We've gone hands on with the Spy-C Android controlled tank, which actually packs quite a lot of cool tech at a pretty reasonable price.
The problem with devices like this - high tech toys - is that when you start packing them with kit to actually make them worth having, they quickly get to a price point where they are a much more considered purchase and far too valuable to let the kids near. ;)
A case in point is the Parrot AR.Drone 2 - i'd love one, but at around £280 it's a lot of money and i've been able to convince myself it's a bad idea.
The Spy-C Tank thankfully comes in a fair bit rather cheaper, at £99.99 including delivery from Maplin.
So what do you get for a shade under 100 quid? You get a cool looking tank with tracks on 4 'wheels', controlled by WiFi from your Android or iOS device (it turns itself into an access point that you connect to using the application from the Play Store). The tank has a camera with night vison that can be raised and lowered, a speaker and a microphone for 2 way audio and a propensity for scaring cats or small children when driven around the house.
Sounds pretty good right? So what's it like to drive around?
Good fun. The tank travels at a reasonable speed, the Android app isn't bad and has some particularly neat features like the ability to record a path travelled and play it back on demand (just make sure you set it off in the same place!). It's easy to drive using on screen controls or the accelerometer in your phone / tablet and the range using the WiFi connection is pretty good (a claimed 20m indoors / 60m in an unobstructed area). The tank will happily drive outside on the pavement / road but anything but the smoothest cricket pitch turf will likely prove too much for it's sufficient but not hugely powerful motors.
So that's the good, what are the negatives? At the price point there are inevitably some cut corners and the first one is the camera. The quality is mediocre at best and is a distinctly low resolution 320x240 for stills and video (which is recorded on your device). It works well in the dark using the night vision LEDs though. The batteries are regular AA items (6 of), decent rechargeables seem to give about 50 minutes to an hour of driving, after which they have to removed from the device (using a screwdriver or coin to open the battery bay) and charged. I find that a little frustrating, I would definitely have preferred a built in battery pack with a mains charger supplied but again, I guess you get what you pay for.
So you're not going to be shooting the next big hollywood blockbuster on it but the camera quality is sufficient for seeing where the tank is going as you drive it around, looking at 'targets' who can then be commanded using the two way audio (which again works well). All in all it's a good laugh and is definitely a great gadget gift for the geek who has everything.
It'd be awesome if the next version had a built in battery, a better camera and was powerful enough for outdoor use but well... it'd be more expensive then wouldn't it...
The Spy-C tank is £99.99 at Maplin.