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LeapPad Ultra: Software, Apps, Performance and Verdict

Michael Sawh

By Michael Sawh



Our Score:


LeapPad Ultra: Software

The LeapPad Ultra runs on its very own operating system and as expected it’s big, bright, colourful and very easy to navigate around. When you first boot up you can sign in as a guest or create a profile. As a guest user you’ll still have access to all of the apps installed on the tablet, but scores and badges will not be saved.

There’s no Android-style app drawer so all apps live on the multiple homescreens. Up top you’ll find status indicators for Wi-Fi signal and battery life. Down the bottom there are shortcuts to the camera, photo gallery badges and a settings tab. Here you can adjust profiles, lock or unlock the screen orientation, log out and access the all-important parent mode. You’ll need to set up a four digit lock code when you first turn on the tablet. This will gain you access to the parental settings where you can control the Wi-Fi setup, manage content, access the app store, keep the tablet updated and reset the lock.

Now that there’s Wi-Fi on board you don’t need to rely on the LeapFrog Connect software for Windows or Mac computers to browse, purchase, download and sync apps. That can all be done from the App Centre where you can download content straight to the tablet homescreen. If you’ve already spent a lot of money buying apps on previous LeapFrog devices you can transfer them over using the LeapFrog Connect software and store the same apps on up to three devices along as they are all registered to the same email address.

LeapPad Ultra

Venturing into the app centre, there’s a relatively extensive range of apps, videos, music downloads and eBook available including Disney-endorsed content. But this is also where the LeapFrog model becomes something of a contentious issue. Pricing of apps range from £3.50 all the way up to £20. All of the content is pre-approved by LeapFrog, but when Android and iOS apps generally don’t break the £5 barrier for similar content that could be enough to put people off buying the Ultra.

There’s a decent amount of apps to get you started at least. The LeapPad had five pre-installed and now you get 11 plus a free download once you have registered the device. There’s Pet, Pet Chat, Voice Memo, Art Studio, Photo Fun, Clock, Bookshelf, Calculator, Notepad, a music player and a Calendar. For your free app you get the choice of an educational game about cleaning your teeth called Sugar Bugs, a puzzle game called Scaredy Cat, and the Ozzie and Mack eBook.

Some are clearly more fun than others and my 5-year old niece and 4-year old nephew particularly enjoyed the Pet app, using the stylus to play games with a little monkey. Elsewhere, the Art Studio was a regularly used app and the music player with a selection of educational tracks pre-installed put the decent speakers to good use.

LeapPad Ultra

LeapFrog has clearly tried its best to replicate features you’d expect to find on a regular tablet even offering an instant messaging service called Pet Chat. It works between LeapPad Ultra tablet owners as long as they are in the same room on the same Wi-Fi, so it won’t work with older LeapPad tablets. Words have already been pre-selected so there’s little chance of any rude words dropping into the conversation and it’s very safe to use.

One of the biggest new features is LeapSearch, which is essentially a kid-friendly web browser. All the content you can access is pre-approved including YouTube videos. It’s broken up into categories like skateboarding, football and singing. It’s a closed environment so there’s no chance kids can stray from the LeapPad content and parents can be safe in the knowledge they are not looking at something they shouldn’t be.

LeapPad ultra

LeapPad Ultra: Performance

The LeapPad Ultra runs on a 800MHz processor up from the LeapPad 2’s 500MHz processor. We are not able to run the same benchmark tests we normally use for tablets so while the power on board is sufficient for running simple 2D games and watching videos it’s a still on the slow and sluggish side in comparison to a quad-core or even a dual-core powered Android tablet.

Thankfully, you no longer have to rely on finding AA batteries as the Ultra now comes with a built-in rechargeable battery promising around 8-9 hours of battery life. In general use over a day it more than manages that and can comfortably make it through a couple of days. If your little ones are using this solidly, which let’s be honest is not the healthiest thing to do, it’s closer to seven hours.

leapPad ultra

Should I buy the LeapPad Ultra?

The LeapPad Ultra makes plenty of improvements on its predecessor including the better quality screen, extra storage, robust design and built-in Wi-Fi so there’s less reliance on a PC or Mac to add content. The backwards compatibility makes up for an expensive catalogue of content in the app centre and games are both fun and educational.

If you are weighing up whether the Ultra is a better option for your kids than an iPad or Android tablet, the safety factor is a big advantage of the LeapPad tablet. Parents have full control of what they can download and play. The instant messaging service and web browser are designed to be child-safe environments.

The trade-off is that you can’t play Angry Birds, a question that regularly popped up when my 4-year old niece and 5-year old nephew tested it out. It’s also a little on the slow side and much tech-savvier kids might become frustrated by the sluggish hardware if they have already played extensively with a more expensive tablet.

iPads and Android tablets continue improve their family-friendly credentials like the restricted profiles introduced in Android 4.3 and the ability to impose restrictions on in-app purchases in iOS 7. If you are looking for a tablet to hand over and leave your kids to play with unsupervised, the LeapPad Ultra is still a good choice.


The LeapPad Ultra is a child-friendly tablet that offers fun and educational content on a bigger screen largely let down by a sluggish performance and an expensive catalogue of content.

Next, read our tablet buyer's guide

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Battery Life 7
  • Build Quality 8
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Screen Quality 6
  • Software & Apps 7
  • Sound Quality 6
  • Value 7


December 20, 2013, 2:45 pm

I have an Original LeapPad, the Leapster Handheld, and 2 Leapster 2's in my household.
They were all dropped like a hot potato last Xmas for a Nabi2 Tablet. This is a very secure (well mostly...won't go there it's complex) tablet which allows you to load games like angry birds, and uses a whitelist approach to website access. It has a Tegra 3 chipset and a clever bumper which protects it from drops.

Not without it's negatives, mainly the poorly designed charger, which doesn't utilise the microUSB port, but a DC style charging pin which has been broken several times - thankfully there are now 3rd part offerings on ebay/amazon to replace the cable cheaply.

It's held it's price - lord knows why, as it's been out over a year and other tablets have caught up. Still very good and in daily use by my lot. Money well spent, better than the Playbook I bought for similar money 9 months prior to the Nabi.

We never purchase many games for the Leapsters, and they were massively expensive for what they were. The LeapPad had poor build quality.

I now have a collection of unused LeapPads. Frankly, I wouldn't touch this with a bargepole.

Alex Walsh

December 23, 2013, 10:13 am

Just sold one of these. It's horrendous. The console is very heavy, a 4 year old can't hold it one handed for example. It also has a resistive touch screen- yes you can pretend it's 2004 again! You had better get used to watching the little rotating circle because that's pretty much all you'll see. It's so sluggish that all of the kids got bored waiting for it to transit between screens and went off to play on my wife's iPad instead.

Granted, it's cheaper than an iPad but you wont have to buy too many games to reach price parity- they're very expensive. We bought some Nook HDs for £79.99 instead. There are plenty of apps available for kids on Android and they're much more usable. There is the added bonus of being able to stick some films on a micro SD card for long car trips too. For security we've installed the Android version of K9 web protection and have been very pleased with it.

Natalia Locke

December 25, 2013, 12:08 pm

Not happy with it. Can't pass the registration stage: keep getting a message "your email and confirm email address do not match". They do. Want to smash it up


January 11, 2014, 12:43 pm

LEAPPAD ULTRA- We got one for our son, for xmas 2013 and I am on the second leappad ultra already, this one is just as bad as the 1st, on the washing your pet an area of the screen does not respond, so you can not dry the pet. ( one very unhappy little boy) is anyone having this problem? is this it worth getting a replacment again or am better of getting money back. My son loves to play my Kindle so thinking maybe better of getting him one of them.


January 19, 2014, 10:12 pm

We are now on our 2nd leappad!!!! This one is only going on 2days old and wont turn on just like the last one!!! The money I dam payed for isn't worth having an upset child every 10mins when he cant play with his own toy!!! Will be taken it back this week and asking for my money back, am so over this will not be touching anything to do with leappad again!!!!!!!

Annette Reddmond

December 21, 2014, 1:30 pm

Sorry can anyone tell me do u have to have internet access to play the games o
nce downloaded

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