The new LeapPad 2 is now available, and our crack team of kid reviewers couldn't wait to get their hands on the 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.
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
Two great kids’ tablets that did battle last Christmas as top gadget gifts of the year have just been updated: VTech’s InnoTab 2 and the Leapfrog LeapPad2, reviewed here. See also Group test: what's the best cheap tablet PC?
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.
It 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 £29.99. As this works only with the LeapPad2 you might be better off buying a decent battery charger for use all around the home.
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.
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.
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