Quantcast
Latest StoriesHow-To
    How to Get Into Hobby RC: Building Foam Airplanes

    Electric airplanes made of molded foam are very popular in the RC world right now. While this class of airplanes used to be limited to small models with modest power, there is seemingly no limit to the size and power handling of modern “foamies”. Perhaps the largest contributor to their popularity is the marginal effort that’s required to assemble an attractive and nice-flying foam model. There are, however, some things to be aware of, and habits you should develop to court success with these aircraft. I recently assembled and flew a newly-released foamy to illustrate what I’m talking about.

    THE COMPLETED FLITEWORK STEARMAN IS AN ATTRACTIVE AND AEROBATIC MODEL. UNFORTUNATELY, I ALSO TESTED ITS TOUGHNESS.

    The Flitework Stearman

    The model that I used for this article is the Flitework PT-17 Stearman. It is a 1:8 scale model of the 1942 Boeing PT-17 that is owned and flown by The Flying Bulls in Austria. Most of the model is constructed of molded Expanded PolyOlefin (EPO) foam, a popular material for RC planes. This is a Receiver-Ready (RR) model, meaning that all of the control servos and power system components are included and installed. The user must provide a radio receiver and transmitter, as well as an appropriate battery to power the airplane.

    This was my first experience with a Flitework model. Overall, I would consider it a little above average among the current crop of RR foamies that I’ve seen. The mold quality of the foam components was excellent and the finish applied to the airplane was well executed. There is nothing worse than factory-applied trim schemes with sloppy paint overspray or crooked decals. I was happy that neither sin was displayed here.

    THIS SHOT WAS CAPTURED WITH A MOBIUS CAMERA MOUNTED IN THE FRONT COCKPIT OF THE STEARMAN…WEEE!

    Despite my positive first impressions with this model, my unboxing inspection also revealed a few common shortcomings that I would need to address. The positive side of this is that the corrections were easily implemented and didn’t incur any extra cost. As I outline the basic assembly steps, I will cover those changes, as well as some tips and tricks that may not be intuitive.

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: A Snapshot of the Multi-Rotor Market

    Buying a multi-rotor can be a daunting experience. There are so many different models already on the market, with more emerging every day. Those choices represent a wide range of sizes, capabilities and quality, not to mention price points. In an effort to make the candidate pool a little less overwhelming, I have compiled an overview of currently-available multi-rotors. Consider it a snapshot of this ever evolving scene. Obsolescence will come quickly.

    To make the list more manageable it has been abridged to include only those aircraft that meet the following criteria:

    • Hobby Grade – Parts can be replaced or upgraded as needed.

    • Ready-to-Fly (RTF) – The multi-rotor is ready to fly, or very nearly so when purchased. A transmitter is included. Smart phone controllers don’t count (sorry Parrot).

    • Available from US retailers – No offense to our foreign readers. This criteria is meant to weed out the clones, and knock-offs of dubious origin.

    The multi-rotors shown here have been divided into two categories: small and medium. The primary difference being that medium multi-rotors are capable of carrying an action camera such as a GoPro. Of course there are multi-rotors that would fit into large, X-Large, Jumbo, etc. categories. These ships are intended for hauling high-quality video equipment. Due to their complexity and cost, they should really only be considered by experienced pilots. So they have been omitted from this list.

    I have chosen to include only RTF models simply because that is what most people prefer. With small quads, RTF is really the only option. There is nothing wrong with using an unassembled kit for your medium multi-rotor. In fact, there is a strong case to be made that building your own aircraft will provide you with a much better understanding of its inner workings and abilities. You just have to be willing to dedicate the time and effort required to get it assembled, outfitted and tuned.

    Please note that this is not a ranking. I have personal experience with only a handful of the listed models. So any type of hierarchy would be disingenuous. Comparing listed features is one thing. Actually flying and exercising those features is quite another.

    The Best Carry-On Bag for Travel

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com

    No matter how much you travel, the right carry-on luggage should last you for years. On the inside it should fit enough clothes for at least a five-day trip with room for a little more, but on the outside it should be small enough that it won’t get you gate-checked. For the majority of flyers (people who fly under 25,000 miles annually), we recommend the $165 Travelpro Platinum Magna 22-inch Expandable Rollaboard Suiter. For those who fly more than that (or less), we have picks for you too.

    How We Decided

    Over the years, we’ve spent hundreds of hours on research and testing. To determine what the perfect bag should have, we consulted a host of industry experts, including travel writers from other publications and flight attendants who know what to look for. We even took bags to a flight attendant training facility, walked them around mock airplane cabins, and had experienced flight attendants try their hand with them and give us feedback. We then took our own measurements, and did our own load, usability, and ruggedization testing.

    What we concluded is that you’re looking for a bag that has a fabric exterior (not a hard shell) which makes it tough yet flexible. You want two, seal-bearing wheels (four wheelers sacrifice storage space for their overall footprint). You want YKK zippers, aluminum telescoping handles, roomy suiter compartments, good warranties, user-replaceable parts, and maybe most importantly, maximum cubic volume while taking up minimum space.

    With all that in mind, we came up with three bags as our picks, for three levels of travel frequency and budget.

    How To Replace a Cracked Smartphone Screen!

    How many of you have ever dropped and cracked your smartphone? For some phones, the process of replacing a shattered display isn't as daunting as your might think. Will walks through the repair of a broken Samsung Galaxy S4 phone, using iFixit tools and explaining each step along the way. Follow along the teardown and reassembly! Plus--giveaways!

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (November 2014)

    The top OEMs have now laid their cards on the table. All the major phones of late 2014 are available for purchase, and you've got some decisions to make. We won't see anymore big announcements until CES in January, but more likely February at Mobile World Congress. This is one of those rare times you can buy a phone and not immediately feel like you missed out when something better comes along two weeks later. But which one to get?

    The Nexus 6 is big news this month, but a number of other phones still have a lot to offer.

    AT&T

    If you're on AT&T, you've got a number of really good options. The Nexus 6 is certainly one of them, but it's a huge phone. There's also the much smaller Moto X and the somewhat smaller LG G3. Truly an embarrassment of riches.

    Let's start with the LG G3 before we got to Motorola's offerings. At 5.5-inches, the LG G3 is a sizeable phone. That big LCD does come with an excellent 2560x1440 resolution. Surprisingly, LG manages to make the overall device not feel too huge. The bezels are incredibly thin and there are no buttons around the edges. Instead, LG stuck those on the back, and they're quite useful in that position. The back is smooth plastic, but it's not of the sketchy Samsung variety--it actually feels solid for a phone with a removable back.

    The LG G3 is packing some impressive hardware even several months after launch including 3GB of RAM, a 3000mAh battery, a Snapdragon 801, and 32GB of storage with a microSD card slot. The device is fast, but probably not quite as snappy as the Moto X or Nexus 6. The battery life is very good, though. The high resolution of the G3 limits screen time to about 5 hours, but it can make it a few days in standby. The software is also very reliable in that it won't start wakelocking for no reason.

    The G3's 13MP camera is the same resolution as the Moto X and the Nexus 6, but it's probably a little better than either in actual performance. Low-light shots are good and it focuses super-quick with the laser range-finder right next to the lens.

    LG's Android skin has gotten surprisingly good in the last year. It's no longer just aping Samsung, and there aren't too many unnecessary additional features. The skin isn't very heavy and the choice of colors isn't nearly as garish as TouchWiz. The fact that LG is now finally using the proper on-screen buttons setup is hugely encouraging too. LG didn't load the G3 down with marginally useful features, instead sticking with a few good ones like guest mode and Knock Code. Knock Code is a particularly cool feature that lets you securely unlock the phone while also waking it up with a series of taps on the screen.

    This Is The Best Cheap Wi-Fi Router Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the original full article below at TheWirecutter.com

    If I wanted the cheapest good Wi-Fi router I could get, I would buy the TP-Link TL-WDR3600. It's a wireless-n router that costs $60 but outperforms some routers that cost twice as much. It took more than 150 hours of research and testing to find our pick. Of the 29 routers we looked at and the seven we tested, the TL-WDR3600 has the best performance for the lowest price.

    Our Pick

    The TP-Link TL-WDR3600 is a dual-band, two-stream router that's faster, more consistent, and has better range than other routers near its price range. Unlike many cheap routers, it supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and it has Gigabit Ethernet ports and two USB 2.0 ports for sharing printers and storage with your network. It's a great upgrade from your ISP-provided router, and it supports a connection type that's six times as fast as wireless-g (the previous standard found in routers from 2007 or earlier).

    Since the TL-WDR3600 is a wireless-n router, wireless-ac devices won't be as fast as they could be on a wireless-ac router. We don't think that's a dealbreaker yet. Wireless-ac only started showing up in high-end laptops, smartphones, and tablets in 2013. Wireless-n devices are still much more common. Wireless-ac devices work just fine with a wireless-n router, though. In our tests, the TL-WDR3600 even outperformed some more expensive wireless-ac routers at long range.

    The TL-WDR3600 is easy to set up, but beyond that its user interface is complex and unintuitive. This is a common problem with TP-Link routers, but we think this router's performance and low price make it worth the hassle. At this price, performance is more important than an interface you'll rarely have to deal with. And if you can manage the interface, you'll find features common in more expensive routers, like parental controls, guest networks, and a DLNA server for streaming media.

    The Best Projector Screen Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com

    The Best Projector Screen for most people is the $200 Silver Ticket 100”, which I found after spending 90 hours building (or painting) screens, watching movies and TV, taking measurements, and comparing them side-by-side. The Silver Ticket is easy to assemble, available in a variety of sizes, and has a surface that is relatively neutral. There are screens that are better, or cheaper, but none offer the balance and value the Silver Ticket does.

    How We Decided

    We set out to review 100-inch, 16:9 screens, with as close to 1.0 gain as possible (reflecting the same amount of light that hits the screen). This is a good-sized, “average” screen that works for most people. You can go larger, though the image will be dimmer. As almost any modern projector can create a bright image on a 100-inch screen, a gain of 1.0 is fine.

    To test the contenders, every screen was built and tested in my home theater room. I used an Epson 5020UBe projector combined with a Lumagen Radiance 2021 video processor to make the projector as accurate as possible. Using a spectrometer and a colorimeter I measured the images off the lens, then off the screen, to see how much of a color shift each screen introduced and calculate the actual gain. I watched a variety of things on each screen to look for sparkles, hotspots, texture, or other issues.

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Driving Rock Crawlers

    RC cars are supposed to be fast. Even if you’re not racing, the whole idea is to be speedy, right? Whether you’re slinging dirt or tearing down the street, you should be doing it like you’re on fire. That opinion does not stem from some unquenchable need for speed (I like slow airplanes). The main factor is that I require a challenge in order to enjoy RC…and where’s the challenge in driving a slow car? This mentality is what kept me away from RC rock crawlers for so long, despite their huge popularity. These are cars that are slow, sometimes really slow, on purpose. Hmm, no thanks.

    On the other hand, this column is all about exploring every aspect of RC. So I couldn’t very well ignore rock crawlers forever. With only marginal excitement, I obtained a rock crawler and endeavored to find out what all the fuss is about. I can tell you now that I’m really glad I took the plunge. Despite their pedestrian speeds, I found that these vehicles offer unique challenges of their own.

    What is a Rock Crawler?

    As the name implies, rock crawlers are designed to climb rocks and rough terrain that other RC cars can’t handle. Crawling has expanded over the years to include more than just negotiating rock piles. These days, the term “crawler” encompasses technical rock crawlers, rock racers, and trail rigs.

    Technical rock crawling is all about getting your vehicle over impossible obstacles. This activity is filled with radical, purpose-built machines. Rock racing is actually a full-scale racing sport in addition to RC. There are different aspects of rock racing, but the gist is that it combines elements of offroad speed as well as ridiculous obstacles (and mud, and noise). Trail rigs can still climb like a mountain goat, but they aren’t competition machines. They’re more about cruising with friends. Many trail rig drivers like to deck out their rides with scale details and drive them in places that normal RC cars dare not go.

    The Best Digital Kitchen Scale Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a list of the best gear for your home. Read the full article at TheSweethome.com

    If you need an all-purpose digital kitchen scale for baking, cooking by ratio, or even measuring beans to brew coffee, the Jennings CJ4000 ($26) combines some of the best features we’ve seen in a scale. It’s easy to use and store, comes with an AC adapter to save on batteries, and you can disable the auto-off function—so you can take your sweet time mixing or brewing. The Jennings costs only a few dollars more than a bare-bones model, but does something none of them can: it measures in half grams for even better precision.

    How We Decided

    We spent nearly 30 hours researching, interviewing experts, and testing digital kitchen scales over the last two years. Of the 45 models we’ve considered, the Jennings CJ4000 has proved the most versatile for a range of kitchen tasks and the best for most people.

    Who should buy this?

    Anyone who wants more consistent results from their baking, cooking, or coffee brewing should consider getting a kitchen scale. It’s far more accurate to weigh flour, diced vegetables, shredded cheese, or any number of ingredients than to cram them into a measuring cup or spoon. And since you can pour everything into one mixing bowl—subtracting cups and spoons from the equation—this type of cooking and baking cuts down significantly on dishes.

    For precision coffee brewing, as with pour overs, a scale can help you get an accurate combination of beans and water every time. (If you’re into home espresso, see our other recommendations below for even more accurate pocket scales.)

    How To Fly and Tweak a Budget Mini Quadcopter

    Anyone who has been following this column will know that I am not a fan of gamepad-like transmitters for quadcopters (or any other RC vehicle, for that matter). From a practical standpoint, these off-nominal controllers may not teach you the fine movements and muscle memory that will be needed when you transition to a standard transmitter. Cramped controllers may even cause you to learn things incorrectly. In the aerospace business, we called that “negative training”, and it’s a bad thing.

    Bad habits notwithstanding, I typically find micro-sized transmitters that come with entry-level mini-quads just plain uncomfortable to use. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to standard transmitters. Maybe I have freakishly large, ape-like hands. Whatever the root of my distaste for tiny controllers may be, I try to steer clear of them. Sometimes, however, they find me. But that doesn't mean I'm stuck with them!

    I recently received a review sample of the Dromida Kodo mini quadcopter. It is marketed as a budget-friendly quad with a built-in photo/video camera. My initial impressions of the Kodo were positive. It shares a similar footprint and many features with the Heli-Max 1SQ, the model that got me into quads (you never forget your first).

    I have to be careful about making comparisons between the Kodo and the 1SQ. They are indeed similar in several ways. The Kodo, however, is less than half the price of its closest 1SQ cousin, the 1SQ V-cam. Those very different price points ($59.00 and $129.99 respectively) are bound to result in different machines. But let's start by looking at what you get with the Kodo.

    How to Make a Two-Part Mold (of a Lightsaber!)

    Frank Ippolito joins us at Adam's shop for another step-by-step tutorial in prop making. This time, we learn how to make a two-part silicone mold that we can use to cast resin copies of complex objects. We demonstrate the technique by duplicating a lightsaber prop made by Adam! It's not that difficult! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us by joining the Tested Premium community!)

    The Best iPhone 6 Case (So Far)

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com

    After surveying almost 1,000 Wirecutter readers and testing 60 iPhone 6 cases over a period of about 30 hours (so far), our current pick for the best all-around case is the NGP from Incipio. The NGP has protected several generations of iPhones (and many other devices) and has a reputation for providing solid protection and a good fit. It’s slim enough to not detract from the iPhone 6’s svelte dimensions, while still offering comprehensive protection for the handset’s body, including its buttons. Openings along the bottom allow for compatibility with a wide range of accessories.

    Update: We’ve added two cases as also-great picks: STM’s Harbour, and Apple’s leather case.

    How we decided

    Truth is, there are plenty of good iPhone cases out there. A bad case is actually a pretty rare thing. But in looking for a few cases that work for most people, we sought out a case that can adequately protect your phone without adding too much bulk or unnecessary embellishments while doing so. Apple sets forth very specific guidelines for case developers. The main thesis: “A well-designed case will securely house an Apple device while not interfering with the device’s operation.” It goes into much deeper specifics.

    A respectable degree of shock absorption is important, as is a tight fit. The case should cover as much of the iPhone’s body as possible, including a raised lip around the glass display to keep it from laying flat on a surface. The best cases offer button protection with great tactility, mimicking or in some instances even enhancing what you’d feel with a bare iPhone. Based on these criteria, plastic shells are automatically out of the picture.

    The Best USB 3.0 Hubs Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com

    The HooToo HT-UH010 seven-port hub ($40) is our favorite USB 3.0 hub because it’s compact, reliable, and has well-placed ports aplenty. But its main strength is its usability and design—we looked at many other hubs that were larger, had fewer ports, and weren’t as easy to use. We determined the HooToo is the best hub for most people after 100 hours of research, testing, and consulting with electrical engineers to learn about how power flows through USB hubs and where things commonly go wrong.

    How we decided

    A USB 3.0 hub is for people who have a computer with at least one USB 3.0 port and either want more of them or want them in a more accessible place. Most hubs have one or two charge ports, but a USB hub is not the same as a dedicated USB charging station.

    To find the best for most people, we surveyed hundreds of readers, interviewed engineers, and did our own research to find out what makes a USB hub great. We found that the best USB hub must have USB 3.0 ports and dedicated power. It needs to be reliable, well-designed, light, and compact. A decent warranty and LED indicators for each port are also useful. Most people want a hub with five to seven ports, but there was enough demand for four- and 10-port hubs that we decided to find a recommendation for each.

    Our Pick

    The HooToo HT-UH010 is the best USB hub because it has a great, usable design that most of the competition lacked. It has seven USB 3.0 data ports, a 1-amp charge port for smartphones, and a 2.1-amp charge port for high-power devices like iPads. The upward-facing ports reduce desk clutter, and the HooToo is sturdy and reliable for simultaneous USB 3.0 file transfers and device charging. It also has LED indicators for each data port, lengthy cords for easy setup, and an 18-month warranty.

    The vertically stacked ports mean you won’t have trouble plugging in bulkier USB devices next to one another. And, because the ports are located on top of the hub rather than arranged around the sides, devices stick up instead of fanning out and taking up valuable desk space. Much of the competition had side-facing ports that were too close together or made USB devices take up way more space on our desk. The HooToo hub is compact, and—bonus—it’s aesthetically inoffensive.

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Tools for Your Workshop

    No matter what facet of radio control modeling that you’re into, you are going to have to work on your vehicles from time to time. Even if you buy pre-built models, you will eventually find occasion to perform maintenance, make repairs, add hop-ups, or maybe just crack something open to see how it works. Although there is a range of specialized tools needed for some RC-related jobs, a modest selection of common tools will suffice most of the time. If you own a set of tools for household chores, you may already have much of what you’ll need. Let’s take a look at the core tools that are necessary as you enter the RC hobby.

    YOU WILL WANT TO ROUND OUT YOUR TOOLBOX WITH A SELECTION OF GLUES, TAPES, SANDPAPER, AND OTHER COMMON ITEMS.

    Screwdrivers

    Most RC applications use Phillips head screws, so you will want to have a set of screwdrivers that includes #0, #1, and #2 size bits at a minimum. All tools are not created equal and you generally get what you pay for. So, don’t skimp on crummy dollar-store stuff that is better suited for use as prison shivs. I’m not saying that you need high-dollar tools. A basic 8-piece set of Phillips and slotted screwdrivers from Craftsman costs about $15 and will cover most of your needs.

    All of the top-dollar tools in the world are worthless if you don’t use the proper driver for a given screw.

    You may find that you need smaller screwdrivers from time to time. The smaller a fastener is, the more important it is to use a quality driver with a precision tip. I generally prefer the small drivers made by Wiha.

    This is probably a good time to point out the primary reason for mangled screw heads: laziness. All of the top-dollar tools in the world are worthless if you don’t use the proper driver for a given screw. I know it’s easy to talk yourself into using whatever tool is already in your hand. Just keep in mind that a short walk to the toolbox may save you a lot of frustration dealing with a stripped a screw head.

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (October 2014)

    In a world with dozens of interesting Android phones, you need to go in with a good idea of what's on offer so you don't end up regretting your decision. Most phones these days come with a 2-year contract or a payment plan that takes about that long to complete. With that in mind, it's time to take stock of the state of Android smartphones on the top US carriers and figure out which ones are the best bets.

    The Nexus 6 is on the horizon for some carriers, but others are being more coy. Is it worth waiting, or does another phone do well enough?

    AT&T

    You've got a ton of options on AT&T--too many perhaps, if there is such a thing. AT&T is getting the Nexus 6, but there's no release or pre-order date. As such, I'll hold off on making an official proclamation on it this time around. Right now it's down to the Moto X and LG G3. Let's get started with the new Moto X.

    The basic design of the Moto X hasn't changed much from last year, but it has seen an increase in screen size from 4.7-inches to 5.2-inches. The AMOLED panel used here is 1080p and has great colors and clarity. The larger display isn't as easy to use in one hand as its predecessor, but it's more than manageable. The curved back also helps the Moto X sit nicely in your hand.

    The new Moto X also has 2GB of RAM, a Snapdragon 801, and a 2300mAh battery. The battery is a little on the small side for a flagship device, but it will still be good enough to get you through a day and then some. The design of the Moto X is also really great. The metal frame feels solid and tight. The way the glass front curves down to meet the edges makes the phone very pleasant to use too. Moto Maker customizations are also killer if you want to create a more distinctive device.

    On the software side, the Moto X ships with Android 4.4.4 with a promised update to Android L as soon as it's ready. This is Android more or less the way Google intended it. There are no UI skins, no features changed for the sake of brand differentiation, and no lag to speak of. Motorola instead adds useful features that work alongside what Android already does well. For example, Moto Display shows notifications on the screen while the device is asleep. You can even wave your hand over the phone to wake the screen up. It also listens for voice commands while asleep, whether it's charging or not. Other Android devices can only do that when charging.

    How To Make a Gory Hand Prop!

    We visit Frank Ippolito's shop to learn about making ultra-realistic fake hands as Halloween props. Frank walks us through the step-by-step process of molding your own hand and making a silicone casting, and then cutting and painting up the fake hand to look realistically gory. It's actually a special effect you can do by yourself without any assistance! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us by joining the Tested Premium community!)

    How to Get Into Hobby RC: Learning to Fly Quadcopters

    I’ve mentioned my recommended path for aspiring multi-rotor pilots several times in this column. Before buying a large, expensive ship with a camera attached, I think it is better to begin with a RC flight simulator and/or a small quad. I think that this approach will help you hone your piloting chops before accepting the risks of flying a bigger aircraft. I’m still holding firm to that opinion. I realize, however, that I have never adequately addressed how to use those tools to become a competent multi-rotor pilot. Today, I want to share my techniques for becoming comfortable at the controls of any multi-rotor.

    FLYING MULTI-ROTORS IS EASY. FLYING THEM WELL IS HARD. IMPROVING YOUR SKILLS REQUIRES DEDICATED EFFORT.

    The Hardware Option

    There are tons of small quad-rotors out there that are adequate for learning the basics. The main feature to look for in a mini-quad is a 2-stick transmitter like you’ll be using with larger quads. In my opinion, the closer the transmitter is to the standard size, the better.

    Another prime feature to look for is adjustable sensitivity for the flight controls. Many quads lack this very useful ability. Some have two or three preset sensitivity levels, while others have a full range of adjustments. Either adjustment method is good for what we’re trying to accomplish. The idea behind adjusting the sensitivity is to detune the quad’s response to your inputs and make it easier to fly.

    I learned to fly quads with the HeliMax 1SQ, which fits all of the requirements listed above and has proven to be very resilient. While I still fly the 1SQ frequently, I have a new favorite quad for my indoor training sessions, the tiny Estes Proto-X SLT. The SLT is an updated version of the Proto-X that Norm reviewed a few months ago. Whenever I turn on the Proto-X, It’s easy to imagine my living room is like a course for the Red Bull Air Races…plenty of obstacles ready to be conquered!

    The Heli-Max 1SQ

    While, the actual quad appears mostly unchanged, the radio system received updates that make it much more beginner-friendly. The tiny, cartoon-like transmitter included with the original Proto-X is gone. It has been replaced by a significantly larger (though still smaller than standard) transmitter with adjustable control sensitivity. More specifically, there are two flight modes (standard and expert) with each mode having adjustable sensitivity.

    Furthermore, the new Proto-X can be linked with any transmitter that uses the SLT protocol. This includes radios such as the Tactic TTX650 and the Hitec Flash 7. If you already have a favorite non-SLT radio, you can likely fly the Proto-X SLT with it using the AnyLink2 module. You have options.

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Simple Scale Techniques for Models

    Military aircraft have always been popular subjects for RC modelers. Many builders prefer to craft their “warbirds” from the ground up, perhaps even using their own plans. The more popular option is to purchase a factory-built model that requires only a few hours (or less) to complete. Some of these Almost-Ready-to-Fly (ARF) models use traditional balsa construction, while others are made of molded foam.

    THIS TURBINE-POWERED RC F-15 EAGLE PROVIDES AN EXCELLENT EXAMPLE OF HOW A WELL-DETAILED MODEL IS OFTEN DIFFICULT TO DIFFERENTIATE FROM THE REAL THING.

    The main drawback to buying a warbird ARF model is that it is going to look, well, just like every other one that flew off the assembly line. It is not uncommon to see multiple examples of a popular model at the same flying field on a Saturday afternoon--all identical except for the inevitable dings and repairs. On the flip side, there is often ample room to personalize these airplanes with the addition of a few simple scale-enhancing details. Applying some of these techniques will help your model to look more accurate, while also separating it from the mass-produced herd.

    Modifying a Foam Warbird

    I chose a popular foam warbird ARF model to illustrate some of these detailing techniques, the Flyzone Focke-Wulf FW-190. You may recall that this is the same model that I used in my review of the Mr. RC Sound system. I picked this model for several reasons. Primarily, it is a good flying model. What’s the point of personalizing an airplane that is no fun to fly? Furthermore, the Flyzone model has an accurate scale profile and several details that are difficult to replicate (scale retractable landing gear, wing flaps, scale propeller, etc) are box-stock features. This allowed me to focus on easily-implemented details.

    RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX, THE FLYZONE FW-190 IS AN ACCURATE AND ATTRACTIVE SCALE MODEL. HOWEVER, THERE ARE SOME EASY TECHNIQUES TO TAKE IT UP ANOTHER LEVEL.

    Tackle the Low-Hanging Fruit

    With few exceptions, military airplanes are not shiny and they are flown by a pilot. The somewhat shiny and pilotless FW-190 is thus ripe for quick and easy upgrades. To get started, I carefully removed the glued-on cockpit canopy. After breaking one corner free, I pried the entire border loose with a gently-wielded Popsicle stick. I also removed the propeller and nose spinner, which left the brushless motor exposed. I covered the motor and foam-rubber tires with masking tape to protect them from overspray. “Overspray of what?” you ask. Let’s call it an abundance of drab.

    A flat-finish clear coat is an effective way to take the shine off of a factory paint job. Specifically, I used Rust-Oleum American Accents Matte Clear in a spray can. I’m sure that similar products will work equally well. I’ve used the Rust-Oleum on numerous foam airplanes as well the iron-on polyester coverings of balsa models. It will attack some foams, so always test it before possibly eroding your airplane into a Dali-esque melted blob.

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Custom Sound Systems

    For many hobbyists, the allure of RC flying comes from making their models look like “real” airplanes. Some are happy just approximating the profile of a certain airplane, while others spare no effort or expense to replicate every last detail. Regardless of the level of accuracy a builder pursues, one particular aspect has always been elusive: sound. Most models use screaming glow-fuel engines, growling gasoline engines, or whizzing electric motors. None of those power systems is likely to emulate the sound of the full-scale airplane’s engine. The one notable exception is turbine-powered models, which actually use miniaturized jet engines that sound (and smell) like their big brothers. The necessary flying skills and price point, however, keep turbines out of reach for most modelers.

    Recent developments have revamped the sound equation. Several companies now offer sound systems for electric-powered RC models that play audio recordings of full-scale aircraft engines. These system are linked to the throttle control, so the sound revs as you increase power to the model’s motor. I know what you’re thinking: “How can you possibly get convincing engine sounds out of a system that is small and light enough to fit inside a model airplane?” I thought the same thing and ignored the growing popularity of these systems for a while.

    My curiosity recently got the better of me and I watched a few YouTube videos of models with sound systems. The videos piqued my interest and I was soon investigating the various available products. One particular system stood apart from the others, the Mr. RC Sound V4.1 Sound System. What is most unique about this sound system is that it does not use speakers--at least not in the traditional sense. This is something I had to test.

    What You Get with RC Sound

    The heart of the Mr. RC Sound unit is a control board that measures about 1.75” x 2.5”. The board includes a “sound pack chip” with sound files recorded from six popular aircraft engines throughout history. The chip can be swapped for others with different engine options. In addition to the sound of the running engine, each selection on the chip also includes three auxiliary sounds such as chattering machine guns or the whistling of a falling bomb.

    The sound board must be connected to the model’s RC receiver via standard 3-wire servo connectors. It is worth noting that male/male wires are needed rather than the male/female wires that are commonly used to extend servo leads. One wire is included, but you must provide others if you wish to use any of the auxiliary sounds. The wire lead for controlling engine sounds is connected in parallel to the model’s Electronic Speed Control (ESC: aka “throttle”) via a splitter, or “y-connector” (not included). Leads for each of the auxiliary sounds require an open port on the receiver.

    THE BASIC COMPONENTS OF THE MR. RC SOUND SYSTEM ARE A CONTROL BOARD AND AN ELECTROACOUSTIC TRANSDUCER. THE AIRFRAME OF THE MODEL BECOMES THE SPEAKER.

    The sound board can accept input voltage from about 11 to 34 volts. This means that models using a 3S LiPo battery (3 cells in series, 11.1v nominal) to 8S (29.6v) can siphon power from their flight battery to feed the sound system. This allows the vast majority of electric airplanes to avoid the additional weight of a separate battery for sound.

    Rather than a speaker, the V4.1 system uses an electroacoustic transducer called the TT-25. It is basically a speaker without the frame or the cone. The TT-25 attaches directly to the airframe of the model, which then behaves similarly to a speaker cone. In essence, the entire airplane becomes a speaker.

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (September 2014)

    So many phones, but most people only get the chance to decide which one to buy every year or two. It's a tough decision, and one you don't want to screw up. If you must have the best of the best, you've come to the right place. We're going to dissect the current state of the Android offerings on each of the big four US carrier and tell you what your best bet is.

    This month the Moto X is on the scene, the Note 4 is ready to ship, and LG continues to impress.

    AT&T

    There are a few new devices that have hit AT&T stores in the last few weeks, not least among them is the new Moto X. Not all carriers offer the device, so AT&T customers in particular should take a close look at this phone. Of course, the LG G3 is still a top phone on AT&T with a different feature set. So which one should you get?

    Let's start with the new Moto X, which just started shipping in the last week or so. The device looks similar to last year's Moto X, but the screen size has been bumped up from 4.7-inches to 5.2-inches. The resolution has increased as well to 1080p. The AMOLED panel used here is very similar to the one on the Galaxy S5, so it's very nice. The device isn't as good for one-handed use, but the curved design feels very comfortable to hold. The curved glass edges are also a joy.

    The new Moto X also has 2GB of RAM, a Snapdragon 801, and a 2300mAh battery. The smallish battery is a sticking point for some--it won't be able to eke out multi-day battery life like the LG G3 can, but it will get you through a full day with a bit to spare. The more sophisticated metal casing and ample customization choices are awesome too. You can get different back/front colors, materials, and accents. The Moto Maker stuff is a big selling point.

    On the software side, the Moto X ships with Android 4.4.4 with a promised update to Android L as soon as it's ready. Motorola is keen on saying the X runs "pure" Android without andy heavy skins or unnecessary features. Motorola instead adds new features to Android that really make a difference in the way the device works. For example, Moto Display shows notifications on the screen while the device is asleep. You can even wave your hand over the phone to wake the screen up. It also listens for voice commands while asleep, whether it's charging or not. Other Android devices can only do that when charging.

    Motorola's 13MP camera is still not the finest sensor on an Android device, but it's better than it was last year. The stock interface should also make it easier for Motorola to get the phone updated to Android L in a timely manner. AT&T is offering the new Moto X for just $99 on contract.

    The other device you should consider is a big departure from the Moto X. The LG G3 is a phone that creeps solidly into phablet territory with a 5.5-inch 1440P LCD. The device does, however have very narrow bezels that makes it feel less gigantic than you'd expect. LG is also continuing with its tradition of placing the power and volume buttons on the back. They're really easily accessible, and the presence of this structure gives you a bit more leverage when holding the device.