Mavic Pro

While The Tech Buyer's Guru started back in 2013 with a focus on PCs, that doesn't mean we don't have a bit to say about a whole lot of other tech. So we've put together this concise guide to "RC", including radio-controlled drones, cars, and trucks, for all our readers who want to get outside with their tech!

We've broken the guide down into four categories. Given that drones are all the rage, we start with our top two drone picks, both from DJI, the clear market leader. While there are countless copies out there vying for your hard-earned dollars, we recommend that if you'd like to enter the hobby and actualy stick with it, you avoid all the $100 and $200 kits out there. DJI's premium drones will have you flying in no time, and will keep you flying for a long time to come!

Dromida

We then cover our top four picks for ready-to-run RC car and truck combo kits. When we say "combo", we mean you get everything you need in the box, including battery and charger. Among the picks is the diminutive Dromida 1/18-Scale 4WD Touring Car pictured here. We also have some great 1/10-scale truck picks in a number of styles to suit various drivers.

Typhon

Next, we have our premium car and truck picks, including the stunning Arrma Typhon 1/8-scale 4WD buggy you see here. These models come ready to run out of the box with a transmitter, but do not include batteries or chargers. The advantage to this type of setup is that you get to pick your own, which means you'll be getting much better gear that charges faster and runs harder!

Finally, we have the battery and charging accessories you'll need for the premium models. These kits all run on lithium polymer (LiPo) batteries, which provide far greater capacity and consistency than standard nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries used in lower-cost vehicles, but require special equipment to charge.

Prices shown in this guide use Amazon's real-time pricing engine, so they are always up-to-date. If you decide to purchase one of the cards we profile, please use the links we provide, which helps support continued development of this guide. Note that due to limited availability of these products around the world, we can't always link to products in the other markets we follow (Canada, the UK, and Germany), but we've included links when possible.

Radio Controlled Drones, Cars, and Trucks - Summer 2017

    The Drone for Everyone:

    DJI Spark Fly More Combo

    DJI shocked the drone world when it announced the Spark at $500, as it had never really targeted the "mid-range" market before. In our opinion, however, enthusiasts will want to skip right past the $500 offering and go for the "Fly More" combo at $700, which includes a controller. Yes, you can control this drone via your phone or even via gestures, but serious flyers will want two sticks to get them around!

    The Guru's Tip:

    All the equipment you'll need is included in the Fly More combo, including propeller guards, a second battery, and yes, the all-important controller!

    The High-End Drone:

    DJI Mavic Pro

    Enthusiasts had been waiting what seemed like a lifetime for DJI to release an acrobatic drone, as all its previous offerings were targeted towards videographers. When the Mavic Pro finally hit the market in late 2016, it sold out immediately, with many buyers waiting months to get one. We were lucky enough to test it out at the DJI booth at CES, and to be clear, its name is appropriate - it will make you feel like a pro from the moment you set your fingers on the control sticks. It is simply amazing to pilot this ultra-stable, ultra-maneuverable drone! And with a 4K camera onboard, you'll still be able to take some pretty sweet videos!

    The Guru's Tip:

    The fact that the Mavic Pro can fold up small enough to fit just about anywhere is just icing on the cake. It's really the perfect high-end drone.

    1/18 Scale Onroad Car:

    Dromida 1/18 4WD Touring Car RTR Combo

    This is the perfect starting point for anyone (and specifically younger enthusiasts) just getting into RC. This small car is just over one pound and 11" long, meaning it's quite portable, fitting easily into a backpack. Offering a four-wheel-drive platform, it's ultra-stable, which will make it a lot more satisfying for new users to control than the typical 2WD car. Plus, it will be plenty fast without veering into extreme territory. Yes, you can buy expensive "souped-up" 1/18-scale cars, but they are too fast for their platforms, as even cracks in the pavement will send them flying!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This package includes absolutely everything you need, from the car to the controller to the charger to the batteries - both the pack for the car and the AAs for the controller!

    1/10 Scale 2WD Short Course Truck:

    Arrma Fury Mega RTR Combo

    Arrma is taking the RC world by storm, and its Fury Mega is a great entry into the ultra-competitive short-course truck arena. Short course trucks are somewhat unique among off-road RC vehicles in that they have bodies that cover their wheels, which is great for close-quarters racing, where getting tires tied up with other cars ends in a big stack for everyone! Another advantage of this class of RC car is that the tires are well-suited to both pavement and dirt.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Overall, short course trucks are more of a racing class, which is one reason they are so popular at this point, but for average users who just want to play around the yard, some of the other truck options in this guide will be better picks, due to having more ground clearance and bigger tires.

    1/10 Scale 2WD Stadium Truck:

    Traxxas Rustler XL-5 RTR Combo

    Traxxas is by far the biggest name in RC, and that's in part because it's made the marketing push necessary to be in practically every hobby shop in the world. That's a great thing for folks starting out in the hobby, because you can get advice and parts just about anywhere. It also means that there are tons of other users out there to share advice on using and upgrading your Traxxas vehicle. The two-wheel-drive Rustler is fast, durable, and agile, making it the perfect Traxxas model for just about anyone. Plus, it comes with a potent 8.4v NiMH battery and charger. Alas, the charger will only work in a DC "cigarette lighter" jack, so you'll need to buy the Traxxas AC adapter to charge the battery in the house.

    The Guru's Tip:

    While the Traxxas Stampede 2WD Monster Truck may be more popular, the Rustler, based on the same platform, is really the better vehicle overall, as 2WD monster trucks are a bit of an oxymoron. They just can't go everywhere you'd like, and don't handle well on pavement, where you'll likely end up using them a lot. That makes the Rustler a better use of this venerable 2WD platform.

    1/10 Scale 2WD Race Truck:

    Team Associated RC10T 4.3 RTR Combo

    This is a setup we personally run, and if you want to experience the style and grace of a true race-bred vehicle, this is the one to start with. Based on the legendary RC10 offroad buggy, the RC10T "Stadium Truck" takes everything up a notch to make it more accessible (and more fun) for everyone. With bigger tires and more ground clearance, it can go places buggies can't, but it retains the race-bred handling that Team Associated is known for. No, we don't recommend jumping this truck down a flight of stairs, but for enjoying a truck that can make you feel like a race car driver, this is the one! By the way, this model uses a "brushless" motor, which is more powerful and can handle higher voltage than older-style brushed motors used in less expensive kits.

    The Guru's Tip:

    What's fantastic about this kit is that you get everything you need in the box. That includes a charger and a LiPo battery, a very rare feature in combo kits. Typically, you get just a NiMH battery. With its combination of a brushless motor and LiPo battery, this is basically an ultra-premium RC vehicle at a bargain price!

    1/10 Scale 4WD Monster Truck:

    Team Redcat TR-MT10E

    The MT10E has revolutionized the RC Monster Truck class with its awesome combination of style, power, and durability. With a potent 4000kV brushless motor, 4WD drivetrain, and huge, grippy tires, this monster truck can tackle any terrain, yet it still handles well enough to take a fast turn without flipping, which is more than we can say for many monster trucks out there. It even has LED headlights! There's just no question that the MT10E is currently among the very best brushless 1/10-scale monster trucks on the market, and most certainly the best value!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This kit includes the truck and transmitter, but you'll need to budget an extra $150 or so for a LiPo battery back and charger, which we recommend below.

    1/10 Scale 4WD Car Crusher:

    Axial AX90055 SMT10

    There are a lot of so-called "monster trucks" out there, but if you want a truck with true car-crushing power, this is the one for you. With gigantic tires, solid axles, and a durable 4WD drivetrain tuned for torque, this replica of the classic "Grave Digger" monster truck will bring a smile to everyone's face.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This kit comes fully assembled with a transmitter, but requires a LiPo battery and charger, which we recommend later in this guide.

    1/8 Scale 4WD Buggy:

    Arrma Typhon

    A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, four-wheel-drive 1/10 scale buggies ruled the roost. But that class of vehicle has practically gone extinct, as trucks have taken over the 1/10-scale world. Luckily, the glory of 4WD buggies lives on in the 1/8-scale world, and the very best vehicle you can find is Arrma's Typhon. It's beautiful to look at, and even better to drive. Its large scale provides it a durable, stable platform to hit absolutely-insane speeds, and its low center of gravity will make it a much more nimble driving companion than any truck could ever be. Alas, it's so popular that it's been sold out for months, but hopefully it will be available again soon!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that while this vehicle comes fully assembled and includes a transmitter, you'll need two 2S LiPo batteries with XT90-type connectors to power it up. We provide a recommendation for a two-pack kit later in this guide. While it can run on dual 3S batteries (or "6S") to allow it to hit speeds of up to 60mph, we suggest that most users stick with "4S" to start with.

    1/8 Scale 4WD Monster Truck:

    Arrma Big Rock

    Welcome to the world of serious big-scale monster trucks! At nearly 22" long and 14 pounds, this is a true beast. With a powerful 4WD platform and the amazing Diff Brain feature for on-the-fly locking of the three differentials, you can turn this into a stunt truck, crawler, or drifter without laying off the gas (or should we say amps?!?). This is truly Arrma's finest truck, offering all the bashability, speed, and upgrades you can get!

    The Guru's Tip:

    The Big Rock probably isn't the vehicle we'd recommend to a first-timer, but it might just be the last RC truck you'll ever need. Just keep in mind that it requires two 2S LiPo batteries with XT90 connectors to power it up, which we recommend later in this guide.

    2S LiPo w/ Deans Connector:

    Gens Ace 5000mAh 50C 2S 7.4V LiPo

    Gens Ace has some secret sauce that makes their well-priced LiPo packs go like none other, and this 5000mAh 50C 2S pack is the one we recommend for all of the 1/10-scale models above that don't include a battery in the box. Want the fun times to last longer? Pick up two packs so you'll always have one in reserve!

    The Guru's Tip:

    To properly charge these batteries, you'll need a LiPo-compatible charger (listed below), and you'll always want to use the balanced charge option, which individually charges the cells in the pack for greater performance and safety.

    Dual 2S LiPo Packs w/ XT90 Connector:

    PowerHobby 2S 7.4V 5200mAh 50C Lipo

    This is the battery kit you'll want to start with if you're going with one of Arrma's 1/8-scale vehicles. They are designed to run two packs together, which means you'll have the equivalent of a "4S" pack, i.e. 14.8 volts. That's a heck of a lot of power! Remember, to properly charge these batteries, you'll need a LiPo-compatible charger (listed below), and you'll always want to use the balanced charge option, which individually charges the batteries in the pack for greater performance and safety.

    The Guru's Tip:

    While it may be tempting to pick up this 2-pack kit for vehicles other than Arrma's 1/8-scale models, don't! The XT90 connectors are not compatible with the Deans-style connectors used on the Associated, Axial, and Redcat models we recommend in this guide.

    Charger:

    Venom Pro Duo 80W X2 Dual Charger

    Why buy one charger when you can have two packed into a single box? That's what you get with the awesome Venom Pro Duo, which has enough power to charge two batteries simultaneously at 7 Amps, making it more than powerful enough for any of the vehicles recommended in this guide. And with two "balance boards" in the box, you can properly charge two LiPo batteries simultaneously. It even includes a huge assortment of adapters, including the Deans-style connector you'll need if you're running an Associated, Axial, or Redcat model. Want to charge two Deans-type batteries at once? Simply pick up a second Deans charging lead!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that if you'll be running dual XT90 packs for Arrma 1/8-scale vehicles, you'll need to pick up two XT90 banana plug charging adapters, as the Venom doesn't include them in the box.

    LiPo Charging Bag:

    Apex RC Large Lipo Battery Bag

    Anyone using Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries would be well-advised to invest in this fireproof bag. If you've followed the tech news over the past few years, you probably know there have been more than a few problems with lithium batteries in smartphones, and the high-capacity batteries in RC vehicles are even more potent, so taking precautions when charging and storing them is the right thing to do.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This bag is large enough to fit three standard-sized LiPo batteries.