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Product Reviews - March 2005

Published: February 14, 2005
Hobbico Sea Scout
Dive Deep with Hobbico's Sea Scout Sub
Reviewed by Gregg Voss

Product: It never ceases to amaze me how radio control products continue to get smaller and easier to use while continuing to push the envelope when it comes to the "wow" factor. Take, for example, Hobbico's new Sea Scout Micro RTR Submarine, which comes in black (27 MHz) and gray (49 MHz) and is available from Great Planes.

Performance: The Sea Scout comes with a DC charger that takes six C-sized alkalines and one 9-volt for the three-channel radio. It took us 12 minutes to charge the little sub (via a charging jack that fits in the nose, which also has a rubber plug for underwater protection), but it was worth the wait.

There is a Dive button on the radio that makes the sub sink like a stone via a prop/vent inside the sub's hull. After letting off the button, the sub slowly begins drifting back to the surface, but you can get there quicker with the radio's Surface button, which reverses the inner prop. Left-right control is maintained through the radio's two sticks.

The Sea Scout is deceptively quick. However, it's a bit hard to keep on a straight trajectory. There were some plastic plants in the tank I tested the Sea Scout in and it got caught up in them from time to time, but I never had to get my hands wet to free it.

Marketing: Anything less than a 20-gallon tank would probably be too small for the Sea Scout, though a bathtub or swimming pool would also be perfect … but not a lake or river, for obvious reasons. "A 50-gallon freshwater [tank] with no live plants and hearty fish would be awesome," my friend Brooks said. He added running the Sea Scout in a saltwater tank might damage the sub, so it's probably not a good idea.
Thus, the best marketing advice I can give is to set up an appropriately sized tank in your shop (which doesn't necessarily need to have fish in it) and give customers a chance to play. This is a product that the youngest customers and even mom would not only enjoy, but be successful with, and with two frequencies, you can race them and perform acrobatic maneuvers.

Product: Sea Scout submarine
Maker: Hobbico
Stock number: HCAB0020, black; HCAB0021, gray
MSRP: $53.99
Availability: Great Planes

  • Sub fits in your palm

  • Perfect for a tub or fish tank

  • Very maneuverable and quick

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    Life-Like N 2-8-4 Berkshire
    Sharp-looking Life-Like N scale Berkshire a smooth runner
    Reviewed by Jeff Wilson

    Product: The new Heritage series Berkshire from Life-Like is among the best-running N scale steam locomotives I've ever encountered. The detail level is very good and it follows the lines of a popular modern prototype.

    The model is based on the similar 2-8-4s acquired by the Nickel Plate Road, Chesapeake & Ohio and Pere Marquette. The Van Sweringen brothers controlled all three railroads, so the railroads shared a common mechanical advisory committee and thus the 2-8-4s of the three railroads had a common look. The real Berkshires were built from the mid-1930s through the 1940s and were modern locomotives used mainly in high-speed freight service.

    Life-Like's model nicely captures the overall look of the real locomotives. The model has a plastic boiler and cab shell over a cast chassis. The many separately applied details include handrails, piping, headlight, class lights, number boards, bell, safety valves and whistle. The cab interior is painted and includes backhead detail.
    The painting is neatly applied and the lettering - even the fine builder's plate detail, which I needed a magnifying glass to read - is sharp and legible. Our sample is lettered for C&O, although the detailing (headlight, number boards) and overall dimensions on the model follow NKP practices.

    Performance: This is the best-running out-of-the-box N scale steam locomotive I've ever encountered. The model runs smoothly and quietly from a crawl to full speed, with none of the jerky motion often found steam models of this scale.

    A drawback is that the model has a relatively low drawbar pull of .48 ounces, which translates to about a dozen freight cars on level track.
    A five-pole skew-wound motor powers all drivers (the front two sets via the side rods) and the drivers and rear-truck tender wheels all pick up electricity. No provision is made for Digital Command Control, but the empty tender has room for a decoder.

    The locomotive has a directional headlight, and a backup light is mounted on the tender's rear.

    The wheels help give the model a realistic look. The blackened nickel silver wheels have an RP-25 profile, allowing near-prototypical driver spacing by eliminating the unrealistic deep flanges that hurt the appearance of many other N scale models. The Berkshire will operate on code 55 track and will go around 9-3/4" radius curves (and through No. 4 turnouts) without problems.

    Automatic knuckle couplers are located on both the locomotive pilot and rear of the tender. An easily connected drawbar with a pair of small phosphor bronze contacts connects the locomotive and tender both mechanically and electrically.

    Marketing: The model looks good, but pulling it out of the box and running it for your customers will go a long way toward making sales. It will look stunning on any instore layouts and that can be used to add on sales elsewhere.

    The real Van Sweringen 2-8-4s were well-known, so this is one of those models that will appeal to many modelers - especially steam fans - even if they don't necessarily model the C&O, NKP, or PM. Multiple road numbers are available for each road name and the undecorated/painted model would make an easy decaling project.

    Product: N scale Berkshire 2-8-4 steam locomotive
    Maker: Life-Like Heritage series
    Stock number: 7465
    MSRP: $250
    Also available: C&O No. 2736 (7466); Pere Marquette No. 1202 (7467), No. 1209 (7468); Nickel Plate Road No. 717 (7469), No. 738 (7470); painted black, unlettered (7471).

  • Very well detailed

  • Runs smoothly and quietly

  • Sharp and legible lettering

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    Scalextric Digital Lane Change Challenge Set
    Scalextric Ups the Digital Ante
    Reviewed by Fred Jandt

    Product: Scalextric enters the digital slot-car fray with its new Lane Change Challenge set. The set itself is a standard figure-8 setup with new four-post bridge, two Porsche Boxster cars and a pair of three-button controllers. Scalextric's digital lane change sections are on the corners and two of those are included as well as the digital base and set-up manual.

    Performance: The first noticeable difference between the Scalextric digital set and its competitors is the placement of the lane-change sections. Scalextric's lane changes are on the corners, while all other sets currently marketed have them on straight tracks. This makes for some interesting racing as you can dive down into the corners to attempt to run your opponent off the track as you slide around. But watch out, because you could be the one that ends up on the carpet!

    Helping keep you off the floor are the included three-button controllers, which give you increased control. One of the buttons is the throttle, one activates the lane-changing feature, and the other is a brake. While you can't lock 'em up and come to a screeching halt, you can use it to slow down before you go into a corner.

    Scalextric also differentiates its set by being compatible with its current Sport Track system. This allows consumers and dealers with sample tracks set up in their stores to install the new system without having to invest in an entirely new layout. What's more, Scalextric is offering a computer-chip upgrade to make any non-digital car compatible with its new system. Put these two things together and you have the most compatible digital system on the market in the hobby industry today.

    Scalextric's system features several different racing modes, including Grand Prix, Enduro and NASCAR. It also features an arcade mode that mimics the video game template of passing a checkpoint in a certain amount of time to continue racing.

    The new system also offers the ability to modify these race styles. You can set up penalties for drivers who jump the start, and even define how long the penalty will be. You can cut off the power to the cars so they don't just shoot off right away and stop after finishing a race, so they can't be used to interfere with others still racing. The system is easily adaptable and makes each race new and different.

    Marketing: All of these different race styles and neat features make Scalextric's digital system very versatile with the power to appeal to a large cross-section of people and bring in younger enthusiasts who are video game racing fans.

    Bringing youth into the market is key, and showing them they can have as much fun with a slot track controller as their video game controller is also important.

    With the number of buttons on video game controllers, kids will easily be able to master the three on Scalextric's controllers. l

    Product: Digital Lane Change Challenge Set
    Maker: Scalextric
    Scale: 1:32
    Stock number: C1140T
    MSRP: $249.95

  • Compatible with standard Sport Track

  • System is very versatile

  • Perfect entry point for youth

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    Ninco Change Over Curve
    Maximize your options with Ninco's Change Over Curve
    Reviewed by Susan Vanselow

    Product: You know how it is. You've run your slot cars around the track dozens of times, and while the thrill is still there, sometimes you'd like to add a little more action. Enter Ninco's new Change Over Curve. This 41-inch circuit extension can be added to standard track to create a variety of new twists, turns and nail-biting curves. Even better, any kind of car can run on this track, maximizing your fun.

    Performance: The kit came without instructions, and for a good reason - you don't need any. In the box are two track pieces, six plastic guardrail pieces and six fence pieces to go atop the guardrail. Putting it together is a snap - literally. I attached the guardrail pieces to the track, snapped the fencing to the wall and pushed the two pieces of track together. Within minutes I had a snazzy looking bit of track, ready to join my existing layout.

    A particularly neat feature of these pieces is the guardrail-fence sections. Cars may come out of their slots, but they won't go far thanks to these barriers. This can be handy with youngsters at the throttle, or for those who have itchy trigger fingers, for keeping your cars off the floor.

    Marketing: One of the biggest selling points of the curve is its simplicity. You can have it set up in less time than it takes to brush your teeth, so customers will have instant gratification. Also, slot car aficionados of all ages can assemble and enjoy the Change Over Curve.

    Additionally, the product is versatile. You can use the two track sections together to form a harrowing 180-degree curve, or seperately, giving racers a chance to swap lanes in two different parts of the track.

    And if a customer is a hard sell, take the Change Over Curve out of the package and show him just how easy it is to set up. He won't be disappointed.

    Product: Change Over Curve
    Maker: Ninco
    Scale: 1:32
    Stock number: 10508
    MSRP: $59.98

  • Assembly is a snap

  • Adds variety to existing track plans

  • Compatible with most cars and track

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    Hyperperformance HyperTach
    Hyperformance's Hyper-Tach 50K Can Help Increase RPMs
    Reviewed by Gregg Voss and Tim Pennington

    Product: Diversification in the hobby industry is growing. Many companies are branching out into new product categories or creating accessory lines for products they already have. Such is the case with Hyperformance Products, which recently released its Hyper-Tach 50K Audible Tachometer.

    Performance: The Hyper-Tach 50K can be used with any R/C engine and even electric motors. It digitally analyzes the power plant's sound and converts that audio-based data into 1,000-increment rpm readings.
    It weighs 6.6 ounces and operates on a 9-volt alkaline battery. It features just one button - the trigger - along with an LED display on the opposite end of the barrel.

    I tested the Hyper-Tach 50K when running a 1:8 Mayhem RTR 4WD buggy from Horizon Hobby's Sportwerks line. Usage is a simple matter of point and shoot, but there is strategy involved. The end goal is to figure out your consistent rpms so you can make modifications to increase them, but customers will want to measure and compare rpms on a series of maxed-out straightaways. Comparing rpms on turns is like comparing apples to oranges.

    It's a good idea to take a lot of readings, so you'll get a better idea of the consistent rpms. My Mayhem readings were in the 28,000-33,000 range, but once in a while I would get a 40,000+ reading. Driver Tim Pennington told me the former is what he would expect.

    Marketing: This is a product that should be pushed to hardcore racers, because they will be able to understand the data and how to use it. It also might be a great donation to any R/C club, or a racing championship prize - but don't forget to put a sticker with all your shop's contact information on the top of the barrel.

    Product: Hyper-Tach 50K Audible Tachometer.
    Maker: Hyperformance Products.
    Stock number: HT50K.
    MSRP: $289.95.

    Product: Hyper-Tach 50K Audible Tachometer.
    Maker: Hyperformance Products.
    Stock number: HT50K.
    MSRP: $289.95.
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    Tamiya Porsche Carrera GT
    Tamiya hits top speed with new Porsche kit
    Reviewed by Mark Melchiori

    Product: For a manufacturer of the caliber of Tamiya, it must be a daunting task to make a kit that is better than the last. Tamiya's last benchmark kit was their incredible Enzo Ferrari. The Enzo featured many features that made it stand out from the crowd. Tamiya's next high-profile kit is this kit of the Porsche Carrera GT supercar. Let's see how the German stands up to the Italian.

    Performance: Not surprisingly, all of the parts of the kit are nearly flawless. molded. Only minor mold parting lines are found and the ones on the body are easily removed.

    The star of this kit is the interior. Tamiya has molded the interior parts in a way that virtually eliminates the need for masking to paint different colors.

    On the real GT, the door panels have three different colors on them. In the kit, Tamiya has molded the panels in three pieces, greatly simplifying the process. The dashboard is made up of eight parts that achieve the same result as the door panels. Decals are provided for the gauges, but be careful, some of them are very small and can easily be lost.

    Marketing: All in all, I spent about 25 hours building this car. I found it to be easier to build than the Enzo, yet just as well done. I would recommend this kit to any modeler of moderate experience. It will challenge you, but it will not beat you.

    Product: Porsche Carrera GT
    Maker: Tamiya
    Scale: 1:24
    Stock number: 24275
    MSRP: $44.99

  • Nearly flawless molding

  • Interior molding needs no masking

  • A great follow-up to Enzo Ferrari

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    Out of Nowhere: A History of the Military Sniper
    New Osprey Sniper Book Hits the Target
    Reviewed by Gregg Voss

    Product: Is it possible for a book to be too comprehensive, to contain too much information? Maybe … but when it comes to Osprey Publishing's latest, "Out of Nowhere: A History of the Military Sniper" by Martin Pegler, I say the mortar the merrier.

    Performance: I was a history major in college and have been interested in armed conflict my whole life, but I didn't really get a good feel for the handiwork of a sniper until the late 1990s, when I saw movies like "Saving Private Ryan" and especially "Enemy at the Gates." I came to the conclusion that such soldiers have a tough lot … always trying to get into just the right position to take the "kill shot" without getting erased themselves. Moreover, much of their time is spent waiting, often in some of the most uncomfortable conditions.

    Pegler's book covers every angle and aspect of sniping-from individual rifles, scopes and ammo to clothing to battlefield strategy in virtually every conflict from the American Civil War to modern times-making it an invaluable resource for diorama and figure modelers.

    The number of photos Pegler has amassed make the book even more accurate, especially those from the world wars and more recent conflicts in Eastern Europe and the first Persian Gulf War.

    "The photos were selected to give as much detail as possible, but where snipers were concerned, variation of uniform is the main theme, so any modeler wanting to construct a figure can, to a certain extent, let his imagination run free," Pegler told me.

    Marketing: All in all, this is a fantastic book, one that will not only educate customers, but also inspire them to create a historically accurate diorama. But why don't you or an employee build one based on a photo from the book to show customers what's possible?
    Pegler also told me "there is a new book in the pipeline scheduled for 2006, also sniper-based, but the content and title are currently a well-guarded secret." Stay tuned!

    Product: "Out of Nowhere: A History of the Military Sniper."
    Publisher: Osprey Publishing.
    ISBN: 1 84176 854 5.
    MSRP: $29.95.

  • Numerous b&w and color photos

  • Information is useful for modelers

  • Portrays "human" side of sharpshooting

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