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All of the products reviewed here have been bought with my own money and nobody pays me for the time I spend writing these articles.

If you find any of this stuff useful and/or would like to see RCModelReviews continue to publish material like this then please consider making a small donation towards the operation of the site.

 

My Credentials
So who's doing this reviewing then?

Well I've been building and flying or driving radio controlled models for over 40 years and during that time I like to think I've built up a reasonable amount of knowledge.

I'm also a qualified electronics engineer who has worked in radio frequency, analog, digital systems and software for more than three decades. In fact I designed and built my first RC set back in 1969.

For the past nine years I've also been involved in the design and manufacture of some rather sophisticated engine technology and UAV flight control systems.

So, chances are I've been there, done that and have a huge pile of tee shirts to prove it.

Right now I'm heavily into 3D flying and enjoy all aspects of the RC hobby. I may be old but I don't feel it.

In the Pipeline

Here's just a little bit of what's to come on this site...

RC explained: Demystifying terms such as PCM, PPM dual conversion, single conversion, full-range etc., this feature will explain it all.

Cheap Chinese Engines: Just how good are those cheap Chinese glow and gas engines that sell for half the price of their "brand-name" equivalent? I put several to the test.

Build your own radio gear?: Back in the old days, building your own RC gear was not uncommon and now the arrival of 2.4GHz has made it practical again.

 

Cheap Chinese Servos

HOW DO THEY STACK UP?

For a long time there was a very limited choice of servo brands.

Futaba, JR and Hitec were the main servo manufacturers and although their offerings have always been of excellent quality, the prices have also been quite high.

And then the Chinese started making servos that they now sell under a wide number of different brands.

But are they any good?

When a single faulty servo can cause a very expensive crash, is it really worth trying to save a few dollars by purchasing a cheap servo from an unknown manufacturer?

Testing servos

Over coming months I'll be testing an increasing number of different Chinese-made servos of all types and brands.

Right now I'm building a test-rig that will automatically plot speeds, accuracy, centering, overshoot, torque, current-draw and other important aspects of a servo's performance.

But in the meantime, I've rounded up a few good and bad examples.

The Good

I've had very good success with the following servos:

  • Hextronic HXT900 (cheap, powerful light)
  • Scanner RC servos (powerful light, reliable)
  • Vigor VS2 (very cheap and good value)

I'll be posting more in-depth reviews of these little gems shortly.

The Bad

Perhaps the worst servos I've ever had the misfortune to waste my money on are the TowerPro MG995 hi-torque metal-geared servos you often see advertised on eBay and various online model shops.

These are an extremely heavy servo with poor accuracy, massive amounts of over-shoot, highly variable centering and low levels of reliability. While I might be prepared to risk one on an old model truck or buggy, I most certainly would not dare to use one on a model airplane.

And despite what some of the ads claim, these are not coreless servos. In fact one of the reasons they perform so poorly is that they use a heavy 3-pole motor that has lots of inertia.

An updated version of this servo (marketed as the Toward Pro MG996R) is quite a bit better in its accuracy and centering but, because it uses the same cheap parts, still can't be considered a servo worth trusting an expensive model to.

The Rest

Right now I have a desk littered with servos of all sizes, shapes and brands so the testing task ahead of me is somewhat onerous -- but stay tuned because I'll gradually work my way through all the options and provide a detailed report on my findings.

Summary

Yes, the Chinese are getting their act together when it comes to making servos that can rival the big names but be very careful, there are some awfully bad designs out there and others that are quite badly assembled.

Those on the "What's Good" list can be purchased with some degree of certainty that they'll provide good service but if you're thinking of buying an unknown brand, be very careful.

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The Blog

Updated: 20 Sep 2012
Here's a blog that will keep you informed just what's going on behind the scenes at RC Model Reviews and also tells you a little more about myself.

How compatible are 2.4GHz RC systems?

23 Mar 2010
How come there's no compatibility between different brands of transmitters and receivers? Why can't you use a cheap Chinese receiver with your Futaba FASST radio?

How to get a product reviewed here

4 Mar 2010
Since this has become a very frequently asked question, I've posted this simple guide to getting your product, or a product you're thinking of buying reviewed here at RCModelReviews

How servos work

Useful information on what's inside your servos and how they work.

The Good Oil

Important facts you should know about the oils that are used in our model engine fuels.

Heads-Up: 2.4GHz RC systems tested

How well do five different 2.4GHz systems stack up when hit by interference? The answers are here, with more to come.

Review: Bushnell's $80 Speed Gun

Yes it does work on model airplanes but there are some limitations involved with this bargain-basement radar speed gun.

Review: TowerPro MG995 servo

These are possibly the world's worst servos, find out exactly why you should avoid these boat-anchors at any cost.

Review: SK90

2.4GHz

It's cheap but can it really stack up against other glow engines in the .90 market? Find out in this review.

Review: iMax 9X 2.4GHz radio

How does this cheap 9-channel 2.4GHz radio system perform when compared to big-name systems that can cost two or three times as much? Have the Chinese finally developed a real contender with the iMax 9X?

2.4GHz Explained

Does all this 2.4GHz stuff have your head spinning? 2.4GHz

I've done my best to demystify the whole subject so if you feel like a bit of learning, this is the stuff for you!

Fix That Engine!

How can you tell when your engine needs new bearings? Who has the best prices and service on replacements? Just how do you change them? Get all that information and watch a great video tutorial anyone can follow.

Chinese Servos - How do they stack up?

Servos

The Chinese are now churning out a huge number of very reasonably priced no-name servos. But are they any good?

Baffled by batteries?

Batteries Nicad, NiMH, Li-Ion, LiPoly, LiFePO4, A123... the range of different battery types has never been greater. So how do they differ and what type should you be using?

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