H2O Pro Racer
Street Price: $25 - $70 US
Mfgr's recommended min. age: 11
Our recommended age range: 9+
Primary use: Medium to large pools, ponds
Top speed: n/a
- Display stand
- 6V rechargable battery pack
- Wall charger
- 8x AA batteries for the controller
The very first thing that struck me when I opened the Megatech H2O Pro Racer box was its size. It's really small, about 9 1/2" long not including the rudder. The second thing I noticed was that it actually looks pretty cool. This boat is almost, almost hobby-class in that it has separate electronic components and a replaceable motor, but its construction is still fairly cheap and the radio system is very basic. It does come with a simple stand that you can quickly assemble, and that's a really nice touch because boats can be difficult to store properly without one.
Prepping the Megatech H2O Pro Racer involves installing AA's in the controller, and charging the included battery for the boat, using the included wall charger. I was a little surprised to see that the battery has a Fast Lane sticker on it -- a different company! Ah well, weird. It's very important to heed the instructions and not charge the battery pack for more than 3 hours. You should check its temperature every 15 to 20 minutes and once it gets nice & warm, stop, as it's fully charged. A 2 to 3 hour charge time is definitely better than most rechargable setups included with toy RCs.
Once you have a charged battery, installation is kind of fun. First, you remove the entire top half of the boat by just pulling it off -- it's just attached by Velcro. Then underneath, there's another cover, a plastic lid to further help prevent splashes of water from getting inside. With this lid pulled off, you can see the motor, the top part of the propeller shaft, the servo for steering, and the electronics boxes. Always nice to be able to see how things work inside. At the rear, there's a strip of velcro on the base of the hull, and this is where you're supposed to mount the battery. Unfortunately my battery did not come with any velcro on it, so I had to get some of my own. You want to make sure the battery doesn't move around when the boat is running, so if you get an H2O Pro Racer and it's missing the battery velcro like mine was, at the very least tape it down securely, using plenty of extra tape. Make sure it doesn't wobble around much.
Plugging the battery in will turn the boat on, so you don't want to do this until you're ready to run. Turn the controller on before plugging in the boat's battery, too. This will activate the rudder for steering, but for extra safety, there's a push-button switch inside the boat that you have to push to activate or "arm" the motor controller. After arming it for the first time, you can set trims on the controller to make sure you have a full range of throttle, and to ensure that the rudder is pointed straight.
Whew. Okay, now put the lid back on, and re-attach the decorative upper deck. Time to hit the water.
The H2O Pro Racer floats at an appropriate level when you put it in the water, and when you slowly give it throttle, the fully digital proportional radio & electronics let you have very fine control of both speed and turning. Speaking of speed, the boat goes much faster than I expected for something so small. Honestly I couldn't ask for it to be much faster than this. It steers quite sharply too, and is very responsive to all control inputs. It's really made to run on fairly calm water, but I tested it on a lagoon that had a lot of ripples on the water due to wind, and the boat still handled it, thanks to the "deep vee" hull shape. I got about 8 minutes of nearly constant full-speed running before I noticed it was starting to slow down, and brought it in before the battery ran too low. On a second test, I actually tried to run it until the battery was completely drained, but when the battery started to get just a little low, the whole thing stopped completely in the water, like the motor had died. I could still steer the rudder, but it wouldn't move forward. This is actually a good thing. The onboard electronics sensed that the battery was low, and the cutoff was actually a last-chance warning. By letting the boat rest for about 5 seconds, I was then able to give it just a very small amount of throttle, little enough to not use too much power, and ease the boat back to shore. It's basically working like a reserve power system, like the "E" warning light on a real car. When it happens, you will still be able to go just a little bit more, but don't push your luck!
(Click a video a second time to view it larger in a new window.)
The lack of a strip of velcro to hold the battery in was an annoying omission, but beyond that, this boat was a blast to run. Rating it, though, is more of an interesting challenge than I think I've ever faced. The normal selling price of the Megatech H2O Pro Racer is $69.99 US, which is an okay price, but there are better options available from hobby-class retailers at this same price, incluing vehicles made by companies with a better reputation for customer support. However, as of this writing, Megatech had been regularly running huge direct sales of many of their products directly through their website, and I was able to buy this boat for just $24.99. That's cheaper than even the most underpowered, poor-performing toy RC boats. An absolutely unbeatable value.
So, with such a large range of potential prices, how good this boat is for the money, totally depends on how much you pay for it. It's a good little boat to play around with. At $25 it's an absolute steal. At $69.99, not so much. I think highest reasonable price in today's market would be about $50 US. If you find one cheaper than that, go for it!