What It IsToday's kids have a greater affinity and aptitude for high-tech gadgets than ever before. But it's a long way from playing with a parent's handheld to creating an electronic play experience that's age and developmentally appropriate. Fisher-Price's iXL is a high-tech gadget that is just for kids. The iXL opens a world of learning and entertainment with six applications.
The Story Book application comes with one animated story. There are two modes—read to me mode where words highlight as the story animates and interact with me mode where the child presses key words to learn more about them. The focus of this application is to reinforce reading for meaning, comprehension, key words, and spelling.
The Game Player application comes preloaded with a classic arcade-style game, which has three levels and helps kids with numbers, sequencing, and counting.
Kids can play the preloaded learning song with the Music Player application. Music Player is also compatible with MP3 and WMA file formats, so kids (with the help of parents) can upload and listen to favorite songs.
The Art Studio application includes stampers, backgrounds, bucket fills, colors, pen styles, and an erase button for kids to create artistic masterpieces.
With the Note Book application, kids can trace uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers, 1-20.
The Photo Album application comes preloaded with three sample images, but kids can transfer additional photos from the family computer and even draw on the photos to customize them.
Kids can also customize their login name for personalized play—they will see their name appear in the story and elsewhere on the iXL.
iXL is PC and Mac compatible, features an SD card slot for expanded memory, and comes with a USB cord. The interface is user friendly and easy to manage. For some reason, Fisher-Price includes a CD with media management software that enables users to add photos and songs for the PC, but you have to go and download it separately if you want to use it on a Mac. That took two attempts to do for us, but once loaded, it was a snap. iXL can also store multiple software titles, songs, and pictures without the use of cartridges. If you plan to use the storage, you're going to want to purchase an additional SD card. We filled it up pretty quickly with photos and music alone, and parents who want to take it with them and not worry about carrying a laptop will definitely want that. The SD slot has a screw-closed door that will prevent loss of the card or access by little fingers. Licensed software will be available, and sold separately, including Ni-Hao Kai Lan, Disney Princess, Handy Manny, Batman, Toy Story, Scooby-Doo, Shrek, and SpongeBob SquarePants. The iXL comes in three colors: pink, blue, and silver. It requires four AA batteries, which are not included. We thought that it was a little heavy for kids, but it's comparable to other handheld systems on the market. For parents who will, inevitably end up carrying it when kids are on the go, the compact size is a plus.