Monday, 17 September 2012

Toyologist Review: LeapPad2

Last year, as part of our Toyology assignment, Toys R Us sent us a LeapPad to try out (before it's official release, no less!). At the time it was described as the 'Next Generation of learning'. Now we have the LeapPad2, which can only mean one thing...

LeapPad2: The Deep Space Nine of learning.

DS9 was, without doubt, the best Star Trek series. This means that the LeapPad2 must be the best LeapPad. And it is. It does everything the old LeapPad did (which I wrote about here and I won't repeat for reinventing the wheel reasons), but adds in a number of new features. DS9 added Dabo girls. The LeapPad2 introduces a music player, faster processor, and a second camera so you can take pictures of yourself.

All three are kind of obvious, necessary additions really.

The second camera (located on the face of the LeapPad2) is essential if you want to take photos of yourself. These pictures can then be altered in various ways using the art app. The increase in processor speed is hard to judge, but it certainly seems faster.

Setting up is a bit of a pain. There's a bit of messing about connecting it to a computer before you can start using it.

The number of available apps & games has now increased to 225 - 5 of which come with the LeapPad2. All the games etc are 'education'-based, i.e. children ought to be learning something while they play. The difficulty can be changed depending on the ability of the child - for example the sentences for reading apps are made simpler/more complex depending on the set level. Plugging the LeapPad2 into a PC, you can then monitor how children have been doing. This isn't something I've ever done. I have enough of an idea how my children's education is progressing without having to resort to monitoring what the LeapPad thinks.

I will admit we haven't downloaded or played that many games since we received our LeapPad(1) a year ago, but the clear winner of those we have is the Ben 10 Ultimate Alien game. My 5 year old has completed it many, many times and it's still his game of choice whenever he plays with the LeapPad (and was the first thing he played when trying the LeapPad2!).

It's important to remember that the LeapPad2 is a toy. It's not a tablet computer and you shouldn't expect it to do everything your iPad can.

Battery life is still a problem and rechargables are a must. In fact there's now an official recharger pack you can use. I haven't tested this, but it's well worth looking into. The battery compartment has been redesigned, so I assume the recharger pack will only fit in the LeapPad2. There's also an AC adapter available (separately), but I'm not a fan simply because it destroys the portable aspect of the LeapPad.

LeapPads, to me at least, appear to be a lot like the iPad with regards to model versions. If you were going to buy one, you'd probably get the latest version, but if you already have the old one you'd have to think very hard before you upgraded. The new features are nice, but I'm not sure they're worth paying out £90 for again.

Plus they still haven't thought to include a Humuhumunukunukuapua'a :(

The big worry is that the LeapPad3 is no doubt on the horizon, and we all know what Voyager was like...

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