LeapFrog LeapPad Plat­inum

Tech Advisor - - REVIEWS - Jim Martin

LeapFrog is one of the best-known brands when it comes to kids tablets. The Plat­inum is – as the name sug­gests – the top-of-the-range model. In looks and how it works, it’s sim­i­lar to the older mod­els.

It has a built-in sty­lus, front and rear cam­eras, a speaker, head­phone socket and Wi-Fi (with a kid-safe web browser). The LeapFrog also comes with sev­eral pre­loaded apps and some demos, and you can buy more apps from the LeapFrog app store.

It’s pos­si­ble to cre­ate mul­ti­ple user pro­files so it can be shared be­tween sib­lings, and games of­fer age-ap­pro­pri­ate ma­te­rial.

The Plat­inum costs £99.99 and comes in ei­ther pink or green. You get the PetPadParty game in­cluded (very sim­i­lar to PetPlayWorld on the LeapTV), along with a clock app (which reads out the time to help kids learn to read an ana­logue clock), a cal­cu­la­tor, a cal­en­dar, voice memo and a cam­era app which can add fun ef­fects to photos.

Through the app store you’ll find an ex­tra 800 or so apps rang­ing from £2 to £20. There are also the new Imagi­cards games. These are £19.99 each and come with a tin of cards which are used in the game.

As it’s de­signed for chil­dren aged from three to nine (we think a two year old would get enough out of it, but be­yond seven kids will prob­a­bly find it too child­ish), the LeapPad Plat­inum has a tough case and a ‘shat­ter-safe’ screen.

The 7in screen has a res­o­lu­tion of 1024x600, which is higher than other LeapPad tablets, but by no means high res­o­lu­tion by to­day’s stan­dards. It’s bright enough and colour­ful, with good view­ing an­gles.

There’s a vol­ume rocker on the bot­tom edge and a card slot for game car­tridges on the right.

You can charge the tablet us­ing the bun­dled charger or use the in­cluded USB ca­ble to charge it from your com­puter or any USB charger (which means it can also be charged in a car).

The bat­tery lasts around five hours, which isn’t amaz­ing, but as the tablet turns off com­pletely when you press the power but­ton or if you leave it idle for too long, power isn’t wasted. It also means the Plat­inum keeps its charge even if you don’t use it for a few days. We found it was enough for a good few ses­sions be­fore it needed a recharge.

To the left of the screen is a di­rec­tion pad which can be used to nav­i­gate around in some apps, and press­ing left or right moves be­tween home screens.

There’s enough pre­in­stalled for hours of fun. Our three-year-old tester loved PetPadParty, as well as the in­cluded mu­sic in the Mu­sic app.

In PetPadParty, a pre-schooler will have to se­lect num­bers and letters when di­rected to un­lock minigames which them­selves help with dex­ter­ity and are gen­er­ally just good fun. You can cre­ate and name pets, give them toys, feed them, wash them and ex­er­cise them.

Six demos come with the tablet, although some re­quire ex­tra files down­load­ing be­fore you can play them. The Imagi­card demo is one of them. This gives you a flavour of what you’ll get for £19.99 if you buy one of the full sets. It’s not the aug­mented re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ence we were ex­pect­ing, though. When you fo­cus the cam­era on a card, the tablet recog­nises it and takes a photo, and the let­ter or char­ac­ter springs into life on top of the photo. Be­cause it’s a photo, you can’t move the tablet around and see the char­ac­ter run around on your knees or on the floor as you can with cer­tain iOS and An­droid apps.

The first time you go to the app store, you will be prompted to down­load a free app (and cre­ate a LeapFrog ac­count if you skipped that step dur­ing setup). There’s a choice of three for each age group, and you’re al­lowed one. For the four to five Nurs­ery age group we were of­fered spell­ing, maths or a colour­ing game. It’s a shame that no colour­ing or sketch­ing app is in­cluded by de­fault. There’s a Notes app, but it only lets you type us­ing the key­board – not much use if your child is three.

You can fil­ter by age group as well as by price, char­ac­ter, app cat­e­gory or skillset. Sadly there are no free apps. It’s even more of a walled gar­den than an iPad: there are no other app stores to browse, and although there are Dis­ney and Nick­elodeon li­cences, you’re not go­ing to find Toca Boca and many other pop­u­lar kids games here.

For the most part, the Plat­inum is speedy enough, but there can be de­lays when re­turn­ing to the home screen and launch­ing apps. Kids can of­ten be con­fused when there’s a tu­to­rial sec­tion of an app as it stops be­ing in­ter­ac­tive un­til the tu­to­rial is over, so it’s worth su­per­vis­ing them un­til they’ve played it for a bit.

Al­most ev­ery in­struc­tion is spo­ken so kids don’t need to be able to read to use most as­pects of apps.

It al­most goes with­out say­ing that the 2Mp cam­eras aren’t up to much. Although chil­dren will have fun us­ing them to take photos and videos, their qual­ity is dis­mal by mod­ern stan­dards. It’s a sad fact that ev­ery kid’s tablet we’ve tested has poor cam­eras, and the VGA video clips from the Plat­inum aren’t re­ally good enough for shar­ing.

Ver­dict

If you’re af­ter a tablet for your kids, then the LeapPad Plat­inum is a de­cent choice.

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