If you are considering a computer purchase for your increasingly tech savvy child, the FIRST SPARK™ kids PC line is contender in the family computing space thanks to child-friendly features.
Available exclusively at Best Buy, FIRST SPARK ($499) is a full-sized Toshiba L635 laptop designed specifically for kids ages 5-10. Thoughtful features such as a completely sealed rubberized wipeable keyboard are not only practical for keeping crumbs and liquid from shortening the life of the machine but are also tactile. The keys are springy and quite pleasing to the touch.
The green rubber corners provide nice contrast to the rugged gray textured case of the laptop and function to absorb some of the impact that comes with the portability of the device. While the rubber corners are a nice design feature, they seem more cosmetic than functional even though we didn’t send the SPARK on any free falls to test the bounce factor. I’d like to see rubberized corners on the bottom of the laptop too for added protection since you never know what surface might hit the ground first during a free fall
SPARK has a full size screen (13.3 inches) and a glossy display which is far trendier than matte ones standard in older laptops. When backlit, the screen looks fabulous but upon powering off, fingerprints are quite noticeable. The body of the laptop itself is fingerprint proof thanks to the matte gray textured exterior.
SPARK comes loaded with a suite of software, including NetNanny and KidZui, to help keep kids secure while playing games or browsing the Internet. While these tools are certainly helpful, they aren’t a replacement for knowing what your kids are doing while they are on the computer. I wouldn’t be doing my job for BitMoms and BitDefender if I didn’t caution parents about the fact that the portability of laptops makes kids want to squirrel them away in their rooms so you rarely see what is actually on the screen. Just be sure that you don’t use the software suite as a crutch.
Having never used NetNanny or KidZui before, I was very interested in trying them to see exactly how they worked, however, our SPARK had a barely functioning wifi connection. It wasn’t able to connect to our in-home router despite being 6 feet away from it even when I dispatched our in-home network engineer to work on a fix. Web pages only loaded about half the time and when they did, would load only a single page before the connection disappeared. Another Windows 7 laptop sitting right beside it had no trouble connecting to wifi at all.
Despite my frustration with the wifi and the disappointment that I didn’t get to do my job as a family internet safety and security expert by examining these two pieces of software, the connectivity of our SPARK might be an isolated incident as other reviewers such as BonggaMom and Goon Squad Sarah didn’t experience any difficulty connecting. Best Buy tech support is looking the wifi problems of our laptop so I can fully test and review KidZui and NetNanny in the near future!
Due to the quick turnaround time needed for this review to go live, I didn’t have the opportunity to put the laptop in the hands of Little Miss Techie and Captain Computer as much as I would have liked for rigorous product testing. With a full after school schedule this week, Halloween festivities, and a trip to the grandparents’ house over the weekend, the kids’ schedules further limited any screen time. During the short time that Little Miss Techie used SPARK, we weren’t able to connect to her favorite sites due to the aforementioned wifi problem.
The FIRST SPARK features:
- 13.3 inch screen
- Intel Celeron processor
- Windows 7
- 2GB of RAM
- 250GB hard drive
- Built in DVD drive
- 4.6 lbs
- Built in webcam and comes automatically loaded with Skype for video chatting
- Rounded rubberized corners for durability
- A preloaded software suite that delivers parental safety and control which includes 1 year of Net Nanny (parental control and internet filtering service valued at $39.99) and 1 year of KidZui (kids internet browser) pre-loaded
- Preloaded entertainment including full length Disney movies Princess and the Frog and Toy Story 2 and a Lego Batman game
Summary: While the aforementioned tech specs don’t make it the highest end PC on the market, the mid-range Intel Celeron, 2 GB of memory, and 250 GB hard drive make it a great entry level computer for the younger set and keeps the price point affordable. A warning if you are considering this for the tweens and teens in your live…They are likely to eschew this device for more stylish laptop or netbook.
I look forward to sharing a more complete review SPARK’s parental control software suite along with testimonial from my two little in-house reviewers will posted when the wifi issues are resolved and the kids are home!
The FIRST SPARK™ kids is available exclusively at Best Buy® and retails for $499.
I received a First SPARK kids laptop courtesy of Technorati and Best Buy for review purposes. I was not compensated for my review and all opinions are my own. Product information and some images were provided courtesy of Technorati and Best Buy.
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Original post by Tech Savvy Mama