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Product Lab - May 2007

Published: April 13, 2007
E-flite's Blade CX2 makes the cut
Product: Blade CX2 RTF Coaxial Micro Heli
Maker: E-flite
Stock No.: EFLH1250
MSRP: $249.99
Availability: Horizon Hobby

Product: If there's one thing that the folks here at Model Retailer like, it's R/C helicopters. Unveiled at the 2006 iHobbyExpo, the Blade CX2 looked like it would be the perfect entry into the hobby - and it is.

The Blade CX2, a redesign of the CX, comes fully assembled and ready to fly, with a 2-cell, 7.4-volt, 800-mAh LiPo battery; LiPo balancing charger with AC and 12-volt DC adapter; step-by-step instructional video CD; and a 2.4-GHz Digital Spectrum Modulation (DSM) 5-channel transmitter with 4 AA batteries. Lastly, the instruction booklet that's included helps customers properly set up the CX2, explains basic flight controls and how to fine-tune yaw and pitch.

There are two leaps forward when considering CX2 improvements over the CX. First is the inclusion of a transmitter equipped with Spektrum's 2.4-GHz DSM technology. This means the radio doesn't need the same input voltage or current as a typical 72-MHz radio in order to perform properly. Also, the transmitter scans for an unused channel, and once it finds it, binds to the model to allow for accurate control without the fear of radio interference or dead zones.

Second, E-flite's 4-in-1 Control Unit, which is a combination 6-channel DSM receiver, main-motor mixer, ESC and piezo gyro, has improved circuitry that allows the piezo crystal to more accurately detect and compensate for unwanted yaw, therefore better maintaining the helicopter's orientation.

Performance: In less than an hour, which included unpacking the heli, charging the LiPo battery and reading the instructions, our Blade CX2 was ready for its maiden flight.

The CX2 has counter-rotating blades, which make for a very stable helicopter. And while it did yaw left and slide right, when airborne and with all the controls in the neutral position, the heli didn't pitch erratically, as single-rotor craft can do. After a number of short flights, we were able to trim out most of the yaw and get the CX2 to hover relatively still with minimal movements on the sticks.

Wanting truer flight characteristics, we decided to do some extra tweaking. After removing the front fuselage half, we were able to get at the 4-in-1 Control Unit, which has two trimmer pots: the main motor proportional mix and the gyro gain.

To compensate for the leftward drift of the CX2's nose, we made adjustments to the right-hand motor controlling the upper main rotor blade. Using a small screwdriver, we turned the proportional trimmer pot clockwise in small increments, testing the heli's flight characteristics between each adjustment, centering all the trims each time. Eventually, the nose drift was all but eliminated.

Perhaps the most difficult basic skill to master while flying the CX2 is altitude control. Very small adjustments in throttle make the difference between landing the helicopter or sending it shooting toward the ceiling once it's in the air. It's important to understand that once you're comfortable with hover flight, forward or backward movement will require attention to the throttle in order to maintain altitude. A light, careful touch and watchful eye are critical.

After just a few flights, R/C helicopter rookies were soon zooming from one end of the room to the other, performing turns, full circles and pirouettes.

Marketing: Make sure you stock inner and outer main rotor shafts, spare blade packages, stabilizer flybars and lower rotor heads. Demand for such parts is high, and getting orders in early with Horizon Hobby is a must. Spare E-flite LiPo batteries are good to have on hand too.

Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

  • Completely ready to fly

  • Gradual learning curve

  • Spare parts are a must

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    Great Planes' RealFlight G3.5 depicts true-to-life flying
    Product: RealFlight G3.5 R/C flight simulator with InterLink Plus
    Maker: Great Planes
    Stock No.: GPMZ4405
    MSRP: $299.99
    Availability: Great Planes

    Product: GreatPlanes' latest R/C flight simulator, RealFlight G3.5, may very well prove to be one of the best R/C training tools for both casual and serious flyers. This sim sports 24 different flying fields, 29 airplanes, five sailplanes and 19 helis, all rendered in beautiful, realistic 3D graphics.

    GreatPlanes and Knife Edge Software have packed cutting-edge programming into G3.5, including technologies such as RealPhysics 3D for real-world flight characteristics and 4D Physics for modeling the variable blade pitch that makes some of those wild 3D stunts possible.

    Also, to assist customers in their flight education, RealFlight includes a number of training tools like the Virtual Flight Instructor, a Heli and Airplane Hover Trainer, and the Heli Orientation Trainer; all designed to improve your flying skills.

    Performance: Loading RealFlight G3.5 was surprisingly quick and painless. Within 30 minutes, I had installed the software and was off and flying with the included plug-and-play InterLink Plus controller.

    For "complete simulator functionality," RealFlight recommends Windows XP, 2000, ME or 98 system with a 3-GHz CPU, a 3D accelerated video card with 128 MB of RAM and 1 GB of system RAM.

    The system I used was only slightly better than RealFlight's recommendations. The graphics and performance were outstanding. The simulated flight is realistic, and the 3D renderings of the aircraft and flying fields provide the illusion of depth and environment very well.

    RealFlight's fields are broken up into two types: PhotoFields and 3D Sites. The PhotoFields, as the name implies, are 360-degree photos taken from five different sites, complete with objects like fences and buildings. The 14 3D sites are photo-realistic renderings of the sky, runways, fields and buildings.

    The simulator is rich with realism, options and flexibility. Both environments allow flyers to control the direction and speed of the wind as well as modify the site with Realflight's FlexiField flying site editor. The 3D flying sites offer the added feature of controlling the sun's location in the sky, and more adventurous flyers can create custom flying fields from scratch.

    Flyers can decide to change their flight perspective to flying within the cockpit of the aircraft or even following in chase. What's more, using G3.5's AccuModel aircraft editor, flyers can edit just about any of the flight characteristics of the 50-plus aircraft included. RealFlight's Web site,, offers a ton of support, including access to the user community's swap page, where in a few clicks you have access to more aircraft.

    The Web site also has a multiplayer feature that allows flyers to quickly join one of the user fields via the Internet and fly with other "sim" pilots. Player X, a flyer I met online, told me that RealFlight's flight accuracy was incredible and that he uses the sim to brush up on his helicopter skills and practice new 3D tricks without the risk of crashing his rig.

    Speaking of crashes, RealFlight claims its "full coverage" detection technology "ensures that every part of an aircraft will not only register a strike, but react authentically." Although that extra level of realism makes for a nice learning tool, I cannot stress enough that the crashes are spectacular.

    Marketing: G3.5 is a great companion for beginning R/C pilots. It's the perfect add-on sale to any beginner's first RTF. Point out that the simulator will help in learning flight basics, making actual flying safer and more enjoyable. Also, a little extra up front will save your customers a lot on the back end, as in not having to buy parts for, or replace, a crashed model. Your more experienced flyers will find RealFlight useful for practicing when flying isn't possible.

    Great Planes offers a RealFlight kiosk where customers can actually use G3.5. Remember, playing is often selling. The kiosk costs $1,200; Great Planes is willing to work with dealers on a payment plan to make it affordable.

    Reviewed by Jim Schweder

  • Realistic flight controls

  • Great-looking flying venues

  • Good aircraft variety, support

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    iWaver 02M: A lot of vroom that needs little room
    Product: 02M Ford GT
    Maker: iWaver
    Scale: 1:28
    Stock No.: IWVD05**
    Street price: $79.99
    Availability: Great Planes

    Product: Micro R/C has been quietly increasing in popularity over the last few years, allowing racers without a lot of room to battle using speed and driving skill. iWaver's 02M chassis puts it squarely into the fray with Kyosho's Mini-Z and Radio Shack's Xmod products, offering a competitive alternative.

    The set comes ready to run with a 2-channel FM transmitter and a number of hop-up parts like suspension springs, pinion gears and steering arms. The transmitter and car allow the user to change crystals for multi-car racing action.

    Performance: The kit comes packed in an attractive box with a front flap that opens, allowing the customer to see the components inside. The spare parts allow the user to tailor the car for particular performance characteristics.

    The chassis is assembled; all the user has to do is install four AAA batteries, slip on the well-done Ford GT body and install the transmitter batteries. We tested our car with rechargeable 750-mAh AAA cells from Duratrax.

    If you've never dealt with 1:28-scale cars, you should know that in a lot of ways, they're a different breed from their 1:10 and 1:18 cousins. The receiver and electronic speed control are a single unit, well protected in the center of the car under a plastic cover.

    What sets the iWaver apart somewhat from its competition is its steering servo, which is a separate component from the rest of the electronics. This allows the user to replace it with a different micro servo, if desired.

    The servo, with a standard plug, slots into a receptacle under the top cover. The 130 motor also plugs into its own receptacle, and there's an extra one should the user want to add lights.

    The batteries are mounted in a flat 2+2 arrangement, lowering the car's center of gravity, and the receiver crystal slips into a socket on the underside of the car. Everything can be changed quickly and fairly easily.
    I was impressed by the get-up-and-go of the 130 motor. I ran the car in the box-stock setup, but iWaver includes instructions on gearing the motor for performance under different situations with different pinions.

    It was almost like slot-car racing without the track. The two-wheel drive chassis ran fairly loose on carpet, and really loose on tile flooring. With some spring changes, it wouldn't be hard to dial the car in.

    Marketing: With the size of these cars, you can run them in your store. That will certainly get your customers' attention, especially if the car has a bright paint scheme.

    Even with the extra parts in the box, there are a lot of ways to get your customers to spend a few extra bucks on this car. First, iWaver offers numerous Ford GT bodies in a variety of colors.

    Also, it offers plenty of replacement and hop-up parts, including wheels, tires and aluminum suspension parts. If your customers want to go faster, there's a modified motor too.

    Emphasize to your customers the fun factor of these cars. When you can't get outside, these cars are the perfect alternative to their larger brethren.

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

  • Easily replaceable parts

  • Nice-looking bodies

  • Small size, big fun

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    Testors' Harley-Davidson kit makes a big impression
    Product: 2005 Harley-Davidson FLHRCI Road King Classic touring motorcycle
    Maker: Testors
    Scale: 1:6
    Stock No.: 7222
    MSRP: $89.99

    Product: Even before opening it, your customers will be able to tell this kit is huge just by hefting the box. The kit is comprised of a mixture of black, clear, and die-cast parts. There are also lots of plastic and metal chrome-plated pieces. The pre-painted parts are very well done, with the exception of the silver side covers, which aren't clear-coated and don't match the other body panels.

    Also, modelers are forced to use silver body panels, since the Harley-Davidson insignias are factory applied. Stripping and repainting the panels would require aftermarket decals or a fine painting hand to replace the insignias.

    Vinyl covers for the seat and saddle bags, black tubing for spark plug and brake lines, simulated rubber tires and an assortment of small screws round out the package.

    The instruction booklet consists of black-and-white assembly photos. Problematically, some of the photos are so dark that it is difficult to tell what they are showing builders to do. On the other hand, the instructions include photos of the kit parts laid out on their sprues prior to assembly and are very helpful in locating the parts.

    Performance: Everything begins with the engine, which is pre-painted black with silver fins, and screws together. The gearbox is next and features a working gear shift, complete with return spring and a cogged vinyl drive belt.

    The builder then adds spark plugs and wires. It's worth noting that all of the kit's wiring is pushed into pre-drilled holes, which provides a less positive fit than forcing them over a male tab, as is common with other kits.

    The motorcycle frame comes in two black, pre-painted halves that builders screw together. Assembling the two halves around the engine, gearbox and rear fender is trying, but is accomplished with patience.

    The chrome parts have noticeable mold lines and will require repairs at the sprue joins. I used a silver Sharpie, but it really didn't match the chrome as well as I'd hoped. Overall, Testors does a good job by placing the sprue joins in less visible areas.

    The tires feature realistic tread patterns; the wheels and spokes are finely detailed. A pre-painted whitewall insert snaps between the tire and wheel. Even so, it fits loosely and should be glued.

    Front-end assembly is a smooth process. A good-looking windshield with pre-installed metal frame is supplied. In keeping with the kit's "no painting required" motif, all of the reflectors, brake and turn signal lenses are pre-painted.

    Lastly, the saddlebags are constructed from plastic parts and are then covered with preformed vinyl for a realistic leather appearance. Tie-down belts with buckles and attachment rivets round out assembly.

    Marketing: Overall, Testors has made a good model. There really aren't a lot of add-on sales with this kit, since the only painting I did was to highlight some bolt heads and add background color to the front and rear fender emblems. Warn customers not to lose any of the screws, as there are no extras provided.

    This kit should appeal to your motorcycle enthusiasts, and will prove a good distraction for modelers who are looking to build something different. This is no overnight project, however, and should not be undertaken by novice builders. The assembled model is so impressive that it might be a good idea to build one and put it on display near the kits. It will definitely draw attention.

    Reviewed by Jeff Smedley

  • Appeals to motorcycle fans

  • Straightforward assembly

  • Kit requires little painting

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    Proto 2000 N GP38-2 features accurate details
    Product: GP38-2 with 88-inch nose
    Maker: Proto N from Walthers
    Road names: Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (blue warbonnet); Burlington Northern; Burlington Northern Santa Fe (orange and green); Chicago & North Western (standard yellow); Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific (blue); Clinchfield (Family Lines gray); Conrail; CSX; Long Island (blue and white); Louisville & Nashville (Family Lines gray); Missouri Pacific (blue with Eagle logo); Norfolk Southern; Pittsburgh & Lake Erie (black); Seaboard System; Soo Line (red); Southern Pacific; Union Pacific
    MSRP: $99.98

    Product: Proto N is now offering its GP38-2 based on a late-production prototype with an 88-inch-long nose. The smooth-running model follows the lines of the most popular modern four-axle road switcher, with more than 2,100 built from 1972 through 1987. The 88-inch nose versions were built beginning in 1977.

    Performance: The GP38-2 follows the lines of other Proto N diesels, with a split-frame chassis enclosing the motor and a PC board on top to hold the wiring and LED headlights. An injection-molded styrene shell, with most details cast in place, slides in place over the chassis.

    Prototype-specific details include truck sideframes (two styles) and fuel tanks (two sizes). AccuMate automatic knuckle couplers are attached to the shell at each end.

    A five-pole, skew-wound motor (with brass flywheels at each end) powers the model, driving all axles. The model runs well at slow speeds and operates smoothly throughout its speed range.

    Several limited-run paint schemes are available, all for railroads that actually operated GP38-2s. The lettering on our Conrail sample is sharp and legible, and includes number boards as well as smaller data and warning label details.

    Marketing: Since the GP38-2 was the most popular four-axle locomotive of the 1970s and 1980s, and many can still be found in service, this model will appeal to most who model the past 30 years. Look for opportunities for multiple sales with more than one road number.

    Reviewed by Jeff Wilson

  • Smooth operation

  • Prototype-specific details

  • Nose matches post-1977 locos

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    Klutz's crochet kit will get you hooked on handcraft
    Product: Crochet: Learn to Crochet Six Great Projects, by Anne Akers
    Maker: Klutz
    Stock No.: 1-57054-870-6
    MSRP: $24.95

    Product: Handcrafts are currently undergoing a revival. Next time you're sitting in a doctor's office or airport, look at the people around you. Chances are you'll see someone knitting or crocheting.

    On the heels of its best-selling Knitting kit, Klutz has released Crochet: Learn to Crochet Six Great Projects. The kit includes a 96-page instruction book written by Anne Akers Johnson, two crochet hooks, two kinds of yarn and one button.

    Performance: Jane Bremmer, one of my co-workers, loves to sew, particularly quilts. Curious about crochet, Jane researched books and Web sites to find out more about the topic, but encountered numerous confusing terms and abbreviations. When a mutual co-worker of ours mentioned the Klutz kit to Jane, she was eager to try it.

    Jane said the instruction book was encouraging from the get-go. "The directions in it are clear and free of abbreviations," she said. "The illustrations are excellent. Everything is step-by-step, assuming you know nothing about crocheting." The book includes six projects, and Jane did several of them, creating flowers and granny squares.

    As she grew more confident, Jane was able to crochet a pattern called grandmother's garden, a project that wasn't in the book. "I was able to take what I learned here and do something else," she said. "I wasn't stuck in the book."

    Jane agreed with the kit's 10-and-up age recommendation. She thought the high-quality yarn included in the kit may account for its "slightly steep" retail price ($24.95), but she added, "The yarn was soft and smooth and doesn't get hooked on itself," which made it especially forgiving for novice crocheters. And as for the kit's best trait? "You'll really learn how to crochet," Jane said.

    Marketing: Klutz products are typically aimed at kids, but this kit is appealing to anyone who wants to get started in crochet. Consider placing some of these kits in your arts and crafts department, particularly if you carry crochet supplies.

    Reviewed by Jane Bremmer,
    with Sue Brettingen

  • Clear, easy-to-follow instructions

  • Beautifully illustrated textM

  • Slightly pricey, but high quality

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    Works of Ahhh . . . kits give kids artistic freedom
    Product: Works of Ahhh... Heart Box (No. 758, $18) and Penguin (No. 7821, $7.99)
    Maker: Balitono

    Product: Right from the start, these Works of Ahhh... wood painting kits attracted a lot of attention from my three girls. There was a general clamor to be one of the lucky ones to be able to paint. Ultimately, I chose Haylee, 8, for the Heart Box, and Phoebe, 5, for the Penguin.

    Along with the basswood art pieces, both kits included assorted paints and detailed instructions. The Heart Box kit contained two different-sized brushes: a wide one for covering larger areas and a fine-pointed one for detailing. Also provided were two different sorts of glass beads, glitter glaze, a stencil and white glue.

    The Penguin kit's single brush was smaller and suited to the project. An ornament loop is provided, which can be removed to make a standing figurine.

    Performance: Both kits suggest that the painter have a plan before dipping brush into paint. So, both Haylee and Phoebe took some time to look at their kits and explain what it was that they wanted to do.

    In the meantime, I laid down newspaper on the work surface - my dining room table - and separated the paint pots so that if an accident happened, only one paint would spill rather than all of them. I also gave each girl a small cup of water and paper towel for cleaning the brushes after finishing with one color and before moving on to the next.

    Balitono claims that it loads enough pigment into its paints for full coverage with the first application. The paints came through quite well. We were a little concerned with the white, but once it dried, it covered just as well as the rest.

    The paints were fast-drying, which is very helpful when working with kids who might forget that paint is wet and want to grab or need to shift a kit in order to paint another area. This limited the amount of repainting and paint-covered fingers and clothing.

    Both Haylee and Phoebe needed adult supervision, but Phoebe definitely needed more help. The kits are recommended for ages 6 and up, and that's an appropriate guideline. While Phoebe had a great time working on the kit, she still had difficulty following the guidelines and taking her time. Haylee, however, took charge of her kit, and while I emptied water and monitored the paints, she required much less direct supervision.

    The Heart Box kit took Haylee about two hours of constant work to complete; Phoebe finished the Penguin in about 45 minutes. The times other children might take could be more or less, depending on age and the amount of detail they want to include.

    In the end, the girls had a great time painting the kits, and both were kept busy for times that exceeded their usual attention spans. They were happy with their creations and are looking forward to doing similar projects in the future. The kits are definitely a bargain for the enjoyment the kids got out of the experience.

    Marketing: Judging from how my girls reacted upon seeing them, these kits should be stocked at eye level for children, because they will definitely attract their attention.

    The clear packages allow kids to clearly see the paints, brushes and wooden parts inside. The packaging is bright red and features colorful pictures of the finished kits that depict possible decorative ideas.

    Balitono has a wide variety of similar kits, including a Star Box, Jewelry Box, and a number of animal figurines, and should be stocked with art supplies or with specialty and educational items. These are great entries into art and crafts, and potentially could lead to sales of similar kits and art supplies.

    One last, possible selling point is that Balitono donates a portion of the proceeds from every Works of Ahhh… kit to The National Arbor Day Foundation.

    Reviewed by Amy Jones

  • Well worth the price

  • Good entry into arts and crafts

  • Allows kids to get creative

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    Play clean or face the crocodiles in 'Cleopatra' game
    Product: Cleopatra and the Society of Architects
    Maker: Days of Wonder
    Stock No.: DOW7501
    MSRP: $50

    Product: Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, has offered unimaginable riches to the architect who can design the finest palace. This is the premise of Days of Wonder's "Cleopatra and the Society of Architects" board game, which, in both play and materials, is enjoyable.

    Inside the box is a plethora of plastic pieces that are used to construct Cleopatra's palace: obelisks, sphinxes, a pedestal and throne, mosaics, column walls and doorframes. There are also two boards and a molded-plastic tray that serves as the quarry containing the various building materials.

    Rounding out the contents is a deck of 110 standard and "tainted" (more on this later) resource cards, and 11 character cards, all of which are "tainted" as well; five pyramids of assorted colors; cardboard talents (money) in various denominations; amulets of corruption; merchant vessels; 10 Anubis figures; and one figure representing Cleopatra.

    All of this adds up to an impressive number of game pieces efficiently housed in an easily stored, good-looking box.

    Performance: Setting up the game involves some effort, but it's worth it. In one of the cleverest uses of a game's box that I've seen, the bottom is turned over and becomes the palace walls, while the plaza game board is placed in front of the box before the doors, and the garden board is put on top.

    Each player receives one of the pyramids and two Anubis figures of matching color, which can be used to get rid of corruption amulets at the end of the game.

    The deck is shuffled - half facing up, half facing down - and three cards are dealt out in a row, their orientation unchanged. This represents the market from which all resources are obtained.

    Each player can perform only one of two actions during his or her turn: visit the market or visit the quarry. Visiting the market allows players to gather the resources they will need to acquire pieces of the palace from the quarry. After each player's turn, three cards are drawn from the deck and placed in each of the three "stalls" in the market, replenishing the resources there.

    Once a player has enough of the resources, he can acquire a piece of the palace from the quarry, add it to the construction site and get paid. However, using "tainted" resources to acquire the piece also brings an amount of corruption amulets that the player hides beneath his pyramid. Tainted cards allow players to build more quickly and thus gather money more easily.

    However, players run the risk of being the architect with the most corruption at the end of the game - a very bad thing, since the player is "fed" to Cleopatra's crocodiles and automatically loses the game. Of those who survive, the player with the most money wins.

    Game play is fast, with the typical game taking about 60 minutes. There are plenty of chances for trash talk as players push their luck again and again, acquiring corruption and trying to calculate how much corruption each of the other players has attained in the meantime.

    Marketing: Meant for three to five players, Cleopatra is intended for players 10 years and up, and even then, while youngsters can play, they tend to push their luck and end up easy pickings for the crocs seated around the table.

    If you haven't been carrying games in your store, this would be a great one to start with. There is a big "toy" factor, with lots of pieces to handle and plenty to do while playing.

    The box will attract attention, but often with bookshelf games, the price may put people off at first. Point out to hesitant customers that there is tremendous replay value to Cleopatra and, if your customers play even just three times, it costs less than three trips to the movies, and they will have gotten more entertainment for their money in the bargain. Believe me, if they play it, they will come back for more.

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

  • Tremendously entertaining

  • Fun to play over and over

  • Good entry to high-end games

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