Even though I’m in my mid-twenties, one of my favorite things to do is head straight to the toy section to see what glorious new gizmos I can fiddle around with upon entering a store. Recently, I was lucky enough to receive a box of assorted toys courtesy of Spin Master. For those unaware, Spin Master is the parent company of favorites like Air Hogs, Tech Deck, and even that zany Aquadoodle. Inside this box of treasures were various toys from Air Hogs and Spy Gear that we begin testing feverishly at GIZORAMA HQ.
Air Hogs Helix X4 Stunt
The Air Hogs Helix X4 Stunt is a stunt quadcopter recommended for anyone 12+. It has a foam body, four plastic rotors, a controller, and a USB charging cord. The X4′s controller is 4-channel, so you’re able to ascend, descend, hover left right forward and back, and rotate left and right. The stunt in the X4 comes into play with the controller’s three different stunt functions. All you do is flip the switch from 1-3, press a button, and your quadcopter will do a flip, barrel roll, or a 180° flip. The only caveat to the stunts is that the quadcopter must be close to a full charge since it jolts so much of the power to regain composure after the stunt.
Another main point to note about the Helix X4 is that when it says for indoor use, it really means for indoor use only. Being made of foam, the quadcopter is very light and susceptible to wind. While testing, a single gust outside took our quadcopter for a ride a couple of yards over, since it couldn’t overpower the wind’s force. We also experienced difficulties controlling the X4 whenever it was around a fan or AC unit.
Compared to other RC copters, the X4 is a bit harder to control than most in the same price range. The four propellers need to all be working in conjunction or you’ll notice drifting. We had to bend a few of the plastic propeller blades to even the drift since the controller doesn’t have any built-in ways to control it.
Bottom line? For a MSRP of $79.99 the Air Hogs Helix X4 Stunt should be considered by all RC enthusiasts as it’s a great way to get your feet wet with quadcopters without having to throw down the big bucks. The foam body may look and feel cheap, but trust us when we say it’s a godsend during crashes. Our little guy still runs like a champ after getting stuck in a tree, crashing into a dog water bowl, and skidding across the concrete countless times.
Air Hogs Atmosphere
The Air Hogs Atmosphere is essentially a RC helicopter, minus any controlling mechanisms or any resemblance to a helicopter. It’s a sphere that automatically balances itself and is controlled by placing your hand under the sphere at different angles. Pivot your palm forty-five degrees to the left, and the sphere will drift to the left. Charging the Atmosphere is extremely simple – just pop it on its charging base and wait for the LED light to turn green, then you’re ready to hover.
The downsides? For one the Atmosphere is pretty hard to control, I had to bend the stabilizing flaps numerous time until it hovered correctly. While recommended for ages 8-10, I found this toy to be a bit more dangerous than toys I’d give to that age group. The sphere is fine until it veers off course. If you happen to allow one of your fingers to go inside the sphere while correcting the hover or picking it up from the ground, expect to have your finger whacked nicely by the blade. Luckily, if you do hit the blade, it causes the sphere to stop spinning until the power is reset, but be careful when picking it up.
Overall, for an MSRP of $24.99, this is a great gift as long as you give it to someone who will be aware of the blade. I’d recommend it for anyone 12+, but avoid it when thinking about gifts for a younger child.
Spy Gear Sonic Disruptors
The Sonic Disruptors are an awesome idea, and I immediately was hoping for something similar to the ThinkGeek Annoy-a-tron. Sadly, that isn’t the case. For those unaware, the Annoy-a-tron is a small circuit board that emits extremely annoying sounds until it’s found and deactivated. The Sonic Disruptors are a bit different. There are two balls, one grey and one black, and each can be stored in a swanky holster if you’re an on-the-go kind of person.
To activate the balls, click the only button on the device to swap between one of four sounds on each disruptor. The black disruptor features broken glass, a dog bark/growl, a bird screech, and a reactor siren. The grey ball disrupts with a wind up siren, laser shots, a fire truck siren, and a cat screech/growl. Once you have the sound you’d like, hold the button until the LED starts flashing and toss it towards unexpecting foes. After 6 seconds your ball will erupt with whatever sound you chose, but the sounds only play once, and that’s it.
Each sound is less than three seconds long, so this is quite far from disrupting. It’s more of a “hey, what was that noise” versus “OH MY GOD WHERE IS THIS SOUND COMING FROM?!” The ability to have the sounds repeat until it was deactivated by being found and pressing the button, or a longer 10-30 second disruption would have made this a much more valuable product.
With an MSRP of $9.99, the Sonic Disruptors are only recommended for youngsters, not pranksters, as they’ll get bored with these guys extremely fast.
Spy Gear Spike Mic
The Spike Mic is another toy that should have gone through more testing in the QA department. The Spike Mic is essentially a mini plastic crossbow that shoots a plastic microphone which sticks to surfaces so you can spy on unsuspecting foes. The concept sounds great, but fails horribly in execution. The crossbow is made of two pieces of plastic that slide together and form a crossbow. The plastic sadly feels extremely hollow and cheap, and the resistance bands are nothing more than large rubber o-rings with little elasticity. The only weight comes when adding batteries, but this still feels extremely hollow.
Again, the concept is great. Charge the the sticky-tipped microphone by plugging it into the crossbow base, then once charged let her fly up to 20ft and stick onto a surface. Once stuck, the microphone will stream audio up to 50ft to the crossbow receiver. The downside? We couldn’t get the Spoke Mic to shoot more than 5ft with the included o-rings. Anything more than 5ft, and it became too unstable to stick to anything since it’s so tail-heavy. Speaking of sticking, the only way we could get this to stick to something was to slam it against a freshly-Windexed window with our hand. Even then, the Mic fell victim to gravity within a couple minutes.
With an MSRP of $24.99 we wouldn’t recommend this to anyone unless they just want to stream audio from another location without the microphone being stuck to a surface. It works fine if placed on a table, but that pretty much cuts out the entire crossbow feature as well as the Spy factor.
Spy Gear Panosphere 360
The Spy Gear Panosphere 360 is hands down the best item we had the joy of testing from Spin Master. Like a GoPro for kids, this bad boy makes it insanely easy for kids to get full 360° panoramic 720p footage up in no time. The Panosphere comes with the camera itself, a USB transfer/charging cord, and three attachments. There’s a puck attachment that allows you to slide the Panosphere across smooth surfaces, a suction cup to mount the camera on flat surfaces, and a mount that’s made to to fit on cylindrical surfaces like bicycle handle bars.
The camera comes pre-loaded with a 2GB MicroSD storage card, and is expandable to whatever you can toss in. With the included 2GB camera, you can take roughly 2000 photos (depending on things like light, color, etc), or up to 15 minutes of video. The camera also included a built-in microphone, but we found the quality to be pretty low since it only catches audio from a single angle. Since you can move the camera angle up or down, sometimes the mic and camera angles just don’t match up, resulting in muffling. The mic also gets drowned out by wind should you start moving at a faster rate of speed, but being marketed for kids, we don’t see the typical user going over 15 MPH.
The Panosphere also comes pre-loaded with editing software, but we found it near useless. All you can do is view the pictures and videos, not edit them as advertised. There is a link in the software to check for updates, but it links to a non-existent website. We found it much easier to use the built in Windows Photo Gallery for photos and Windows Movie Maker for videos since they both support editing.
Below we have some test footage of the Panosphere 360 mounted on a scooter turn signal, trimmed down with Windows Movie Maker and uploaded to YouTube:
With an MSRP of $59.99, the Spy Gear Panosphere 360 is a great buy for any kids who want to try on-the-go action photography or videography. It’s dead simple to use, and with a little PC knowledge, decently easy to upload and share all over the web.
Overall, this bundle from Spin Master was eerily similar to a normal trip to the toy store. Some hits, some misses, and some failures. We highly recommend both the Spy Gear Panosphere 360 and the Air Hogs Helix X4 Stunt, but weren’t too impressed with the Air Hogs Atmosphere. The Spy Gear Sonic Disruptors and Spy Gear Spik Mic sadly failed to even put smiles on our faces, so if you want similar devices, spend your money elsewhere.