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    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!

    Hands-On with LG's Virtual Reality Headset Prototype!

    LG is the newest hardware company to adopt Valve's SteamVR roomscale tracking technology for their own virtual reality headset. We put on the LG development kit HMD prototype to test its ergonomics, chat with an LG engineer to learn its specfications, and share our impressions. Choice for VR adopters is a good thing!

    RC Indoor Rock Crawling with the ECX Temper

    I've talked about RC rock crawlers before, and I've also taken a look at small-scale indoor cars. This time around, I'll combine the two and also toss in a dash of FPV. Rock crawlers are especially good for indoor driving because you do not need a lot of space, nor do you have to worry about having a smooth, spotless floor. In fact, as driving surfaces go, the rougher, the better.

    The ECX Temper is a 1/24-scale rock crawler. It is about the same size as most plastic model car kits.

    ECX Temper

    The vehicle I chose is the Temper ($80), a ready-to-run model from ECX. This model is available in either 1/24 or 1/18 scale. I chose the 1/24-scale version, which is the same scale as most plastic car models. It is about 6.75" (171mm) long and 4" (102mm) wide.

    In many respects, this downsized crawler is just like my larger 1/10-scale machine (which is a lot like full-scale crawlers). It has full-time 4-wheel-drive, locked differentials, 4-link suspension, super-soft tires…all the stuff you would expect on a rock crawler. The only obvious difference is that the Temper uses friction dampers rather than oil-filled shocks.

    The radio receiver and ESC are integrated into a single unit.

    A 2.4GHz radio system is included. The transmitter looks smaller than most others, but it is a comfortable fit in my hand. It has servo reversing and adjustable control rates. It's a neat, compact piece. The receiver and ESC are combined into one unit aboard the car. Steering is handled by a tiny analog servo.

    Power comes from a 4-cell 150mAh NiMH battery. The battery is removable, so you can buy a few spares ($14) and not have to worry about down time. The included charger is a simple USB-powered device. To be honest, I haven't had much luck with it. I've tried powering the charger from a few different USB sources and it never seems to give the battery a full charge. I've reverted to using my Hitec X4-Eighty charger (huge overkill) with good success.

    Testing the Sony a6500 Camera for Photos and Video

    Tested producer Joey Fameli tests the Sony a6500 in his search for his next camera upgrade. Joey talks about how he uses small formfactor cameras for video production and how an interchangeable lens photography camera like the a6500 would fit into his workflow.

    Testing Autel Robotics' X-Star Premium Quadcopter

    Autel Robotics is a fairly new player in the world of aerial photography (AP) platforms. They currently offer two multi-rotors in their product line, the X-Star WiFi ($700) and X-Star Premium ($750). Both of these ships have a 350mm plastic airframe, brushless motors, and a 4K-capable camera. Power comes from a 4-cell 4900mAh LiPo battery. The whole thing is factory assembled. You only need to go through a few setup and calibration steps (and read the manual) to prepare for flight.

    This review covers the X-Star Premium. You can view a comparison chart for a summary of the differences between the two X-Star models. There are actually more similarities than variances. But there are two features found only on the premium model that make it the better value in my opinion.

    The X-Star Premium includes a hard-shell case that is useful for storage and transport of the quad and its accoutrements. The package comes with one battery, but there is room for a spare inside the case. If you use a tablet to view the video feed, that will also fit inside the case. If you've ever tried to individually schlep all of the gear necessary for an AP flight, then you know how much of a benefit a carrying case can be.

    The other factor that tips the scale for the premium model is the video downlink system. The X-Star Premium uses a 900MHz system that routes the signal to the quad's radio transmitter (which effectively makes it a transceiver…semantics). This signal then gets to your phone or tablet screen with Autel's Starlink app and a hard-wired USB connection. The X-Star WiFi uses a 2.4GHz WiFi signal directly to your device.

    I'll admit that I've never tested the video system on a standard X-Star. I have, however, flown numerous other AP multi-rotors that used WiFi-based video systems. I've had a few good experiences with WiFi video. Some systems, however, suffered from chronic connection problems and they all had some degree of signal latency. As far as I'm concerned, when there is a non-WiFi option, you should take it.

    Blade Inductrix Mini-Quad Gets You Started with Indoor FPV Flying

    At this time of year, winter weather forces many of us to scale back outdoor RC activities. But there is still plenty of fun to be had indoors, including multi-rotor FPV racing. Indoor FPV racing is becoming very popular for reasons that go beyond its weather advantages. Compared to outdoor FPV racers, these tiny indoor machines are less expensive and just as durable. It's also easy to set up a racing course right at home with just about anything you have on hand.

    Don't let the small size of the Inductrix FPV fool you. It is fast, maneuverable, and tough.

    The machine responsible for kickstarting the current indoor racing boom is called the Tiny Whoop. It is basically a Blade Inductrix mini quad with more powerful motors, an FPV camera, and video transmitter added on. The first generation of Tiny Whoops were basement-builds by industrious pilots. Now, Blade has released a new version of the Inductrix that includes the hop-ups necessary for indoor FPV racing, the Inductrix FPV.

    There are two versions of the Inductrix FPV. The Bind-N-Fly model ($100) includes the souped-up quad and a 200mAh LiPo flight battery. This is usually the preferred model for pilots who already own a Spektrum radio and FPV goggles. The Ready-to-Fly model ($200) adds a small transmitter as well as a 4.3" (109mm) video monitor. This package is for pilots who are starting from scratch. Horizon Hobby provided a Ready-to-Fly set for this review.

    The Equipment

    The Inductrix FPV is a small quad. It measures 64mm between diagonal motor shafts. Once you factor in the propeller shrouds, the diagonal dimension is just over 100mm. Those shrouds are very important aspects of the Inductrix's suitability for indoor FPV. Not only do they protect the props and whatever you crash into, the shrouds also act like cushions to soften the blow. I can't tell you how many times I've flown into something, only to have the quad bounce back in the other direction while still flying. It is probably the most crash-resistant indoor quad I've ever flown.

    The FPV camera and video transmitter are housed under a protective plastic shroud.

    The onboard FPV gear consists of a tiny camera with an integrated 25-milliwatt 5.8GHz video transmitter (VTX). An amateur radio license is required to legally operate this VTX in the US. This system can broadcast on 16 different channels, including the new Raceband frequencies. These components are housed within a protective plastic shell that screws to the quad frame.

    We Ditch Gas Stations and Go Full Electric with Chevy Bolt

    We ditch the gas station and go full electric with the Chevy Bolt, the new electric vehicle that just hit the roads. Our own Jeremy Williams picked up the Bolt as his first EV, and we go for a ride and test drive to learn about his experience driving it for a few weeks.

    Meet the Picobrew Home Beer Brewing Machine

    We check out the Picobrew system, a home beer brewing machine that lets you make 5 liter batches of beer in your own kitchen with an automated brewing system. We chat with Picobrew's co-founder about the process of home brewing and how users can make their own beer recipes.

    Hands-On: Ossic X VR Headphones

    We try on the Ossic X 3D headphones, which were designed for use with virtual reality headsets like the HTC Vive. Chatting with an Ossic rep, we learn how these headphones could be used to enhance both VR and music listening experiences.

    Quick Look at Dell's 8K Desktop Monitor

    Here's a really quick look at Dell's 32-inch 8K desktop monitor. It's difficult to do the screen resolution justice in a video, but here's how tiny Windows' Start Menu looks at 100% desktop scaling on this $5000 display!

    Hands-On: TPCast Wireless VR for HTC Vive

    We go hands-on with TPCast, the wireless upgrade accessory for the HTC Vive virtual reality headset. Here are our early impressions, along with insight learned about the device's wireless range, ergonomics, and expected battery life from TPCast's co-founder. This might have been our favorite thing at CES 2017!

    Hands-On: HTC Vive Tracker and Deluxe Audio Strap

    We go hands-on with HTC's new Vive Tracker, which allows developers to make positionally-tracked wireless accessories for Virtual Reality. We test tracked rifles, baseball bats, and even a firehose. Plus, we put on HTC's new Deluxe Audio Strap, which makes the Vive much more comfortable to wear.