Mellow Mummy: Leappad Ultra Kids Tablet Review : Taking life as it comes...

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Leappad Ultra Kids Tablet Review

As members of the Leapfrog Blogger Panel we have been excited to try out the Leappad Ultra kids tablet in the run up to Christmas. I should probably point out at this time that Lara has been using a competitor product for the past two years so was quite comfortable with the idea of her own tablet even before we tried the Leappad Ultra.

The Leappad Ultra is a tablet device designed for children from 4 years to 9 years old and I think this age range is quite accurate although I suspect a 9 year old would be wanting to move on to bigger and more grown-up things. For Lara, at age 4 and a half I think it is perfect as it feels like a whole lot of fun for her but almost every interaction with the Leappad is a learning opportunity. The Leappad comes with several out of the box apps and lots of others that you can either download directly to the device, through your PC using the Leapfrog Connect software or by purchase in store or online.

As an owner of a VTech Innotab (and having had the chance to try the Innotab 3 recently) I found it hard not to compare the two so I guess this is a good place for me to start my review.  Honestly, I would say that the Leappad Ultra is a world apart from the Innotab and here are the main reasons why:-

  • The screen size on the Leappad Ultra is a good 7 inch touch screen.  In my experience, small people need a nice big screen with which to interact and the Leappad Ultra is about the same size as many adult tablets - Lara finds it far easier to use.
  • The quality of the downloads is much higher.  While you will still pay a lot for games or stories which feature your child's favourite movie characters, there are plenty of affordable apps available to download and they seem more reliable, more appealing to my daughter and are just generally better formed and less formulaic.  However, I would still say that Android and iOS apps still present a far better value for money and quality for children.
  • Wi-Fi comes as standard on the Leappad Ultra.  It was pretty much stress-free to set up and I'm impressed with the speed and level of connectivity that the device gets around the house.  Lara uses the internet connectivity to access how-to videos and videos of funny cats but I think we have yet to make the most of the wi-fi capabilities for multi-player gaming.
  • The Leappad Ultra comes with a built-in battery and comes with a mains charger.  Both of these things are VERY welcome because otherwise a kids tablet that uses batteries can easily drain your bank balance!!! As it is, I've found the Leappad Ultra to hold its charge very well.
  • I've found the positioning of both the front and back cameras to be very usable for Lara to take photos and I also feel that the navigation buttons are easy to access and use than on the Innotab.  The Leappad Ultra comes with a fun photo studio for 'editing' pictures you take and I think this software produces good (silly) results that make Lara smile.

As is always the case with any piece of tech she tries, Lara most enjoys playing with the art tools on the Leappad Ultra.  The art studio is a good mess-free way of Lara doing what Lara does best... creating!  The Leappad comes with a stylus (attached with a cord) to interact with the screen.

Lara already has a few Leapfrog apps downloaded into an account she has so she has very much enjoyed playing her favourite games on the much bigger screen - Lara's two most played games are Minnie Mouse's Bow-Tique and Team UmiZoomi.  You get three free downloads when you first set up the Leappad Ultra and I chose a mixture of stories and simply maths games.  I've also downloaded Lara a first French lessons series of videos, the first of which has been very successful.

Lots of people ask me, as a techy mummy, whether I would recommend a kids tablet in preference to an adult tablet for a child and until now I had always said no but I think I'm reconsidering my advice.  There is absolutely no doubt that an adult tablet offers a wider choice of applications for children and in many cases more intuitive user interactions and usability (in terms of basic child instincts I think iOS has things just right).  However, for my own 4 year old I wouldn't trust her unsupervised to use my iPad where I would the Leappad Ultra.  The benefits of a tough child-resistant design and the restrictions imposed by the limited types of applications available and the limited web pages and internet resources accessible mean that I would be far happier letting my two girls loose with the Leappad.  However, as Lara grows older and earns more trust and responsibility I think a less restrictive tablet would be more suitable.

Disclosure: As a member of the blogger panel I was sent the Leappad Ultra for review but my opinions are my own and I pride myself on honest feedback

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