LeapPad Platinum 

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Designed specifically for young children, the LeapPad takes a walled-garden approach to the access and content available to its users.

LeapFrog LeapPad Platinum Childrens tablet computer
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As the combination that makes up its title of LeapPad and Platinum might indicate, this particular LeapFrog product is the company’s top-of-the-range tablet aimed at the younger members of the family.  In fact LeapFrog has pitched this tablet, with its collection of facilities that include WiFi connectivity, built-in stylus, front and rear cameras and a rechargeable battery, at the 3 – 9 year age group.

Powered by a 1GHz processor with 8GB of internal storage with a choice of direct power and internal battery pack, the LeapPad has a tough outer shell with a lime green trim.  This shell helps protect a shatterproof 7-inch screen.  The LeapPad tablet has dimensions of 9.1 x 1 x 5.9 inches (W x D x H) and weighs 19.9 oz. 

Dominating the front of the LeapPad is a multi-touch, capacitive screen which delivers a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels.  While not up to the standard of current high definition screens available on many devices, the LeapPad screen is both bright and colourful.  It should be more than adequate and appeal to its targeted audience who have the choice of using a finger or the soft-top stylus that forms part of the package as the control medium.

Situated to the left of the screen is a perforated speaker outlet plus a D-pad control unit and a Home button which always returns you to the first page of the Home screen rather than the last viewed page.  A microphone is located beneath the screen for recording messages.  Mounted just above the screen is a 2MP camera.  A second 2MP camera is positioned on the rear of the unit.

When not being used, the stylus can live in a compartment located on the left side and base of the LeapPad.  A green lanyard helps ensure the stylus does not get mislaid.  Also located on the base of the unit, but this time on the right side, is a volume rocker.  I felt that this rocker needed to be set at its maximum level to obtain a reasonable level of output although, in some ways, it was perhaps beneficial to have a lower volume if the constant American accent, used by the voices on the various apps, annoys you.

Arranged down the right side of the LeapPad are a light indicating a charging process plus a slot for inserting any game cartridges you might purchase separately from LeapFrog.  There is also a power button which just requires a quick press to activate the powering up or down processes.  Following the quick power button press, there is around a 10-second delay before the LeapPad becomes operational.

On the first boot–up, the parent will need to set up the LeapPad by entering the country and linking the device to a network for use by the child or children.  A password protected account will need to be created and the parent facility can be further protected by a four-character PIN.

Named profiles can be created for those children who will be using the LeapPad.  An automatic Guest profile will be added for use by children who come calling.  The named profiles will contain birthday details and whether they have the right to visit the apps centre to browse available apps and watch previews.  During the parental session the screen will be predominately in portrait more and will then switch to a landscape orientation for many, but not all, the various apps designed for young children. 

The profiles for children will be automatically populated with a pre-defined set of apps.  By default you get a dozen pre-defined apps for the child plus a selection of demos and a sneak preview app.  The pre-defined apps include PetPadParty mini games, Pet Chat for text messaging with owners of other LeapPad units, Leap Search for Internet browsing and Photo Fun which lets you decorate images.  There are also apps for creating notes, recording memos, a basic calculator and a calendar to which you can add mini pics.

You can also add one free app from an offered selection.  This free app, which is limited to one per LeapPad rather than one per child, will become available to all those who have a named profile.  The various apps come with spoken instructions delivered with an American accent which some could find off-putting, especially if the child starts to imitate the accent.

The LeapPad Platinum, priced at £99.00 is a well designed product that should appeal to its targeted audience.  Parents can lock out unwanted features and control the amount of time the device can be used.  A small supply of apps comes bundled with the LeapPad and additional apps can be purchased from LeapFrog but not, as far as I am aware, from anywhere else.  Prices for the apps range up to £20.  The product comes with a limited one-year warranty.

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