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.
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.
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.
If you've not already turned the hub on by pressing the green button on top the app prompts you to do so.
The LED on the hub flashes white while a connection is established and turns solid blue once it has been.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.