My first impressions on taking the LeapPad Ultra out were how bright and sturdy it is. It's taken a few drops already- inevitable in the hands of a four year old- and it's looking none the worse. When it's turned on the screen is bright and really clear.
The set up was really easy, five minutes of setting up an account and connecting to wifi and it was ready to be handed over to BB. The pre-loaded software is great. There is a drawing program, and the built in stylus seems like it will really help his pencil control. He's already having fun recording his voice as well as taking selfies with the front and rear cameras. He also has a pet avatar (currently a purple drangon called Super Monster) which he can play games with and use to play against other friends who have LeapPad Ultra. We haven't tried this feature yet.
We had a look on the app store pretty much straight away and naturally BB noticed the Cars 2 game straight away! The apps vary in price from about £20 for newer ones featuring Disney characters down to £3 for smaller apps. Once set up is complete BB got to pick a free app and he chose Scaredy Cat in the Spooky Woods. This is one of the simpler games but he's probably played it as much as the more expensive ones. In it he has to plan a route home for a cartoon cat, once again the stylus use will hopefully help with his pencil skills. We did cave and let him get some others, the Cars 2 interactive storybook is quite impressive. BB can read along with the story, or if he's feeling particularly lazy, have it read to him while playing fun games at various points. There are over five hundred apps and they are all are educator approved, so while they're fun and entertaining for him they're also helping his development. You can buy and download online from the app store or buy cartridges in shops featuring the same games.
We've been considering getting BB a tablet for a while but there are obviously some issues around having full internet and YouTube access at four years old. LeapPad Ultra solves this issue with Zui, the kid friendly web browser. BB can still look at videos but there's no possibility of him finding something inappropriate.
The parental tools in general are great. To get into the parent's area requires a four digit code: and although smarty pants might figure that out shortly (he has on our iPhones!) there is a password required for him to spend any money on the app store. In fact, we can access an account on the laptop that would let us send apps straight to his LeapPad, should we see one we think he'd like, whether his LeapPad is in the room or not.
We have tried a couple of other kids tablets and haven't been impressed, in fact we've had to return one because it flat out didn't work. At £119 RRP the LeapPad Ultra is not one of the cheaper options but it does seem to be a case of you get what you pay for. It's streets ahead of the others we tried in reliability (in that it actually works!), it feels sturdier and better built and the screen is brighter and better defined. There are fewer apps available than on a tablet which connects to Google Play but we know that the apps available are age appropriate and educational, which can't be said for everything on those with an "open" app store.
BB has loved the LeapPad so far, the games are well made and fun and he loves drawing and taking pictures with it. However the big advantage for me so far is the peace of mind it offers me as a parent. I know that everything on there is age appropriate and that he isn't looking at anything I wouldn't want him exposed to. I also know that while he's having fun playing the games, he's also learning and improving skills, so really the LeapPad Ultra is a hit for both of us. It really would make the perfect gift for a pre-schooler. Don't just take my word for it though here is Blondie Boy's review!