One of the best things about being a Gadgeteer is that I get the chance to
play with all the toys that I never had as a child. We didn’t have all that much
going up, so I’m really making up for it now. :o) It also helps that I’m still a
big kid at heart! One genre of toys that I never experienced as a kid were
remote controlled cars. Back then, they weren’t wireless, they usually had a
handheld controller requiring several D cell batteries and a cord going from the
controller to the car itself. "But in those days, we didn’t know any better, and
we liked it!"
Like all things, even toys have evolved. These days we have little radio
controlled cars like the Bit Char-G that I
reviewed last year, and now there are even Infrared controlled cars! That’s
right… the same technology that you use to change channels on your TV can be
used to race itty bitty cars.
The DigiQ MicroIR Car made by Takara
and available from
Sigma Automotive is just such a car. This tiny (the world’s 2nd smallest as
of this writing) plastic car, is about 2in (50mm) in length and weighs 0.7oz
(21g). Available in a variety of body styles and colors, I was sent a little
yellow Beetle for review.
Unlike the Bit Char-G which required assembly, the DigiQ comes fully
assembled ready for
action. All you need are 4 AA batteries for the controller, and you’re good to
go. Well, wait a minute, I lied. First you have to charge the dual Ni-MH
batteries in the car before it will run.
Charging the DigiQ is done thru the controller. The controller itself is a
sturdy pistol shaped plastic device that has a ‘trigger’ for forward and
backward motion and a steering wheel for left and right motion. 4 AA batteries
power the controller and are housed in the handle or grip of the controller. One
side of the controller has a charging dock for the car, and the other side is
the location for the various car controls.
Unlike the Bit Char-G, the charging dock is spring loaded and very easy to
use. It takes little effort to engage and disengage the car from the dock.
The other side of the controller has a large rubber tire (that’s what it
looks like to me) which is used to steer the car. Next to it is a Charging
LED, an Easy / Normal mode switch, Car ID selector switch, Power switch and a
trim potentiometer. The charging LED glows red while the car is attached to the
dock and charging, and turns green when the charge is complete. The Easy /
Normal switch is basically a means to slow down the car making it easier to
control. Easy mode is just that, easy. The Car ID selector allows you to control
up to 4 different cars with one controller. Each car has an ID (1 thru 4) which
can not be changed and is embossed on the bottom of the car. The Power switch
turns the controller on and off. The trim potentiometer allows you to adjust the
drift of the car so that it can drive in as straight a line as possible.
The top of the controller has a power LED that glows red when the controller
is powered on. There is also a hot-shoe similar to a flash hot-shoe on a camera
which can be used with an optional IR booster module.
The front of the controller ‘gun’ is the IR eye. You point this in the
direction of the car when you are steering it.
Like I said before, the car is tiny and is also very sturdy feeling. I think
it feels a bit more robust than the Bit Char-G. Instead of having a wire antenna
that sticks out of the top of the car, the DigiQ has a very small IR bubble on
top. On the bottom of the car is an on/off switch and that’s all. The back
wheels have rubber tires and the front wheels have hard plastic tires. Unlike
the Bit Char-G cars, the DigiQ can’t be customized with different engines,
bodies and tires. Basically, what you see is what you get.
Before you can start playing with the DigiQ, you must first charge it. This
is where gripe #1 comes in. It takes 10mins to charge the DigiQ. OUCH! That’s a
long time when you’re waiting to play with a toy! However, for that 10mins
of waiting you get 15mins of play time which is MUCH longer than Bit Char-G’s
5mins of play time.
When I first heard about this car, I didn’t believe that an IR controlled car
would work all that well. I was sure that you would have to be close to it with
the IR controller in order to control it. I was pleasantly surprised at just how
well the IR control worked, even as far away as 12ft or so. What was most surprising was the fact that I could
still control the car even when it was somewhat out of sight.
In Easy mode, the DigiQ is actually a little difficult to steer, but in
Normal mode it is almost impossible. The problem is that the DigiQ is fast! It
is actually 4x faster than other micro r/c cars. It is also 2 wheel drive. The
back wheels are rubber, but the front wheels are hard plastic. This hinders
traction… As such, it’s really easy to flip the car over when turning a sharp
curve. Steering backwards is a lost cause as the car will go in circles instead
of a straight line. My advice is to not play on a table top as you’ll be
spending more time stooping to pick the car up off the floor then actually
racing it. The best surface for racing is a wooden or vinyl floor. Carpet really
doesn’t work all that well unless it has a short pile. The DigiQ I had for
review ran fine on my Berber carpet though.
Although the DigiQ is fun to play with, the fact that it is hard to steer
and control detracts somewhat from the fun factor for me. Maybe I just need more
practice with it… Regardless, it is a sturdy wireless car that older kids and
kids at heart can have fun with.
Price: $35 – $60 depending on the model
15mins of play time per charge
No antenna sticking out of car
Takes 10mins to charge the battery
Hard to steer. Especially when driving backwards