Product Review: Meep! Tablet

Two words: Epic Fail

Nutshell version: the Meep! tablet by Oregon Scientific is an unmitigated piece of crap.

A better option would be buying some off-brand tablet you’ve never heard of, running an older version of Android on an outdated processor, on sale from some outlet online. Really, you’ll be happier.

Or let them play Tetris on your old flip phone you haven’t yet recycled. It’ll keep them just as occupied.

A brief rundown:

  • Battery life: none. My old, dead 3rd gen iPod has more battery life.
  • Parental controls: none. Registration portal is unreachable most of the time, and when it is, it’s non-functional.
  • Apps: basic, pre-installed, freebie games. You can enable the Google Play App Store—if you could register the unit on the Parental Portal (see above). Most of the other features—like text chat—are also hobbled until you can enable it.
  • Customer Support: none. Their customer support phone number, like their parent portal, is also unreachable. If you do manage to get through, expect to be disconnected while waiting for someone to pick up.
  • Screen: soft plastic. If you’re old enough to remember Space Fidgets [https://www.google.com/search?q=space+fidget+toy], those liquid crystal-filled disks that changed colors when you ran your finger over the back, you’ll recognize the color distortion around your finger as you jab it into the unresponsive screen. If you drag your finger around it leaves trails. The laptop I’m writing this on has a more rigid screen. (And in case no one told you, never poke your LCD screen.)

Opening the box, following the Quick Start guide, the first step is setting up Wi-Fi. That’s a no-brainer—no issues.

Step 2, according to the instructions, is connecting to their Parental Portal. But first, you need to perform two system updates. That it requires system updates right out of the box is (almost) to be expected—most computers do. But you can’t do anything with it apart from playing the pre-installed games until you do. Did I mention we purchased this as an Xmas present? Because that’s what every kid who’s just opened presents wants to do—wait for updates to install.

It doesn’t come with any games you can’t find (near equivalents of) in the App Store. Considering its biggest selling point is complete parental control of content, some might consider it odd three of the games intended for school-aged children involve shooting, and one blowing things up.

Most of the features are hobbled, until you can register a parental account through their portal. Only you can’t register through their portal, because it’s non-functional—even when it’s reachable. (And for two days now it has been consistently unreachable.) The portal doesn’t work with most browsers, including—get this—the tablet itself! That’s right, their tablet can’t access its own portal.

They claim this is by design. (I did get a reply to my initial irate e-mail.) They say this is to keep the kids from accessing the parental controls. Because any kid who could get past the password wouldn’t be able to get onto their parent’s computer, right? Or their iPad. Because they have an Apple iOS app for parental control—of their Android tablet. (No, they’ve yet to develop an Android app to control their custom Android interface.)

They do not explain why they only let Google Chrome or Apple Safari access their site. They claim it’s because their site uses HTML5 (ooh, you mean like most other modern websites?), and doesn’t function (well) with “some older browsers.” Instead of letting the user be responsible for their own experience, or simply upgrading their Internet Explorer or Firefox, the browser check on the front page won’t let any other browsers in. The three HTML5-compatible browsers I have on my phone didn’t work.

Oh, but that’s assuming you can get onto their site. In their reply they claim their site is “undergoing some maintenance.” During Xmas. No, it’s not completely overloaded by every parent who bought one trying to register it at the same time. They decided to bring their developers in, over a holiday, when a bunch of kids might all be opening them at the same time, to do “maintenance.” Right.

So when you do get onto the site, you watch the little video that shows you all of the things you’re about to do. Then, assuming you don’t want to see it every time you visit, you check the box that says, “Don’t show this again.” And that disables the login screen on the following page. What the check box should say is, “Don’t show me this, or any other of that other fancy-pants HTML5 code, including the login screen, again. Ever.” So you go get another computer and try again. You go to create a new account and enter the serial number and… that’s it. The portal doesn’t go any further. The buttons do nothing. Must be that “maintenance.”

I put the thing down around 1 AM with what looked like ⅔ of battery left. The next morning it was dead. We plugged it in to charge overnight. I unplugged it at 8 AM, set up Wi-Fi again, then turned the screen off and set it down. By lunch time we picked it up again, and it was dead again. Seriously. It was off and it didn’t last 5 hours.

I won’t take (too much) issue with the forward-facing camera, as most other child-oriented tablets don’t have a rear-facing camera, so, y’know, the kid can actually take pictures with it. Except the camera quality is crap, too. In anything other than bright sunlight the pictures are too dark, and they’re extremely jagged and pixelated. The camera in your old flip phone has better resolution.

I’ve convinced my kid to give it up so he can get a better one (a feat in itself). This is going back in the box and back to the store.

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Published in: on December 27, 2012 at 10:10 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’m not even sure where to start… other than to say things change so much, that complaints are usually outdated as soon as they are posted.
    Meep does have customer service! A phone center, email, and a Facebook crew that answers questions and resolves issues nearly around the clock. The battery life can be prolonged by turning down screen brightness (even low is bright on this thing) and turning off wifi when not in use. The parent portal had some server issues- 2 months ago. It’s just fine now and no ‘maintenance’ messages will stop you from logging in even if you tell it not to show you the intro video. Once registered, you have both the Meep Store and all that Google Play has to offer available to you.Things like Chat and Web Browsing come un-enabled on purpose… it’s up to the parent to decide what to allow. The parental controls are stronger on the Meep than any other competing tablet, you just have to take a moment to learn how to use the portal (again, server issues resolved 2 months ago). The cloud-based nature of the controls (not being possible on the tablet itself) is a security feature, and again, just takes some getting used to. Lastly, Meep just put out firmware update 2.0 which resolves so many operating issues of the Meep and it’s just not fair to judge it all based on a Christmas day server issue and a lack of being able to review the entire Meep experience.

  2. Jill W, do you work for Oregon Scientific? That’s the only reason I can think of for defending the meep. I think “unmitigated piece of crap” sums it up very well indeed. Couldn’t have said it better.

    I got one for my daughter at Christmas and I’m still seething with anger. It’s latest trick is that every couple of weeks it deletes all the apps I’ve slowly and painfully installed via Google Play. What really gets my goat is that these apps are educational games for a small child – the pre-installed meep games seem to be entirely unsuitable ‘SS Panzer Commander Shoot’em Up’ and the like. Not very child-friendly!

    So come on, admit it. The meep is just rubbish. Badly thought-out, badly made, badly supported. I console myself that OS can’t be selling many now that the post-Christmas reviews have come out, and they’ll probably withdraw it from the market soon, so no-one else has to suffer…

    And one final question, Jill W. If you do work for Oregon Scientific, how do you sleep at night?


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