Customer Reviews: LeapFrog TAG Reading System, compatible with the older style, Green
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Short version:
The good: The pen is amazing, a real marvel of teaching technology. The kids like it.
The bad: It's the most techno-savvy leapfrog product yet. The pen needs to be connected to the computer a lot as your child learns. Not only do you have to "download" the books onto the pen, but there is a feedback loop where the child earns rewards. Most of the "rewards" require printer paper and ink. I wish you could turn off the pen's requests to be plugged back into the computer, but you can't.

Should you buy it:
If you are used to performing regular "maintenance" with your ipod, and you don't mind that, then definitely buy it.
If you don't like maintainin computers (firmware upgrades, syncing, troubleshooting, etc) then consider very carefully before buying.

Don't get this as a gift for a person who either doesn't have a computer, or has a relic of a computer that they never use.

Long version:

I have owned a lot of leapfrog toys. This is the first one I've used which is very similar to owning an ipod.

Upon receiving this product, the pen comes with a demo book. The demo book works out of the box, of course. The technology itself is cool, there is a little camera underneath the pen point and it can "see" where you are on the page. Touching the pen to the page makes the pen announce whatever is in that location. You can switch "modes" by touching in the corner of the book. For example, you can switch to "play a game" or you can "read".

The demo book is fine for maybe a couple hours play, but it doesn't have enough play value for you to be satisfied with the demo book alone. You're going to have to buy more books, which you expect if you have some experience with these leapfrog devices.

So I bought several books to test this out with. They included: LeapFrog Tag Activity Storybook I SPY Imagine That!,LeapFrog Tag Learn to Read Phonics Book Series Short Vowels, and LeapFrog Tag Learn to Read Phonics Book Series Long Vowels, Silent E and Y. I waited to post my review until those items arrived.

It was only after I received these books that I realized what it was like to use this product. Here is my journey, in steps:

STEP 1: I had to install Leapfrog software on my computer. And each time you buy a book you have use your computer to "install" that book on the pen. You can't go to a store and pick up a Leapfrog book and use it right away. You either have to download the audio ahead of time (more on that in a minute) or come home and download it after you buy the book. This IS NOT a cartridge system, like many previous leapfrog products.

STEP 2: I had to set up a leapfrog,com ACCOUNT with a username and password. I didn't appreciate the need to set up an account. I am receiving occasional rare email solicitations from Leapfrog now, even though I indicated that I didn't want any emails.

STEP 3: I had to set up each CHILD in the account. You do this to track their progress. I actually don't care about that very much, and I would have appreciated an opt-out on that feature. So each child has a little account of their own.

STEP 4: After I installed the software I plugged the pen into my computer with a USB cable.

STEP 5: Then I had to update the software on the pen. (Thats "firmware" to us geeks). Thats right, Leapfrog felt the need to change the software that makes the pen work between the time the pen was made and the time you bought it. So bringing the pen "up to date" is your responsibility.

STEP 6: Then I had to find the books I bought (one at a time, even though they aren't sold separately) for download from leapfrog's website. You can download every book they have, even if you don't own the paper version of the book. You could download the audio for a book, and then go to the store and buy the paper version, and then use the paper book immediately. This was kind of nice if you are planning ahead.

I hope you see what i'm saying - to use any book you need to have (1) a paper book and (2) a digital download for that same paper book which you got on your computer. If you only have one or the other, you can't use that book.

STEP 7: Next I had to use the computer program to move the books I wanted to use onto the pen. This is called "synchronizing". Fortunately, all 12 fit on the pen at one time. You'd have to buy a lot of books before you filled up the pen (maybe 20?).

STEP 8: I had to hit a button telling it to Sync.

STEP 9: Then I unplugged the unit to let my child play with it.

STEP 10: (the unexpected step!) The toy instructs my child that she has won a reward! And to plug it back into the computer to claim the reward! The reward is a color bookmark for me to print out on my printer! In 1 book (the I spy) she earned all four rewards in an hour. Each time she stopped what she was doing and came to me to plug it in, view the reward, and print it out. The first time, the software said I didn't own the book (which was funny because I had downloaded it using the same software) but after restarting it, restarting the pen, and resyncing the pen to the software it finally agreed that I did, in fact, own the book and could redeem the reward. Personally, I didn't like step 10 very much, I was done at step 9, but modern technology is demanding.

Will you (as a parent) like this experience?
1) Obviously, if you one of the millions of people who are used to having your iphone, ipod, or whatver, you are used to all of this. You get to do it all again when you buy this device.
2) If you are one of the millions of people to whom this sounds like a pain in the [...] and makes you want to call your son in law, then, maybe, just maybe, this product is not for you.

As for the product:

The product is really quite good. Its amazing what it can do. And the kids really love to use it. It will help them to learn to read, spell, and some other things too. I'm very pleased with the product overall.

It has a headphone jack, but no headphones are included. My kids prefer over-the-ear headphones because those little earbuds just keep falling out. We use these: Sennheiser HD 202 Dynamic Supra-Aural Headphones

The demo book that comes with it is just ok. Being optomistic, its worth 2 hour of fun. Its got a huge variety of stuff. Its almost too random an assortment, but it does show you what the pen can do. They had to include something. But the demo book is not very "deep". You absolutely will have to buy more books. The books range from $10-$20 each. They can be used without the pen in a pinch. I think the books are a "fair" value.

The instructions were "clear enough". They are good considering how much more software is involved. I felt comfortable with the instructions and had no problems getting it set up. I'm complaining about how much "setting up" there was, but, it wasn't "hard".

Overall, to enjoy this product you are looking at a total expense of around $100 between the reader and a reasonable assortment of books. And its really cool and really fun once you look past the other details.
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VINE VOICEon October 6, 2010
I acquired the LeapFrog TAG reading system for my 7 year-old granddaughter in an effort to help improve her lagging reading skills. I gave the Leapfrog TAG device to her father (my son)for a test drive. He has used the Leapster 2 gaming system with his little girl for several years, so positive brand awareness influenced his interest in the LeapFrog TAG system. I asked him for some comments about the device. Here is what he said:

"On the parental side, software installation was quite simple. The device was in use less than ten minutes after opening the box. Managing the LeapFrog TAG's media library at the desktop is also quite easy. The UI can be personalized to and utilized by the child with minimal instruction.

While my overall opinion of the system is positive, I found the materials included with the device to be decidedly minimalist. Unlike the Leapster 2, no protective case was included. Considering the TAG's size, this increases the likelihood of misplacement. Batteries were not included, a rarity these days. Finally, the 'sample' book included was comprised of snippets from multiple available titles. The Leapster 2 had come with a complete game included. No additional purchase was required for the child to enjoy full immediate use of the device.

After purchasing a copy of 'Walter the Far---g Dog Goes on a Cruise' on sale for $10 at a local big box retailer, LeapFrog TAG's potential was realized. It's entertaining, versatile, and certainly more than just a talking book. The child can have the entire story read to him/her or point to specific words for assistance with pronunciation. Illustrations feature puzzles and quizzes to elicit interest beyond the story itself.

In addition, sound effects are employed to entertain which was of particular interest with the above noted title. Upon first receiving the TAG device and additional book, my child spent roughly a half hour with it (uninterrupted), then revisited frequently throughout the rest of the day. The device was used multiple times every day since receiving it, but my child is already requesting more titles after fully exploring the one(s) we have.

In just a short time, I have witnessed my girl's ability to learn and speak more complex words. Long term viability of the LeapFrog TAG will likely be a function of available titles. I have noticed more of the newer ones to involve mostly games and puzzles. We will be sampling one of those soon.

Even if the LeapFrog TAG turns out to be only a transitional learning tool that doesn't provide years of use like the Leapster 2, I've already found it to be a valuable help improving my child's reading skills."

I hope my son's remarks were helpful. I can tell you that he was very satisfied with the TAG system and even more important so was my granddaughter.
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on November 17, 2010
THE QUICK TAKE: The Leapfrog Tag Reader is a terrific toy, one that every parent with children from ages 3 or 4 to 6 or so should consider purchasing. Just plan on spending another $30-60 a year on books, so that you'll have age-appropriate books as your child grows. Also, to download the audio for a book, you need a computer with an internet connection.

FULL REVIEW: There are several ways to use the Tag Reader with the Tag books. In a storybook, the Reader will read the text for a page if the child taps a symbol. Or, a child can tap individual words to have them read aloud, or tap one of many characters or images on a page to get dialogue or a sound effect - so each page has more to explore. Some pages have letter or number activities. And some pages have games. The content on some pages is a little thin, but overall the entire system - the Reader and the books - is thoughtfully designed and works well.

I'm always a little skeptical about the claims about toys that will make my child smarter, while they are having fun. But the Tag Reader delivers on that promise:

- It's interactive and self directed, which keeps our child engaged.
- The games and activities are fairly well-designed and engaging, though a child may need some help getting started.
- All of that encourages exploration, and gets the child to go through the educational content.
- Our child also uses the audiobook mode to play an entire book at times.

The system works well for us, and provides an activity that's both enjoyable and educational. Since our 4 year old gave up naps, the Tag Reader has been a great activity for the "quiet time" in the afternoon when she used to sleep.

Every child is different, and develops in their own way, so you may need to try re-introducing the Tag Reader more than once to get your child started. It wouldn't surprise me if a lot of children had to try the Tag Reader a few times before they really got going with it.

Note that the Reader is actually detecting special encoding hidden in the books, and that triggers a programmed sound - it's not actually reading the letters, etc. So the Tag Reader and only be used with the specially designed books.

WELL DESIGNED: The Reader seems well designed and durable. The electronics are all inside the case - the little point at the end has a switch built in, but it isn't fragile. And the eye of the reader is inside the nearby hole. It took a little while for our child to get the hang of how to use the Reader, but overall it works well.

BOOK SELECTION: Leapfrog currently offers about 40 books. But keep in mind that those span the entire age range, so there may only be a handful of books for your child's age and tastes. There are also some other products the Reader works on, such as National Geographic Activity Cards - Land Animals and some maps.

SETUP IS STRAIGHTFORWARD: To use a book, you need to first download the audio to the Reader, then activate that book by touching the Reader on something inside the book. The software needed for the downloads installed quickly and worked well enough for me. The Tag Reader was recognized quickly when connected using the included USB cable. The audio files are not large, so adding a book is a reasonably quick process. And you only need to do it once per book. The reader holds about 10-12 books in the 32 MB of memory, so most parents should be able to keep all the books a child is currently using on the Tag Reader. It's easy to imagine going for months without needing to update books on the Reader.

MORE INFORMATION: If you want more information, read the product description and some of the reviews for the previous version of the product: LeapFrog Tag Reading System (32 MB). Amazon has a much better description of the product there.

NOT QUITE PERFECT (BUT CLOSE): The Tag Reader has been around a while, so it's been refined. But I do have a few minor quibbles:
- The included "Let's Play Tag" sampler book isn't really much use, even as a demonstration of what the Reader can do. We never used it after the first day. I'd much rather have had a real book, or a better, expanded version of the sampler with more content.
- The instructions could be improved a little. For example, there is a diagram that points out the audiobook button, but as far as I could see there are no instructions on how to use it or what it was for. Although like most things with the Tag Reader, it's not hard to figure out.
- The USB cable that comes with the reader is a little short.
- After being used for a while, the Reader starts to talk about getting rewards online when you turn it on. I'd rather that wasn't on by default, and want to disable it.
- The software is a little bloated and rough, but works well enough.

And, while we're dreaming, it would be great if there was a way to locate the darn thing! We've lost it (in the house) a few times already.

The Tag Reader and the books go on sale from time to time, which may help make it all more affordable if you can wait.
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VINE VOICEon October 16, 2010
As an educator, I'm leery of electronic aids for education purposes. I was interested in the Leapfrog TAG Reading System because my daughter had been begging for it for a long time. Overall, it was a fun toy for her but, as I suspected, not a great learning tool.

1. It is sturdy.
2. It is easy enough to download to your computer and upload the books you purchase.
3. It was a welcome change from DVDs during travel.
4. It is simple enough that a child can use and get the "hang of" fairly quickly.

1. I dislike that they claim to be a reading system. It doesn't help your child read, it merely reads for them. My daughter already reads so she was more interested in the games.
2. While certain stories are fun (I Spy and the Nature cards), there isn't much "learning".
3. While it may be a fairly simple start up, you still have to download the Leapfrog system to your computer, upload every time you purchase a new book, etc.

After a week or so of use, my daughter tired of it and went back to reading on her own. The books are fairly expensive for the system so unless you're willing to heavily invest in the system, it can get rather old quickly.
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on March 7, 2012
What the heck is going on here. You sell a ton of books for this tag reader, which I love. Then I get them and start adding them for my kids and WHAT ...


Why would you sell so many options when your device can't hold them. You think on the go you can stop and download new books to update your tag? Or your child will even stay interested long enough to wait for that?

I love this product but you need to supply enough memory to hold the items you have for sale with it. I would not have purchased the entire book sets and maps had I known this in advance.

So any one looking to buy a lot of these (more than 5 items) be warned you have to plug the tag into your computer-- get onto the leapfrog connect - find the book -- add it to the device -- wait for it to download -- then remove one or more to add another you want. Your child can not just get a book and read it.

I would hope with the price we pay for leapfrog items we would get more product for it. I will be rethinking purchasing your items in the future. I knew if it was leapfrog it was gold it the past.

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on August 27, 2010
My nephew got the Tag reader several years ago, so I've been eyeing it for my daughter for a while. She just turned 4 so I got it for her for her birthday. I love the updated look - it feels more sleek and cool. My nephew's earlier version came with a paperback book, but this one comes with a sampler book that lets you try out lots of different pages from other Tag books. It's really helpful to see what else is out there and for her to figure out which ones she would play with most. And I have to say I am amazed by the amount of games and activities embedded in each page. Great product - I highly recommend it!
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on September 6, 2011
I recently purchased this reader for my 2.5 year old son and so far, we are very impressed. I did some research and although the Tag Junior is geared towards his age group, it can only "read" the Tag Junior books and it has less memory. I chose to go with the regular Tag Reader because it works with both the Tag Junior books as well as the Tag books, plus it can hold more books. I was hesitant to make the purchase at first between the price and the other reviews about the lengthy set up process. I did some shopping around and found the price on these Tag Readers is about the same everywhere you look, even online compared to local stores. The difference was only a couple dollars from place to place. Even the books are about the same everywhere you look. As far as the setup, I don't think it could be any easier or straight forward, From start to finish, it took about 10 minutes to load the software on my computer, update the software on the pen and it was ready to go. To upload a book that has been purchased, the transfer takes less than a minute. Again, it was easy and straight forward.( Maybe if you were in the middle of a birthday party, you might find it a hassle to to open your computer and follow the directions to set up) I like that its easy enough for my 2 year old to use and he can point to different objects and words on the page for music, sounds and reading aloud. The books are pricy but I think they will be a good thing to ask for for Christmas and Birthdays in the future. I'd love to see more books as presents vs toys anyways.
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on December 27, 2010
I think to own this product you need a great deal of computer knowledge. I have some computer knowledge and have not been able to add my son's new book to the tag. It took 3 hours to download the Leapfrog connect and even after this has been downloaded now my computer is not recognizing that the tag pen is connected to my computer-even though it is. My computer is not that old so I am surprised about how looonnngggg.... it has taken to download the software. If I would have known this was more like an Ipod I WOULD NOT HAVE PURCHASED THIS ITEM FOR MY SON!!! I am sure it has educational value if you can get it set up.
extremely frustrated!!!
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on January 4, 2012
Grandmommy got my son this for Christmas 2010 when he was almost 3 and he still loves it a year later. We've bought more books and my gripe with the OLD model is that it only holds about 4 books. The OLD tag has 16MB storage, 3.2 of which are used for the OS, and the rest for books. At about 2.5MB per book, that allows for 4-5 books on the pen at any given time. If you start buying the TAG maps (which are great), they average 3MB each, which means you're maxing out at 4 books/maps at a time.

Today wife was at the store and found an open-box of the new model deeply discounted. We said what the heck. Turns out the new model (pictured here with the longer green section on front and the colored grips on both sides) holds 32MB which is ample space to hold my son's whole library of 7 books and 2 maps with enough space for 2-3 more. Much better. See my picture for a comparison of the two models - get the newer one being sold here and feel more comfortable that you'll have ample space for more books.
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on December 7, 2010
Thank goodness we gave this as an early present or we would have spent Christmas day fighting with my computer. You need to sync this to your computer to download the audio. We're computer savvy and have other Leapfrog products on the computer, so I didn't think it would be a big deal. Our computer would not read the Tag. Leapfrog's customer support is non-existent -- it took 3 days for me to get an email reply and I waited for over an hour on the phone and never got through to anyone. I finally found the simple fix when I realized Leapfrog had a forum page on their website. All I had to do was plug the Tag into the USB port on the back of the computer -- I had already tried several ports on the front and my Leapster Explorer syncs from those front ports, so it never occured to me that the Tag wouldn't. Anyway, this really simple fix should have been prominently displayed on their support site. From reading the forum a lot of people have this problem.

If that were the only problem I could forgive them, but my Tag just stops working after reading a few words. It drives my sons nuts. Leapfrog wants me to wait 15 days for them to get a replacement out to me?????? And I still can't talk to anyone I just keep getting these canned emails. I can't believe how poorly this company is run. When your dealing with electronics you're going to get problems here and there and that's to be expected, but the Customer Service should be able to quickly handle these issues.

Apparently Leapfrog is just concerned about selling their items, not making sure kids can actually use them.
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