The best-selling kids’ tablet is back with new versions and new upgrades that parents will appreciate. If you’re looking to upgrade, or if you just need a replacement or a second one in the family, here’s your chance to give curious kids a tablet of their very own, chocked full of learning games and activities that will keep children mindfully entertained and engaged.
This tablet has racked up noteworthy awards including Parents Magazine “Preschool Toy of the Year,” and the Toy Industry Association’s “Educational Toy of the Year.”
Here’s what’s new in the LeapPad family of tablets:
The LeapPad 2 introduced some significant changes over the original.
* Now for ages 3-9 (Leap Pad content was formerly for kids 4 and up)
* Faster processor for better graphics and smoother performance
* Capability to add PERMANENT recharger (instead of using AA batteries)
* 9 hours of battery life (up from eight)
* Double the memory storage (4 GB of memory, up from 2)
* New Music Player App (must be purchased)
* 5 free apps: LeapFrog Learning Songs App with 5 Songs, Pet Pad Writing App, Cartoon Creativity App, the Art Studio App, and one more of your choice
* 2 cameras and video recorders (one on front and back ). The front camera makes it easier for kids to take pictures of themselves, which they can load into the games, stories, and art apps.
The tablet has a 5-inch touch screen, just like the original. It includes 2 built-in 2 megapixel cameras and video recorders on the front and back, a music player, a video player, stylus pen, and headphone jack. Some of the free apps require download, so be sure to do this before giving the LeapPad 2 as a gift.
LeapPad 2 Power
If you read any coverage at all of the original LeapPad when it was released, or if you’re the owner of one yourself, then you know that battery life was a major headache. Thankfully, the LeapPad 2 Power includes rechargeable batteries and AC adapters in the box. The tablet is exactly the same — a LeapPad2 — it’s just that you get the accessories with it.
These accessories ensure that your tablet is immediately ready to go on family trips — which is nice if you happen to be buying the tablet to keep a little one occupied during an upcoming vacation. It’s a huge convenience being able to run the LeapPad off the AC adapter if needed and to have recharged batteries at the ready.
The LeapPad Ultra represents the biggest breakthrough of all for this tablet family. It’s got a bigger body and screen (7 inches vs. 5 in the LeapPad2), a faster processor, and allows internet access via Wi-Fi to pre-approved sites and to Leapfrog Connect to download more games. Here’s the breakdown:
* 7 inch screen with higher resolution (1024 x 600 pixels)
* 2MP camera on front and back
* 8 GB of built in memory, but no SD card slot for extra storage
* Preloaded with 11 apps (vs. 5 apps on the LeapPad 2)
The Ultra is sold with an AC adapter. It doesn’t take batteries at all, so you have to charge it — but the charge is pretty long-lasting.
The kid-safe LeapSearch browser powered by Zui allows access ONLY to pre-approved sites that are sorted into categories with big picture icons. I don’t know how many sites are pre-bookmarked in total, but Leapfrog says there are over “1000 engaging pieces of content.” There’s no address bar for kids to manually type in a web site, and no way for parents to add websites that aren’t already programmed. This is designed to take the burden of screening content away from parents, but it may be a drawback for parents who want to do further customization or bookmark some sites/activities for their kids.
The tablet operates inside a closed system, so there is no option to add external apps from the iTunes App store, Android store, Netflix app, etc.
The Wi-Fi feature does allow for wireless access to Leapfrog Connect when you want to download more games and content. Parents can turn the Wi-Fi off, and you always have the option of connecting via USB as well.
One cool thing about the Wi-Fi is that it allows interaction with other LeapPad Ultras. There are a handful of peer-to-peer games that allow players to compete against each other in multiplayer mode when their tablets are within 50-100 feet of each other. Also, the Pet Chat app lets you “text” pre-written phrases to another Ultra.
One note of warning: In most cases, the Wi-Fi will not work with public Wi-Fi, because the Leap Pad’s browser won’t allow access to the screen where you’d normally be prompted sign in to a public Wi-Fi (the local library or Starbucks Wi-Fi login screen, for example).
LeapPad Ultra Apps
The preloaded “apps” include things like Notepad, Camera, etc. The tablet only comes with 1 free learning game. This tablet works with downloaded apps and physical cartridges. Game cartridges are compatible across all LeapPad versions. The MP3 player is included with the tablet. (In the Leap Pad 2, it’s sold separately.)
The Ultra is still a “toy tablet” where the focus is on learning games and educational content. The Wi-Fi access to kiddie websites and those 1000 pieces of content gives it some additional utility and entertainment value. You’ll have to decide for yourself if that value is worth the higher price tag — it retails for $149.
The expanded app library now includes over 325 game cartridges and apps, including their favorite animated characters from Dora the Explorer, Brave, Toy Story, Disney Fairies, and more. Game cartridges cost $25.99 each, Ultra Books are $20, and other apps cost between $5 and $25.
The Ultra eBooks, in particular, are a rich educational experience. They tell stories in 3 modes (listen only, read along, and read and explore with activities) and at 3 different reading levels that adjust to match your child’s proficiency. Monitor your child’s progress in the LeapFrog Learning Path.
The LeapPad 2 sells for the same price as the original: $99.99.