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Product Lab - April 2007

Published: March 14, 2007
Fly worry-free with Spektrum's DX7
Product: DX7
Maker: Spektrum
Stock No.: SPM2710
MSRP: $349.99
Availability: Horizon Hobby

Product: The Spektrum DX7 is a full-range, full-performance spread-spectrum radio system that can fly anything from small electrics to gas-powered IMAC planes and turbine jet models without regard to frequencies or available pins.

The packaging and 108-page manual are top notch. Based on the JR 7202 midrange sport radio, the 20-model DX7 transmitter is full featured. It has all the programming capabilities to satisfy the demands of the majority of radio-control modelers.

The DX7 is packed with new features like ServoSync (lower latency), ModelMatch (prevents you from flying the wrong model), and is compatible with the existing AR6000 receivers. The DX7 package comes with four powerful 72 ounce-inch DS821 Digital Sport Servos, a 1500mAh NiMH transmitter battery, 4.8-volt 1100mAh NiCD receiver battery, Tx/Rx dual wall charger and on/off switch harness.

Performance: As an engineer, I have several decades of experience with radio communications and spread-spectrum technology. Since the benefits of spread- spectrum techniques were already used in military and commercial applications, I knew it was only a matter of time before it revolutionized the consumer market and found its niche in the R/C industry.

As a result, I was less apprehensive about trying the DX7 in an expensive application than others in my area have been. I've been able to keep abreast of DX7 testing through Horizon Hobby representatives, David Shulman of Bob Violet Models (BVM), and the Superman Jet Rally, where the DX7 was first seen in jet use. In addition to many successful IMAC giant-scale applications, glow and electric helicopter applications, and intense indoor applications where many transmitters operate within a few feet of each other (e.g. JR and Great Planes E-fests), I have not seen or heard of any interference issues.

While the original DX6 was geared toward smaller electrics and park flyers with a slightly limited range and noticeable latency issues, the DX7 provides full performance through increased range, redundant dual-channel receivers and increased system speed.

The reduced latency (time from stick movement to servo movement) is now the fastest response time of any other 72-MHz PCM radio on the market.
Instead of requiring a frequency pin to ensure that no one else interferes with your radio, the DX7 scans all 80 channels at 2.4 GHz, finds two that are free and locks onto them before enabling the transmitter.

The receiver, which was uniquely "bound" to the transmitter during the setup procedure, is turned on first and scans all 80 frequencies as well waiting to hear the correct binding code (unique for each DX7 transmitter) in the two channels selected by the transmitter. In this manner, your DX7 transmitter cannot interfere with other radios. Equally important, other DX7 radios cannot interfere with your radio system.

In addition to worry-free automated channel selection, the AR7000 receiver in the DX7 package has a second, smaller receiver attached to a six-inch extension cable. By placing the second receiver two to six inches away from and adjacent (90 degrees opposite) to the main receiver, it can see a different RF environment that may still clearly "hear" the transmitter when the main receiver has a signal fade.

Furthermore, the 2.4 GHz radio system is immune to car ignition noise and other RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) noises that are commonly created in a much lower frequency domain. The result of this so-called diversity reception has proven to be the most bullet-proof, glitch-free performance on the R/C market today.

Just when you think the DX7 design is impressive enough, along come new and innovative features like ModelMatch and ServoSync. A pet peeve of mine is when I successfully launch a plane into the air and then realize I forgot to change the programmed model on the transmitter.

The elevator, rudder and throttle all worked fine on my ground test, but I failed to notice that my ailerons were reversed. This scenario is quite painful, and I've done it more than once. The ModelMatch feature in the DX7 embeds a unique code in the receiver during the binding process that remembers the user-programmable model's name. If the wrong name is on the screen, the model's controls simply will not respond. In addition to saving your pride or plane, the ModelMatch feature can prevent stripped servo gears and broken linkages.

ServoSync is a new feature to the DX7 that re-sequences the data between the transmitter and receiver based upon the type of mixing you select. This ensures that the servos working together will receive their direction changes together, resulting in a synchronized movement that allows the control surface to precisely follow the stick movement without delay.

Unlike the latency seen in the earlier DX6 model, performance-demanding pilots who use quick stick movements will absolutely love the ServoSync feature and low latency of the DX7.

Marketing: With an MSRP of about $350, the DX7 is best suited for intermediate to advanced flyers. It has been IMAC- and turbine-tested, so it will get plenty of attention from anyone wanting to protect their expensive model from interference or accidental jamming without a frequency pin.

Although seven channels may sometimes be insufficient for turbine jet pilots, the added confidence of eliminating a hostile jamming signal has many BVM-turbine and IMAC-giant-scale model owners switching to a DX7 without hesitation. The built-in Failsafe and Servo Sequencing features provide less latency than any other PCM radio on the market.

The revolutionary DX7 design not only protects us from others by eliminating jamming or unwanted interference, it protects us from ourselves by not allowing an incorrect model to be flown before selecting the correct one on the transmitter.

Be sure to stock the new Spektrum AR7000 dual receiver when it becomes available. If you have Spektrum AR6000 DSM DuaLink 6-channel receivers in stock, all the new features of the DX7 will apply to the AR6000 receiver.

However, the range restriction will still keep it limited to park flyers and small helicopters. Also, the new Spectrum AR6100 DSM2 Microlite 6-channel receiver (MSRP $49.99) is meant for indoor and park flyers. Not only is it DX7 compatible, but it weighs a mere 3.5 grams.

Reviewed by Greg Covey

  • Full-range performance

  • Packed with useful features

  • Eliminates interference

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    Revell wins like Donohue with Shelby GT350R
    Product: Shelby GT350R Mark Donohue #11 B/P
    Maker: Revell-Monogram
    Scale: 1:32
    Stock No.: 85-4889
    MSRP: $53.95

    Product: The Ford Mustang has been one of the most popular cars in the U.S. since the first one rolled off the assembly line in the mid-'60s. The Carroll Shelby-prepared racing versions, like Revell's model of the GT350R, are some of the most sought-after cars in the world.

    This 1:32 slot car is based on the car campaigned by legendary racer Mark Donohue early in his career. He won the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) B-Production title in 1965 with this trick pony.

    The Shelby GT350R Mark Donohue #11 B/P comes in a nicely done display box adorned with photos of the racer and the car. Production of the model is limited to 4,000 pieces.

    Performance: Upon opening the box, which is a treat for the Mustang or Mark Donohue fan in itself, it's hard to decide whether to leave this great-looking car on display or get it out and run it. I chose the latter, but only because I had to review it.

    The metallic blue paint shines; the striping and lettering are crisp and opaque. The little details are there too, like the riveted covers where the air intakes should be behind the B-pillar and the representations of the hood pins, trunk latch, brake-air intakes and stock fuel-filler cover.

    The interior of the car might be the best detailed I've ever seen on a slot car. There is a driver figure, a dashboard with gauges, a shifter, a fire extinguisher and two seats. Revell also nailed one of the most critical details: the rear window, which was specially formed to have a gap between it and the roof to let heat out of the driver's compartment.

    Revell cars are usually good runners, and this one proved to bolster the case. The GT350R's chassis is equipped with an adjustable position magnet toward the rear of the chassis, so handling can be dialed to the exact track situation. The magnet helped the rear end stay firmly planted on all but the sharpest of curves.

    Marketing: This is a car that will appeal to a wide audience because of its Mustang lineage and its connection to Mark Donohue and Carroll Shelby. One selling point is its limited release. Tell your customers to get one now or the cars will be gone!

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

  • Great auto-racing subject

  • Outstanding paint, detail

  • Wide-ranging appeal

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    Enjoy high-speed thrills with Phase 3's Fantom EP Jet
    Product: Fantom EP Jet
    Maker: Phase 3
    Stock No.: 107310
    MSRP: $149.99
    Availability: Global Distribution
    Tested with: Two Cirrus 9-g micro servos (No. 440301, $16.50), Impulse 11.1v, 2100mAh 16C LiPo (No. 182253, $83)

    Product: The Phase 3 Fantom is an aerodynamically-clean, ducted-fan flying wing made from EPS foam. It sports a high-performance brushless electric ducted-fan (EDF) unit that comes completely assembled and plugged into the included 30-amp ESC.

    The buyer needs only to add a micro receiver, two micro servos, two 9-inch servo extensions, and a 3-cell LiPo pack. A 3-channel radio system with an elevon mixing feature is required.

    Applying the large decals seemed intimidating at first, but they ended up looking great with relatively little effort. The servos are covered with plastic shields to protect the arms and reduce drag. The canopy mounts are already glued in place on the fuselage, which easily locks into position by sliding rearward.

    Inside the fuselage is plenty of room for various-size batteries and even a full-sized receiver, if needed. The battery is held in place with a Velcro strip, making it easy to shift forward or aft to obtain the proper CG.

    Building the Fantom took several evenings. The 16-page color manual was well written and included many highlighted notes and "Pro Tips" for a successful experience.

    Performance: The 20-ounce Fantom flies very smoothly and has a wide dynamic range of flight from slow passes to fast fly-bys.
    The components are safe from stress, even at full throttle, when using a 3-cell 2100mAh LiPo pack that can continuously deliver 25 amps. Full throttle measured about 250 watts at 22 amps with a 3-cell 20C 2100mAh LiPo pack.

    The EDF "jet" maintains good altitude and needs only a little elevator offset when flying inverted. Quick four-point rolls are possible, even without a rudder. The Fantom can perform either fast rolls or tame rolling circles. Flight time is about six minutes, with plenty of high-speed fun!

    When properly trimmed, there are no coupling issues, and it can be flown in an open soccer field, football field or baseball outfield.

    The Fantom slows down nicely and lands easily on either grass or dirt. The bottom-side black striping provides great orientation in the air and it simply flies great.

    Marketing: Since the overall performance of the Phase 3 Fantom is impressive, it will appeal to both intermediate and advanced pilots wanting that jet-like feel and sound.

    Although it launches with either an easy hand-toss or right from short grass (ROG), it is not intended for beginners due to the need for some building and flying skills.

    The fully assembled EDF power system provides reliable flights without the need for tinkering or maintenance. A key to great flight power is using a 16C-20C LiPo pack around 2000 mAh so none of the components become stressed.

    The recommended Impulse 11.1v 2100mAh LiPo pack is a good fit. Be sure to stock mating power connectors for the ESC and battery pack.

    Reviewed by Greg Covey

  • Includes brushless EDF

  • Allows wide range of flight

  • ROG or hand toss

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    FlyZone's EP aircraft provide several free-flight opportunities
    Products: Sky Voyager (No. HCAA0313), Novus Explorer (No. HCAA0314), DeHavilland Mosquito (No. HCAA0240)
    Maker: FlyZone
    MSRP: $19.98 each
    Availability: Great Planes

    Products: The Novus Explorer, Sky Voyager and DeHavilland Mosquito are electric- powered (EP) free-flight models. Even though the boxes indicate they're ready to fly, each requires some assembly, such as attaching the wings, rudder and elevator to the fuselage. Each plane comes with a charger to charge the cell that powers the plane's motor (or motors, in the Mosquito's case) and a spare propeller or two.

    Performance: Assembling the planes is simple, facilitated by the use of double-stick tape. Just peel away the backing paper and attach the wing halves, then the stabilizer and rudder.

    Of course, each kit is a little different. The low-winged Sky Voyager is the easiest to assemble. The Mosquito requires a little more patience since there are two motors to connect and wires to contain. The Novus Explorer is a pusher - the propeller is in the rear and pushes rather than pulls the plane along - and is the most unique looking of the three.

    The first onto the tarmac was the Sky Voyager. With its low-slung wings, the Sky Voyager was going to have to go fast to attain any sort of altitude and flight time. A glide test gave some indicators as to how it would handle in the air, but after numerous tosses into the wind and several trim adjustments, the Sky Voyager took a nasty left turn and dove into the ground. Despite the long grass and relatively soft earth, the propeller snapped and the left wing broke.

    The general consensus was that because the Sky Voyager was low-winged, the speed it needed to get in the air would require an almost perfectly calm day, with only the slightest of breezes. Also, the propeller was too small to efficiently push air past the cowling.

    Next was the Novus Explorer. The plane's outlandish paint scheme and unusual design attracted more attention than the Sky Voyager. Again, a test glide gave some indicators of how the Novus would handle in the air. After a few tentative flights and trim adjustments, the Novus powered into the sky and made a satisfying 15-second flight that ended with a nice landing.

    With the propeller exposed, the Novus Explorer was able to generate more airspeed than the Sky Voyager. Plus, its design made for easier trim corrections than the Sky Voyager.

    Finally, we flew the twin-powered Mosquito. Like the Sky Voyager, the Mosquito is a low-winged aircraft, needing greater speed and lacking in stability, compared with other planes. Also, the left propeller was noticeably smaller than the right. Unsure whether this was intentional or not, we went ahead with our flying. A number of attempts later, the Mosquito took to the air in a promising climb, began its turn, and then promptly went inverted and shot, meteoric, to the ground.

    Twin-engine planes are notoriously hard to fly, and this holds true for small free- flight models too. Again, the props were a little undersized to pull the plane along at a sufficient rate when there was anything more than a slight breeze.

    Marketing: The beauty of these free-flight kits is that they are reasonably priced and an easy entrance into the hobby. However, you want the beginning hobbyist to succeed, with as little trouble as possible.

    Of these three kits, the Novus Explorer best allows for this. With time and patience, the Sky Voyager and Mosquito could prove to be flyers too, but should be left to more experienced free-flight modelers.

    The chargers require four AA batteries, so make sure to cross-market those. An extra set is a good idea, since the best charges come from the freshest batteries.

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

  • Easy to build

  • Reasonably priced

  • Not suitable for all skill levels

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    Tamiya's TamTech-Gear mini R/C small in size, big on fun
    Products: TamTech-Gear Wild Boar (No. 56704, $278); Desert Gator (No. 56705, $256)
    Maker: Tamiya
    Scale: 1:16

    Product: Mini R/C cars and trucks are extremely popular among R/C enthusiasts, and all the major manufacturers are getting in on the action. Tamiya's TamTech-Gear line of mini R/Cs (1:16 scale) are ready-to-run, two-wheel drive off-road cars, based on Tamiya's GB01 chassis. (The Wild Boar is a slightly modified chassis, the GB01T, allowing for a truck body and wheels.) Tamiya offers a full line of upgrades for the TamTech-Gear line, including carbon damper stays, oil-filled dampers, 12- to 18-tooth aluminum pinions and spare body-part sets.

    Currently, there are five vehicles in the TT-Gear line. We tested the Wild Boar and Desert Gator. Each comes with almost everything needed to race, including a Tamiya Expec 2-channel transmitter, 7.2-v NiCd battery and charger, and a bunch of spare parts, including damper spacers and plastic replacement pinions. All that is required are eight AA batteries for the transmitter.

    Performance: A plus about the TamTech line is that the cars are usable both indoors and out, and need only a limited amount of space to run; a 15- by 20-foot room or empty two-car garage is ideal. The corner of a parking lot or a paved driveway are options, too. The cars are small, reasonably light, and with just a little forethought, customers can put together a racecourse at their homes in no time.

    There is a space here in the office at Model Retailer about the size of an average home's living or family room. After looking at it for a moment, we were convinced that with just a little work, we could create an R/C track.

    First, we marked out the track using a combination of masking tape, boxes and small paper plates. After scoring two sheets of foamcore, we bent each slightly and propped them up from beneath to make a double jump. With some more knife work, another box came to serve as a tabletop. Six or seven paperback novels under a sheet created a series of moguls. Before half an hour had passed, the course was set, and we were ready to race.

    Both the Wild Boar and Desert Gator got good traction on the carpet, and after some trim adjustments, were easy to handle on a straightaway. Catching air off the double jump and tabletop was no problem, but the undamped friction shocks allowed the cars to bottom out every time.

    Pre-loading the shocks slightly stiffened the suspensions, but not enough to keep the cars from smacking their motor guards as they came off the jumps. However, this didn't faze the cars, as the solid chassis absorbed the punishment and just kept on going.

    At 10 mph, these little guys carried enough speed around our course to keep us occupied for hours, and runtimes off a single charge were somewhere between 25 and 30 minutes.

    But even good runtimes couldn't soothe a sore finger, since the Desert Gator's on/off switch, located between the body and wing, is such a pain to reach. On the other hand, the Wild Boar's is easy to get at, right next to the receiver.

    Marketing: It's important to keep in mind who would benefit from racing TamTech-Gear cars. In the Midwest and northern climes, running cars outdoors year round is not an option. There aren't many indoor tracks that allow nitro racing, so electric racing is often the only alternative. With TamTech-Gear's Wild Boar and Desert Gator, customers could easily set up a track at home or other small, indoor area, race the cars and then tear down the track, with little or no disturbance to what's already in place.

    Also, Tamiya has made a name with sturdy, entry-level vehicles that are friendly to new R/C enthusiasts. The company's designs are durable, as well as easily mastered and upgraded.

    If your store can support it, add a small track dedicated to minis, or set up a track once a month to show customers that they can put a course together and race on their own. Make sure to keep hop-up parts on hand, especially oil-filled dampers, TamTech-Gear Sport Tuned motors, and extra battery packs.

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell and Hal Miller

  • Mini R/Cs are very popular

  • Can be raced inside

  • Upgradeable, adjustable

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    Team Losi's Muggy brings the heat
    Product: Muggy RTR
    Maker: Team Losi
    Scale: 1:8
    Stock No.: LOSB0018
    MSRP/Street: $999.99/$549.99
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

    Product: Team Losi has made an imprint over the years with the development of vehicles that not only look cool but perform extremely well. Losi's Muggy RTR definitely lives up to this reputation.

    The Muggy is built on a hefty, 4mm anodized-aluminum chassis with rugged matching aluminum braces fore and aft for added strength. The aluminum servo tray is more than enough to securely house the tandem JR Racing Z590M steering servos and Z270 throttle/brake servo.

    Power is delivered from the Losi Sport 427 to all four wheels via sealed center, front and rear differentials and CV drive shafts. Steel disc brakes are mounted before and behind the center diff. The engine has a huge heat sink, a two-needle slide valve carburetor and a Spin-Start back plate. A large air filter prevents dirt from getting into the carburetor, while a 150cc fuel tank allows for plenty of nonstop driving.

    Add on Losi's massive long-travel shocks, a thick, eye-catching Lexan body and huge yellow Losi 420-Series dish wheels with pre-glued King-Pin tires, and what your customer has is one intimidating machine. The included JR Racing XR2i 75-MHz AM transmitter features an LCD, digital trim levers, two-model memory, steering dual rate and end-point adjustments.

    The Muggy also comes with a Losi Spin-Start (requiring a 7.2-volt rechargeable stick pack), an alkaline-powered glow plug igniter, an 1100mAh receiver pack with charger and an assortment of tools including hex wrenches and a cross wrench.

    Performance: Breaking in the Muggy's 427 engine was a breeze. Even in the less-than-optimal 50-degree weather, once it started, the engine growled away ceaselessly until the tank was empty. There is something to be said for breaking in an engine that doesn't need to be restarted time and again. Plus, with the Spin-Start system, there's no need to worry about skinned and bleeding knuckles.

    Before taking the Muggy out for its first serious run, I put an Outerwears pre-filter (No. 20-2267-01) over the air filter to give it added protection.

    A local medical office center had the perfect wide open space and long, steep hill for doing jumps. After a little warm-up, I let the Muggy go with full gas. For its size, this truggy is very quick and nimbler than one would expect. Even at high speeds, the steering was responsive, and I could put it just about anywhere I wanted it to go without much problem.

    The Muggy took jumps off a hill with a 12-foot drop without difficulty, although I felt uncertain at first. But after that first easy landing, it was all about how far we could get it to fly. The truggy's wide stance makes it almost impossible to flip, with the only exception being a poorly executed landing after a particularly hazardous jump.

    The massive heat sink on the Losi Sport 427 engine is more than enough to dissipate heat. After driving this beast hard, head temps were well within tolerances. In hotter climates, it might be necessary to ventilate the body a bit more, but in my case, I was more than comfortable with leaving it as it was out of the box.

    A good amount of slop developed in the steering and required some minor adjustments while I was out, and then, once I got home, a serious tightening of the front end. This is something that customers should look out for. Also, I lost one of the screws out of the servo tray. I went back and put thread lock on these and tightened them down to keep it from happening again.

    Marketing: Overall, the Team Losi Muggy is well worth the purchase price. Its killer looks, aggressive stance and durability should whet any R/Cer's appetite. Offer it as an alternative to other, more traditional MTs.

    There aren't a ton of option parts available, but some you might consider as they become available are the hard anodized main chassis (No. LOSB2275), mud guard set (No. LOSB2402) and the one piece motor mount (No. LOSB5028).

    Since the Muggy's 20mm hex hubs limit the sorts of wheels that will fit it, you can broaden your customer's choices by stocking Losi's 17mm wheel hexes (No. LOSA3530).

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

  • Solid power plant

  • Extremely stable, durable

  • Nice radio, Spin-Start system

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    Race to the finish with Ninco's N-Digital track
    Products: N-Digital Master Track Circuit (No. 40101, $499.95); N-Digital Pit Lane (No. 40203, $74.95)
    Maker: Ninco
    Availability: MRC
    Race cars used: Ninco Mosler MT900 R (No. 50428, $52.98); Ninco Toyota Supra "Zent" (No. 50416, $52.98); Ninco Renault Megane Trophy "World Champion" (No. 50429, $52.98)

    Product: Perhaps the most anticipated release for slot cars in recent memory, Ninco's N-Digital system is the latest entrant into the digital field. The 40 linear-foot N-Digital Master Track is housed in a huge, durable carrying case. It also includes a console unit, four lane-change tracks, guardrails, bridge supports, three controllers and three chips for car conversion.

    N-Digital offers a number of race modes, including Grand Prix, World Rally, Fast Lap, Non-Stop Resistance, Pit Stop Resistance (PS; requires Pit Lane accessory), Arcade Group and Arcade Single.

    The N-Digital Pit Lane features six track pieces, which create a pit entry, refueling zone and exit. It also has pit walls and fencing to create an authentic raceway look. A wire connects the pit lane to the N-Digital console, allowing racers to participate in Ninco's PS play mode.

    Performance: Ninco uses its standard track in this set, save for the digital components, so those familiar with it won't have any problems assembling it, and neither should novices.

    We "digitalized" three Ninco cars with the included chips. The conversion wasn't difficult. However, the first car a customer switches should also be tested on the track before the body is put back on to ensure the leads are attached to the proper contacts.

    A mistake here will make the car either run backwards or not at all. Also, any excess wire from the leads shouldn't touch the chip. Otherwise, the car will perform erratically.

    The set is intended for an area no bigger than 4 feet by 8 feet. In order to fit, the track switches back and forth with tight, hairpin curves, along with straights, and overlaps with two bridge sections. This ambitious layout created a real test, even for experienced drivers.

    The chip-equipped cars worked as advertised, changing lanes and entering and exiting the pits very handily. Be sure you obey the tones that indicate your car is about to run out of gas, because you'll come to an abrupt halt on the course if you don't!

    Marketing: The N-Digital system offers a number of cool features, including the ability to race three cars upon setup; crisp lane changes; and a lot of racing options and accessories. The company's Lap Counter Bridge N-Scorer (No. 10409; $84.98) is coming soon.

    Since Ninco doesn't supply cars pre-equipped with its digital chip, you should offer to perform the upgrades for your customers, or sell cars and the N-Digital Decoder Chip (No. 40304, $24.95) packaged together. Remember, the chip can be used with any brand of car on the market.

    It's also a good idea to have extra Ninco track on hand, and some layout ideas to open up the track to different levels of

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

  • Many features available

  • Track fits into small area

  • Cars easily digitalized

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