After Hours

Geek Gifts 2008: The RC Battle Tank Type 90

Think Geek sent us the RC Battle Tank Type 90 to review for our annual Geek Gift Guide. We took our battle tank for a little field testing and came away more than a little disappointed.

At the risk of revealing my age again, I missed the radio controlled toy craze. My toys relied on gravity and kinetics for their movement. I would love to have my SSP Laker Special again -- now that is a cool Geek Gift. But I must admit, radio controlled vehicles are pretty darn cool too.

And so, I was filled with great anticipation when I was given the assignment to test and review the RC Battle Tank Type 90. An appreciative shout-out goes to Think Geek for sending us one of these for the review. Alas, though, after mere minutes of opening the box I was gravely disappointed.


You can get a good look at the RC Battle Tank Type 90 in a TechRepublic Photo Gallery. A PDF version of this Geek Gift Guide is also available in a TechRepublic Download.



I guess we should have known what we were in for since there is no company name to be found anywhere on the box or in the documentation.

After removing the Battle Tank from the box one of the first things you notice is that our tank is really a 1/24 size sort of replica of a U.S. M1 Abrams tank. The strange thing is that no where on the box or in the sparse documentation does it say that -- makes me think that the U.S. military declined to grant the manufacturer, whomever that may be, a license to use any official language in their descriptions.

The second thing you notice is that the Battle Tank is cheap, cheap, cheap. The materials are cheap, the construction is cheap, and the electronics are cheap. Even the batteries are some cheap off-brand. For something with a strong name like "Battle Tank," it sure is one flimsy toy. For example as I was putting in the battery pack in the bottom of the tank, the hatch door on top of the tank broke off. And I don't mean it got knocked off -- it literally broke at the hinges. Cheap!

The motors inside the tanks seemed to be quite powerful, (we'll find out when we crack it open) but I think they are too powerful for the way the tank was constructed. I took our tank outside for a spin and the gearing on the drive shaft for one of the treads broke. The entire gear was stripped of its spines -- all I did was drive it about 10 feet.

The radio control unit is shaped like a handle and is easy to use, but it too is made very cheaply. The buttons feel fragile and I am sure they will eventually break from just normal use. And heaven-forbid you should drop it -- I doubt it would survive the fall intact.

The air-cannon shoots plastic BBs with a range of around 20-feet. That definitely puts the cannon in the "not for little kids" category. The projectiles leave the tank with enough velocity to do damage to soft tissue like an eye. The BBs are also small, which means that they are difficult to find once they are fired from the tank, which also makes them prime size for little children to swallow.

The whole experience with this Battle Tank was plain disappointing.

What I like

  • Radio controlled tank
  • Powerful motors
  • Air cannon is powerful

What I don't like

  • Cheaply constructed
  • Not a very good replica of an M1 Abrams
  • Poor tread drive design that guarantees quick failure
  • Lack of fine controls -- every movement is full out -- no subtlety
  • Disappointment the cheapness creates when the tank breaks mere minutes after the package is opened

Bottom line

I can think of no better way to sum up my review of the RC Battle Tank Type 90 than CHEAP! Everything about it is cheap with very little to redeem it. While the tank is obviously not designed for children and the rough play they would put it through, it is hardly suited for adult collectors or hobbyists since it has almost no value as a replica of the real thing. The whole thing has the aura of a quick way to bilk $40 out of an unsuspecting consumer.

Geek Gift Score

  • Fun factor: *
  • Geek factor: **
  • Value: *
  • Overall: *


Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to,, and TechRepublic.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I know what some of are you going to say: I was too rough with the RC Battle Tank Type 90, but that is not true. I swear on my TechRepublic ball point pen that all I did was drive it down the sidewalk. If somebody out there has purchased this RC tank and has had a different experience, please share it with us. Maybe I got a lemon.


Yes, as surprising as it may seem, the Self Defense Forces of Japan have a 50 ton Main Battle Tank called the Type 90. Introduced in the late 80's early 90's the tank was modeled after the German Leopard 2 and American M1 tanks. Some have even gone so far to call the Type 90 the most expensive main battle tank in the world. From your review though, I think your RC model has nothing on the real deal.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Go into a novelty or tourist trap shop and you'll get what I mean. "Good Enough" quality to provide a fun novelty toy but I wouldn't have expected the quality you get from a branded full out R/C toy or the old J.I. Joe toy tank. The choppers are the same. Those little hand launched R/C (IR controlled) choppers have a wide range of quality. I have the bell chopper design at home and it's a fun toy in the living room but it's more a game of keeping it in the are within a range of elevation rather than "flying around the room". The steering by rudder prop is pretty basic. Your looking at 30$ for that one too I think. The more streamlined Airwolf like foam bodied chopper seems to provide a better build quality and usable pivot from the rutter control. It's about the same price range. The advantage is that both of those will take a beating. I regularily pull my hands off the controls if I'm loosing it, already hit something and blown the flight stability or have it going towards someone else in the room. The most dramatic was sending it up to avoide someone which instead bouncedit off the cealing. The blade impact sent the body spinning back towards the earth where the spinning plastic then got hungup on some stuff on the floor with a couple of thwacking sounds. To make it more dramatic, it was one of the times the system jams "on" so it kept skittering and spinning about until the control came into view again. (every one in ten or one in twenty times I remove my hand from the blade speed control, it misses the signal from the IR transmitter and sticks "wide open".) The one I want to get now is the much better quality 70$'ish dollar hand top chopper. It used to be availabe from Thinkgeek but does not seem to be on the page currently. It's a minmal wire body instead of the more toy'ish replica bodies. Two props on top counterspid for lift and pivot control. The prop on the back is possitioned facing up so that it controls tilt for forward or backward movememnt. The other choppers are balanced to always be moving foward allowing life and pivot control. This one actually hovers provding foward backward control in addition to life and pivot. It doesn't look like it will take the abuse of constant crashes like the more toy'ish ones though so I'll have to make a habbit of landing it nicely instead of simply aborting mid-flight and catching or picking it up. I found your analysis pretty dead on for the quality of the tank, or expected quality. If it was meant to be a higher quality toy those negative points would be much more negative.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Thanks for the addtional information - I must admit my knowledge of military hardware, espeically Japanese military hardware, if very limited.

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