That should all change next week when LeapFrog starts shipping out its new LeapPad Explorer Learning Tablet ($100). A tablet engineered just for kids, the LeapPad takes all of the technology introduced on last year's Leapster Explorer (including an ereader that adjusts to tots' learning levels, letter and number writing skills, and a high-resolution touchscreen) and adds exciting new functions like a tilt-sensor (just like the iPad), an enhanced ereader with a visual dictionary and games embedded within the books, a larger (five-inch) screen, and a built-in camera. The company sent us a tablet to try out, see what we thought below.
Who is this product designed for? The manufacturer suggests that the tablet is for tots ages 4 to 9 years old (and it can be customized for up to three kids), but a preschooler could navigate his way around it, too.
What sets it apart? With a five-inch 480-x-272 pixel (16 x 9) touchscreen, the LeapPad offers kids plenty of space to read, draw, write, or view their activities. Given the educational basis behind all of LeapFrog's products, the learning apps included with the system are brought to life on it. The new Ultra eBooks not only reads stories to kids, but should tykes select individual words, the system sounds them out. Portions of books are animated and games are built into them as well. A built-in camera and video recorder can be used on their own or in conjunction with other apps to create storybooks and videos that can be shared once the tablet is connected to a computer. And the accelerometer transforms the tablet into a gaming console, allowing for motion-based activities. Like other LeapFrog products, the Explorer connects to the online Learning Path, allowing parents to track their tots' progress and identify areas requiring additional support. When connected to the computer, artwork, photos, and videos created by kids can also be shared with family and friends through Facebook and email.
What could be better? Kids used to tooling around with their parents' gadgets will have to get used to a slower unit. The 400MHz processor doesn't allow apps to load as quickly as they may be used to. Also, with no WiFi, tots will have to forgo playing Angry Birds and the like, in favor of the more educational apps created by LeapFrog (which could be a very good thing!). The cost may set some families off as well. While the tablet costs $100 and comes with four free apps — Art Studio, Story Studio, Pet Pad, and one of your choice — the 100 additional apps that will be available later this year will cost between $5 to $20, making it a pricey investment. On the plus side, all games and cartridges parents bought for the Explorer are compatible with the LeapPad.
Keep reading to see how long the laptop entertains a youngster and for more views of the device.
How long did it entertain my child? Hours! After first asking where he could find Angry Birds on the unit, he easily maneuvered his way around the included apps like a master. He watched the full Letter Factory video that the company preinstalled on the unit and loved the Cars2Ultra eBook, having just seen the movie. In fact, I had to turn the tablet off to get him into bed.
Would I buy it? Yes! Less expensive (and more tot friendly with its rough and tumble packaging) than an iPad, it has everything I would want in a learning tablet. While the additional games and apps are expensive, the basic package includes plenty of activities to keep lil ones excited and entertained for a while, and they are less expensive than buying new video games for a Wii or other gaming system. I also love that it can store 120 minutes of video and 30,000 pictures, meaning we don't have to bring an extra camera with us on vacation.