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Product Lab - April 2006

Published: March 16, 2006
Spektrum DX3 high-tech, affordable
Product: Spread-spectrum radio has really begun to make its presence felt in radio control. This radio-frequency technology does away with crystals and uses the wider 2.4 GHz band to increase range, virtually eliminate glitching, and most importantly, prevent an incident in which some guy inadvertently crashes your car, airplane or boat because his radio is on the same frequency as yours.

Spread-spectrum radio uses the same technology as wireless computer networks and cordless telephones. Within the 2.4 GHz band are 80 channels, and spread-spectrum radios automatically search for an open channel. Further, they don't interfere with current analog FM and AM radios, and vice versa. That means you no longer have to get a frequency clip when you run your vehicle with others at a track. All you do is turn on your radio and go.

In addition, 2.4 GHz gives cars equipped with sensors the capability to "talk" to you, apprising users of temperature, speed and other metrics. Spektrum makes telemetry packages for nitro and electric cars (see Telemetry Combo Pack review, page 35).

Spektrum Digital Spectrum Modulation (DSM) transmitter modules have been available for high-end surface radios like Airtronics' M8 and M11 and Futaba's 3PK for about a year. The DX3 radio is an entry- to mid-level package that provides a good start into spread-spectrum. It's a digital, three-channel transmitter for radio-control surface vehicles, featuring three-model memory, throttle and steering trims, dual rate, adjustable endpoints and a built-in fail-safe. It comes with a Z270 Standard Race Servo and a Z590 Hi-Torque Race Servo. When first released, the package came with one receiver; the latest release comes with two.

-Reviewed by Hal Miller

VITAL STATS
Product: DX3
Maker: Spektrum
Stock No.: SPM2030F
MSRP: $349.99
Availability: Horizon Hobby

BOTTOM LINE
  • Easy to use, clear instructions
  • Increased range, no glitching
  • Good range of functions


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    Spektrum telemetry pack monitors car status
    Product: With radio control making the leap to 2.4 GHz control, it only makes sense to take advantage of its full capabilities. One of those is two-way communication, allowing a car, plane or boat to "talk" to the user via a set of sensors.

    Spektrum's Nitro Telemetry Combo Pack gives the user sensors for temperature, battery voltage, RPM or speed, and lap timing, along with the onboard module that collects the data and feeds it to the transceiver that wirelessly relays it to the included handheld unit.

    All this gear lets the user monitor the condition of the car in real time. The handheld unit, about the size of a beeper, can also hold data, including a car's maximum temperature, speed and best lap time. It also vibrates when a certain temperature or battery voltage is reached, which is useful for avoiding blown or damaged engines and runaways.

    Spektrum also makes a similar combo pack for electric vehicles (SPM1305, $179.99). It also has recently released a lap/timing trigger that works with the lap/timing sensor in the combo pack (SPM1330, $69.99).

    -Reviewed by Hal Miller

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Nitro Telemetry Combo Pack
    Maker: Spektrum
    Stock No.: SPM1300
    MSRP: $184.99
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Displays data in real time
  • Provides insurance vs. runaways
  • Appeals to high-tech enthusiasts


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    Bachmann recreates legendary 'Goose'
    Product: In the early 1930s, the Rio Grande Southern, a narrow-gauge railroad operating in the mountains of southwest Colorado, was looking for ways to save money. In those Depression days, the railroad realized it was expensive to run a steam-powered passenger train with only one or two riders and a few sacks of mail. Thus, the rail truck, nicknamed "The Galloping Goose," was born.

    The railroad converted bodies of old Buick and Pierce Arrow automobiles into vehicles designed to carry passengers, freight and U.S. Mail. The conveyances gained their nickname from their swaying, side-to-side motion that gave them a "waddle" going down the track.

    Ultimately, RGS built seven of these vehicles. The cost savings realized by using rail trucks is widely credited with keeping the Rio Grande Southern in existence until the early 1950s. The Galloping Goose was comical in appearance, but was a testament to a short-line railroad's frugality and ingenuity.

    -Reviewed by Hal Miller

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Rio Grande Southern Motor Car No. 1 Galloping Goose
    Maker: Bachmann Trains
    Scale: G
    Stock No.: 82399
    MSRP: $325

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Realistic appearance
  • Interesting details
  • Smooth operation


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    The Force is strong with Ertl's Jedi Starfighter kit
    Product: Available as Anakin Skywalker's or Obi Wan Kenobi's ship, AMT/Ertl's die-cast Jedi Starfighter kits are easy enough for just about any Star Wars fan to build, but have enough heft and detail, especially in the weathering, to keep the most demanding fans happy.

    The die-cast kit comes divided into an upper and lower metal hull. The other dozen or so pieces are made mostly of styrene.

    -Reviewed by Jim Faber

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Jedi Starfighter die-cast kit
    Maker: AMT/Ertl
    Stock No.: 38361
    MSRP: $12.95
    Availability: RC2

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Easy construction
  • Great for movie fans
  • Small price tag


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    Dragon makes mini version of massive A380
    Product: Dragon Models, Ltd., has released a 1:400 model of Airbus's A380 super-jumbo jet decorated in a one-of-a-kind demonstrator paint scheme. This model, part of the firm's Dragon Wings Premiere Collection of airliners, is based on Airbus A380 airframe F-WWOW, which wore both Singapore Airlines and Airbus demonstrator logos during November 2005 when the aircraft was on a shakedown tour of Asia and Australia. Singapore Airlines will take delivery of its first A380 in late 2006.

    The A380 is Airbus's newest addition to its fleet of jet aircraft. With a wingspan of just under 262 feet and a maximum takeoff weight of 1.2 million pounds, the four-engine A380 is the largest passenger jet ever built. The plane features two passenger decks with seating configuration options allowing up to 555 people. The aircraft also has a third (cargo) deck, that if utilized for passengers as well, would allow the airplane to carry as many as 840 people.

    -Reviewed by David Popp

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Airbus A380 in Airbus/
    Singapore Airlines demonstrator
    paint scheme
    Maker: Dragon Models Ltd.
    Scale: 1:400
    Stock No.: 55880
    MSRP: $29.95

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Fully assembled and decorated
  • Crisp detail, quality construction
  • Unique paint scheme


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    Race to play Wizkids' NASCAR game
    Product: WizKids' newest constructible game forgoes pirates and spacecraft for something a little more mainstream American: NASCAR. Each set comes with two constructible cars, a race mat, rules, a resource sheet and tiny dice.

    The game offers basic rules that anyone can play and advanced rules for those who want more sophistication in their race. Adding to the appeal of the game are the 28 collectible cars, each with slightly different abilities and values.

    -Reviewed by Jim Faber

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Race Day 2006 constructible racing game
    Maker: WizKids
    Stock No.: WZK7512
    MSRP: $3.99

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Truly affordable
  • Plenty of cars to collect
  • Appeal beyond gaming audience


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    Tamiya serves up second helping of the Lunch Box
    Product: Tamiya reissued the Vanessa's Lunch Box monster van in its XB (Expert Built) series. Tamiya believes people who originally had a Lunch Box, which first hit the market in 1987, might want another one - and this version is ready to run. Customers will need only batteries to get this big yellow van moving. Included are radio, speed control, 540-style motor and a pre-painted body.

    -Reviewed by Andy Lilienthal

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Vanessa's Lunch Box
    Maker: Tamiya
    Scale: 1:10
    Stock number: 57749
    MSRP: $284

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Fun to drive
  • Durable
  • Good entry-level item


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    Klutz's Castle set brings medieval building fun
    Product: As a parent, I love clever, well-designed toys for my kids. I also like toys that aren't a marketing shill for the latest movie or television show.

    Klutz's Castle Building Cards fit that category. The starter set contains 150 cards in four different shapes. Each card is notched so it fits with others to form a castle or a village. The set also contains an instruction book showing different castles that can be built, and a knight figure. Add-on card sets are available so you can expand your cardboard kingdom.

    -Reviewed by Hal Miller

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Building Cards - Castles
    Maker: Klutz
    Stock number: 5500
    MSRP: $12.95

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Play value at a good price point
  • Stores flat; takes up little space
  • Expands with add-on sets


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    Atlas releases versatile MP15DC switcher
    Product: Electro-Motive's 1970s-era MP15DC switcher is the subject of this nice all-new HO model from Atlas. A total of 237 1,500-hp MP15DCs rolled out of the EMD plant from 1974 to 1980, and many remain in service. They were designed as switchers, but their GP-style road trucks (compared to the Flexicoil trucks on earlier SW1500s) made them suitable for light road duty as well - in fact, the MP stood for "multiple purpose."

    Several details changed on real MP15s during their production run, and Atlas has captured them, varying the details based on road names. These details include the style of sand fillers, exhaust stacks with or without mufflers and three types of air filters.

    -Jeff Wilson

    VITAL STATS
    Product: EMD MP15DC switcher
    Maker: Atlas
    Scale: HO
    Road names: Chicago & North Western, CSX, Genessee & Wyoming, Missouri Pacific, Reading, Southern, Southern Pacific
    MSRP: Silver Series (decoder socket) $134.95; Gold Series (with DCC and sound) $244.95

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Good slow-speed control
  • Great for smaller layouts
  • Strong details on model


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