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.
REVIEW: The WiSpy 2.4i Spectrum Analyzer for 2.4GHz
SEE WHAT YOU'RE FLYING IN
With most RC manufactures discontinuing their narrowband FM/PCM products in favor of 2.4GHz spread-spectrum versions, chances are that if you're not already flying on 2.4, you soon will be.
One of the key aspects of this new RC gear is that it has to contend with a wide range of signals generated not only by other RC systems but also from devices such as WiFi nodes, cordless phones, microwave ovens wireless keyboards etc.
There are some times (such as before test-flying a very expensive or potentially dangerous model) you might just want to have a "sniff" and see what else is cluttering the 2.4GHz band with noise.
Or maybe you're just curious about how your own system is making use of the band. Either way, you'll need a device called a spectrum analyzer (SA).
Until recently, SAs cost the earth and were quite large bits of gear but with the advance of technology, you can now get one that's as small as your thumb and can plug into your laptop at the field or your desktop PC at home.
What's more, a unit like the one reviewed here, the WiSpy 2.4i can be purchased for under $100.
While $99 may sound very cheap for a specrum analyzer, you might find yourself wondering if the WiSpy device is made of solid gold. That's because it's very small -- about the size of a USB drive and weighing in at just 0.3 ounces (8 grams).
Don't be deceived however, the folks at MetaGeek have packed an awful lot of functionality into this little device and on a bang-per-buck basis it's hard to beat.
Shipping and customer service
The review unit was purchased from MetaGeek themselves and they shipped it the very next day by FedEx. The product is great but FedEx sucks, their local contractor couldn't be bothered delivering it to my door so I had to travel to their depot to uplift it.
I'll give MetaGeek full marks for customer service though -- when they heard of FedEx's lousy performance, they immediately offered to refund the freight cost. I declined their kind offer because it wasn't their fault that FedEx dropped the ball but that's an excellent commmitment to customer satisfaction on their part and I'd certainly have no hesitation in recommending them as a supplier.
The device itself comes in a small cardboard box that does an excellent job of protecting it from the best efforts of freight carriers to crush things into oblivion.
Inside the box you'll find nothing more than the WiSpy USB device and a small card with instructions as to where the software can be downloaded.
There are Windows XP/Vista and Apple versions of the software.
I installed the software on a Windows PC which was pretty painless except for the fact that the Net2.0 framework and DirectX 9 drivers were also downloaded -- a process that took several minutes, even with my fast broadband connection.
Unfortunately the instal wizard doesn't create a desktop shortcut so that's something you'll have to do yourself.
Firing it up
Once the software is installed, firing up the analyzer is a simple matter of plugging the WiSpy hardware into a spare USB port and starting the Chanalyzer Lite program.
Within a few seconds you get the default views, consisting of three windows that show exactly what's happening on the 2.4GHz band.
It's obvious that this product is primarily targeted at those wanting to set up and trouble-shoot WiFi networks because the frequency line defaults initially to WiFi channel numbers rather than actual frequencies -- but this can be changed with the click of your mouse.
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.
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?
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
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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!
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The Chinese are now churning out a huge number of very reasonably priced no-name servos. But are they any good?
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