Choosing Christmas toys for my son is a challenge that I take very seriously. I usually get him something educational but the geek and gadget lover in me always takes over and I end up getting one big toy that’s secretly more for me than for him.
Last year, Sphero BB-8 Droid was the undisputed hottest Christmas toy. Though after playing with it for a while I realized it wasn’t as smart and exciting as I thought it would be. It bumped into things and despite claims that it learned about the environment, it was basically running around randomly. I actually ended up returning it, as I didn’t see any fun for my son.
Fast forward to 2016 and I am going through the same challenge: hunting for the coolest gadget or toy for my son. I came across Nerf N-Strike Elite Terrascout Remote Control Drone Blaster. That’s a mouthful of a name, but in short, it’s a remote controlled tank that shoots relatively safe Nerf darts. I am going to call it Nerf Tank; I really don’t know why they called it a drone; it doesn’t fly.
Hasbro has an exclusive deal with Toys-R-Us so that’s the only place you can buy it. You can buy it from stores or order it online with free shipping. The tank makes a $218 hole in your pocket, which is a lot for a toy, so is it worth that much money?
What’s in the box
The tank comes with a battery powered Elite Rapidstrike gun (with built in camera for live feed), a dart clip that can hold up to 18 darts, a pack of darts, the tank body, a 9.6v NiMh battery, a remote controller with LCD screen, and a battery charger.
Assembling the tank is relatively easy. Open the battery compartment under the belly of the tank using a Philips head screwdriver, connect the included battery and close the cover. Then plug the connectors from the gun to the tank and slide the gun through the grooves of the tank body, you should hear a clicking sound. Make sure to connect the wires before sliding the gun into the compartment as you won’t be able to remove the gun once installed.
Now open the battery compartment of the controller and insert 4 AA batteries. If you want recording capabilities, insert an SD card into the slot right above the barrel of the gun. Don’t forget to format the card as FAT32 from your PC.
The tank supports four 2.4GHz wireless channels so that you can use different remote controlled vehicles without any interference. Make sure that both tank and controller are on the same channel. Now turn on both units, the LCD screen on the controller will display the pairing status. Once successfully paired you will see the video feed from the gun.
The controller comes with an LCD screen that displays very sharp video from the gun so you can hide in a safe place and take your tank into the enemy’s territory. You can start recording video stream from the camera onto the SD card by hitting the recording button.
There are two sticks to control the movement of the tank and two triggers to control the gun. The left trigger controls the angle of the gun so that you can aim precisely, whereas the right trigger shoots the darts. You can shoot single darts by clicking on the trigger once; you actually have to hold it for at least 30 seconds as it uses an electric motor-based mechanism to shoot darts. To shoot, just press and hold the trigger and it will empty the whole clip in under 5 seconds.
What’s good about it
As someone who is heavily into remote-controlled cars, I fell in love with this ‘tank’ immediately. The tread tracks on the Nerf Tank enable it to go anywhere: crushing the roadblock of monster trucks, or soft toys and even pillows. Nothing comes between this tank and its target.
I must say that the controls are not super smooth. The moment you move the stick it zaps into that direction. But the good thing is that they are super sensitive so if you go gently you can get a very slow and smooth movement that you would expect from a tank. That said, it’s loud enough so you are not going to catch your kid off guard and attack his army. This tank declares its presence.
The best feature of the tank is the live feed. I own several Traxxas trucks and I wish they would have the live video feed, similar to drones so that I could see where I was going. I am working on a Raspberry Pi based project to add live video feed for my trucks. When I discovered live video feed, I was salivating.
I can hide behind the couch and take my tank into dangerous territory without getting shot by my enemy. I can use the video to aim precisely and take my target down without wasting bullets. On top of that, I can record video so I can brag about my warfare later.
What’s not so good
It’s a neat toy but Hasbro made a few mistakes that could have been avoided with better engineering. First of all, I don’t like the position of the clip, it pops out from the side and hits objects when you drive through the rough terrain of your house. They could have made it top mounted to clear all sides.
In the age of 4k HDR videos, I was expecting at least 1080p video recording. While the controller display is very sharp, when you look at the recorded videos, you feel depressed. Miniature cameras are super cheap and Hasbro could have easily used a 1080p camera with the device without bumping the price.
I found that once you install the gun, you can’t dismount it from the tank. If you want to repack or store it or want to fix the disconnected wires, you can’t easily dismount it.
Should you buy it?
$218 is not a small amount. In my experience, it’s a cool toy if you are into Nerf warfare. Since Nerf uses standard darts and clips, you can reuse them for other Nerf guns. In addition, it’s probably not a toy your kid will play with every day. It’s for once in awhile when you are in the mood for a fight and you take your weapons out. When you have parties with kids around, you can pull it out and start some Nerf warfare. In my opinion, it’s not a one-time Christmas gift, it can also be seen as an investment on a toy that you can use over time.
I have not yet shown the tank to my son; it’s his present for Christmas. But if he liked it enough I may get one more so that he and I could have tank fights from the safety of the couch.
Now the bigger question is are you going to drop $218 for that kind of entertainment? I will, what about you?
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