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Unbelievable RC

Air Hogs Hyper Actives RC

August 2011
air hogs hyper actives rc

Street Price: $49.99 US
Manufacturer: Spinmaster
Mfgr's recommended min. age: 12
Our recommended age range: 8+
Primary use: Indoor or outdoors
Top speed: ~13.5mph
Radio: 2.4Ghz
Includes:

  • Assembled vehicle
  • Controller
  • Extra indoor-only tires
  • Instructions
Requires:
  • 6x AA batteries

Initial Impressions

The Air Hogs Hyperactives RC cars are the most highly anticipated, hot new RC toys of 2011. Never before have I received so many requests for a review! These cars are less than 5 inches long tip to tip, but they're advertised to be able to reach a real-world speed of 20mph. The controller uses an ultra-high 2.4 gigahertz frequency that's nearly immune to radio interference and allows you to run multiple cars close to each other without worrying about radio conflicts. An added perk of this technology is that there's no external antenna on the controller to worry about extending, and bending.

Air Hogs Hyperactives car has no external antenna either. However, it has a different peculiar protrusion on it, a large, clear plastic roll bar. it looks like it's supposed to be part of the packaging, but it's actually a design feature intended to allow the car to roll over onto its wheels if it flips. While looking at the car itself, you'll find working rear suspension with both side to side and up/down flexibility and what feels like a very good spring stiffness -- not too firm, not too soft. There's no flex or suspension up front to speak of, though. The treaded tires on the car are made of a soft rubber that should get good traction. Also included in the package is a spare set of tires made from a completely different, spongy "foam" rubber intended to maximize grip on smooth indoor surfaces.

Back to the Hyperactives' controller, like with the majority of products that sport the Air Hogs brand name, this one doubles as a charger. There's a cord & charging jack attached to the base that you plug directly into the car -- the car's own battery is non-removable. It takes about 40 to 45 minutes to fully charge a completely dead battery.

Testing

Though the Air Hogs Hyperactives cars look like off-road racing buggies on the surface, they are really only designed to drive on fairly smooth surfaces, so I kept that in mind and ran on hard, low-pile carpet, kitchen linoleum flooring, concrete, and asphalt. The controller has a unique speed-limiting knob on the side that allows you to limit the maximum power until you get used to the controls, or for driving in confined spaces. You wouldn't want to shoot for the reported 20mph top speed in a small room. On top of this, the throttle control on the radio has multiple proportional steps, so by squeezing the trigger just slightly you can travel at low speeds for maximum control and the tightest turning radius, then ramp up the speed when you're lined up for a straight run. I found the slow speed setting on the controller to be great for driving areas as small as 6 feet square, though still quick enough to be exciting and challenging. I was a little disappointed to discover that unlike the speed control, steering is an all-or-nothing affair -- full left, full right, or straight, with nothing in between.

With the speed turned up, the car felt like it had a turbocharger in it. The initial acceleration feels no different, but after the first half second or so, it takes off with a serious burst of power. You want to be in a large indoor space, or outdoors on the fast setting, as it can cover a surprising amount of ground in a surprisingly short amount of time, especially for its size. Because of that combination of speed and small size, though, bumps in the driving surface are really multiplied. You'll see in the later part of the video below that what looks like a pretty flat, smooth parking lot surface has enough texture to make the Hyper Actives car bounce around at speed, and it rolls and flips on occasion. The good news is that the clear roll bar works exactly as designed. Not once did the car get stuck on its side or its lid. In the worst case, it would sort of balance directly upside down, and just going forward & reverse and steering a handful of times would be enough to get it rocking to one side, at which point it could be driven right back onto its wheels.

The total running time per full battery charge with the Air Hogs Hyperactives RC car is about 10 minutes. I was very anxious to test the real-world top speed of the car, as it didn't look like 20mph to me, but a carefully-measured speed trap and a high-quality camera was needed to discover the truth. On a very smooth, perfectly level surface, running the slightly larger foam tires, the single fastest run I was able to record was approximately 13.5mph, with most passes in the 12.8 to 13.2mph range. This makes the Air Hogs Hyperactives one of the fastest toy-grade RC cars to hit the market in recent years, regardless of size. However, it's a far cry from 20. Also, while doing these tests at two completely separate locations, I found the maximum radio range to be about half the advertised 100 feet, though I was using brand new, high-quality alkaline batteries in the controller.

Video

(Click a video a second time to view it larger in a new window.)

Conclusion

The Air Hogs Hyperactives RC cars were worth the wait. They're quick and fun, and they look great. Now, I do not at all appreciate the fact that the real top speed is much lower than advertised. I've said it before and I will say it again, manufacturers need to stop putting out claims to which their products cannot hold up. That said, though, the actual 13+ mph speed of these cars is fantastic in and of itself, especially given their diminutive size, so their performance is still great and class-leading by a large margin. The somewhat limited radio range and difficulty of control over surfaces that aren't perfectly smooth pull down my overall rating of the car, but the perfect-working roll bar, extra tires, and outstanding indoor control help boost it back up. In all, I'm very happy with these cars and think they are a good deal and an excellent addition to the toy-grade RC market.

A-

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