I'll start off by saying that I have no experience of a child playing with this toy. My daughter is currently far too young for it (although if Amazon wanted it stress testing then she'd be ideal!) so this review is based on my own tinkerings.
The first thing I notice (apart from how bloody hard it is to get out of the packaging) is that is doesn't feel like a very good quality unit. Specifically, the battery compartments (yes plural, there are two on the back on each side, each one taking two AA batteries). They are quite awkward to open and close again and unless you get it just right they are quite hard to shut properly.
I am also a bit sceptical about the stylus (which can only be fixed to the right hand side of the unit, annoying as I'm left handed although it does just about reach). I can't feel any sharp points on it but sometimes when I'm using it, it feels as though it's scratching across the screen instead of gliding smoothly. I'm sure there are screen protectors available and with this being a toy for young children I would definitely recommend getting some.
Now, on to the fun stuff! The pad comes pre-loaded with several apps and you have the choice of one to download for free when you set it up. There is PetPad which is like a more advanced Tamagotchi; feed, bathe, play and learn (tracking alphabet letters) with a pet that you can customize (mine is an orange dragon but you can have all sorts. A pig, rabbit, sheep, cat etc.)
Art Studio is basically like Paint in Windows. You can use a pencil, paint brush (both of which you can change sizes), patten brush, stamp, fill tool, eraser etc. My only gripe here is that you can only undo three times, although I don't think young children will care too much about that.
Creativity is an app in which you can create cartoons. You choose a setting, the number of scenes, the characters, their movement, dialogue (you can even record your own), props etc. It's a very thorough process and even creating one scene could take a very long time. The minimum number of scenes is three and the maximum five. If your child enjoys this app, it will keep them quiet for a very long time. It does seem quite advanced though and as I said, my daughter is far too young for this so I can't really speculate on what age group this app would be best aimed at. I would hazard a guess at anywhere from 5-10 years old.
On top of all of this there is also the music player (with some educational songs pre-loaded) and then camera function, the pad having cameras on both the front and back and the ability to take both photos and videos. Photos can be manipulated in the photo studio (elongating noses, changing colours, that sort of thing) and saved onto the internal memory. The video camera isn't very good quality but considering the price of the unit and the range of other things it can do, it's not bad for the price.
My main issue about this pad (apart from those mentioned at the start of the review) is the additional costs you don't know about when you buy it. Firstly, as stated in other reviews, the pad is extremely power hungry. Taking four AA batteries, unless you are using rechargables (which will run down faster than disposables) you're going to spend a small fortune. Alternatively, you can buy the LeapFrog LeapPad Recharger Pack but it's pretty expensive when you've already had to fork out for the pad. There is a socket for a 9v mains adapter but you don't get one with the pad. If you have a generic one it will probably work but for the tiny amount they cost to produce, how hard would it have been to include one. Just another ploy to sell you the recharger pack, methinks!
Then there are the app downloads and cartridges. On the App Center [sic] there are various games, eBooks and learning tools and while there are some cheaper ones (£3.50 being the lowest price) some of them are as high as £20 each, such as the Cars 2 game and Tinkerbell game. In fact, there seems to be a lot of Disney stuff and as with all of their products, none of it is cheap. Actually, as I write this review, the LeapFrog Leapster/LeapPad Explorer Cars 2 Game cartridge for the tablet is £14.14 so you would save money and memory space.
Two other minor points that bug me slightly is the absence of a battery meter on the screen and there is no settings menu so you can't turn off the tips or background music on menus.
Overall I think it is a very good unit and it has the capability to entertain a child for many years, the level of education being adjustable in the user profile. I'll be putting mine away for a couple more years yet, until my daughter realises it is a toy, not a chew toy, but when it finally comes back out I'm sure she'll love it.
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