Disclosure: I was provided with a sample of the LeapFrog LeapPad Ultra kids tablet for review. A few additional pre-loaded apps and games were included on the educational tablet to enhance my review experience. Any opinions are my own.
Several years ago, LeapFrog delved into the kids educational tablet market with the LeapPad Explorer. Last year they unveiled the second generation tablet, the LeapPad2, which included a front and rear camera, as well as a faster processor. This year, 2 additional kids tablets were released from LeapFrog, which include the LeapPad2 Power and the LeapPad Ultra. The LeapPad Ultra, with the highest price point at $149.99, includes wifi capability, a much larger viewing screen, and rechargeable batteries using the included wall charger.
All of these LeapFrog tablets allow children to experience educational games and apps that were designed specifically for the interests of 3-9 year olds. Content in the LeapPad Explorer series often features widely recognized cartoon and movie characters from Disney and Dreamworks movies and television shows, while engaging children in learning math, letter/number identification, vocabulary, pre-reading and writing skills. The tablet devices can be operated with a finger or an included stylus. Starting with the LeapPad2, all of the tablets include both front and rear cameras for taking pictures and video. Apps purchased from LeapFrog in the App Center can be used across 3 different devices simultaneously. Any of the cartridge games parents have already purchased from prior generations will work on any one of these devices, so your investment in LeapFrog content is protected during a device upgrade.
Aside from the durability and reliability that we’ve seen with prior tablets, the main features of the Ultra, which make this tablet unique from its predecessors, is that arrives standard with rechargeable batteries that can provide up to 9 hours of playtime, a larger tablet screen (from 5 inches to 7 inches), and wifi compatibility.
Out of the box, the LeapPad Ultra has a 11 included games and apps, plus a free download and the ability to access a lot of additional content through LeapSearch by Zui, the internet engine. Standard apps include a clock, timer, calculator, notepad, calendar and voice memo capabilities, which are nice features for older children in elementary school. There’s a front and rear 2 MP camera for pictures and video and wifi compatibility for downloading apps and viewing safe, kid-friendly content from the internet with LeapSearch by Zui. Children can add special effects and stamps to their picture in the included Photo Fun app. Aside from being a gaming tablet, this device is also considered an e-reader and MP3 player. The Ultra has additional included games where children can design, feed and care for their own Pet. There’s a special app (Pet Chat) where children can safely text a friend with a LeapPad Ultra who is using their device in the same room. There are standard pre-typed phrases and smiley face emoticons that children can experiment with, which are great for those who aren’t yet able to read.
I was able to easily connect to free wifi at the library by inserting my parent passcode and simply clicking a button. Within LeapSearch by Zui, children can access pre-approved videos and pictures from the internet, looks like mainly YouTube. Inside LeapSearch, children can search for content through categories of interest. The top categories children can easily search by include: animals, pets, cats, dogs, drawing, skateboarding, football, soccer, toys, singing, basetball, sports, music, baseball, cartoons, dancing, arts and crafts, robots, bugs, space, cooking, princess, fashion, food, funny, geography, holidays, kids, learn how to, magic tricks, ninjas, nursery rhymes, nature, comic books, and dinosaurs.
After selecting a category, children can peruse pictures and videos. In the Dinosaur category I was able to find a short video clip from the popular PBS Kids show Dinosaur Train. Once selecting the video, kids can place the video or picture in their list of favorites, by clicking a star, so they can access it repeatedly. Just in that one dinosaur category, there were 21 videos and 10 images related to Dinosaurs. There were snippets from Dinosaur Train, videos of nursery rhymes, and a wide variety of dinosaur themed content. It did take the videos some difficulty loading on the free wifi at the library. When selecting the pictures, children can scroll through from one picture to the next. The dog section alone had 40 different videos with funny songs and experiences. On my particular device, I wasn’t yet able to access web sites. It could be a little slow transitioning from videos to various categories when using the wifi, so keep this in mind if you are out and about at various restaurants using free wifi. The video quality is decent, but certainly was a little grainy in low light.
The transitions from the home screen to the apps and from choosing apps to when the game launches can vary. When turning the device on, from the time a child chooses their profile, it’s about 30 seconds. It doesn’t seem that long because the screen changes a bunch of times to show the tablet is working during the process. App to app transitions are about 10-12 seconds. The picture quality is grainy in low-light situations for images and video, but the audio quality is very clear in the videos and when recording messages.
All of the elementary school age children who have used this particular device have enjoyed the games and camera features. If you have a child who is closer to the end recommended age range of this device 8-9 years, I would still consider your child’s developmental age and interests. Children in the pre-teen age are requesting to play games like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and Minecraft, which to my knowledge aren’t currently possible playing on this particular device, so for the older ages, purchasing an Android tablet (Nabi, Tabeo) may be a better option, depending on the child and your budget.
The LeapPad Ultra It is much larger than the LeapPad2, and at 3 lbs., though my son was able to manage it, it could be awkward for him at times. Therefore, younger children in the 3-4 year old age range may find it harder to manipulate. The LeapPad2 device, when placed on top of the LeapPad Ultra is just about the size of just the screen on the LeapPad Ultra. I love the larger screen size on the LeapPad Ultra and think it’s easier to more accurately select their choices during games. The rechargeable batteries are genius and I’m so thankful to just be able to plug the device in to charge, rather than take batteries out, re-charge them, then put them back into the device. If your family has invested in other LeapPad Explorers, then the LeapPad Ultra is the next logical step for elementary school aged children who are looking to access the web safely and text chat with peers, while still playing some of their favorite educational games. In my opinion, the perfect age for this device are children in the 5-7 year old age range, or kids enrolled in Kindergarten through 2nd grade because it will still allow them to grow into some of the advanced features of the device.
LeapFrog provided this device free to facilitate this review, any additional opinions are my own.