TECH REVIEW: Leapfrog Leapband & Inateck Ethernet USB Hub

This week, we review a couple of new leading edge products: kids’ own Apple Watch, the Leapfrog LeapBand & Inateck’s HBU3Vl3-4 3-Port USB 3.0 Hub with Gigabit Ethernet!

Now that the Apple Watch is available to order (look forward to a review on GS next month when I get mine), one of the biggest problems adults with families are going to have is our kids trying to get in on the act. Any parent with an iProduct will tell that the countless times that their iPod Touch, iPad or iPhone has gone missing and then returned battery drained and jam-smeared by their little 5-year old who was playing Candy Crush or Hello Kitty Cafe.

Enter the Leapfrog LeapBand. Leapfrog have been making toddler-oriented educational platforms for some time – my two older boys used their LeapPad as youngsters. They have recently expanded their range: upgrading the LeapPad, and introducing a game console, and now they have the LeapBand, a smartwatch aimed at 5-8 year olds. They very kindly gave us one, and I provided my five-year-old daughter to put it through it’s paces.

First of all, the LeapBand is both rugged and aesthetically pleasing – girls at that age are fussy about what they wear and there was no resistance here but clearly the watch had a solid construction and has so far survived the playground and climbing frames. The screen is good and showcases a range of functions and games which are very entertaining, and button controls are very responsive and don’t let the experience down. From a parental point of view, there are some really neat and reassuring features:

  1. Via USB to your PC, you can set the times that the child has access to the apps – this means that you can set it inactive between 8.30 and 3.30, which means for the time spent at school, the LeapBand only allows time-keeping functionality, meaning your child can’t get into trouble at school
  2. Unlike other kids’ smartwatches (e.g. the more expensive V-Tech KidiZoom) it has no camera – trust me, letting a child have a digital camera is one thing – giving them a watch with a camera built-in and sending them to school is a whole other privacy can-of-worms!
  3. The Leapband has a fitness / activity tracker with interactive games built-in – I can attest to the effectiveness of this, as my little one actually had her mother running around the house and doing cardio-exercises together.

There are basically 3 modes for the LeapBand: Move Mode (tracking activity with no sound or screen activity), Player Mode (access to games and features), and Quiet Time (clock display). In Player Mode, games pre-installed include 10 active play challenges and 4 cool-down challenges. In addition to games designed to get kids active, the LeapBand also features games that teach healthy habits, such as Pet Chef that teaches kids to collect food and prepare healthy snacks. As kids progress in activity and play, they earn points to unlock more levels and app accessories. Through USB to a PC/Mac, you have access to LeapFrog Connect, where you can track your child’s progress against activities, add up to 36 more challenges and unlock extra modes and settings, such as School Time and Night Time.

Like the grown-up world, the smartwatch market for kids is already pretty crowded, but like the Apple Watch, the Leapfrog Leapband stands head & shoulders above its competition!

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USB hubs are a dime-a-dozen, and quite commoditised if you take a look at eBay, but we recently happened across an exception to the rule – Inateck’s 3-Port USB Hub with GbE Ethernet. As the world moves towards thinner lower-profile devices reliant on wireless connectivity, RJ45-based Ethernet wired access to the internet is becoming much less relevant outside of traditional notebooks.

However, in some environments, where WiFi bandwidth or access may be restricted, your trusty old USB port is always available to help you out. The HBU3Vl3-4 from Inateck allows you to jack into any available GbE network via a traditional RJ45 cable, as well as expanding that single USB port to three USB 3.0 ports for memory sticks, charging laser-pointers, fitness trackers etc.

Quick reminder; USB 3.0 gives a theoretical top speed of 5 Gbps (depending on your source), versus USB 2.0 which is only 480 Mbps. The unit is made from robust ABS plastic, and is very compact (110 x 32 x 20mm) and light, making it highly mobile portable. As a weekly business traveller, this is welcome addition of my rucksack’s IT survival kit! The HBU3Vl3-4 is available now from many good online and high-street retailers, including Amazon.

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GS Rating: Leapfrog LeapBand 5/5 and Inateck 3-Port USB Hub w/ GbE 5/5
GS Blogger: SilverFox

 

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