Leapfrog LeapPad3 Learning Tablet
Leapfrog LeapPad3 Learning Tablet
Based on our ongoing consumer research work (we consumer test child targeted products for various toy, gaming and hardware companies), we know that Leapfrog is a brand that is well trusted and liked by parents, due to ongoing excellence in developing highly educational products delivered with a huge dosage of fun. Many times when we test Leapfrog products, kids don’t even seem to realise/recognise the fact that they are learning as they play, because they are so focused on just doing fun stuff, which leads them to play more often and longer, and therefore has the agreeable effect of them learning more than they might otherwise.
The LeapPad tablet has been a mainstay of the kids tablet category for a few years now, based partly on parental trust in the brand and also on an excellent product. The LeapFrog LeapPad3 Kids’ Learning Tablet follows in the footsteps of previous versions by delivering kids safe, high educational value, high fun factor hardware at a very good price, with significantly upgraded technical spec versus earlier versions.
Having said that, we at The Toy Verdict tend to roll our eyes when we see review sites analysing the technical details of a kids learning tablet – for us the technical spec alone isn’t the point – the point is does the product do what kids and parents want it to and does it offer an enjoyable experience free of frustration or limitations due to technical issues/shortfalls? The answer in this case is a very definite yes, the LeapPad 3 works very well, and while there is an element of waiting for loading at some points, this was not so long as to be a real frustration (we have tested other products where this has been an issue, but not here!).
The processor is powerful enough for what the device needs to do (that’s as much technical analysis as we’re going to get into!)
In terms of kids taking fun pics/videos and doing some basic funny editing, the camera functionality works (there are 2 cameras, one front one back facing). There are better tablet cameras out there in terms of image resolution for sure, but for the kids we tested this product with we didn’t have any real problem/issues with it when used for a bit of fun.
The product comes with a mains adaptor/charger lead, which saves on ongoing battery costs & fiddling about changing them…and in terms of battery life, we found it to be acceptable versus other comparable products.
The other mistake we see many adult reviewers making is to look at the user interface and compare it with premium mass market tablet devices. let’s not kid ourselves for one minute here – this product is not as slick or funky in terms of navigation & user interface etc. as the top mass market tablets such as the ubiquitous iPad. But that isn’t necessarily important in this case – the way we look at a product like this is to see whether kids like it/can use it and in this instance they definitely can. The navigation on the LeapPad3 is easy and fairly intuitive overall, there are a few little bits where the child may have to work a little harder to figure out the navigation or how to get to something in particular, but we don’t see a major issue/failing anywhere from this perspective.
In terms of surviving usage by the average child, we definitely approve of the LeapPad 3…to an adult it probably won’t look like the coolest of gadgets, as it’s built for strength and endurance more than pure style…but that’s what’s needed in this kind of device! We tested early versions of the Kindle e reading device as an example, and while the functionality was great, they were so fragile as to be impractical for kids on the whole who tend to buffet, bash, bump and drop such devices as a matter of course.
With the LeapPad3, you get all the knowledge and engineering know how of a company who ONLY makes kids devices. We tried to break the device in a few entertaining ways – we tried throwing it at walls, dropping it on a range of flooring surfaces found in the average house and we dropped it from varying heights upto a maximum of 8 feet (equivalent to a 6 year old sitting on another 6 year olds shoulders standing on a high step!). When we dropped it onto concrete from 8 feet, not only did it have no impact/effect on the working of the device, it also didn’t even scratch the tough outer shell of the device. The stylus or pointer is attached by string which can lead to losing it when the strong breaks if the string is not sturdy enough. We tried hard to pull/sever the string, and didn’t manage to use force to pull it off or sever it…having said that kids are often more resourceful/clumsy than adults, so we’re not saying it’s unbreakable, just that overall it did appear to be pretty tough!
In terms of apps & content, we found lots of very good things, and one definite negative. Overall, the content is very well put together, with a very cunning balance between pure fun and educational content. Many times the children we tested with barely noticed/acknowledged they were doing school type tasks, because these tasks were so skillfully enveloped in fun activities/games!
There is a really good catalogue of content to choose from, covering different academic topics/disciplines as well as using known brands/characters alongside more generic apps. The only clear negative we found though when reviewing the LeapPad3 was the need to add additional content, and the cost of doing this/the cost of some of the apps. We suggest that to get good value out of the device, you’d need to download between 4-6 additional apps.
The Apps vary in cost, a quick glance through the app store showed prices varying from c. $5-25 in the US store and £5-25 in the UK store. Frankly the upper end of pricing seems uncompetitive when compared with the array of highly engaging apps on iOS or Android devices for free, or at the very lowest price levels available in the Leapfrog Apps Store. So when considering the content, we decided we would see if we could find enough apps of the type/quality we wanted at budget prices i.e. $5/£5…and we found over 300 Apps in the US store at those prices, and nearly 600 on the UK store. The only issue with taking that approach is if your child really wants a particular app they can see on the app store at a higher price point, but this is no different from going into a video game store we concluded…kids always want things that are expensive, but they don’t always get what they want!
So our conclusion on content/apps is that people buying a LeapPad 3 are likely to need to buy at least a few more apps to ensure sufficient content, but that there is a significant amount of budget priced content available as to make it a worthwhile purchase overall.
In terms of children accessing the internet, this is only via Leapfrog’s own LeapSearch portal/browser. This provided us with a lot of fun one afternoon, when we set out to see if we could find anything naughty, rude or perhaps significantly worse via LeapSearch. We’re not going to spell out the words/search terms we inputted here, but you can probably imagine some of them! We started with risque and moved on to downright offensive/100% not suitable for kids (or perhaps even any right minded human being). And in the end we can report that we did not find a single piece of unsuitable content via LeapSearch, despite 20 minutes of enthusiastic efforts. So can we verify that LeapSearch is 100% safe…? No, because we didn’t try every search possibility/review all search results, but a reasonably in depth review was at worst reassuring and at best actually quite impressive. LeapSearch certainly seemed as safe as internet browsing gets based on our review (but please do your own due diligence at all times in terms of internet safety and your child/children!).
Just one other quick point on internet access – once downloaded, the app content does not need an internet connection to work, so the LeapFrog LeapPad3 Kids’ Learning Tablet can definitely help reduce friction/moaning/general boredom on journeys and during periods of waiting without needing a Wi-Fi connection to entertain.
WHO’S IT FOR: We’d expect kids from around 4-7 will get the most out of the LeapPad3 learning tablet from Leapfrog, although we would probably not buy for a 7 year old, as they might grow out of it quite quickly, we would certainly buy for 4-6 year olds. Parents who want to add educational learning into the tablet play pattern & who are looking for a safer digital portal for their kids should find this product meets their objectives.
THE TOY VERDICT: The LeapPad3 learning tablet from Leapfrog is a great device. Kids we tested it with really enjoyed playing on it, and the technical spec seemed to more than support whatever kids wanted to do on it. Most importantly it offers the worthy end goal/output of educational development via the tablet play pattern/format…which kids know well, really like and usually don’t have to be persuaded to engage with! This product and additional bought content will definitely enhance the learning and development of kids of the target age. We therefore strongly recommend the LeapPad3 learning tablet from Leapfrog.
(with the one caveat that you should expect to buy more apps/content, you may want to budget for an additional c. $30/£30 or so in added content to allow your child to use the device to its best extent).