Tech for the kids

In my opinion there isn’t much competition when it comes to child friendly and educational software and tools, with the iPad being head and shoulders above other tablets. But even as good as the iPad is, it pales in comparison to the real big boys in the industry.

Vtech and Leapfrog, have had a firm grip on the early child education market for quite a while and with Leapfrog going one step further and releasing the LeapPad2, they just continue to show their dominance.

Since last year, the company stepped things up a notch by offering up its LeapPad tablet for youngsters and pricing it at just $100. This small investment saves you from the constant worry you would have when your five year old has your other, less-than-cheap, tablet. You also get LeapFrog’s developmental education know-how in all of its apps, the added comfort of knowing that not only have they been doing this for a long time, but they have been doing it very well.

While the LeapPad2 looks nearly identical to the original LeapPad Explorer, there are some notable enhancements. All the ports have remained the same and it still includes a stylus, but now it boosts a new front facing 2MP camera, which can do both still pictures and video. This is either targeted at an older crowd or just done because “everyone else is doing it”.

While the rear camera has also been upgraded, it too is only 2MP, which is kind of a letdown. Aside from that, it still features an accelerometer and a resistive five-inch touchscreen, but thanks to some upgrades, it’s now less power hungry and allows for an entire full hour more of runtime while providing a much warmer overall colour representation.

Other notable upgrades include, 4GB of storage (up from two) and a 550Mhz processor (up from 400), and yea, those specs don’t make it even as powerful as the latest Smartphone, but it is more than enough power to run the 325 (and growing) apps LeapFrog has for it.

Better yet, the device is now rated for young ones as little as three years old, and LeapFrog says it’ll have software to match. However, no wireless connectivity does mean you will have to use a USB cable and your computer for loading and removal of content.

Another product from Leapfrog being upgraded is the Leapster GS, a $70 Gameboy-like portable unit focused more on educational gaming. The device has increased in width, but it now doesn’t have a bulky battery pack and certainly feels much better in the hands. The screen’s size has been increased to 3.5-inches (from 3.2, albeit no bump in resolution), but it’s still resistive and functions either with your finger or an included stylus. The rear camera has also been bumped up to 2MPs allowing for similar functionality to that of the LeapPad 2.

Now the question most people have been asking relates to software, and you’ll be glad to know that both systems are essentially backwards compatible. So whether you were using cartridges or downloading apps (which are priced from around US $5 to US $25) LeapFrog’s store, all of that content can go back and forth between the devices and their predecessors. That said, the LeapPad 2 comes pre-installed with the likes of a new music player and a few creativity apps.

I think both these products are solid investments for your kids and will only reap good rewards in the development of young minds.

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