If you’re a parent, there’s a strong chance that your child is just as attached to your iPad or tablet as you are. But come this August Junior will have a new toy to play with that’s made just for kids. While there are numerous child-friendly tablets available, you’ll be hard pressed to find one with such personalized education features as those on the upcoming $149 LeapFrog LeapPad Ultra.
This 7-inch tablet is more than just a child-friendly device—it actually changes to fit your child’s learning capabilities. So, for instance, the tablet will automatically adjust the difficulty of its games or the curriculum of its other apps based on your child’s age and information provided in his or her profile. Additionally, if your child struggles in a particular area, the LeapPad Ultra will automatically bump the difficultly level down a notch or two.
At $149, the LeapPad Ultra is likely to cost about $30 less than the $179 Fuhu Nabi 2, which also has a 7-inch display. The Ultra runs on the Linux-based LF 2000 series processor you’ll find in the LeapPad 2, but with speeds clocked at 800MHz rather than 550MHz. In addition to a zippier CPU, the Ultra also comes with 8GB of onboard storage—offering double the space of its 4GB predecessor.
LeapFrog tells us that 11 apps will come preloaded with the tablet. Parents will be able to either downloading apps from the company’s election of 800 games and education programs or purchase cartridges.
If you’re looking to upgrade your child’s LeapPad 2 to a LeapPad Ultra, don’t expect a similar looking device. LeapFrog has bumped the tablet’s screen real estate from 5 inches to 7 inches, swapping out the plastic green-and-black design for a more durable build.
The LeapPad Ultra comes with a hard plastic material situated around the 1024 x 600 display. Its edges and rear are coated in a softer shock-absorbent substance, and the rest of the bezel consists of a glossy white plastic.
Despite the LeapPad Ultra’s larger size, it barely felt heavier than its predecessor. The design certainly looks different than that of the LeapPad 2, but you’ll still find familiar buttons, such as the directional pad and home key below its display. You’ll notice speaker grills poking out from the soft black material surrounding the touch screen, and a 2-megapixel front camera near the top right corner.
The LeapPad’s coating isn’t removable like that of the Fuhu Nabi 2, but it didn’t add much bulk to the slate. There’s no doubt that the LeapPad Ultra looks and feels like a children’s tablet, but its flatter edges make it sleeker than the Nabi 2 with its flared-out corners.
It’s common for kids’ tablets to come with protected Web browsers, but LeapFrog has taken a different approach. Rather than filtering content that may be unsuitable for children, LeapFrog has teamed up with Zui to create a browser that can only access content curated by LeapFrog. So, instead of blocking inappropriate content, LeapFrog’s LeapSearch browser pulls in child-friendly and beneficial websites for browsing.
Unfortunately, LeapSearch was only in its prototype stages during our preview, but we got a sneak peek at the browser’s interface. Along the top of the screen, you’ll find icons for Videos, Pictures, Web, Categories, and Favorites. Most of the screen real estate is dedicated to content, while the bottom area of the UI lets users scroll through categories ranging from Drawing to Football and Skateboarding.
One of the most prominent features you’ll find in the LeapPad Ultra that isn’t in the previous version is built-in Wi-Fi capabilities. This lets children engage in games with other friends or family members using a LeapPad Ultra via its integrated Wi-Fi antenna. For example, the Pet Chat app that comes preloaded with the tablet lets users send messages to one another and choose a pet to display as their avatar.
Preorders for the LeapPad Ultra will begin July 17th, with widespread availability slated for August. The Nabi 2 offers full a beefier quad-core processor for playing demanding games and its own comprehensive learning system. On the other hand, the Ultra seems better suited for smaller children, especially because of its purposely limited web browser. We look forward to reviewing LeapPad’s latest to see how much tablet kids get for $149.