents, and the daily physical abuse that often accompany a youth’s use of technology.
Tanoshi Cost Comparison:
Presently, in Canada, the Tanoshi can only be purchased directly from the vendor at cost of $249.99 USD, which in Canadian dollars is about $301.76, given the exchange rate at the time this article was written. This is about the same price as a comparable Android tablet purchased in Canada (if you factor in a keyboard, protective case, and protective screen cover). It’s also less than a basic iPad, which costs approximately $429.00CDN (this is without an external keyboard, protective case, or protective screen cover)
Another benefit that the Tanoshi offers, it has the Google App suite already pre-loaded. Another benefit, the Tanoshi also has appropriate age educational apps pre-loaded such as:
- Learn math with Socrates
- Learn Multiplication
- Nancy Drew Codes & Clues
- Scratch Jr – Learning How to Code
We actually appreciate that Tanoshi has taken the effort to curate these types of educational apps on their device, because it’s all about educational screen activity rather than just plain consumption screen time when it comes to our kids. It’s not how much time youth are spending on line, it’s what they are doing with that time that matters. Something that we wrote about in our article, “Creating A Digital Onlife Balance”. (6)
Given the Tanoshi’s Android operating platform, the parent has access to the Google Play Store to download any other Android app available in the store to meet the needs of their child. This function can also be controlled by Boomerang, mentioned above, which prevents the child from accessing and downloading these apps without a parent’s permission. What this means – as your child digitally matures, the parent has the ability to add more age appropriate apps onto the Tanoshi, especially educational and creativity apps.
NOTE – One app that we would recommend parents load immediately from the Google Play Store, the messaging app Kinzoo (7). Rather than depending upon a Gmail account for your child, or a messaging app such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, where they collect private information about your child, Kinzoo was built with privacy and security by design. Kinzoo does not collect or sell any private information about your child and becomes the primary messaging platform to communicate privately and securely with family and friends. Presently, this messaging app is free and available for families to download in both Canada and the United States (8).
Things we like:
- Price is under $400.00 Canadian
- Built specifically for pre-teens and younger teens
- Ruggedized to protect it against drops and accidental spills
- The HD touch screen is clear, crisp, and very responsive to touch
- Keyboard has been designed for small hands
- Pre-installed age-appropriate educational apps
- Camera that has a “privacy” cover built-in
- Can be used at home or at school
- Can be integrated with ZOOM for distance learning
- Can be integrated with Google Classroom for distance learning
- Can be used as both a laptop or tablet depending upon the situation and need of the child
- Allows third-party apps to be downloaded or blocked by the parent when Boomerang is installed
- Solid dual docking points between the tablet and the keyboard which holds the tablet firmly in place with the keyboard when in use.
Some small challenges that we identified with the Tanoshi:
- The plastic dust cover that protects the USB-C and other Ports, like the charging port, is not easy to remove which may be problematic for younger hands, and even older hands.
- The On/Off button takes some effort to engage.
- The built-in mouse pad is very sensitive
- It is slower in response when starting up and web browsing compared to an actual laptop or iPad
- The use of Google Family Link Parent Control in our opinion is not robust enough to protect preteens and younger teens. Thus, we recommend downloading Boomerang as the primary parent monitoring, filtering, and privacy option.
- Battery life is approximately 6hrs, much less than a Chromebook or iPad.
- Fully recharging the battery can take 4-5hrs or more.
NOTE- After sharing these identified challenges with the CEO of Tanoshi, they advised that that the next generation of the Tanoshi Scholar will fix these issues. This next-generation Tanoshi Scholar should be available in 2022.
After testing and evaluating the Tanoshi Scholar (first Generation), we would recommend it as a cost-effective pre-teen or younger teen’s first laptop/tablet for students between kindergarten and grade five. Think of the Tanoshi as a child’s first affordable hybrid laptop/tablet with training wheels. Once your child begins to digitally mature with the Tanoshi, and learns how to treat a digital device with care and respect, then we would recommend that the parent consider graduating their child to an actual laptop like a Chromebook, or an iPad. Remember, the Tanoshi was specifically designed for pre-teens and younger teens – don’t fall in the trap of comparing its functionality and speed to that of a Chromebook and iPad, which were designed for adults.
Remember, there is no device or app on the market that can keep our kids safe 100% of the time when they are online. However, the Tanoshi can make the online experience “safer” when combined with parental participation, communication, and overwatch. We also believe that when the Tanoshi is combined with Boomerang and the Gryphon Home Router, a device that we have tested and recommend (9), you have created a layered protective home digital echo system that is very robust. However, depending on the use of technology, in isolation, to keep our kids safe is never recommended. Ongoing parental participation and communication in our children’s onlife world is key!
The White Hatter