Learning with LeapFrog 

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Noted for its expertise in the development of educational devices for young children, LeapFrog has come up with the LeapFrog Epic™. This product is an Android-based tablet aimed at children in the three to nine year old age group.

LeapFrog EPIC Tablet for children
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Encased with a LeapFrog green bumper, the hardware element of this product is a tablet with a 7-inch capacitive touch-screen.  The screen has a resolution of 1024 x 600.  While this resolution should be fine for the targeted audience, it was noticeable that viewing angles were fairly restrictive.  This would certainly cut down on the opportunity for groups of children to gather round this device as a child shares the LeapFrog experience with friends.

The green bumper surrounding the screen serves a number of purposes.  It acts as storage for the bundled stylus which is attached to the bumper by a cord to ensure it does not get misplaced.  As well as providing a docking area for the stylus, the bumper should also help keep sticky fingers away from the screen as the Epic is held in the grip of its young owner.  Plus, of course, the bumper will add a layer of protective if the device was dropped at any time.

Powering this tablet is a 1.3 GHZ Quad-core processor which has access to 1GB of RAM.  By default storage capacity is set at 16GB but this is before various elements have taken their share.  Checking my review unit, this storage had dropped below 10GB once the Android (4.4) operating system and a few apps had been installed.  Fortunately there is a micro SD card slot to expand available storage by up to 32GB.  Depending upon use, the child should get around six hours plus of use from a single charge of the rechargeable Lithium-ion battery which does not appear to be replaceable.  A micro USB port, on the base of the tablet, allows for battery charging.

The LeapFrog Epic has both front and rear mounted cameras.  These are 2MP devices with the ability to capture still images and video clips.  There is no option for zooming while focusing is just about adequate.  With no flash facility, plenty of ambient light will be required to avoid images being too dark to make out the content of captured scenes.

Built-in support is provided for wireless WiFi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0.  However the Bluetooth feature is turned off by default and will need to be activated by the parent.  The tablet also has a built-in motion sensor accelerometer.

When firing up the device for the initially boot up, the Epic will be in parental mode as various set up stages will need to be worked through.  Screens dealing with country location, WiFi network and date/time issues will need to be navigated before a possible system upgrade offer will be made.  This is a LeapFrog system update rather than Android which is set at version 4.4.  In the case of the review unit, the system upgrade was from 1.0.124 to 1.3.37.

A LeapFrog account will need to be created.  This account will require information regarding the parent’s name, email address, year of birth, password, postcode and a parental numeric lock code.  Information regarding the children using the device can be entered.  This information will be made up of the names of the children, date-of-birth, sex and age group.

Following the initial setting up of the device, future boot up sessions will require a three second depress of the power button, located at the top of the device when in landscape mode, with a further 37 seconds taken up before arriving at the child’s log-in screen.  Landscape mode is often the required orientation for many of the apps.  A screen tap is all that is required to move on to the interactive scrolling Home screen showing the different areas of a city landscape.

Decorating the bottom of this landscape are icons for six default apps.  This selection of apps includes a calendar, camera, search and PetPadParty (one of the three free games that come with this product).  By moving these apps to the top of the screen, the landscape disappears to be replaced by icons for other available apps.  You can replace any of the default offerings with these apps to make a favourite’s collection.

Not surprisingly, due to LeapFrog’s original conception and current base being in America, the various apps have a very strong American influence.  Not only were the voices American but the locations were decidedly situated on the other side of the pond.  I was disappointed with this aspect of the product.  While some of the apps were fun and I could see the educational valuable in certain offerings, I felt that the apps were being targeted at a young age group than that of the child using the product.

The parent can apply restrictions regard the use of the tablet and purchase new titles from the LeapFrog store.  This store categories its content under headings that include those for Original, Best Selling, Games and Shop by Skill.  Prices for these apps tended to vary between £3.50 and £15.00.

The LeapFrog Epic could definitely benefit from localisation to appeal to UK users.  With its current price point of £119.99, this tablet could well struggle when coming up against competition from the new Amazon Kids Edition Fire product which has a lower price point and a year’s subscription to special content for your children.

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OverallLeapFrog Epic rated 60 out of 100

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