LeapFrog LeapTV full review
We've seen LeapFrog's kids' tablets and now the company has a standalone games console which comes with a camera and a motion controller. See also: Best tablets for kids.
Kids tablets are great for entertaining little ones while also helping to prevent them from roaming around freely on the internet. Although some have some educational benefit, none encourages them to get up off the sofa and get active. They do precisely the opposite, in fact.
That's why Leapfrog came up with the Leap TV. It's designed to entertain kids between 3 and 8 years old but thanks to the Xbox Kinect-style camera and motion controller, it also keeps them on their feet.
Leapfrog Leap TV review: setup
The console is very easy to set up and takes around 10 minutes. Almost everything you need is in the box, including an HDMI cable to connect the Leap TV to your TV. What's not included is a pair of AA batteries for the controller, so make sure you have some at the ready to avoid disappointed kids.
During setup, you'll need to connect the console to your Wi-Fi network and then use a smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC to create a Leapfrog account and link it with the console. You'll also create individual profiles for your kids this way, and it's how you download and install games from the online app store. The new store, dedicated to the Leap TV, should launch in December.
The included camera can be put on the bench in front of your TV, but there's a bracket in the box to hook it over the top of your TV.
The last step is to make sure the room is well lit, as the camera won't 'see' a child in a dim room. We found it was best to position a lamp next to the TV shining at the child.
Leapfrog Leap TV review: games
Once you've finished the setup process, the built-in Pet Play World game is unlocked. This provides hours of fun on its own, but may well have been a big hit because our two testers, aged 3 and 7, were both girls.
Each player can create multiple pets, choose their colour and name and then play with them, feed them, wash them and give them toys. There are various sub games which involve core reading and maths skills.
The game uses all three control methods: classic controller, pointer mode and 'full body motion'. The latter works exactly like the Xbox Kinect where you simply move around and use your hands to interact with what's on screen.
The controller has a button which allows it to rotate from 'classic' to pointer mode. When used as a pointer, the end lights up so the camera can see it and the child can move it around to select menu items, or make things happen within games. (It also has a wrist strap which stops them accidentally firing it at your TV or a sibling.)
In our experience younger kids get on far better in pointer mode, which is more intuitive, while older kids have the ability to master the joystick as well. However, you don't always get the option to use pointer mode: the classic position must be used in the main menu for choosing user profiles and games, for example.
The console knows which position the controller is in, and will pop up a message to tell you to change it if it's the wrong one.
Don't expect to be able to leave younger kids unsupervised with the console, as they'll have a hard time navigating menus and moving between the different parts of each game. It's simply not as easy to use as a device with a touchscreen. A message which appears when you turn the LeapTV on says that supervision is required at all times.
As well as Pet Play World, we also tried out a cartridge game: Jake and the Neverland Pirates. The proprietary cartridge system is an alternative to downloading games online, but they all cost £25.
Our testers had enormous fun playing the game using the controller in pointer mode to dig for treasure and then the body motion mode to grab gold coins all over the screen.
Throughout the games, kids are presented with reading or maths questions which they must answer to continue. Their success will obviously depend on their age, but they are given questions appropriate to their age, which is why it's important to make sure they're signed in with their own profile.
Another great element is badges which players earn for achieving various things, and they can check on their badge collection to see what's left to unlock.
Since the Leap TV is designed for both those that can and can't read, all written instructions are also spoken. The only confusing aspect was that during some instructions you can move the pointer around the screen but can't select anything until the voice has finished speaking.
Leap TV review: verdict
At its RRP of £120, the Leap TV is quite expensive, but it's already available on Amazon for £89 which is considerably more affordable. Cartridge games haven't been discounted yet and at £25 each they seem expensive when we're all used to paying just a few pounds for tablet and smartphone apps.
Leapfrog says there will be a range of prices on the app store, but since we've yet to see it, all we know is that there will be over 100 titles to choose between. What we do know is that kids think the Leap TV is excellent fun: the main problem is getting them to stop playing on it.
If your children are already at the top end of the age range - 7 or 8 - the Leap TV might have limited interest for them, but if they're younger, they should enjoy years of fun from it.
LeapFrog LeapTV: Specs
- Games console
- Built-in Wi-Fi (802.11n) and Bluetooth 2.1
- Processor: Quad core custom processor 1GHz
- 1GB DDR3 RAM
- 16GB internal storage
- Motion-sensing camera
- Ethernet (port available
- cable not included)
- HDMI output (1280x720)
- Game format: Custom cartridges and digital downloads