Review: Taking to the streets on the punchy Micro Slim electric skateboard
Electric skateboard design has come a long way in the last 12 months. We're seeing manufacturers get creative in concealing batteries inside decks and motors within wheels, all in the hopes of offering something approaching the look and feel of a traditional skateboard. With its Micro Slim, Metroboard has stuck to the battery-under-the-board design, which means squeezing the gigawatts into a compact electric skateboard that is not as nicely packaged as some, but is powerful off the mark without weighing a ton. Join Gizmag, as we take one to the streets.
US company Metroboard has been shaping electric skateboards since 2003. The 29-inch Micro Slim is far from the biggest in the family, with some longer models measuring upwards of 40 in (1 m). It is instead designed to be a more portable option that can be picked up and tucked under the arm when required.
But how portable is it exactly? As far as electric skateboards go, the Micro Slim is toward the lighter end of the scale, weighing 14.9 lb (6.8 kg). Though this is far more manageable than some bulkier models, (see our review of the quite ludicrous 31-kg (68-lb) Epic Dominator Pro), it is still an awkward load to deal with. We found that our arm soon tired when carrying it for more than a few blocks, though it's worth noting the last time your reviewers hit the gym electric skateboards weren't even really a thing yet.
With that said, it was only a few years ago that Boosted Board launched what was the world's lightest electric skateboard at the time, which, similar to the Micro Slim, weighed 12 to 15 lb (5.5 to 6.8 kg). This again shows us how the technology behind these urban vehicles is evolving, with other models, such as the Marbel at 4.7 kg (10.3 lb) and then the Stary at just 3.9 kg (8.6 lb), since claiming the title.
But the Micro Slim's extra little bit of weight does come with some advantages. It is fitted with a 36-volt lithium battery and brushless outrunner motor for a moderate range of 10 mi (16 km), but a whopping power output of 3,000 W. Its top speed is still a humble 20 mph (32 km/h), which we find is plenty fast enough anyway, but it shuttled us up decent-sized hills without a problem. It also accelerates to its top speed pretty damn quickly. This is particularly handy when riding the board around urban environments, where you'll regularly be stopping at traffic lights and intersections but can get back up to speed in a short space of time.
Though Metroboard does also offer 83 mm wheels that shave an entire pound (450 g) off the total weight, our demo model arrived with the larger 93 mm variety. These made for a delightfully smooth ride, with the wheels soft and forgiving as we rolled across rougher urban terrain like pavement cracks, little stones and smaller twigs, and combining nicely with the Caliber 9-inch trucks for great maneuverability.
Certainly once you are up and running, the zippy and responsive Micro Slim is a pleasure to ride. But we must say getting there isn't all that easy. Metroboard has taken an approach to its controller design that is a little different to others we have seen, which generally rely on a single trigger that can simply be pulled to accelerate and pushed forward to engage the brakes.
The Micro Slim's controller instead features two buttons and a joystick, designed to make it more comfortable to maintain a trigger position over long distances. Holding the black button down will set the board in motion at a steady 2 mph (3.2 km/h), and then simultaneously pushing the joystick forward sees speed start to increase. Once you reach your desired speed you can release the joystick and continue holding the black button to continue at that pace, just like cruise control for a car. Similarly, holding the red button down engages the brakes and then pushing the joystick forward or back dictates how heavily they are applied.
This sounds simple enough in theory, and you can see the reasoning behind it, but in practice it adds a layer of complexity that you don't need when you're getting a feel for the board, especially if you need to stop quickly ahead of a busy intersection (on a number of occasions we found it easier to simply jump off the board rather than count on the brakes). If you happen to be riding the Micro Slim on a closed path with nothing in your way, then the cruise control could be a really nice feature. But in the city dealing with traffic, pedestrians, dogs and prams, we prefer a simpler start-and-stop system.
A number of connection issues didn't help our confidence in the controller, either. Where some other models use Bluetooth to connect the remote with the board, Metroboard instead uses infrared, which CEO Ilan Sabar tells us is better for avoiding interference issues. But this means just as you need to point your remote at the television to change channels, the controller needs to be directed at an infrared receiver built into the nose of the board for the motor to respond.
Therefore, to avoid regular drops in the connection, the controller needs to be held in the front hand and pointed downward. If you ride with a regular stance (left foot forward) this means holding the controller in your left hand, the non-preferred for many. This isn't very intuitive at first, but does come to feel more natural after a few rides.
In terms of weight-to-power ratio, the Micro Slim electric skateboard excels and may even go unmatched. By way of comparison, the lighter Stary has a power output of 1,350 W, while the Marbel has a little more grunt at 2,000 W. In many ways this makes it ideal for the stop-start nature of city cruising, in addition to being quite simply a hell of a lot of fun.
But it does have its drawbacks. Controller qualms aside, the battery pack stuck on the underside of the deck does make the thing more tricky to carry under your arm. Though this has been the standard approach to powering electric skateboards over the years, as mentioned, some makers like Boosted and Evolve have been able to integrate the batteries into the decks.
But Sabar argues that doing so compromises on other important things. He says that this approach requires the battery size to be smaller, which in turn limits the range they can offer (Metroboard offers boards with as much as a 40 mi (64 km) range). He also reasons that having a separate battery pack means they can offer decks of different shapes and sizes, rather than one, highly customized style, and it also makes for easier maintenance should something go wrong.
With a price tag of US$1,099, the Micro Slim is not the most expensive, but not the cheapest electric skateboard you'll find either. If you're untroubled by a bit of a learning curve with the controller and a little extra weight, then the power and handling of the board sure make for an exciting and convenient way to get around.
Product page: Metroboard