Even better than the Leapster!
After barely touching the original Leappad, I had been hesitant to buy the more expensive Leapster last year. But our fears vanished immediately. He adored it and it has seen nearly daily use with fantastic educational games. When the L-max came out this year, he promised it was all he wanted for his birthday. We weren't sure there would be much of an improvement over the leapster, but it's been awesome. They can play on the TV screen so little sister (age 3) can watch and learn, too. We bought the letters on the Loose cartridge and it is incredible. Our little one can even write most of the letters now, though I think most toddlers would be frustrated by this cartridge. Our son is 6 and it's perfect for him as he's struggled with writing up until now. So some kids might be ready for it at 4, but others might be frustrated if they struggle with fine-motor skills. He recently bought the Spiderman cartridge with his allowance and likes that one, too.
The old leapster cartridges work on the l-max, but do not show on the TV. The new l-max cartridges will work on the old leapsters, but just normally (no tv, obviously). The L-max screen is slightly smaller than the leapster's, so that's the only drawback (other than the price).
The l-max is easiest to use if you have a TV where you can plug cords into the front. But you can still use them if they plug into the back, your child will just need more help and you may want to leave the cords plugged in.