We do enjoy getting our hands on remote-controlled vehicles here at Gizmag, because what's not to love about driving a miniature car around? Fortunately for us, Hobbico recently released its new Dromida brand of R/C cars and trucks and was kind enough to send over all three models of the line to compare. Read on for a look at how these low cost, high speed R/C vehicles stack up against each other.
What's in the box?
Each Dromida R/C vehicle retails for US$99.98 and comes with everything you'd need get it running, including:
- The Dromida vehicle itself
- 6-cell, 1300mAh NiMH (Nickel-Metal Hydride) battery
- AC charger with charge monitor
- Four AA batteries
- Four preload spacers
Dromida is meant to be a high-performance, low-maintenance line of R/C cars, so all of the vehicles are fully assembled and mostly ready to drive straight out of the box. Aside from inserting the AA batteries into the transmitter, the only other required step is to charge and connect the NiMH battery. When it's completely empty, the battery takes about four hours to fully replenish. After it's recharged though, it's just a matter of removing the R-clips holding on the body, fitting it into place beneath a strap, and connecting it.
All the same under the hood
The current Dromida lineup is comprised of three distinct vehicle models: a buggy (the BX4.18), a monster truck (the MT4.18), and a short course truck (the SC4.18). Despite outward appearances though, all three versions are essentially the same except for different styles of bodies, bumpers, and wheels. Once you remove their plastic covering, they look almost identical, since each one has the same basic parts underneath, including a waterproof RE18 2-in-1 receiver/ESC, a DS100 steering servo, and an M370 motor, all of which bear the Dromida brand. Having fewer components appears to be in keeping with the “low maintenance” banner over the vehicles.
Personally, I prefer the monster truck model. Its larger wheels are more adept at covering rougher terrain, and its narrow body helps it roll back onto its wheels after a bad tumble. For comparison, the buggy rides a little lower to the ground, and the short course truck tends to get stuck flat on its back whenever it flips over. Both trucks also have flexible bumpers, which bounce back from low-speed collisions with hardly a scratch, as opposed to the hard plastic bumper on the buggy that tends to get dinged up a bit more easily.
One thing lacking from all models, though, was more variety in their outer designs. Each car only has one color scheme to choose from, though you could probably take care of that with a careful paint job. It's a minor point, but it would've been nice to have some more options.
Time for a drive
For my first test run, I found a long, empty stretch of road and started with the short course truck. Its larger body seemed to offer slightly more crash protection over the other two, which I figured might come in handy while I was getting the hang of driving it. After switching it on, the car beeped a couple times and went dead silent until I set it down and revved the throttle a bit.
The transmitter's controls are pretty standard, with a small wheel on the side for steering and a trigger for controlling its forward and backward motion, as well as braking. There are also several knobs for adjusting the trim and throttle functions, but I left these at their defaults most of the time. After taking a few moments to get comfortable with the truck's handling, I decided to see what it could really do and sent it straight down the road at full speed.
It may be 1/18 scale, but the Dromida cars can certainly pick up some impressive momentum and reach their top speed in about a second. Part of the speed is due to the vehicles' four-wheel drive and balanced construction, which helps keep all four tires planted firmly on the ground even at high speeds. The box claims it can hit over 20 mph (32 km/h), which seems accurate and is pretty good for a mid-range R/C car. It may not sound like much, but the quick acceleration combined with its small size means the car will zip almost out of sight in just a few seconds.
Fortunately, the foam-filled tires also provide some good stopping power, allowing the car to go from full speed to a complete halt within about five feet (1.5 m) after hitting the brakes. At medium speeds, it can turn on a dime as well, but it will still skid along the ground if you turn too hard while moving at a high velocity. Luckily, none of the cars are top heavy enough to flip over by themselves if you try to drift like this.
At the end of the block – about 300 ft (91 m) – it appeared to lose the signal and stopped responding to the transmitter until I walked a little closer. By that point though, it was already difficult to spot in the distance, and I couldn't even tell which direction it was facing.
Altogether, I spent about 45 minutes driving around until the battery finally drained, at which point the wheels would only stutter forward a bit before seizing up. Not bad for a casual run, but considering the four-hour recharge time, you may want to stock up on an extra battery or two for extended driving sessions.
Despite its formidable performance, I was still a bit skeptical about how well the Dromida cars' plastic parts could withstand a crash and tried to avoid any curbs or steep inclines at first. Sadly, the road had other plans.
During one run at its maximum speed, the short course truck hit a sharp bump in the road and somersaulted over the pavement a few times before stopping flat on its back with its wheels spinning in the air. After the initial “crap, I just broke it” feeling, I walked all the way down to where it landed to check the damage. Thankfully, there wasn't any, aside from a few scrapes on the front bumper and body. Even after additional subsequent mishaps, you'd be hard-pressed to find much evidence of a crash on it.
I wouldn't advise flat out ramming it into a wall at full speed, though, since I doubt the chassis could survive that kind of abuse without cracking. The vehicles all carry a 90-day warranty from the manufacturer with them, but the terms listed in the instructions expressly state that this doesn't cover damage from a crash. The cars will still stand up to regular racing and even a few stunts, but you might want to keep this in mind if you're planning a small-scale demolition derby.
Due to the weather this time of year, all my usual off-roading spots have been nothing but soppy mud for the past month, so unfortunately I had to settle for paved roads for most of my driving time. I did find a few dry spots to try it out on different terrain, but each car rides too low to the ground to cover anything that's especially rough. Anything taller than freshly cut grass seemed to be a challenge, since the chassis would get stuck on a stiff plant or large rock, preventing the car from moving forward. Judging from the few puddles of water they were able to survive, though, I'd say the “waterproof” claim on the box holds up for regular racing purposes, although I still wouldn't try driving it into a lake.
I drove each model through similar conditions, but as you can imagine, there isn't much difference between them in terms of basic performance. Each one reached about the same speeds and was able to endure the occasional missed jump or tumble. As mentioned earlier, the main difference between them is how well they recover from a spill, and the monster truck stands out a tad more in that regard. I also found each vehicle was tuned to its own separate transmitter, so they could all be operated simultaneously.
The Dromida cars may not be the most powerful R/C vehicles on the market, but the main selling points here are really their price and ease-of-use. Beginners will get a kick out of them, since they can out run the R/C cars you'd typically find on most non-specialty store shelves, but still only require a minimal amount of knowledge to maintain and won't put a huge dent in your wallet. More seasoned hobbyists will appreciate the low cost, but may want to look elsewhere if they want something with more power. Overall though, the Dromida vehicles are solidly-built and pack in some hefty performance, making them stand above most remote-controlled cars in their price range.
If you want to check out the Dromida cars for yourself, all three versions and their accessories are currently available to order through Tower Hobbies.
Product Page: Dromida