Review: 42099 4x4 X-Treme Off-Roader (2)

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View image at flickr

In part one of this review I examined the new parts, built the model and admired it. Now I will explain how it's controlled using the new Control+ app on a smartphone.


Operation

To operate this model you need a compatible smartphone or tablet: an Apple device running iOS 11 or an Android one which supports BLE. You can view a complete list of requirements at LEGO.com/devicecheck, which has been updated for the Control+ app.

I have tried pairing the hub with the Powered Up 88010 Remote Control but have not had success although it's possible that this functionality will be added at a later date.

Once you've found the app in your app store and downloaded it, you're ready to launch it.

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

At the moment this set is the only one the app supports but over time we can expect more to be added and for this next screen to be preceded with a menu.

View image at flickr

If you've not already turned the hub on by pressing the green button on top the app prompts you to do so.

View image at flickr

The LED on the hub flashes white while a connection is established and turns solid blue once it has been.

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

The first time you connect to the hub you will probably be prompted to update the firmware, and also to calibrate the steering.

Once done, you can now control the vehicle using one of two interfaces. The default is the easiest to use and understand. It provides separate slider controls for moving forwards and back, and for steering. You can achieve very fine control and drive the car at a snail's pace if you wish.

View image at flickr

During operation the RPM of the motor and the angle of tilt of the hub, in two planes, is displayed. I presume the indicated speed is an approximation of scale speed because it actually moves quite slowly even at top speed, 0.5 m/s maximum, I estimate.

View image at flickr

Should the car be tilted more than 30 degrees in either plane, the corresponding display flashes red. I don't know why: I'm sure the vehicle would operate at higher angles.

View image at flickr

The second method of control is using one finger. There's some setting up to do to align the vehicle with the picture on the screen, then once done you simply slide your finger across your phone to move it. It takes a bit of getting used to!

View image at flickr

The orange icon top right of the other driving interface screen gives access to challenges, which are sequences of operations that move the vehicle in a particular way. The orange squares shows you what it wants you to do and you can also watch a short video for the more involved challenges that demonstrates them. Some involve navigating around and over props -- obstacles or ramps -- so the video is useful to give you ideas for setting up a suitable course.

View image at flickr

The control screen provides prompts as you work your way through the sequence: turn right 180 degrees in this case. The app knows when you've completed each step, thanks to sensors in the motors and hub which feedback to the app. It's all very clever and should provide hours of fun beyond simply driving the thing around aimlessly.

View image at flickr

Your progress through the challenges is saved, although I don't think there's any progression through difficulty levels: I believe they are all open from the start. You do, however, earn badges as as you work your way though them.

While testing the app for this review it's been rock solid. Initial connection to the hub is established quickly and I didn't lose the connection to it once. It certainly seems better than Boost in that regard.

The only slightly annoying thing I found is that the only way to turn off the hub once it's connected to the phone is to close the app.


Controlling with the Powered Up hub and remote

I tried operating it with the 88009 Hub found in the City trains and Batmobile, and 88010 Remote Control. The hub has just 2 output ports so obviously all three motors in the vehicle can't be connected at once and the RJ-style connectors don't allow for them to be stacked, which is a major shortcoming compared to Power Functions.

I plugged in the motor that drives the front wheels and the steering motor into it, and had some success. The vehicle moved forwards very slowly, presumably because one motor doesn't provide enough power, and I could steer, in a somewhat binary fashion. It was far from satisfactory and certainly not as good as with using the Control+ hub and app.

What it did prove, though, is that the motors are compatible with the Powered Up Hub, which is good news.

View image at flickr


Verdict

The vehicle looks awesome: big, brash, and brutish. I'm not sure that it's particularly realistic but it looks cool, and that's probably all that matters.

The flame yellowish orange suits it perfectly and it's great to have the colour back in the Technic palette. It was last used extensively in Bionicle sets in 2005. It's a shame that the back of the truck is not that colour, too.

It's covered in stickers, which many will frown upon, and while I believe the vehicle would look OK without them, they undoubtedly enhance its appearance.

View image at flickr

The modular aspect of the bodywork will suit MOCers who might want to build their own. Maybe we'll see a competition on Ideas to do just that.

Controlling it through the app works extremely well and is great fun. It's precise and without latency and backlash. The gamification element of it, the challenges, should ensure that you don't get bored with it too soon.

That's the positive part of the verdict. Now the negative:

  • It'll set you back £199 / $249.99 / 229.99€ for fewer than 1000 pieces. Of course the motors and hub bump up the price but it still seems a bit expensive at full RRP to me.
  • You need a smartphone/tablet to operate it, and a fairly up-to-date one, too. Without one it's just an attractive paperweight.
  • You need a lot of space to be able to make the most of it. I live in a comparatively large house, to UK standards, anyway, but I struggled to find a space big enough to complete even the simplest challenges. It's as if it's been designed to be used in an open plan Scandinavian house with a wooden floor :-)
  • It's not really suitable for outdoor use. If you don't have space indoors to operate it you might be tempted to use it outside. I would say that it's not robust enough for that: bumping it up against a brick wall, for example, is likely to lead to scratched and dented Technic pieces, at the very least. Perhaps a large tarmac surface free of obstacles would be suitable but you're still likely to spoil the tyres in no time. Plus, it's certainly not water-resistant.
  • Currently, the app can only be used to control this vehicle so is unsuitable for MOCs
  • Although the tyres, suspension and rotating front axle help it traverse some large obstacles, the lack of clearance under the front axle will limit the terrain it can be used on (thanks Sariel for demonstrating this in your video)

To summarise then, despite these negatives there's no doubt that this is an attractive, impressive and fun set packed with awesome technology that showcases the potential of Control+. Technic fans will love it, as will any tween that receives it as a gift.

It's now available from shop.LEGO.com:

USA | Canada | UK | Germany | France


Video review

I'll leave that to the expert. It answers that very important question: Can a hamster fit in it?


Thanks to LEGO for providing the set for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

24 comments on this article

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By in United States,

It looks nice, and the reintroduction of Flame Yellowish Orange to the Technic palette is welcome. I just thought there would have been more new pieces... I'll probably be saving for the Liebherr R 9800 later this year instead of getting this right now.

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By in United States,

Hey hue I see that you have LEGO life may I ask what’s your name Mines assistant reliable snake

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By in United Kingdom,

I have it but don't use it.

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By in United States,

Any idea if there's going to be an app for the Kindle Fire?

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By in Latvia,

Hamsters! That's why I love Sariel! Also, I love the app review! Could you do the same to the Hidden side app when you do the next review from that theme?

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By in Denmark,

The Sariel video review is true top notch!!

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By in United States,

It’s a fun, good-lucking set for sure but I fear the price will be too much to stomach for many folks who don’t account for the r&d expense of the new powered up system that went into the cost. Hopefully this set follows the success of 9398 instead of falling to a fate like the poor 42070.

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By in United Kingdom,

Doesn’t have that wow factor I’d need to splash out £200. Next to the Liebherr it looks e trembly underwhelming

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By in United Kingdom,

Come back in 9-12 months when it's 20 or 30% in a sale. Way over priced.

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By in United States,

Great reviews Huw!
While I understand that it is an indoor toy, I am still surprised at how apparently slow these vehicles appear to be.

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By in United States,

Looks great, appears to be a good, sturdy build, and in a shockingly rare delight, the suspension appears to be soft enough to actually work in normal use! I love the removable body design as well, taking a page from regular RCs. The out-of-box off-roading performance, though, is thoroughly disappointing. I can get past the poor center clearance Sariel demonstrated, but the lack of torque kills me. It looks like it may have been a conscious decision, too, to prioritize speed over climbing capability. Hopefully it can be re-geared to tackle something more appropriately "extreme" than a bumpy sidewalk. The aggressive stance & big tires suggest so much more. I'm leery of the smart device dependence, though. Deprecation is a cruel mistress.

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By in United States,

I's have to agree with @theJang here on the smart device front. Reliance on and compatibility with such devices might kill the usefulness of this set in the long run. Plus not all of us have smart devices anyway, which could drive away some buyers. Not that the price tag wouldn't do that as well.

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By in Germany,

What to say? The positives are the cool look and the solid build. That's about it.
It can't be used with regular LEGO control devices, it can't manage the tasks it suggests by its looks, and above all it is so ridiculously overpriced that it beggars belief. So basically just like all the recent Technic "flagship" sets.

I will only buy the car transporter from the current range as that is the only fair proposition even at RRP. Plus at least it has a real-life counterpart that can be seen every day.

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By in United States,

I'll wait and see if a hardware controller is released. I friggin hate touchscreens and sliding my fingers.

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By in Netherlands,

If ya’ll want to combine LEGO with RC there is only one guy to talk to. The Yang.
Great set BTW

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By in Germany,

And I'm out with my old iPhone ; )

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By in United Kingdom,

I don't have an up to date smartphone as I don't need one, and that would increase my outlay considerably so it's a definite no from me.

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By in United States,

Having invested in Boost and hit its limits, I hope Lego figures out a way to open up these devices for more programmability and flexibility. I get that for this set a specialized app is great, but just like how you can get generic Lego sets for creative building there should also be generic apps.

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By in United States,

@Padmewan The Powered Up App offers the programming capacity for all of the the current generation of hardware, except for the new Technic Smart Hub (until an upgrade). Functionality for this should be added later in the year. [revealed by both the Technic team and Powered Up team at the 2019 fan media days.]. You may find it limiting, as the it runs very similarly to the Boost programming interface, but adds support for a wider variety of sensors, hubs and motors. The Bluetooth Specs for Powered Up have been published on GitHub for those who know how to work with them...
I agree with those who feel the need for a (fairly) current smartphone is a bit limiting. The App and Bluetooth connection do allow for the firmware to be upgraded too, in the future, should other changes need to be made.

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By in United States,

Solid three hour build, not two.

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By in United Kingdom,

At this price, without a working remote in the box, no matter how cleverly it's designed, it's just not 'good enough'. LEGO is failing its customers with this short-term obsession with 'Apps'. They could easily have configured this so the remote could operate the basic drive features.

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By in Germany,

For me the negatives of this set way outweigh the positives. In particular the price point which I personally find borderline ridiculous. Sometimes motors and bluetooth are used to justify raised prices. In 2019 this is a joke. These are cheap and available. If one compares to standard RC cars I as Lego fan feel cheated like the Lego company is taking advantage of me. This is becoming harder and harder to stomach as I feel that this set is not the exception but becoming more and more common. The other thing is the missing remote. What if in 7 years our smart devices have moved on from the current technology or Lego stops developing the app? It’ll become an even more expensive display car. Lego needs to be more realistic with prices and product lifetime. Until this year I had never looked at or purchased competing brands. This year I tried out of deep despair (also as a train enthusiast) and I was positively surprised to see 90 -95% of the quality for a fraction of the price. My love for Lego prevails but it is in strong need for a sign from the company.

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By in Luxembourg,

Thanks for the comprehensive review. I quite like the vehicle as such. Yes there are better RC off-roaders out there but that has never been the point of Lego technic (at least not for me). And I'm not too worried about the price tag, since less than a month after release it's readily available for under 170€.

What I do worry about is the fact that today it is useless without a smartphone and maybe in a few years time be absolutely useless even with one. This reliance on "third parties" to make LEGO work is very risky. I know I am old, but my LEGO 12 V trains still work today. And the power functions and powered up stuff will still work in 10 years time, unless you break the remote. But with all these apps, you live in the wrong region, your phone has the older iOS/android (and why shouldn't I/my kids use an older smartphone to play with LEGO instead of the new ones?

As much as I'd like to get this and the Liebherr, I will probably just have to wait and see how the whole control + will evolve over the next few years (remote, different and opensource apps, etc.).

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