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!

We then cover our top three picks for ready-to-run (RTR) car and truck combo kits. When we say "combo", we mean you get everything you need in the box, including battery and charger. These include a 1/18-scale and two 1/10-scale models, starting at $130.

Typhon

Next, we have our four "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 models 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 more advanced chargers. Note that most of these models also have high-end "brushless" motors, which run faster and are more durable than standard "brushed" motors, which have physical brushes sending power to the motor's commutator.

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.

Radio Controlled Vehicles - Winter 2018

    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 4WD Mini-Buggy:

    Team Associated Reflex 4WD Buggy 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 9" 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. This little wonder will easily tackle the driveway and short grass in style!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This package comes with everything you need, including a transmitter, battery, and charger. Just add four AA batteries and go!

    1/10-Scale 2WD Truck:

    Arrma Fazon Voltage Speed Truck RTR Combo

    Welcome to the new standard-bearer for what you can get at under $150. The Fazon Voltage is a two-wheel-drive truck modeled after classic race-bred "stadium trucks". It's fast, maneuverable, and highly-affordable. While you can find "monster trucks" in this price class, we strongly prefer this style of race truck, as it's faster on-road, and to really tackle serious off-road conditions, you need a more powereful four-wheel-drive model, like the one below.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This package comes with everything you need, including a transmitter, battery, and charger. Just add four AA batteries and go! To bring the price down so low, Arrma uses individual 18650 1500MAh lithium-ion batteries, and while the kit comes with two, you can add four more for a total of 6 in your vehicle to get nearly 30 minutes of run time! Note that it can also use standard NIMH and LiPo RC-specific packs.

    1/10-Scale 4WD Truck:

    Arrma Granite 4x4 Monster Truck RTR Combo

    Arrma has established itself as the most innovative manufacturer of radio-controlled cars and trucks on the market. Rather that rest on its laurels and market the same product for 20 years, like one of its big-name competitors, Arrma refreshes its products on a regular basis, and this brand-new model is simply smashing expectations of what buyers can get for under $250. The Granite is a true 4WD truck, which means it can really tackle the toughest terrain, unlike all the two-wheel-drive "monster trucks" on the market!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This package comes with everything you need, including a transmitter, battery, and charger. Just add four AA batteries and go!

    1/10 Scale 4WD Brushless 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 $125 for a LiPo battery back and charger, which we recommend later in this guide.

    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, plus effective four-wheel steering, this monster truck will bring a smile to everyone's face.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This kit includes the truck and transmitter, but you'll need to budget an extra $125 for a LiPo battery back and charger, which we recommend later in this guide.

    1/8 Scale 4WD Brushless 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 LiPo batteries with XT90-type connectors to power it up, along with a charger. We provide our recommendations 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 "3S" to start with.

    1/8 Scale 4WD Brushless Monster Truck:

    Arrma Outcast 4WD Monster Truck

    Welcome to the world of serious big-scale monster trucks! At nearly 21" long and around 12 pounds loaded up with batteries, this is a true beast. With a powerful 4WD platform, you can go off road, perform intense tricks, or just have fun out on the street. It offers all the bashability, speed, and upgrades you could want!

    The Guru's Tip:

    The Outcast 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 at least one LiPo battery with an XT90 connector to run, 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 the 1/10-scale Team Redcat and Axial models above, which don't include a battery in the box, or as an upgrade to the packs included with the Arrma 1/10-scale vehicles.

    The Guru's Tip:

    To properly charge this battery, you'll need a LiPo-compatible charger (scroll down for our recommendation), and you'll always want to use the balanced charge option, which individually charges the cells in the pack for greater performance and safety.

    3S LiPo Pack w/ XT90 Connector:

    Duratrax LiPo Onyx 3S 11.1V 5000mAh 35C XT90

    This is the battery you'll want to start with if you're going with one of Arrma's 1/8-scale vehicles. They are designed to run either one or two packs together, and we suggest you start with a single 3S pack, see if it's fast enough for you, and if you need more power, just add a second pack for extreme speeds (as in over 50mph!). One 3S pack puts out 11.1V, while two together offer a shocking 22.2V of ground-pounding power!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that the XT90 connectors used by this pack are for Arrma 1/8-scale models only, and are not compatible with the Deans-style connectors used by 1/10-scale vehicles from Arrma, Axial, or Team Redcat.

    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 any of the 1/10-scale vehicles listed in this guide. 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.