LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer

Children’s tablet PCs are a curious mixture of the genuinely useful and the pointlessly asinine. Some of them can represent a legitimately useful learning tool, great for fostering literacy and puzzle-solving skills in young children. Others however, can be little more than flashy, brightly coloured distractions that can detract from the development of imagination and traditional play. We’ll see which camp the LeapPad belongs to as we progress.

 

By Chris Messenger | Published 25/04/2013

The Good

tick

100+ games and Apps Available

tick

Designed for mathematics and reading

tick

Children can customise the Experience,

tick

Camera & Video recorder

The Bad

cross

Low Level Processor

cross

Specific Games only for the Leappad

cross

Not Energy Efficient

cross

An Expensive Toy

 

 

The LeapPad runs a specially designed Linux-based operating system that will provide a great foundation course in computer interaction.

The Specs

The broad, child friendly shape of this tablet seems tailor-made for dropping. Rubber shock absorbers line all four corners and the screen is encased in thick glass with a heavyset plastic rim around it. It certainly looks as if I could chuck this doohickey out of my window (I work on the 5th floor) and still retrieve it in one piece a few minutes later (however, I won’t test that assumption and I refuse to be held accountable if you decide to). The point is that kids could probably give this thing a bloody good hiding and it would likely survive the ordeal.

 

User interface is minimal, with only a few buttons (each about the size of a four year-old’s index finger) and an ‘iPod’ style wheel at the bottom middle. This is simplistic enough for young minds to get to grips with, but also holds the virtue of being streamlined and contemporary, as devices are being made with less and less buttons lately (a trend that is likely to continue).

 

The LeapPad runs a specially designed Linux-based operating system that will provide a great foundation course in computer interaction, given that the Linux kernel supports a wide range of technology, from tablet PC processors, to video games and (I’m told) both Windows and Apple computers as well.

 

The screen itself has a duff 480 x 272 resolution, but then again, were you expecting a Retina Display? It’ll likely be blurred with greasy fingerprints anyway.

 

The Price

£68.50 is a great price for a tablet, but a truly painful amount to pay for a glorified kid’s toy. However, if you want to get your child a tablet, you’ll be looking in this price range and upwards for a good one, so it’s not exactly bad.

 

The best programs, by far, are the interactive eBooks, these are really fun and encourage literacy in a friendly and positive way.

The Performance

There is a wide range of software and games designed for the LeapPad. These products specialize in everything from writing and maths to foreign languages, science and music. In fact, the range of software available is quite impressive. You can be sure that the kids are unlikely to got bored with the LeapPad, especially with all the new content generated for it.

 

The best programs, by far, are the interactive eBooks, these are really fun and encourage literacy in a friendly and positive way.

 

However, I must say that the LeapPad is extremely energy inefficient. Any extended play realistically requires a power point; so long car journeys are definitely out.  In addition, the basic ‘walk through’ nature of many of the games and activities is depressingly repetitive and cannot be skipped. This is a shame, as an argument can easily be made that without the challenge of remembering the functions and rules of the device/software, much of the educational benefits are subsequently lost.

 

Our Verdict

The LeapPad is one heck of an expensive toy, but it does have a great many redeeming features. As always, it is no substitute for the power of imagination, but as an inviting and engaging learning tool, the merits of this device become apparent very quickly.

 

The major drawback that I can see is the distinct likelihood that your child will become bored with the patronising nature of many of the activities and also that the dependence on a nearby plug socket could hamper outdoor play. However, as part of a ‘balanced diet’ of books, toys and intellectual challenges, the LeapPad can be a powerful learning tool.

 

 

 

 

You can follow us on Twitter, add us to your circles on Google+ or like our Facebook fan page to keep yourself updated on all the latest Tablet PC reviews.

 

Tags: Leapfrog tablet, LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Tablet