Walk through the tablet section at any Walmart and you will find a few devices from brands you likely haven’t heard of. These are affordable gadgets that promise a good experience while keeping your wallet healthy. One of them is the AARP RealPad tablet, a tablet targeted at the older population, or senior citizens.
The RealPad seems like an interesting tablet that highly resembles the iPad Mini. It looks good at first glance, and its metallic body makes it seem like a good investment. Curiosity filled my geeky little heart every time I saw it, so I was glad to see a review unit hit my doorstep.
I have used it, carried it around, abused it and now I can give you my unadulterated, honest opinion on it. Is it worth your hard-earned $189? It all depends on how you look at things. Let’s jump right into the review and tell you all about it.
AARP RealPad specs
- Android 4.4 KitKat
- 7.85-inch 1024x768p display
- 1.5 GHz dual-core Intel Atom Z2520 processor
- 1 GB of RAM
- 16 GB of internal storage
- 5 MP rear-facing camera
- 2 MP front-facing camera
- 4510 mAh battery
- WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, Micro SD Slot, 3.5mm Headphone Jack, microUSB 2.0
Design and build quality
The AARP RealPad definitely feels and looks like a good tablet. It highly resembles the iPad Mini, which is a great tablet to look like. And because it’s made of metal, it gives you a good feeling in the hand. The buttons may wobble a tiny bit, but other than that, everything is well put in its place.
It’s definitely a solid tablet, and one that manages to look very good. I will have to say there is a bit of a downside to the materials being used, though. More specifically, the metal on the back, which seems to be very delicate to scratches and everyday wear & tear.
It’s true I put this tablet through its paces, but I never over-abused it physically. After all, I know this is no rugged tablet and treated it as carefully as I would any other tablet. After only a couple weeks of use, I started noticing some significant damage to the metal in the back.
It seems the paint, or outer layer of the metal, is a bit susceptible to scratches and flat surfaces. You can see some examples in the images above.
The display is usually among the first things I talk about when writing a review (which also means we may be starting our review with the left foot). After all, this is one of the most important factors when it comes to finding a good tablet. You want a larger device so you can have an improved viewing experience, after all.
This is especially an important factor for the audience this tablet is trying to reach, as older people may have bad eyes and need a little help in the sight department.
Let’s just put it out there, this screen is not exactly the best, and it’s not only because of its 720p resolution. After all, some devices can accomplish great viewing experiences at 720p. For a great example of a superior screen on an affordable device, take a look at the Acer Iconia Tab 8.
The real issue here is color reproduction. Hues are washed out and really don’t compare with other tablet panels. In the image below you can see the AARP RealPad compared to the Motorola DROID Turbo. Just take a look at the Hangouts icon to get an idea of the difference. These devices were both at full brightness when I took the shot.
In addition, the screen has a bit of an odd nature when it comes to viewing angles. For some reason viewing angles are great if you look at the screen from the left, but turn to the right side and you will not be able to read a thing (see images below). And this effect can be triggered easily, as I often found myself not comfortably being able to view the screen without turning the device a little.
Performance and Software
At the end of the day this is an affordable tablet, right? The screen is not good, but we can often forgive that if we find that the device offers a good experience. Does the RealPad cut it in terms of performance and software?
To be honest, it’s not a bad device for $189. It’s fast enough to take care of business (but don’t expect high-end performance, either). Casual gaming was a breeze, and I had no issues with any apps. The tablet works!
Let’s step back and take a look at who AARP is targeting here, though. This tablet is for seniors, which means there must be some improvements that our grandparents can take advantage, right?
To a certain extend, the software is optimized for easier viewing experience. The software is just what you would expect from an Android tablet. In fact, it’s pretty close to stock, but there are some obvious differences you will find in it.
For starters, your home screens definitely look amplified. Icons are larger and app labels are easily legible. Your notifications and settings look just like any other Android device, too. The other main difference will be found when you try to look for your app drawer.
Where is it? Well, it’s in a shortcut bar that AARP has designed specifically for the RealPad. This bar can be hidden and displayed with a button that takes the shape of an arrow, in the lower-left corner of the display.
These shortcuts include multiple links to AARP, a shortcut to the browser your app drawer button and a Settings button. It’s a little hard to get used to, because we are all so used to seeing a normal app drawer with shortcuts on the bottom of the screen, but it does make for simple and intuitive shortcuts for the elderly.
I just hate that this shortcut bar (if we are to call it that) can’t be edited. I wish I could put my own list of apps in there, and remove the shortcuts I don’t use.
1-year AARP membership included
AARP stands for American Association of Retired Persons. The name speaks for itself. Basically, a membership with AARP grants you access to a plethora of discounts, travel benefits, insurance offers, special prices on health products and more.
Those who buy the AARP RealPad tablet get a 1-year membership with AARP, which could be a small incentive to go for this device. It is only a $16 value, though. Regardless, a membership with AARP is known to save you hundreds of dollars if you use it right.
Cameras and speakers
Tablet cameras are known for offering subpar quality, and the RealPad tablet is not the exception. To be honest, I was expecting lower quality, though, These shooters are… OK. I would still use my phone’s camera instead, but these will get the job done as long as there is a fair amount of light around.
They will also do a good job during video calls. You know, just in case you want to talk to your grandson in college, or something.
Now, the speakers. These speakers definitely don’t make the cut. The sound has a fair amount of distortion and a very low volume. It’s manageable, but don’t turn your RealPad into your main media device.
I will have to give this one to AARP. They promise good battery life and they definitely deliver. AARP actually promises about 8 hours of battery life, which is an understatement. At least in my experience.
Most times I was able to push this little pad past 9 or 10 hours of battery life. And standby battery life is stunning. The device will stay powered for many days when in sleep mode.
Let’s wrap this up!
I can name you a multitude of tablets that would be a better deal than the AARP RealPad. The Acer Iconia Tab 8 and HP Stream 8 would be the first in the list, but we are talking about a niche market here. This is not for someone like me, it’s for someone like my dad.
Would my father like this? In fact, he did. The interface is super simple, you get some great services with AARP and the tablet gets the job done. At least for the mundane things he was doing with it.
The few things that I complained about he didn’t even notice, to be honest. And when I pointed them out he just kind of nodded the discrepancies away. He also loved that the interface seemed more legible. And though apps themselves benefit from larger fonts, the Chrome browser and some other software can be easily configured.
What my father said, was that it may not be perfect for those with bad eyes, but at the very least it tried to help. That really meant a lot to him. Is that worth $189? Despite its many shortcomings, it just may be. Especially if you want to support a company that may later release a product that is much better.
Sometimes it’s more about ideals and a concept than it is about actually getting the most bang for your buck. You have to place your bets sometimes, and I say the AARP is a good bet in an industry where the elderly are rarely put into perspective. Not to mention, $189 is still a good price for a tablet, even if it does have many worthy competitors.