Growing up, there was a nice man in my neighborhood who flew a radio controlled airplane that he made from a kit. I remember specifically that the wings were attached to the fuselage with rubber bands. He would fly his plane on sunny summer afternoons, and all the kids in the neighborhood would gather to watch. That is when I first became fascinated by radio-controlled vehicles.
While the u-Control Silver Bullet RC Helicopter is not quite in the same league as that plane from my youth, it is a pretty cool flying gizmo that won't tax your gift-giving budget.
In the box:
- Mini helicopter
- Remote control
- Instruction manual
- Extra rotor and stabilizer blades (you will need them eventually)
Not in the box:
- Six (6) double AA batteries
- Entry to battery compartment requires a Phillips-head screwdriver
- Recommended for ages eight (8) and up
- Cost: $29.95 on Amazon
- Vendor information
What I likeIt flies: While it would seem that a product claiming to be a flying helicopter would actually fly, I was skeptical. But my skepticism proved to be unfounded because the Silver Bullet does indeed fly. Stabilizing rotor blades: Not only does it fly, but with tiered rotor blades to stabilize the flight orientation, you can keep the helicopter upright and prevent it from spinning uncontrollably. Simple setup: The u-Control Silver Bullet RC Helicopter is simple to set up. The controller operates on six AA batteries, and the helicopter itself charges in about 20 minutes. There are only three RC channels to worry about, and the helicopter is given an operating channel at the factory. Simple controls: The controller has only three functions: throttle, left/right direction, and trim. Trim is what keeps the Silver Bullet from spinning and is the one thing that really must be adjusted by the pilot during the initial flight. Price: At only $29.95, the u-Control Silver Bullet RC Helicopter is very inexpensive and a decent value. Durable: As an indoor flying vehicle, it is inevitable that your mini-helicopter is going to crash into walls, floors, ceilings, lamps, tables, and just about everything you have in the room it is flying in. But even with all that crashing, the Silver Bullet keeps flying.
What I don't likeLack of flight control: The u-Control Silver Bullet RC Helicopter is really a toy, which means that it lacks the subtle control that a more advanced and expensive RC flying machine possesses. Serious hobbyists in this space tend to scoff at these "toy" mini helicopters. Frequent recharging: The Silver Bullet only weighs a few ounces, which means the onboard battery must be extremely small. The small battery means that you have to recharge the vehicle often. In our testing, you can get about 10 minutes of flying with a 20 minute charge time. It will break: While the u-Control Silver Bullet RC Helicopter is remarkably sturdy, it will eventually break. The box includes replacement rotor blades in anticipation that the original blades will become non-functional at some point.
Geek bottom line
The u-Control Silver Bullet RC Helicopter is a decent value and will certainly please the geek in your life, at least for awhile. Flying the helicopter around and trying to keep it aloft and away from obstacles is fun, but I can see the allure wearing off eventually; but at $29.95, that may be enough. However, if you are looking to really get into the radio-controlled flying vehicle hobby, you will most likely want to seek out more sophisticated products.
Geek gift score (out of 5)
- Fun factor: ****
- Geek factor: ***
- Value: ***
- Overall: ***
Want more reviews of tech gadgets and gizmos? Download the PDF of TechRepublic's Geek Gift Guide 2010.
Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.