Since the Apple iPad first hit the market, tablets have been hot—and not just for grownups. A number of companies have released kid-oriented tablets that feature at least some of the capabilities of real tablets. We've tested four models and found the LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Learning Tablet ($100) to be the easiest to use and most fun overall, as judged by Consumer Reports' kid panelists..
Eight in 10 children in our panel said that they would like to own the LeapPad, though the device fared only OK in our lab tests of display quality and battery life (we used some of the same test protocols we use to test "adult" tablets). Of the other models we tested, the Fisher-Price iXL ($80) was popular with younger kids and had the longest battery life; as for the InnoTab, the kid testers thought its games were the most fun. The Vinci Tab ($480) had the best display and touch-screen interface of the tablet but was otherwise not a standout performer, and it costs much more than the other tested tablets.
Getting the LeapPad may be a shopping challenge. The device is one of the hottest items, period, this holidays, with 14 percent of
Americans adults who shop for gifts planning to give the LeapPad as a present, according to a recent Consumer Reports survey.[corrected] Unsurprisingly, we’ve heard reports that many stores are sold out of the popular tablet. At the time of writing, for example, Amazon.com is selling LeapPads only through secondary sellers—at nearly double the list price.
Hopefully, parents won’t have to pony up that extra money, though. LeapFrog sent us this statement:
Major retailers and online stores will receive additional LeapPad shipments prior to Christmas (we are shipping these weekly). In the meantime, we continue to remind our customers to check their local retailers and websites regularly, and to shop early in the day if possible
. We recognize this is a frustrating time but we are doing our very best to produce these quickly as we head into the holiday.
As with the shortage of Nintendo Wiis two holiday seasons ago, it’s probably a good idea to ask your local store which day or days it expects to receive LeapPad shipments and whether you can reserve one.