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
HOW GOOD IS IT?
The WiSpy device itself uses an internal antenna which means it is not as sensitive as an analyzer that uses an external dipole or other antenna. However, this is great for those wanting to just see what's going on around them and how their transmitter is using the band. Excess sensitivity could effectively swamp an analyzer like this and make it hard to interpret the readings.
I found that with a typical 2.4GHz RC transmitter placed between two and three feet from the WiSpy, I was getting readings that peaked at around -30dbm to -20dbm which is great.
Switching to the 3D view gives an impressive representation of just how "spread" a system's signal really is, both by frequency and time (although there's no extra information involved -- it's just presented differently).
The WiSpy 2.4i is the baby of MetaGeek's USB-based spectrum analyzer product range and as such, it doesn't have all the features of their more expensive products -- but most of the time, the average RC flier won't need much more than a snapshot of the band they're planning to fly in. This makes the WiSpy 2.4i a very good deal.
Although I have built my own spectrum analyzer (and sold a few to other modellers) those units are designed specifically to be carried aloft in a model so as to get a bird's eye view fo the band and have just a small monochrome LCD display. The WiSpy device is more flexible and the user-interface makes great use of color so I intend to use it to document all future 2.4GHz system reviews here at RCModelReviews.
The great software and the ease with which I can grab a screen shot for inclusion on the site make it a wonderful tool. The LCD display on my own units pales into insignificance when compared to the results you can get from the WiSpy product and Chanalyzer-lite software on used a laptop or desktop PC screen.
It's hard to find fault with this product. It's affordable, comes with nice software and does exactly what MetaGeek claim it does.
MetaGeek also seem to provide top-notch support by way of their online forum and there's even some third-party software available for platforms such as Linux. This would seem to open many doors...
For instance, how about a WiSpy-based noise alarm at your club. This could be a PC or laptop that uses the WiSpy system to "keep an eye" on the 2.4GHz band and sound an alarm if the noise level rises above some predefined level.
In summary, I love this product and am uber-impressed with MetaGeek's service.
At under $100 this is just a really cool device that I'm sure many will want to buy, either out of curiosity or as a very real tool that could help identify and track down potentially dangerous interference. At the very least it may be one thing that can provide extra peace of mind if there have been unexplained crashes at your flying site.
And, as another bonus it could even be useful in sorting out your home WiFi network if you live in a neigborhood where the 2.4GHz band is cluttered.
- simple and easy to use
- does what is claimed for it
- top quality support
- Limited shipping options from MetaGeek
- Needs a PC/laptop to be used
- Requires Microsoft Net framework and DirectX 9
- Product: WiSpy 2.4i
- Purchased from: MetaGeek
- Price: US$99 + shipping
- Overall rating: 5/5
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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Important facts you should know about the oils that are used in our model engine fuels.
How well do five different 2.4GHz systems stack up when hit by interference? The answers are here, with more to come.
Yes it does work on model airplanes but there are some limitations involved with this bargain-basement radar speed gun.
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Does all this 2.4GHz stuff have your head spinning?
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!
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.
The Chinese are now churning out a huge number of very reasonably priced no-name servos. But are they any good?
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?