exPloreR RC Submarine
Street Price: $18.76 US
Mfgr's recommended min. age: n/a
Our recommended age range: 7-11
Primary use: Indoor
Top speed: n/a
- Charger & charge cord
- Spare propeller set
- 2x on/off jumpers
- 6x AA batteries
I've actually seen micro submarines exactly like the exPloreR at several online stores, but I picked this particular one up from Budget Gadgets. It's truly palm-sized at under 4" long and has a fun, semi-realistic appearance with two fully enclosed motors on the sides with streamlined propellers. The package includes a small basic controller, a charging dock, and an unexpected treat in the form of a pair of spare propellers to replace broken ones.
The charging dock takes 4 AA batteries and connects to the top of the sub via an included adapter cable. Charging is simple, involving just plugging it in and flipping a switch. It takes about 15 minutes for a charge, after which a lone LED light on the dock turns off to let you know you're ready to go. What's really interesting here is that there is no traditional on/off switch on the sub itself. Instead, there's a part the manual calls a faux "periscope tower," that installs right where the charge jack was. It covers the charging connection neatly and looks like a natural part of the sub. There are no trims to fiddle with on the controller or the sub itself, so once it's on, the headlights shine and you're ready to go.
The exPloreR sub floats perfectly in fresh water, well-balanced with the propellers just barely below the water line. Because the motors are angled up, any forward motion also makes the sub go down into the water. To go straight and down, you push forward on both buttons of the controller. To turn, you just push one of them. It feels pretty intuitive and the good thing is, you never have to worry about sinking. If you do nothing at all, the sub floats gently to the surface on its own! Whew! Can't go wrong!
After awhile, I found that for the best underwater piloting experience, it's best to not hold the controls down for too long. If you push the buttons for short bursts and then let them rest briefly, you can get the sub to sort of "bounce" between diving and self-surfacing, which lets you maintain a certain depth under water for a long time. Once you get used to the timing, you can actually keep the sub underwater until the internal batteries start to run out of charge, at which point the controls stop working and it just floats up to the surface for retrieval. The instructions say a charge is supposed to last about 4 minutes, but I repeatedly got more than 10 minutes of play time by doing the "bounce" and not running the motors full-time. Pretty cool.
The one problem I encountered was radio range. The sub is supposed to work to a meter (about 3 feet) underwater, but if I got the sub more than a foot or two away from the controller, it would intermittently lose signal. To keep it going reliably, I found it was best to hold the controller pretty close to the water.
(Click a video a second time to view it larger in a new window.)
The exPloreR micro sub is a cool toy that pretty much works as advertised. I appreciate its simplicity, the included spare parts, and the fool-proof self-surfacing design that keeps you out of trouble no matter what. My only real gripe with the features is the radio range. The controller is not waterproof, and having to hold it close to the surface of the water while operating the sub can be an inconvenience. The price, at about $19 USD, is probably a tad higher than I'd expect to pay for what you get, but you can at least get a 5% discount off your entire order at Budget Gadgets with the coupon code BM5OFF14. In all, I think it's a fun toy for kids and kid-minded adults alike. Please, though, if you want to use one in a home aquarium, follow the warning in the instruction sheet, and keep its spinning propellers away from the fish!