Review: 42100 Liebherr R9800

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The Liebherr R9800 is one of the largest mining excavators in the world. It's fitting, then, that it's the subject of the largest and most expensive Technic set to date.

I've been putting the recently released 42100 Liebherr R 9800 through its paces for the last few weeks, in between trips to Denmark.

This first part of my review covers the parts, construction and the completed model. I will write about the app and controlling the model on your phone early next week.


The prototype

This industrial behemoth weighs 800 tonnes, it's shovel can lift 80 tonnes of material, it's fitted with a 16-cylinder 4000BHP diesel engine and it's almost 9m wide and 10m high. Its technical specifications make for fascinating reading.

It's hard to tell just how big it is from pictures that provide no context:

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View image at flickr

However, this one puts it into perspective!

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Box and contents

The box is massive, as you'd expect for the largest Technic set to date.

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The back goes into some detail of how the vehicle is controlled from a phone/tablet app.

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Inside, half the parts are packed inside a plain white box and the PoweredUp components are inside another smaller box, which helps prevent everything from rattling around in the large box and potentially getting damaged.

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There are exactly 1000 steps of instructions which are spread across two manuals, both with about 360 pages.

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Parts are split into numbered bags, thank goodness, which eases and speeds up building considerably.

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There are two sticker sheets.

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View image at flickr


Parts

LEGO has now published the inventory and it can be viewed here. There are a number of new parts, and a few recolours. You can see everything that's new here.

The most notable new parts are the new clutch pieces and the linear actuators.

The clutch allows far more torque to be transmitted than the old clutch gears. Its two parts clip together and it's pretty much impossible to rotate the two sides by hand. When it slips, it clicks.

The 'Angled Gear Wheel Z28' (6259270) is new this year: There are two in this set and one in 10269 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, of all places.

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A new linear actuator allows for a much longer reach than the old one. The body has been redesigned so it's likely that the internals have been, too.

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Three of the new 7 x 11 frame (design 39794) can be found in this set, and in 42110 Land Rover Defender in black.

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There are no less than seven motors -- 4 medium, 3 large -- and two Control+ hubs in the set. You'll need 12 AA batteries to power them!

View image at flickr


Construction

The underframe is the most complex part of the build. Packed inside are three motors (two large, one for each track, and one medium to turn the body, plus one hub.

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The drivetrain, to gear down the motor, is fairly involved and includes the new clutch piece.

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Once one side has been built, the central section containing the medium motor and hub is attached.

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Then, a mirror image of the first section is added to the other side of it.

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The three motors are connected to the hub and as you can see the new cable clip parts (design 49283) ensure that the cables are kept tidy and away from the tracks.

The bottom of the hub is accessible from underneath to allow its batteries to be changed.

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Step two of construction is largely concerned with building the bodywork.

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The third large motor in the set powers the lower linear actuators, which take the weight of the arm.

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Other than the engine and the hub, both of which you'll see in more detail below, ther body is pretty much empty.

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The lower section of the arm houses three medium motors all of which power a pair of linear actuators (LAs) further up it.

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The arm is built flat before the LAs are fitted underneath.

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One pair of LAs open the 'elbow' of the arm, another pair tilts the shovel, and a third pair, the smaller all-plastic variety, which are out of view in this shot, open the shovel.

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The arm is attached to the body with a couple of pins, and the lower LAs connected underneath to hold it up.

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Now's a good time to look inside the body before it's covered. The hub and tidy cable management is can be seen.

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The final two stages of construction involve a lot of System parts and are primarily concerned with adding details to the outside: all manner of machinery, walkways and the cab. The white panels with black stickers on them open to allow access to the hub.

Note the fans under transparent panels with a mesh pattern sticker on them.

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Lengths of pneumatic tube are threaded along the top of the arm and through various holes to the LAs to represent hydraulic hoses.

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The completed model

Just like the real vehicle, it's hard to tell just how big this thing is. Perhaps the minifigure in this picture will help...

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I reckon it's pretty close to minifig scale, in fact.

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Whichever way you look at it, it's awesome...

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A walkway can be folded down to allow access to the cab.

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Two doors on the right-hand side open to reveal engine details.

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The full extent of the pneumatic hoses can be seen from the top.

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This photo shows the extent of the movement of the arm and the bucket open. It looks to be close to that illustrated in the technical specification document.

View image at flickr

Here it is as the other extreme. It's possible to lift the front of the body up slightly, or 'dig' at material lower than the tracks, which is the case for the real vehicle.

View image at flickr

It really is a thing of industrial beauty...

View image at flickr


Operation

The model can only be operated using the Control+ app on a phone or tablet, so it's is an important part of the set. Without it, the model just an expensive paperweight.

I am happy to say, then, that it works flawlessly and makes it a lot of fun to operate, but you'll have to wait for part two of my review to find out more. Sorry, but I've not had time to fully put it through its paces yet!


Verdict so far

This is the most technologically advanced Technic set to date but from a Technic construction point of view it's actually fairly simple, with lots of empty space inside. There are no huge, complex and ultimately pointless gearboxes in it. Everything is there for a reason and everything works very well.

Construction, therefore, was a pleasure. It's possible to understand what you're building, there's little repetition and you don't get bogged down with manifold gears and axles at any time. I start off with good intentions of timing how long it takes but always lose track half way through. I suspect it was something like 8-10 hours.

A lot of effort, and parts, have gone into realistically portraying the real vehicle, and that's something that sets models such as this based on real prototypes apart from those that aren't. Consequently it looks excellent.

It's now available to purchase at LEGO.com for £399 / $449 which is a huge outlay but you do get a lot for your money: over 4000 pieces and a shed-load of the latest PoweredUp technology.

I will deliver my final verdict in part two, so stay tuned...


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

17 comments on this article

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By in Czech Republic,

@Huw On the pictures of the real thing there is the model with Backhoe excavating shovel, whereas the lego model represents the face shovel type. If you compare that to the model, it's quite accurate. At least as far as the position of the actuators go.

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By in Netherlands,

Nice review. It seems LEGO deserves credit for a faithful recreation, both in scale and function (when one considers the shovel portrayed by the model). I remain hesitant about this due to its dependence on third party products and software to control the set, but the functions that it currently offers are certainly impressive.

The blue long pins continue to be a pet peeve of mine, and here too they stick out like a soar thumb on the side of the machine. Never figured out why they changed those from black to blue.

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By in Netherlands,

It looks nice and it's a change from a car or a truck, but I'd say its most impressive feature is being large. That won't convince me to buy it.

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By in United States,

Awesome model! Not on my wish list currently (seems a little bit more up my dad's alley), but definitely a great opportunity to show off what the Control+ software and hardware have to offer with regard to precision control using multiple motors.

I suspect that compared to other Technic sets, the market for a set this pricy and with this much in the way of electronics will cross over with the market for high-end electronic toys like robots and drones. Whether the amount of control and independent movement potential here justifies the price is a little ambiguous and would probably be easier for somebody who's more in tune with that category of toys to answer.

That said, from a LEGO fan perspective, we might have a better sense of how much the electronic components add to the price once they are available either individually or in Control+ sets that have fewer of them. That way it'll be easier to extrapolate how much each motor or hub impacts the overall price.

I definitely have seen frequent complaints about sets that you program/control/interact with using a third-party device due to stuff like a limited list of compatible devices, the possibility of future operating system updates stopping the app from functioning even on currently compatible devices, etc.

But to be honest, it's confusing to me as a child of the 90s to see so much weight given to these concerns, given that running LEGO CD-ROM software of the mid to late 90s that came in sets like 8299-1 and 9719-1 Robotics Invention System on any current or recent operating system requires the use of third-party or homebrew alternatives or workarounds (for example, virtual appliance software that emulates an older operating system's runtime environment).

Already, LEGO has released the full documentation for the wireless protocol of the Powered Up system (which includes Control+): https://lego.github.io/lego-ble-wireless-protocol-docs/index.html. This is their way of facilitating third party and homebrew software developers who want to extend their creativity beyond the scope of LEGO's first-party software.

Suffice to say that even if the Control+ app isn't around 20 or 30 years from now, a perhaps even more versatile homebrew equivalent for programming or running Control+ hubs and motors almost certainly will be!

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By in Germany,

^ the point is not if it is possible to run the software in a few years, the point is if it is feasible. I wrote it before - you can basically buy any Technic set that comes with motors and a remote on a flea market and it will work. All you have to buy is a few batteries. If you tell grandma "sure little Jimmy can use the set, you just have to download git, checkout the latest version, compile, making sure your compiler is in this and that version..." you can forget about it. It will be a paperweight for anyone not willing to delve into these depths. In that case, you have to argue "this is not a toy", which is perfectly valid. But it does not make the set, which looks pretty nice, in any way more attractive.
I might buy the set, but I will definitely not keep the control stuff, it would immediately end on ebay. There are more than a few decent easy to use ways to control a Technic set without an app. How well the app idea seems to be welcomed by the buyers is nicely illustrated by the huge discounts on the Control+ monster truck (even at 40% off I was not tempted) and the Hidden Sight sets.

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By in New Zealand,

At $800 NZ it’s a bit of a stretch for a dust collector.

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By in United States,

Wow, that's bigger than I thought. Also, cable management could have been used in 60051 a bit as well. It's not a huge problem there, but still a bit annoying. Great review as usual, Huw!

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By in United States,

Seems that it's more common to see this machine in the backhoe configuration. That should have been the default setup for the model in my opinion. In lieu, it's too bad LEGO didn't try to go the extra mile and provide that as a simple B-model / alt config. Wonder if that was limited in part by some restriction/inflexibility with the first iteration of the Control+ app.

Hopefully our capable MOCists can save the day!

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By in Netherlands,

Great model and review. Thanx!!!

About building time: I always like to think that it takes an hour for 500 pieces for System building. For Technic it may be around 450 pieces per hour.

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By in Canada,

The more I see it, the more I want it, and the more I think about, the more I realize it would just be sitting on a shelf somewhere. It's kinda like owning a pickup truck: The idea of owning one is incredibly appealing, but it would just be wasted potential if I never play with it. If I was 10 year's younger, I'd be saving for about 2 years but I'd play with it almost every day.

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By in United Kingdom,

@KristofPucejdl, thank you. I hadn't appreciated the arms were so different. I'll amend the review.

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By in United States,

It looks great. I think it would be great to build it. But I don't think I'll get it just because its controlled by a phone. I would like it so that my great grand children can play with it 40 years from now. Same as my 8860 car from 1980.

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By in United Kingdom,

I have bought the set but not built it yet. Thanks for the review. As always its great to see new parts...

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By in Australia,

Looks stunning and I think the phone remote idea is a good one, so long as Lego keeps supporting the app! The only miss I think is with the new control system's reliance on batteries, could they not have developed a rechargeable battery pack?

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By in United States,

Great writeup! Normally, the huge price tag sets LEGO has been putting out doesn't interest me in the least, but I do really like this set. I live in Southwest Virginia Coal Country, yet I can't say I've ever seen anything like this; but I know in some areas, they do use these. Lots of extremely large (mostly CAT and Komatsu) loaders, dozers, and dump trucks, however.
I do hope LEGO comes out with a rechargeable battery. 12 AA batteries likely won't last long; they cost quite a bit.

For me, the phone control means one thing--it will, most likely be discounted heavily. In fact, that 450 dollar price tag is the only thing putting me off from buying it.

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By in United States,

This thing will be worth $4.50 once that stupid phone app becomes removed from the app store in about 5 years. So stupidly idiotic. Put in a real remote control, stop making everything ruled by a stupid phone. Why does nobody have any foresight anymore?

I have a oven I bought at a used appliance store that at one time had smartphone compatibility. This was 5 years ago. Guess what? LG removed the app from everywhere and now whatever smartphone capability it had is gone with it. The oven is just a normal everyday oven now that I could have done with an oven from the 50s or 60s just the same. I looked up the original MSRP. It was $1,400. I paid $115 for it.

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By in United States,

Someone above mentioned that all the code for the app is available. Please remember, though, that not everyone in the world writes code.

Some of us simply like to build and expect the app to work with our phone. Sadly, as I found out with the Batmobile, the app doesn't function on my phone.

This is truly a no-sale point for many people. Some of us are just too busy with what he have going on in life to learn how to keep the apps running on new tech and there is nothing wrong with that... and Lego should consider this in the future. Sorry, but code-writing should not be a requisite to enjoy this Lego set in the future (or having to take time to search within what feel like alien chat groups to learn how to do so - or even search those groups out).

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