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Unbelievable RC

Fast Lane RC Sea Bird

October 2011
rc boat

Street Price: $32.98 US
Manufacturer: Fast Lane RC
Mfr's recommended min. age: 8+
Our recommended age range: 5-9
Primary use: Small to medium pools
Top speed: n/a
Runtime per charge: Not tested, varies based on use
Controller: 27mhz
Includes:

  • Assembled boat
  • Controller
  • Display/storage stand
  • Instructions
Requires:
  • 6x AA batteries
  • 1x 9V battery

Initial Impressions

The Fast Lane RC Sea Bird is a little over 20 inches long, but costs about half as much as the last boat of its size that I tested. That is a good thing. However, it does not come with a rechargeable battery. That is partly a bad thing, but surprisingly, partly a good thing as well. RC boats tend to eat up batteries quickly, so before even taking this boat out of its box I knew that running disposable alkalines was not going to be an option. Let me re-word that for clarity and importance. Do not buy alkaline batteries for this boat. Rechargeable AA cells will save a ton of money starting potentially as quickly as a week or two into ownership. Also, nowadays it's easy to find quick-charging AA batteries that can be fully ready within an hour or less. This is where the "partly a good thing" comes in, because the industry-standard 4-hour charging time for battery packs that come bundled with some toy-grade RCs can be a real downer.

Back to the Sea Bird itself. It's a pretty nice looking speedboat, built with some weight to it and with nice lines and well-applied graphics. The deck (top) is securely sealed to the hull all around, and to access the battery compartment you turn a knob (that also acts as the on/off switch), remove the cabin section, then remove a fully watertight cover beneath that. That second cover fits in very securely, and unfortunately it has no handle or grip, just straight, smooth sides like a hard plastic box top. It can be tough to remove. You have to jimmy it around, making sure it slides up straight and not crooked, otherwise it might get stuck and need to be pushed back down for a re-try. This is a bad design.

The boat has a single motor, single hard plastic propeller, and single rudder. There's a fin in front of the propeller to serve as a little bit of protection if you pilot the boat in a pond and mistakenly go over a shallow area. The hull has a "shallow vee" shape, so it's not designed to cut through waves and should only be used on fairly flat, calm water. The thing I like most about the Sea Bird up front really has nothing to do with the boat itself, but rather a display stand that's included to put the boat on. It's a simple assembly of three pieces of plastic but it's sturdy enough to do the job and makes storing the boat a whole lot easier and more neat & dignified than if this wasn't included.

Testing

Running 6 rechargeable AA batteries, the Fast Lane Sea Bird was slightly faster than the earlier New Bright Fountain that comes with an 8-cell battery pack. "Faster" is, of course, a relative term, and you'll see in the video that it's still pretty slow. The performance is pretty consistent once you get going, though. It doesn't act as if the motor is struggling. Steering is predictable and pretty equal from left to right. The boat maintains composure over ripples in the water. Radio range is sufficient to travel much farther than the length of even a large backyard in-ground pool.

Video

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

Conclusion

The Fast Lane Sea Bird's battery cover is annoying, but the rest of what you get with this whole set is of pretty good quality. It's just not speedy at all, especially for something that looks like a speedboat. It's best for younger kids than the manufacturer recommends. Just remember, alkaline batteries no, rechargeables yes!

C

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