Leapfrog LeapPad 2 review
Our crack team of kid reviewers couldn't wait to get their hands on the LeapPad 2 – the entry-level, compact children's tablet from Leapfrog; read our LeapPad 2 review. And watch our LeapPad 2 video review with our 6-year-old reviewer showing off the tablet.
LeapFrog now sells three versions of the LeapPad. See Which LeapPad? Leapfrog LeapPad Ultra vs LeapPad 2 vs LeapPad Power.
The cheapest model is the LeapPad 2, which has an RRP of £89.99, although you can find it on sale online for around £70. Leapfrog has also announced a new LeapPad 3 tablet, and a brand new games console for kids, the LeapTV.
The LeapPad 2 Power is the same as the LeapPad 2 but comes with rechargeable batteries and an AC power adapter. Of course, you can buy standard rechargeable batteries for the non-Power LeapPad 2 anyway, but in this configuration it's all included for you. Leapfrog also sells a separate Recharger for £24, but you won't need this with the Power version. The LeapPad 2 Power costs £89.99. You may be able to find it a little cheaper online – check the latest online prices at the bottom of this review.
At the top end Leapfrog sells the new £119 LeapPad Ultra tablet for kids, which has a larger screen and wi-fi, plus a bunch of other fancy features. Read our Hands On LeapPad Ultra review. Update: Now read our LeapPad 3 and LeapPad Ultra XDi reviews.
If grown men and women can get over-excited about the prospect of a new iPad or Samsung Galaxy smartphone just imagine the bed-wetting anticipation of children hearing about updates to their favourite gadget toys. See also - Group test: Best tablets for children
The Leapfrog LeapPad Explorer was one of the big hits around the 2011 Christmas tree, and won various Mum’s awards. We loved its kid-friendly size, rounded-edge shape, and range of educational and fun apps. Take a look at the LeapPad 2 vs InnoTab 2 children's tablet comparison review.
It’s no iPad, but that’s a good thing for many reasons. Here’s some: the iPad is too big for smaller hands; the iPad links to the bad, mad world of the Internet; kids on iPads keep demanding new apps; iPads are expensive; iPads break easier when dropped; sometimes you want to use your own iPad, you know, yourself…
There are children's tablets, such as the Arnova ChildPad, that get closer to the look and feel of the adult tablets but we haven't been convinced yet.
See also: VTech InnoTab 2 review
Now the Leapfrog LeapPad2 Explorer is out, and my six-year-old daughter was jumping up and down at the thought of the new version. She loves the iPad and my iPhone, but she likes the LeapPad just as much – maybe because she knows its made for her.
(She a bit of a tech vet, though – and can tell a new iPad from an iPad 2 – so she might not be totally representative.)
One of the great things about the LeapPad is its stylish design. While it's not monochrome cool like most tablets it isn't overly garish or kiddy – something we found with its rival the VTech InnoTab. To be fair, though, some kids prefer the chunkier, bright colours, and the more stylish LeapPad looks might not bother a child in search of some tech app fun.
Leapfrog puts the intended LeapPad age range as 3-9. We think an eight or nine year-old would probably find this sort of device as a bit too toy-like and prefer something more like an adult tablet. But for 3-7 year-olds it’s a great alternative. My daughter can swap between LeapPad and iPad without thinking either is better than the other. As usual it’s down to the quality of the software, and the LeapPad has much to offer.
The new LeapPad looks very similar to the original version. It has a roomy 5-inch screen that might not be a match for the near 10-inch iPad but fits better into smaller hands, and weighs a lot less, too.
LeapPad 2 review: What’s new?
The LeapPad2 now includes not one but two still and video cameras, each at a higher resolution than that of the original LeapPad. It features a faster processor, better memory capability, and improved battery life.
In place of the original LeapPad’s rather weedy rear-facing 0.3-megapixel camera the LeapPad 2 boasts much more impressive 2-megapixel cameras on front and back.
A lot of the LeapPad apps make use of the camera, and kids love taking photos of their friends and families for use in various games. With the new front-facing camera they can take photos of themselves without having to ask for assistance.
The improved camera is therefore a welcome one, although maybe not enough to warrant upgrading your old LeapPad 1 to the new version. People new to LeapPad are getting a great deal, though.
Internal storage is doubled from 2GB to 4GB, and the processor gets a speed bump from 400MHz to 500MHz.
That extra storage capacity is handy with new apps including lots of video functionality, and those 2-megapixel photos take up a lot more space than ones from the poor 0.3MP camera.
As previously you control the action using either your finger or the included stylus on the LeapPad’s touchscreen. The stylus slots nicely into the side of the tablet, and is attached by a cord so it doesn’t get put down somewhere and lost.
The basic is still powered by four AA batteries, so we recommend you invest in a decent battery charger. There is an optional rechargeable battery pack, costing around £25. As this works only with the LeapPad2 you might be better off buying a decent battery charger for use all around the home. Alternatively invest in the LeapPad 2 Power – a model that comes with rechargeable batteries and an AC power adaptor.
Leapfrog claims that battery life for the LeapPad2 is improved from 8 hours for the first LeapPad to 9 hours.
All the games and apps come with some quite annoying music and sound effects so the volume controls are a godsend, as is the headphone jack. The best kids headphones we’ve seen are Griffin’s volume-limiting MyPhones, available in several models.
As there’s no Wi-Fi you have to tether the LeapPad to your computer to download new games, and loading/off-loading digital content such as those photos from the improved cameras. This is more of a bind than downloading games straight to an iPad/iPhone or Android smartphone but does remove some of the nagging for new games that those devices can quickly draw out of a child. The newer, larger, more expensive LeapPad Ultra does include wi-fi connectivity.
NEXT PAGE: LeapPad2 software
LeapPad 2 review: new software
As well as the 300+ apps and games that work with the LeapPad2 the new model comes with some bright new software. It comes pre-loaded with a bunch of games and apps, and you get two more – Cartoon Creativity and Art Studio – as soon as you complete online registration.
Cartoon Director is great, and really takes advantage of those two improved cameras for kids to create, direct and narrate their own animated movies.
There’s a heavy Disney tie-in with several of the games and creative apps.
Disney Animation Artist was a big hit with my daughter, who enjoyed drawing Mickey Mouse and friends with clear instructions and helpful hints.
While this and other art apps shouldn’t replace good old-fashioned drawing with pens and pencils, it’s still a novel way of teaching kids to trace and draw shapes fluently.
I thought Mickey Mouse would be a bit old-fashioned for my daughter but she enjoyed following the instructions and creating the drawings and animations of the old cartoon character.
Also from Disney is a Brave eBook, based on the latest Pixar movie. The LeapPad’s eBooks are built to improve word recognition and reading basics. Again this is no substitute for sitting down with a child and a book, but it’s a more productive app than many digital toys.
My daughter also enjoyed some of the games, such as Roly Poly Picnic and T-Rex Rush that both use the built-in motion-based accelerometer, and an updated Stretchy Monkey. These work much like iPad apps, and can keep little Johnny and Jane quiet for some time.
The games and creative activities are well explained first by voice (not too American but occasionally grating nonetheless) and pictures, so there shouldn’t be much time spent before your child is engrossed in the app or game.
One great feature of the LeapPad is that it automatically adjusts the learning to each child, asking more challenging questions as children’s skills develop, and most games feature different playing difficulty levels.
Prices for new games and educational apps aren’t in the iPad’s 69p range, with prices starting from £3.50 up to £7.50. Kids can get pretty blasé about the ease of getting new games and can tire of them quickly, so it’s worth checking that they use the installed games first before you invest in new ones.
As we pointed out in our original LeapPad review £5 isn’t too expensive if it keep your child quiet for half an hour or so every now and again, and a lot of the software has educational benefits, too.
Leapfrog LeapPad2 Explorer: Specs
- 2.0 megapixel front- and rear-facing cameras, 500MHz processor, 4GB storage
- 2.0 megapixel front- and rear-facing cameras, 500MHz processor, 4GB storage
We loved the original Leapfrog LeapPad Explorer tablet for kids, and the LeapPad2 is a great update – with improved hardware and a bunch of new games and educational and creative apps. It's not a toy, it's a proper little tablet that boasts access to over 300 apps. Although a lot less sophisticated than an iPad children didn’t seem to compare it badly, seeing it as another type of gadget altogether. It’s a better size for children than the iPad, and while the games and apps aren’t as slick they capture the child’s imagination just as well. Cheaper and more robust than adult tablets the LeapPad 2 is a definite hit with younger kids (aged 3-7).