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    Testing the Immersion RC Vortex 150, Part 2

    In a previous article, I examined the features and assembly process of the Vortex 150 race quad. This time around, I'll get this little beast in the air and see how it performs.

    Flight Modes

    The Vortex's flight controller has three default flight modes: Angle, Acro, and Horiz. You can select any of these modes during flight with a 3-position switch on your transmitter. Angle mode limits the quad's maximum pitch and roll angles and provides self-leveling when the controls are neutralized. While this is the easiest and most forgiving flight mode, the angle limits rule out any aerobatics.

    Acro mode is the same thing that many flyers call Rate mode. It provides no self-leveling features or angle limits. Acro is definitely the most challenging mode to fly. Yet, it also provides the most precise control of the quad. It's like the difference between driving a car with an automatic transmission (Angle mode) and one with a manual transmission (Acro mode). It takes practice to get the feel of it, but the results are worth it.

    The Vortex 150's flight controller is preprogramed with three flight modes. The Acro (rate) mode is especially smooth.

    Horiz mode is a hybrid of Angle and Acro modes. During normal flying, it behaves like Angle mode. When you input large control movements, however, the bank limits disappear and it responds as if in Acro mode. You get the safety net of self-leveling, along with the ability to perform flips and other aerobatics. If you intend to eventually master Acro mode, Horiz is a great way to transition away from Angle mode.

    Testing the Immersion RC Vortex 150 Racing Quadcopter, Part 1

    Multi-rotors that are designed for First Person View (FPV) racing and sport flying continue to evolve. The Immersion RC Vortex 150 is a new machine that reflects many of the latest trends in the hobby. First of all, it's small. It measures just 156mm between diagonal motor shafts. This gives the quad a significantly smaller footprint than the 250mm-class ships that used to dominate quad racing. Yet, as you will see, the Vortex 150's bantam size does not make it any slower or less nimble.

    The Vortex 150 is considerably smaller than the 250-class machines that used to be the norm for quad racing.

    Another innovative aspect of the Vortex 150 is that it is mostly prebuilt. A fair amount of building, soldering, and programming used to be required when setting up a racing quad. While those are all useful skills to have, they are no longer a prerequisite. You can learn as you go.

    Vortex 150 Overview

    The 150 is currently available as an Almost Ready-To-Fly (ARF) package ($300). It includes most of the components that would normally be purchased separately (carbon-fiber frame, brushless motors, propellers, electronic speed controls, flight controller, FPV camera, video transmitter). The only things left to add are a radio system with a micro-receiver, a 5.8Ghz video receiver (goggles or a monitor), and flight batteries.

    The brushless motors may be tiny, but they provide a lot of power for the Vortex.

    Like the frame itself, all of the onboard components are similarly downsized. The tiny brushless motors are only 17mm in diameter and spin 76mm-diameter (3") 3-blade propellers. The flight battery is small too. You can fly with 3-cell or 4-cell packs with a capacity of about 500mAh. I've flown the Vortex 150 with a few different batteries, but my primary power sources have been Lumenier 4S-460mAh 45C batteries. This battery and the power lead on the quad come equipped with XT30 connectors.

    One of my biggest challenges when building a racing quad is keeping all of the wiring neat and tidy. Space is always at a premium. And it's not just a matter of vanity. A stray wire can foul a prop or become damaged during a routine landing. None of that is a concern with the Vortex 150. Other than the receiver antennas and the power lead, all of the wiring is housed internally.

    Hands-On with the Cinder Grill Precision Cooker

    Kishore and Norm test the Cinder, a counter-top grill that's quite a bit more advanced than the ones we had in our dorm rooms. Cinder's ability to precisely cook at specific temperatures makes it like sous vide, but without the water bath. Let's go for a taste test with some pork chops!

    Tested: HTC Vive Deluxe Audio Strap

    Jeremy reviews HTC's new Deluxe Audio Strap for the Vive virtual reality headset. We think it's an essential upgrade for HTC Vive users, improving the fit and comfort of the headset and adding good built-in audio. This is what we wish the Vive shipped with last year!

    Cooking Sous Vide with ChefSteps Joule

    We test the ChefSteps Joule Immersion Circulator and discuss the state of home sous vide devices. Here's where the Joule sits alongside devices like the Anova and Sansaire, and why its intuitive app gives it a leg up for executing great recipes.

    Tested: Fujinon MK 18-55mm Cinema Lens

    Joey tests and reviews the Fujinon MK 18-55 zoom lens, which is notable for its price as a entry-level cine lens. Using it on a variety of location shoots and Tested productions, Joey demonstrates how professional cinema lenses operate and perform differently than still photography lenses for video, and why you would want to use one on your camera.

    Hands-On with the NeoLucida XL Drawing Tool

    This modern incarnation of a centuries-old drawing tool demonstrates how art and technology have always been intertwined. We chat with Pablo Garcia, creator of the NeoLucida, about the use of optical aids for art and scientific illustrations in the age before photography. Pablo also shows off his new NeoLucida XL, which we test in a drawing demo!

    Show and Tell: RIVER Mobile Power Station

    Simone and Norm have a new gadget at the Tested office--a massive mobile power pack by EcoFlow. The RIVER has a capacity of over 400Wh, and can output 500 watts over AC and DC. We put it to the test by plugging in some heavy duty electronics and tools from around the office!

    Show and Tell: Makey Makey Invention Kit

    For this week's Show and Tell, Simone brings the Makey Makey invention kit to the office to teach Norm how to turn everyday items into keyboards and game controllers. High fives and furious banana slapping contests ensue. Just another day at the Tested office!

    Testing the Fat Shark Transformer HD FPV System

    Not so long ago, purchasing the ground equipment for First Person View (FPV) flying meant that you had to decide between a tripod-mounted monitor and wearable goggles. Recent developments have removed that fundamental decision. New systems, like the Fat Shark Transformer HD ($249), give you both viewing options with the same equipment.

    The Fat Shark Transformer HD allows you to view FPV video as a standalone high-definition monitor, full-screen headset, or binocular viewer.

    Actually, the Transformer offers three viewing possibilities. I suspect that this adaptability is the root of its name. The system's display module can be used as a standalone monitor. There are also two different ways to use the monitor with head gear. The full-panel viewer masks out the rest of the world and gives you a 720p view of your video stream. Using the binocular viewer provides an even more immersive experience with a 55-degree field of view. If using the full-panel viewer is like sitting in the middle of a movie theater, the binocular viewer is like being in the front row.

    The Monitor

    The heart of the Transformer is a high-definition (1280x720) LCD monitor with a 5.5-inch (140mm) screen. Female ¼-20 threads on the bottom of the housing let you mount the monitor on a tripod. Using a standalone monitor is great for flyers who are just getting used to FPV flight. They can alternate between FPV and line-of-sight flying just by deciding whether to focus on the model or the monitor. Monitors are also perfect for giving spectators a taste of FPV.

    The integrated 5.8GHz receiver utilizes two antennas. Using different antenna types betters your chances for a clean signal.

    You can choose from three video input sources. When using the monitor for FPV flying, you'll take advantage of the built-in 5.8GHz video receiver. There are two antenna mounts for the receiver. The idea is that you can simultaneously attach both a high-gain directional antenna and an omni-directional antenna. This gives you the benefits of both antenna types since the system automatically uses the best signal at any given time.

    As I write this, the Transformer HD bundle does not include antennas for the receiver. I used an ImmersionRC omni-directional antenna and an ImmersionRC Mini Patch Antenna. I am told that future bundles of the Transformer HD will include antenna options.

    Tested Mailbag: Foam Props!

    It's been a while since we've opened a mystery mailbag, so let's see what's been sent to the Tested office! This package comes from Canada, and holds within some gear that speaks to our prop making sensibilities.

    Testing the Tower Hobbies P-51 Mustang Mk. II RC Fighter Plane

    Like most fans of aviation, I have a soft spot for the P-51 Mustang. It's pretty much the quintessential WWII fighter plane. For some, it's the only WWII fighter plane. When it comes to RC models, however, I tend to stay away from the Mustang. The problem is that I usually favor rare and unique subjects. With oodles of RC P-51s in the world, they're hardly rare and seldom unique.

    Tower Hobbies recently released an updated version of their electric-powered Mustang. I thought that this new model was distinctive enough to warrant further inspection. The most noticeable attribute of this P-51 is that the same basic airframe is available four different ways. You can buy it in the popular P-51D model with a bubble canopy. This variant is offered in military or racing paint schemes. Next up is a version representing the earlier "B" model Mustang with a greenhouse canopy. The final option is the one I chose. "Racer Red" emulates a post-war P-51s that has been modified and streamlined for air racing. Basically, this kit offers all the appeal of a P-51 along with the dash of variety that I crave.

    What's in The Kit

    Tower's Mustang ($120) is a receiver-ready kit made of molded foam. It includes everything except a transmitter, receiver, and flight battery. With a 40" wingspan, this P-51 can be considered a park-flyer or club field model.

    The servos and power system are all factory-installed. Some of the variants also have the decals pre-applied. Racer Red, however, comes with a sheet of self-adhesive decals that you can apply yourself.

    I used my Futaba 14SG transmitter with an R617FS receiver. Although the 14SG has tons of different programming options, I didn't need to dig very deep for the Mustang. The basic model is a 4-channel airplane. There are options for utilizing more channels by adding flaps and retractable landing gear. I didn't add flaps, but did take advantage of the available retracts. More on that later.

    My kit had a slight bit of shipping damage. The rudder had been torn free from the vertical stabilizer. These things happen. The fix was super easy and quick. It's still holding strong after a lot of flight testing.

    Testing the LG G6 Smartphone!

    We test and review the LG G6, the first of 2017's major flagship Android smartphones. Norm focuses on two features that differentiate it from other phones--G6's wide-angle camera lenses, as well as its 2:1 aspect ratio display. Here's why we think taller screens and minimal bezels will be a trend that's here to stay. (LG G6 review unit provided by LG.)

    Tested: UE Wonderboom Bluetooth Speaker Review

    Here's a short and sweet review--we test the newest Bluetooth speaker from Ultimate Ears, the makers of the Roll 2 and Mini Boom. This new Wonderboom speaker is waterproof, sounds great for its size, and pretty durable.

    Tested: FPV Racing Quadcopters You Can Fly Indoors

    Indoor FPV racing is quickly becoming a big part of the RC hobby…and for good reason. These multi-rotors offer a lot of the same excitement as outdoor FPV quads, but with much less overhead. The models are generally smaller and less expensive. Crashes rarely result in any damage. Plus, you can set up a racing course in a meeting room, at an indoor basketball court, or even your house. The weather is never an issue either.

    As Indoor FPV has blossomed, new products have been released. I recently gathered five indoor racers and compared their features. Each quad was given several shakedown flights at my house. I then set up a racecourse at a local community center to see how each multi-rotor performed in a racing environment.

    Race Course Details

    Before getting to the models, I'll tell you a little about how I set up the race course. You can improvise your own race gates using pool noodles, PVC, or other common household items. I used a new commercial option, the RISE House Racer Race Gate System ($40). This set uses plastic tubing and molded joiners to create different types of gates. There are also foamboard arrows that can be placed on the floor to point the way to the next gate.

    RISE Race Gates allow you to quickly set up (and take down) a simple indoor FPV course. (Hobbico image)

    The gates are easy to assemble. You simply slide the parts together. Some of the taller gates are quite flexible, but that's what you want in order to avoid damage during the inevitable crashes. The small area of the baseplates makes the gates easy to knock over. You can remedy this by adding short tubes to increase the footprint of the bases. I didn't have extra tubes for this. So I placed 1-pound weights on each base and achieved a similar result. The gates absorbed light hits in stride, but keeled over if center-punched by one of the larger quads. It's a good balance of utility and durability.

    The gates are adequately sized even for the largest model that I flew. It is a little difficult to see the 10mm-diameter tubing at a distance through FPV goggles or a monitor. However, it shows up nicely once the quad gets within 10-12 feet of the gate. Long-range gate visibility is not an issue after you've become familiar with the layout of a track.

    Behold the New Tested Workshop Laser Cutter!

    We have a new laser cutter in our office! Sean's been setting up our digital fabrication shop in the Tested studio, and gives us a look at the 60 watt Univeral Systems laser cutter that we just installed. Join us for our first test cut: making the Tested sign!