At one of the local shopping malls last week, I saw some incredible – and very large – fairy displays the mall had commissioned for the holidays. I imagined this was because the holidays are a magical time and fairies are pretty magical in their own right. Last night, I spent some time with a fairy of my own, FlutterBye.
What Is FlutterBye?
My first thought when I saw this toy was, “Another remote control toy… Cool!” But There’s no remote control here, at least not how you’re thinking. The fairy flies in the same way a helicopter or quad-copter might, with a kind of propeller except that she is the propeller. For the most part, she will fly on her own and without guidance she will eventually crash down. The control comes from your use of sensors on underneath FlutterBye that can tell how close your hand is. She will attempt to hover inches above your hand, but will wander off horizontally. Check out the review video below for a demo and a better idea of how she works.
When I get toys in the mail to review, I joke with friends about how horrible it is that I have to go play with all these toys. In this case, I wasn’t dreading it, but I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d enjoy FlutterBye. After some initial doubt (see below), I found myself having a lot of fun with it and forgetting I was reviewing it.
I also found the battery life to be pretty amazing. With a remote controlled helicopter, I often get about six to eight minutes of flying time on a charge. Here, I was well into about 15 minutes with no sign of slowing. And while I’m comparing her to a helicopter, she turned out to be tougher as well. Crashing her a lot of times before getting the flying down, I left no sign of damage anywhere on her. She’s one tough fairy.
Something that wasn’t immediately apparent to me was the risk of long hair and propellers. Though I hadn’t thought of it, it’s worth mentioning although the use of a pony tail and and not headbanging to FlutterBye are probably sufficient precautions. Having that fast propeller hit your hand is another story, though, so you’ll want to heed the advice in the user guide and grab FlutterBye close to the ankles when recovering her mid-flight.
Control eluded me at first, but it wasn’t like with R/C aerials that require practice. This was more about learning. Once I learned how to control her height and became more comfortable with when to grab her feet to regain control, all was well.
Retailing for about $28, she’s priced well to fit under nearly any tree this Christmas and well worth the cost, which is probably why it made the Amazon Hot Holiday List, among other things. While the box indicates FlutterBye is a toy suited for children aged five and up, I would think this would be a great toy for girls seven to twelve or so.
RC Helicopters are cool, but I’ve always thought quad-copters are even cooler. The use of four rotors makes them fast, stable, and easier to manipulate mid-air. Still, I never got around to buying one. Then the Air Hogs Helix X4 Stunt showed up in the mail. As one of Wal-Mart’s Top 20 Chosen by Kids, I was excited to dive right in.
Usability and Control
With 4 ducted fans and gyro stabilization, the Helix X4 was really easy to get (and keep) in the air, even for a first-timer like myself. I’ve had a few RC helicopters and this was a lot more fun. While a helicopter requires constant attention in the air, the X4 was a little more self-sustaining and as a result, I crashed it far fewer times. The controls are easy to use and understand though not immediately intuitive. By this, I mean that you should always read the manual first. The thing that caught me off guard was how it isn’t ready to fly until it’s really ready. The X4 indicates via its lights when it is stable for launch and then you can get to the fun. The benefit is that it will always have a clean lift-off.
Features and Stunts
Other than the launch procedure, the lights on the front of this quad-copter will also flash orange if the battery is getting low and red when it’s time to land and re-charge. This is a step up from other quad-copters that just drop out of the sky when the batteries are done. Below is a list of other features of the Helix X4:
2.4GHz radio control
Incredibly crash-resistant materials
Charges from remote or using USB cable (included)
Did I mention stunts
Durability and Design
Let’s talk about the durability for a second. I’m super extra nervous-guy careful about my electronics, especially the ones that fly. The problem is, once it’s in the air, there’s not a lot you can do when it crashes. I’ve crashed my share of flying gadgets and much of my X4 flight time was in a cramped office, so I crashed this one even more. The difference this time is that the fans are protected by ducts as an extension of the quad-copter’s body.
The design, to me, is secondary, but also wasn’t lacking. There’s really not a lot of room to make one quad-copter look substantially better than others in it’s class, but the right colors and a little aerodynamics make all the difference.
The controller had a good weight to it and felt right in my hands. It also had features I liked such as the smooth stick control and right-hand placement of the stunt button and control as well as the handle, which was a nice touch. Unfortunately, the few fake controls that are built onto the controller but don’t do anything seemed out of place and the batteries didn’t seem to stay put very securely – although neither impeded performance in any way.
Helix X4 Stunt Video
With anything as fun as this, I try to include a little video with the review, so here you go!
With the suggested price of $79.99, the Helix X4 Stunt is might be a little more spendy than some of the lesser quad-copters, but it has the features to back it up. If you have limited skills and want to wow friends with some stunts, wrap your hands around one of these and you’ll be set.
I get a lot of products to review that promise to be high tech and flashy. Occasionally, I come across something a little more basic but out of the norm. This time, it’s the Boogie Board LCD writing tablet from http://www.improvelectronics.com/.
Because this is such a simple idea and device, I’ll keep the review pretty brief, starting with my impressions.
At a glance, the Boogie Board looks like a little portable chalk board, but you won’t want to write on it with chalk. Instead, it’s a digital device that you write on magnetically with a stylus and erase with a button at the top of the device. My first concern was battery life. I since learned that it’s not build in a way that allows you to easily replace the battery, although it should last quite a long time as it uses very little power. The website makes a claim of 50,000 possible erases per device, which seems feasable. It’s thinness makes it feel even more delicate and light which can make you a bit nervous, but mostly just means it’s lighter.
With no outstanding features, it’s still a nice device working as I would expect except for the erase button, which proved to be a challenge more often than not. It seems that, trying to find the delicate balance between ease-of-use and let’s-not-accidentally-erase-things, iMPROV stayed on the side of caution, making the button not too terribly easy to make function.
Boogie Board Specs
Solid Colors: Black, Red, Pink, Cyan, Green, White Pattern Colors: Soccer, Flower, Camo Materials: Pressure-sensitive, plastic Reflex LCD with scratch-resistant hardcoating, plastic case LCD Size: 8.6in (218mm)
Dimensions: 8.8in x 5.6 x 1/8 (223mm x 142 x 3) Weight: 4.2oz (119g) Power: Non-replaceable 3V watch battery Package Contents: Boogie Board Original 8.5 LCD eWriter, Stylus, User Guide, Clip-on stylus holder, Self-adhesive magnets
Boogie Board Demo Video
As always with my reviews, I give the product some time in my hands so I can get a feel for it and form my own opinions. The video below gives a better view of the device and how it worked for me.
At an average price around $25 and features that match the price, the Boogie Board is no replacement for the iPad Mini on that special someone’s Christmas wish list, but it’s not supposed to be. This is a device you’d hang on the fridge or leave by the door. I see it as being most useful for family or roommates to leave little notes or shopping lists. Though it’s light, it’s barely portable, but the company makes other devices, including a pocket-sized LCD writer. Either way, this is a great divergence from the fridge whiteboard or paper notepad you might be using now.