I just bought some new toys, first of which is the Stealth Rides Power Tread. Unlike most of the RCs I’m blogging about, these cars are new, as in still being sold in stores, and have a fun little gimmick: They fold up to fit in a pocket sized controller. Now, I know micro RCs are nothing new, I was a huge fan of the MicroChargers and Bit Char-G cars. I still have a huge box full of ZipZaps (Initial-D FTW), and I love the Terrain Titans, which were basically micro versions of classic Tamiya buggies. The problem with all of those cars, however, is that as much as they’d love to advertise that it fits in your pocket, the remotes were always pretty thick, and those tiny cars were a little too fragile to stuff in your jeans as you walked around.
The new Stealth Rides cars have a very slim remote, and the vehicles have a special folding design so you can flatten them and store them in the remote for safe-keeping. When you want to play, just remove the vehicle, press a button, and it “pops” into shape.
This is not only VERY slick (it’s almost as much fun to pop into shape as it is to drive), but solves a lot of the real-world portability problems with micro-sized RCs. One other cool thing, is that while these cars are super-compact, the vehicles are pretty big when popped up. In fact, the Power Treads are much bigger than a ZipZap. If only these were around when I was a kid, they would have been perfect for showing off at recess!
However, sacrifices had to be made.
First of all, the cars use tank-style skid-steer controls, which can be difficult to master. I don’t mind that at all on this tank-style vehicle, but it feels unnatural for more traditional 4 wheeled vehicles (I’ll be posting a review on the Stealth Rides Ford Fiesta Rally later)
Second, the vehicles are not quite as versatile as other micros. I’m not referring to the lack of custom options (like those on the ZipZaps or MicroSizers), I’m just referring to “drivability”. This Power Treads vehicle’s slow speed and sticky treads are just begging to crawl over things, but it can barely climb over obstacles a mere 1/8″ tall, which is disappointing. However, it can traverse carpet really well, which is something many micros struggle with.
The third sacrifice is a bit bigger. If you’re not familiar with micro RCs, most of them have an internal rechargeable battery that you recharge via sucking juice out of the batteries in the remote. Newer RCs (helicopters especially) may include a USB charge cable to cut down on wasting batteries, but the remote still has to be big enough to house 4-6 batteries, and only AA or AAAs have the required Mah (amp-hours) to charge a vehicle’s internal battery multiple times. The Stealth Rides vehicles abandon this system in favor of LR44/AG13 “button” batteries, 2 in the remote and 3 in the vehicle. Now, the upsides here are not waiting for the car to charge, never having to replace the internal battery, and most importantly, they can make the remote and car as tiny as they want. The downsides are very limited range and the fact that these batteries cost an arm and a leg at retail stores. A pack of 3 was over $10 at most stores, and I’d need 2 packs just to get a single run! This would normally be a deal-breaker, but Amazon sells a 50-pack of these batteries for $5, and I’m sure if you Google search “LR44 battery hack” you’d be able to get them cheap that way as well.
The Stealth Rides line currently consists of the road cars, the “flat” Power Tread tanks, and the “wedge” Power Tread tanks. When I started looking at these, I noticed that the “wedge” tanks were no longer being sold, so of course I had to find one of those (OMG, rare)! If it was replaced with the flatter tanks, I could guess why: There’s a little swing-out arm that holds the bottom rear tire, and it looks like it would easily break or rip the treads if you weren’t careful when taking it in or out of the housing in the remote. From the videos I’ve seen, the newer design is also much more capable at crawling over small obstacles, as the front of the treads has an upward angle. The wedge design, with it’s small front wheels, present the same issue I saw with it’s spiritual big brother, the Tyco Maxx Traxx – it just can’t climb over obstacles well. However, it’s more forgivable on the Maxx Traxx, since the Maxx Traxx is pretty quick and made to be flipped over and driven upside-down. As I said earlier, the Power Tread vehicle feels like it was made for crawling, and in that aspect is certainly leaves a lot to be desired.