Micro RCs look out …

That’s a pretty cool video of the electric Losi LST XXL2-E.

Lucky for me, I was able to drive the XXL2-E a few days ago. Although I only ran one battery through it, it was a fun, fast truck.

I have not driven many Losi trucks in recent years. Losi has always been one of the best RC brands, producing race-winning vehicles. (As a broke kid, I recall dreaming of their XX-T but could only afford the Junior T.)

I am use to 1/10 and 1/12 scale vehicles. The XXL2-E truck is massive. And I mean massive. It deserves that extra-extra large name. It is a 1/8 scale, which measures 26.5 inches long with the wheelie bar, 18.5 inches wide, and 9.8 inches high.

Although it is long and wide, it was the tire and shock sizes that impressed me. The tires are 6.9 inches high and the shocks are over-sized.

The truck uses a Dynamite 22000Kv brushless motor, which has plenty of torque to motivate this truck. It is a way different animal than a radio controlled rock crawler.

When I drove it, it ran two 3S LiPos. The owner said that when running 2S, the truck can be a bit sluggish. I’ll take his word for it. But, the two LiPos batteries made it move quick.

The XXL2-E also has AVC — active vehicle control. This technology is new to me. It is a stabilization system that helps manage and control the power that good brushless motors produce.

With the AVC set, the truck tracked really well. I jumped it off a small ramp and every time I pegged the throttle just before the ramp, the truck never veered off course and I always hit the ramp head on. (Veering is common when a lot of power is applied quickly.) I am digging the AVC.

The one aspect of this truck that I really liked was its ability to ride on two side wheels easily. I pegged the throttle, cranked the wheel, and one side of the truck would lift up. Then, I could ride a side-wheelie for a little while.

Despite the donuts and shenanigans, the truck felt much more stable than others I’ve driven.

The location we drove it at was a little cramped so the full speed could not be reached.

Because it could not be opened up, the battery lasted close to 40 minutes before needing the LiPo charger.

The four wheel drive worked great climbing a 50 foot hill. Traction up the hill was never an issue.

The XXL2-E may have a spot in my RC car roster. I just need save a little for it because it does come with a pretty hefty price tag.

The MSRP on it is $659.99. It is an ready-to-run (RTR), with the radio, speed control, and motor. It does need batteries and a charger. After the truck cost, battery, and charger, it would probably cost close to one grand. Pretty pricey. That’s one of the downsides to it.

What’s the difference between toy- and hobby-grade radio controlled vehicles?

The Grasshopper was around when I started playing with RC. Photo: MIKI Yoshihito, flickr, CC BY 2.0

Radio controlled vehicles are a lot of fun. They have been a hobby of mine since I was a teen. (Now I am an old man.)

Many people don’t know that the RC vehicles in a toy store, discount store, or retail store are not the same quality as RC vehicles from a hobby store. Let’s understand why.

Performance

Toy RC vehicles are don’t perform at the same level as a hobby-grade unit. For example, many toy units feature coil-over shocks while hobby units feature oil dampened coil-over shocks.

The oil and springs can be changed and tweaked to driving conditions and how one wants a hobby RC vehicle to perform.

These vehicles also allow upgrades and replacement parts for just about anything you break or want to strengthen.

Another good example is electronics. They are not customizable on toys, but they are on hobby-grade RCs.

Hobby-grade electronics can be swapped out for better (or worse) equipment. Example: Motors can be changed from brushed to brushless. Radios usually have more range with hobby units, too.

Durability

Durability is important. There’s nothing more fun than jumping your RC off a ramp, but they don’t always land right-side up when this happens. That’s where durability reigns.

Off-road trucks and buggies from brand names like Losi, Traxxas, HPI, Team Associated, among others are designed for these repeated stresses.

Manufacturers like those listed above test, test, and test their products in the lab and racetrack.

Compare that with a toy RC. The products don’t have the same durability. They are not tested on the track and most are treated as disposable, with no way to replace broken parts.

Parts, upgrading as skills increase

Parts availability is essential. Everything gets broke — sooner or later. Hobby-grade cars will have replacement parts available through the hobby shop or online.

It makes the most sense to spend a little more on a vehicle that has the ability to grow as your skills grow. That brings us to cost.

Cost

It’s true that hobby products will cost more than department store / retail store RCs.

The higher cost is generally offset by the durability, upgrade capacities, and parts availability — not to mention the speed and run time that a good RC will have.

Why hobby-grade radio controlled vehicles are superior to toy-grade, department store RC cars

An old style 550 size electric motor. Photo permission: nosynation.com.

A lot of people think the big box stores offer good radio controlled cars. That’s not the case.

Hobby-grade equipment is so much better and a good hobby shop is the place to buy a good radio controlled vehicle and offer help when things break.

I have owned 1/10 and 1/12 scale cars and trucks but am thinking about buying a 1/8 vehicle or 1/5 scale truck.

Traxxas has this new X-Maxx that looks sick. According to their stats, it weights 19.1 lbs, is 29.84 inches long and 22.26 inches wide.

It is amazing how good monster trucks have progressed through the years. Back in the day, 1/12 scale trucks like the Big Bear or 1/10 scale trucks like the Blackfoot and Clodbuster were kings but now trucks have changed so much.

Take the motor for instance. We used to get a 540-style 27-turn stock motor in most trucks. These motors were super slow and sucked. They’d go 15-20 mph with good batteries.

The current batch of trucks come with fast motors. The brushed Stampede has a 12-turn 550 sized motor, which is fast. But, most monster trucks are coming with best brushless RC motor for the money that have speeds in excess of 30 mph out of the box. When the batteries are changed to LiPos, speed and power improve.

LiPos do have drawbacks. They require much more care than NiMh because LiPo do have the potential to explode when they are punctured, overcharged, wet, or in any way damaged.

I have never seen one explode in person. There are a lot of YouTube videos that show explosions but it is always tough to know what kind of abuse that person put the equipment through to get it to do what it did.

Another thing I like about current vehicles is the suspension and drivetrains. Drivetrains and suspensions are built to handle the power of brushless motors. The benefit is cars can be driven harder and may not be as prone to breaking, I think.

I owned an RC10 for awhile. It was one of the early models, with the gold-tub chassis.

That RC10 broke a lot but handled a lot of abuse. In all fairness, it was abused by me when I was a kid. I jumped it off the roof, I burned the tires bald. I drove it into trees and concrete buildings.

These are all things that it was not designed to do. It broke, but just about any new vehicle would break under those situations. What makes the reliability of newer vehicles better is the drivetrains.

I put 10-turn and 15-turn motors in an original RC10. It did not have the Stealth transmission when I bought it. I over-geared it; I under-geared it. I was learning.

Eventually, I grenade the original tranny. I put a Stealth-trans in it then. It handled the abuse better.

With metal gears available for most trucks now, we can put those crazy fast brushless motors in them and not worry about blowing the trans up.

If you are not into speed, there are always crawler rigs. A radio controlled rock crawler is modeled after trucks that crawl up almost-vertical rock walls. These vehicles have massive amounts of torque but little speed.

Crawlers focus on driving skill and picking the right line to get up the wall. Where bashers just hammer their way over obstacles. Both are cool in their own way.

Having owned a crawler, I like them but want to move into a different monster truck.

As I mentioned, I have been looking at the X-Maxx. I saw a comparison of its size to 1/10 trucks and also seen a few YouTube videos with size comparisons. Here’s one:

Electronics kick: Quiet computers and Arduino kits?

Good old power wires for the CPU motherboard. These things always confuse me because they look so similar and could plug into the mobo pins easily. Thankfully, they are labeled. Photo: Edmund Tse, CC BY 2.0

Been busy lately looking into building computers and Ardunio kits. Yep, I’ve been on an electronics kick. The break from everything has been good and I thought I’d provide a little info here about what I’d learned.

Ideas, ideas, ideas

I bought some new speakers a while back for the living room. I considered an under $200 bookshelf project for the living room but choose a brand at a local store and ended up paying a lot more. That’s not to say cost = better. It’s just that they were expensive.

They sound good but I don’t have my digital music in the living room and I would like to add a small PC in there.

I don’t have a lot of room and know that small is the keyword here.

A home theater computer — i.e., HTPC — is the answer. They’ve been around a while, and from what I’ve read they are quiet and unobtrusive.

I’m sure you know that it seems like most computers are so loud with their fans whirling at a million miles a minute and not to mention hard disk drives.

So I’ve been reading. Reading a lot. One site is silentpcreview.com. I’ve also came across a couple other good ones.

On one of the sites, I read that a good alternative to loud fans is using good, quiet computer fans rated at lower RPMs. The voltage can be lowered to make them spin slower with a fan controller or a little wiring changes.

One bad thing I found is that 120mm or 140mm fans, which normally spin slower from the start, don’t normally fit in a small HTPC case, which sucks — unless you plunk down some serious coin or build your own case.

There are some really cool designs out there as well as DIY information about getting the quietest possible unit by using those quiet fans but also trying to minimize heat in a CPU. One way to do that is use high quality thermal paste.

There’s a lot of comparisons about thermal paste and its benefits on the Web.

It’s also good to pick a CPU that uses minimal wattage, which decreases heat, and choosing to use the onboard video can reduce the need for a graphics card and make it a little easier on the wallet because of other projects like an arduino kit.

Arduino’s an open source company and community that designs and makes micro-controller kits that allows you to build small computers and program it to do cool stuff. There’s a ton of examples on the Arduino site but a small computer fan controller is one that interested me.

I also saw a video about a guy who automated a chicken coop so he does not have to feed them or shut or open the door every day. It’s total automation and pretty cool.

This kind of sparked the imagination. Just using the “related videos” on YouTube, I ended up finding a lot of cool projects like the automated chicken coop.

Another one that I liked was about an oscilloscope. If you ever look at the prices of oscilloscopes, it’s expensive as all get out.

While I was looking at electronics bits, I came across a guide to buying a hobbyist oscilloscope and I also came across a couple YT videos. Here’s one of them.

It was like $60 bucks or so to build according to the uploader. Not shabby when cheap ones cost $500 bucks and high end ones cost 4 and 5 figure amounts.