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Unbelievable RC

Air Hogs TRON Legacy RC Light Cycle

October 2010
air hogs tron light cycle rc

Street Price: $29.99 US
Manufacturer: Spin Master
Mfgr's recommended min. age: 8
Our recommended age range: none
Primary use: Indoor
Top speed: n/a
Radio: n/a, infrared
Includes:

  • Assembled vehicle
  • Controller/charger
  • Instructions
Requires:
  • 6x AA batteries for the controller

Initial Impressions

The Air Hogs TRON Legacy Light Cycle is one of the last highly-anticipated toy-class RC releases of 2010. It comes in advance of the TRON Legacy movie from Disney. Now in addition to being a huge RC fan, I've also been a TRON fan since I saw the original movie, in the theater, in 1982. Today I have proudly on display in my living room a full set set of 4 ripcord-powered light cycle toys that were re-released on the 20th anniversary of the film. The idea of having an RC version of one of these things brings me all sorts of kid-like giddiness!

The Air Hogs TRON Light Cycle is a Zero Gravity series vehicle underneath, like the Micro, Nano, and Real Rides versions I've tested before. It has a powerful fan that creates a strong vacuum beneath it, mostly sealed in by flexible plastic flaps along the sides. The vacuum allows it to stick to walls, and supposedly even drive across smooth ceilings as well. Sadly, being that we live in the real world, this RC 'Cycle does not leave a glowing, translucent wall of light behind it, but it does have some LED lights in it, and one of them is behind a slit in the rear which casts a thin sliver of light on the ground behind the vehicle. I didn't get to test this, but supposedly if a friend drives a second light cycle and it crosses your light beam, his will shut off, simulating "de-res'ing" from the movies. Sounds like a cool idea, except unlike in the movie, the light trail moves & turns with the vehicle, so presumably you'd be able to knock out an opponent at any time by just spinning around in place.

The Air Hogs TRON Light Cycle has a non-removable rechargable battery in it, and you charge it via a jack that's built into the controller. It's pretty easy and convenient to use, and lets you get a charge on the go without having to change batteries or plug into a wall outlet.

Testing

The power switch on the Light Cycle itself has three positions -- off, ground, and wall/ceiling. I first tested it in ground mode, where it should just drive like a normal RC car. Unfortunately, even on the same kitchen linoleum floor where I successfully test all of my ultra-micro RCs and have run the earlier Zero Gravity vehicles, the Air Hogs TRON Light Cycle gets stuck. A lot. It can't handle even the slightest surface imperfections and subtle textures. It does a little better on a perfectly level, perfectly smooth table surface, but in the real world, most people don't have large expanses of surface like this, and kids don't want to have to completely clear off a big dinner table to run a basic RC (and I don't think parents would be to thrilled with that idea either).

Next, I switched to wall/ceiling mode to try some vertical driving. Again I tested on an abnormally smooth wall with no built-in texture and a semi-gloss paint finish -- the most ideal surface you can expect to find where a kid would be wanting to drive the Light Cycle. Again, it fared poorly, getting stuck far more easily than the similar-sized Zero Gravity Micro. Not only that, but like the previous Zero Gravity vehicles, this thing is loud -- offensively loud. It sounds like a power tool that's being used at full speed. It left my ears ringing once I turned it off.

Before I turned it off, though, I had one more test for it. The box says, "Also drives upside down." Well, the other Zero Gravity vehicles did, and even the worst-of-the-lot Real Rides version could navigate my again unusually smooth kitchen ceiling without problems. Not so with the Light Cycle. It does better upside-down than it did on the wall, but not much better than on the ground. In other words, it was terrible, getting stuck in place far more frequently than it would actually move.

Video

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

Conclusion

The Air Hogs TRON Legacy Light Cycle RC is a miserable toy, a complete, utter, abject failure. It is worse in every way than all of the other Zero Gravity vehicles to date, and it does not do any of the things it's supposed to when driven in ideal, but realistic conditions. To get it to work right, you have to find surfaces that are ridiculously smooth and flat like windows and clean formica countertops or smooth-finished tables with no seams whatsoever. I could write many paragraphs worth of detailed explanation of my disappointment with this vehicle, but it's just not worth my time.

This RC has earned itself a nice spot on my new RC Malarkey page!

F

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