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Product Lab - January 2008

Published: December 14, 2007
Science, fun meet in Tamiya robot set
Product: Tamiya's Remote Control Robot Construction Set DX is an intriguing product that offers the builder the opportunity to assemble and operate a robot that performs one of three similar grasping functions: horizontal clamp, vertical clamp or bucket.

The kit is a challenging one for most young people and includes a wide variety of components, such as four motors and parts for four gearboxes, a pair of perforated plates that serve as the upper and lower frames, plastic girders and brackets, wheels and tires and fasteners ranging from perforated metal strips to screws.

The specified tools (side cutters, Phillips screwdriver, pliers and hobby knife) are sufficient to assemble the kits, but I found that two heavier sets of pliers, a set of metal shears, nut drivers, a permanent marker and a file made assembly easier.

Performance: It appears that Tamiya intended this kit for young people, but several of the steps are difficult even for experienced builders. Most of the difficulties appear to stem from the use of components that Tamiya also uses in other kits.

For example, in order for the wires to reach all four motors, I had to strip 10 centimeters of the outer insulation off of the 8-wire harness without nicking or cutting any of the smaller wires inside. In another challenging step, I needed to cut the web out of a plastic beam without damaging the outer parts of the beam.

Likewise, the instructions are somewhat vague in spots, relying primarily on exploded views, and my kit included two different sheets of corrections for the instructions.

The completed kit is entertaining to operate, and it's easy to imagine builders using it in impromptu competitions (no battling robots, though - it's too fragile for that). The tethered controller is logical and sturdy.

Marketing: I've had success with quite a few Tamiya kits, both model and radio-control. In my experience, the company's parts fit exceptionally well, and the instructions are very clear.

I was looking forward to this kit (no painting and it operates when complete - what's not to like about that?), but was surprised to find that it was more demanding than a typical Tamiya product.

With its motors, different types of gear trains, and cleverly designed linkages, it would be an excellent choice for a science project, but make sure that the young person who's going to be assembling it will have either help from an experienced modeler or a steady hand and a lot of patience.

Reviewed by Terry Thompson

Product: Remote Control Robot Construction Set DX
Maker: Tamiya
Stock No.: 70177
MSRP: $96

  • Excellent science project

  • Works as described

  • Parental assistance a good idea

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    ParkZone Cessna 210 Centurion makes micro flight easy
    Product: It's difficult to come by a quality R/C plane that you have to do nothing but take out of the box, charge and fly. There's always something to be done, even if it's as minor as attaching the wings or tail feathers.

    With ParkZone's Cessna 210 Centurion, customers get a complete, fully functional plane that is truly ready to fly. In addition to the plane, the package includes a 3-channel 2.4GHz digital proportional radio system, 3.7V 70A LiPo battery, eight AA batteries and display stand, which doubles as the LiPo charger.

    Performance: Care should be taken removing the plane from the package. Made of foam and weighing only 18 grams, the Cessna is fragile. Once the plane is free, all that's left to do is put the batteries in the charger/display stand and transmitter and charge the LiPo.

    The LiPo is tiny and just slides into a special receptacle on the display stand. Typically, it doesn't take long for the LiPo to charge - between 15 and 20 minutes. The battery rests snugly in a depression in the plane's belly, with Velcro to help hold it in place.

    Flying the Cessna is as easy as throttling up and giving it a little toss. It's very receptive and flies smoothly.

    While the Cessna can be flown outdoors, it should be done on only the calmest days, with no more than a slight breeze. A stronger wind will not only make flying harder and less enjoyable, it could very well blow the plane away, as it did to me on one occasion. It was calm when I went out and started flying, but in the midst of the session, the wind picked up and took the plane with it.

    Luckily, the plane has excellent glide characteristics. I just cut the power and kept an eye on it, following as quickly as I could. It came down on pavement about 150 yards away with an abrasion on the wing, but was otherwise unharmed.

    Indoors is by far the Cessna's preferred flying environment. The space should be open and free of obstructions; a school gymnasium or empty hangar would be ideal.

    The instructions suggest an area no smaller than 40-by-40 feet with at least a 20-foot ceiling. Less-experienced flyers may wish to have a bigger area to allow them some room for mistakes.

    Speaking of mistakes, they can happen, even to the best pilots, and more often to those with modest skills. I had an unfortunate close encounter with some pallet racking in our distribution center while flying at full throttle.

    The Cessna came down pretty hard, but weathered the accident beautifully, and was back in the air after a quick check to make sure nothing had been broken.

    Customers shouldn't expect loops and barrel rolls from the Cessna. It is a fun indoor flyer, with characteristics similar to larger R/C trainers.
    As a precaution, when flying outdoors, customers should do a range check. We encountered some interference at the flying field we use in our business park. And while 2.4GHz systems are very reliable, they aren't necessarily bulletproof.

    Marketing: The Cessna isn't a plane for those completely new to R/C flying. Novices that have some time with other planes, or beginners with supervision shouldn't have a problem getting this little plane into the air.

    The Cessna's foam construction is sturdy and can stand up to reasonable use. A small crash is probably not going to damage the plane to the point where it can't be flown. However, some foam-safe CA wouldn't be a bad idea, in case a repair does have to be made.

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

    Product: Cessna 210 Centurion 2.4GHz Ultra-Micro Indoor Flyer
    Maker: ParkZone
    Stock No.: Blue/Red (PKZ3000), Red/Yellow (PKZ3005), Green/Silver (PKZ3010)
    MSRP/MAP: $199.99/$149.99
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

  • Very stable flight

  • Durable construction

  • Best flown indoors

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    Take to the waves with HobbyZone's Zig Zag Racer 3
    Product: HobbyZone's Zig Zag Racer 3 is the latest version of its popular Zig Zag boats. The Zig Zag 3 includes a ZX10 radio system, six AA batteries, a DC peak charger, 6-cell 1000mAh NiMH battery pack, stand, three self-anchoring buoys, soccer bumper and balls. Other features include a sealed radio box to keep out water, a self-righting hull, updated canopy graphics and paint scheme.

    Performance: Everything a customer needs to run the Zig Zag comes in the box, plus some extras for setting up a race course.

    With that said, one inconvenience is that the Zig Zag 3's charger can only be plugged into a 12V automobile accessory outlet, which is fine if you're out and need to charge a battery.

    But if you're boating where an AC outlet is handy, it would be nice to use that instead of your car's battery. We used MRC's SuperBrain 989 (RB989, $189) to charge our packs.

    We tested our Zig Zag 3s on a windy day, so the water was a little choppy. Even though the Zig Zag's top is held on with a single rubber band, it was more than enough to keep water out, even after being swamped by a wave.

    What's more, the boats always came up, never capsized and were very fun to pilot.

    Marketing: A big problem for boat sales is that customers can't drive boats year round - at least not in markets that experience cold winters. Or sometimes there isn't a local body of water to boat on.

    The Zig Zag 3 is the perfect size for boating on an indoor or outdoor pool. Plus, if something should go wrong, customers won't have to lug around a fishing rod or have to swim into the middle of a lake to reclaim their Zig Zag.

    Reviewed by Jenny Maaske

    Product: Zig Zag Racer 3
    Maker: HobbyZone
    Stock No.: HBZ3705
    MSRP/MAP: $89.99/$79.99
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

  • Complete RTR package

  • Fun to run

  • Super for small boating venues

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    Ticket to Ride Switzerland includes new twists to old favorite
    Product: Ticket to Ride Switzerland comes in a thinner package than its companions, but still feels hefty. It contains the new game board, 46 destination tickets and a rules booklet in eight languages. You also need trains and train cards from the original Ticket to Ride (TTR) or Ticket to Ride Europe.

    Wild cards now only work for tunnel routes instead of all routes. Players also start with fewer trains (40 instead of the traditional 45), which shortens the game. The game also adds new "city-to-country" destination cards with varying points depending on how players complete them.

    Performance: With fewer trains, a tighter board, and other twists, the Switzerland expansion makes a two- or three-player game just as exciting and nail-biting as a four- or five-player match on the larger boards.

    Marketing: This expansion makes an easy sell to any current fan, particularly those who play with a smaller group. Stock it with the rest of the games in the line.

    For extra punch, add a simple shelf talker or sticker on the side of the box saying "NEW! Ticket to Ride for two or three!"

    If a buyer only owns Ticket to Ride Märklin, they also need the train cards from the original game, Ticket to Ride Europe or the USA 1910 expansion set. This makes a natural up-sell opportunity to get them into the original game as well.

    Reviewed by John Kaufeld

    Product: Ticket to Ride SwitzerlandMaker: Days of Wonder
    Stock No.: DOW7217
    MSRP: $25
    Availability: Days of Wonder; call 877-966-3378, e-mail or visit

  • For 2-3 players

  • Add-on sale for TTR owners

  • Need cards from other TTRs

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    Fly up a storm with ParkZone's Typhoon 2 3D
    Product: The ParkZone Typhoon 2 3D is the perfect airplane for your experienced R/C pilots who want to fly today, without the hassles of building their own park flyer.

    Getting the Typhoon 2 airborne is about as simple as it gets. Everything customers will need is in the box, including a powerful ParkZone BL400-15T brushless motor and ESC.

    Performance: Assembly is as easy as attaching the wing, tail and landing gear. While the marketing pieces claim the Typhoon 2 can go together in about 40 minutes, it's really more like an hour.

    The first thing to do is plug the battery into the charger, which is included, because when it's charged, all the building will be done. It goes together that fast!

    I decided to install the sideforce generators to do some more aggressive maneuvers. Your customers might opt to remove the connectors for the battery/ESC and replace them with Deans connectors. All of my other batteries have them, so it was easier for me to change.

    Double-check the wing-tube connector before attaching the wing to the fuselage. There wasn't enough glue on the one I had, so I needed to add some epoxy. If this comes apart in flight, it will be a short day at the field.

    The wings and fuselage are molded from ParkZone's Z-foam material and can take a pounding, although the rudder broke off when I landed.

    Marketing: Flying the Typhoon 2 is a blast! Experienced pilots are going to be able to do all sorts of 3D maneuvers and learn more as they get comfortable with the plane.

    It is a great plane to keep in the back of the car for flying in just about any park or open area your customers can find.

    Reviewed by Paul Daniel

    Product: Typhoon 2 3D RTF
    Maker: ParkZone
    Stock No.: PKZ4300
    MSRP/MAP: $309.99/$229.99
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

  • Awesome 3D flyer

  • Goes together very quickly

  • For experienced pilots

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    Details make Carousel 1 replica of 1957 Indy 500 car stunning
    Product: Racecar designer Frank Kurtis had a stranglehold on the Indianapolis 500, his cars winning Indy from 1953 to 1956, but by 1957 other mechanics' creative juices were producing interesting variations on his roadster theme.

    Mechanic George Salih came up with the idea of a more extreme "laydown" roadster, with the popular 4-cylinder Offenhauser (Offy) engine tipped on its side to lower the car's center of gravity, reducing the chance that the roadster would roll when it got a little sideways in the turns. So, for 1957's race, Salih arrived with the Belond Exhaust Special, its Offy tilted 72 degrees from vertical to keep oiling from being a problem and to accommodate the exhaust header.

    The result was a lean machine with the lowest hood line of any racer and a sharp, pointed shark-fin tail behind the driver. That fin mirrored the look of many production cars of the day, such as the 1957 Chevy and many Chryslers.

    Salih's other advantage was 13-year Indy veteran Sam Hanks, the AAA National Champ in 1953 and Indy 500 runner-up from 1956. Twice before, he had finished third in the 500 and was known for both his speed and consistency.

    In 1957, Hanks started 13th despite the sixth fastest qualifying speed. But he quickly moved up to pass Paul Russo's Novi on Lap 36 and later swapped the lead with Jim Rathmann, who would win Indy in 1960. By Lap 135, Hanks was in charge for good and went on to beat Rathmann by a decisive 21 seconds.

    Hanks dramatically pulled into Indy's Victory Lane at the end of the race and immediately announced his retirement. Jimmy Bryan, a hard charger of the day, took over the ride and won the 1958 Indy 500 in the Belond racer, making this one of only four chassis to win Indy twice. None has done it since.

    Performance: With its new 1:18 Indy 500 winner, Carousel 1 completes its circle of winning roadsters from 1953 to 1964, the last year a front-engine car won the fabled 500. The No. 9 Belond Special is an authentic bright yellow with red trim and a black number prominent on the nose and tail.

    Part of these roadsters' beauty is their lack of sponsorship logos plastered all over the nose, tail and sides. Frank Dalton of Carousel 1 is a stickler for making sure these are the appropriate markings, with no excess.

    For instance, there's a red Mobil Pegasus logo on the tail and two smaller ones on the nose. Naturally the main sponsor's script moniker, Belond Exhaust Special, is next to the cockpit, but other than that there are simply seven to eight stickers on the car's lower portion, touting various products the racers actually used.

    The body is perfect, complete with bolted-on air scoops and fin, the black exhaust pipe running the length of the car and detailed brakes and suspension at each wheel. At the rear is a giant gas cap. The clear windshield is attached with seven flanges. The large Firestone tires with realistic tread look great, and the front wheels are posable.

    The Belond racer's interior is realistic, with detailed gauges, a red-handled shift lever, seatbelts and the transmission that runs along the floor, just to the driver's left. Under the hood is the famous Offy tilted to the side, complete with cables, wires and hoses.

    Note that this - and other Carousel 1 products - are licensed by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. That's where the original car resides.

    Marketing: If you already have the names of your best Indy Car die-cast customers, you'd be wise to e-mail them or drop them a postcard to urge them to make a purchase.

    This car will stand out in any Indy Car collection, especially among other roadsters, due to its low profile and finned tail. Display, as always, with several other Carousel 1 Indy winners. These make for a stunning display case, complete with checkered flag draped over the shelf.

    Remember to sell these on value. At $159, these are finely detailed 1:18 models selling for far less than many of the other historic race cars being marketed in the die-cast segment. Plus it's an Indy winner from the Golden Age of auto racing.

    Reviewed by Mark Savage

    Product: 1957 Indy 500 winner No. 9 Sam Hanks/Belond Special
    Maker: Carousel 1
    Scale: 1:18
    Stock No.: 5051
    MSRP: $159.95

  • Excellent detail for the price

  • Historically unique

  • Stunning style and paint job

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