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May 26, 2015
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I have recently had the honor, due to my commentary on this website, to be invited by Massdrop to review upcoming products for the site, as part of a new beta testing program. As some of you may know, I was originally a very strong proponent of the EcoReco electric scooter that was sold a while back on the site (and still am, even after my unit failed, as long as you are not using it rurally as I was), and most likely due to this, I have been chosen to give my impressions on the "Chic Smart 2 Self Balancing Scooter". I'm very grateful to Massdrop for the opportunity to beta test some cool stuff, and give my thoughts to prospective buyers.
The product box the scooter comes in is quite sturdy, with a clear plastic handle on the top that I wish I could have utilized on the carry back to my apartment (my shipment was encased in another layer of cardboard). Otherwise, it is quite plain, a solid black color, featuring a computer rendering of the scooter with the word "SMART" in the top left corner on both of the longer sides of the box. The shorter sides have nothing but a modest assortment of industrial pictograms that carry about as much meaning to me as laundry tags. The bottom of the box is completely blank.
It is notable that, for such a large ticket (+$1,000 MSRP) item that the decoration on the box is incredibly sparse and spartan, with little to no branding or advertisement whatsoever. Not even the name of the company is clearly on the box, which I find to be highly unusual. It's the kind of box I would expect for a no-name China-made RC car, honestly - definitely not a box you'll want to keep around for display purposes. I suspect that this box is actually packaging from an OEM instead of the "branding company" that sells these scooters in the United States (as the Massdrop marketing rep hinted to me in the invitational email); you may or may not actually receive the scooter in this box.
The scooter's charging unit comes in a small white box in a crevice on the top layer of protective styrofoam, and is made up of two separate pieces. The first piece, a matte black plastic AC-DC transformer, is pleasantly small compared to the huge, metal, fan-cooled brick that came with the EcoReco, and I can imagine it fitting easily into a jacket or even a pants pocket for transportation. It features a fairly short output cable terminating in a 3-pin male mini-XLR connection (again similar to the EcoReco, though the latter used a full-size XLR connection instead). It also contains a small LED that shows you the charging status of the scooter, glowing red while charging and green when charging is finished. The other piece, a standard C-7/1-15P cable, plugs into the back of the transformer to connect it to your household power through a standard outlet. The whole ensemble is very similar to, and could easily be mistaken for, an average laptop charger.
On a side note, the length of the two combined I imagine will be suitable for most, although since the C-7/1-15P cable is modular (you can find replacements on Monoprice in a variety of lengths for around a dollar), it can be modified to suit anyone's needs.
Adjacent to the charger in the top layer of protective styrofoam, is a plastic packet containing three items - a quality control card, a warranty sheet, and a user's manual.
The quality control card is nothing much - just a small paper cutout that shows when your scooter was QC checked (mine was passed on March 9th of this year). I don't really see what the purpose of including this is, honestly - perhaps it's for warranty purposes.
The warranty sheet is slightly more substantial - the top half is a spreadsheet that is meant to list information about the buyer (mine is blank since I have a demo unit) and the repair history of the scooter. The bottom half is a body of text that essentially says that the scooter is guaranteed free of defects for one year, and then lists a series of conditions not covered by warranty, which is fairly standard stuff (though their warranty is twice as long as EcoReco's).
The user's manual is where the real meat of the packet is, and on first glance it is quite useful for helping you understand the device. It's smartly designed in a minimalist style, while still being mostly thorough and helpful for a first time user. Unfortunately, it has two critical flaws that significantly reduce its usefulness - the first being is that the manual itself is marred by translation issues. Despite the mostly thorough nature of the manual, the quality of the text itself is quite bad, and comes across like something that came out of Google Translate without so much as a sniff from someone who can read English. I say "mostly thorough" because of the second problem - the manual does an awful job of teaching you how to operate the scooter. The riding instruction is very sparse, and what is included I find to be somewhat misleading, which ultimately undermines the value of the manual as a whole. It doesn't matter if you understand everything else about the device if you can't ride it!
I was surprised, upon lifting the user manual out of its crevice in the protective styrofoam, to find a small baggie underneath containing two small car-like key fobs. In terms of build quality, they are very pleasing in both appearance and feel, with a solid black matte plastic body and shiny silver trim. The fob contains two buttons, an "unlock" and "lock" button (sadly, no panic button, haha). The buttons themselves are unusually shiny, and have an odd rubber-plasticky sticky feel - they are probably in danger of getting linty and gross in your pocket after extended ownership. When the buttons are pushed, you can feel a snappy, satisfying click, and upon being pushed, the LED at the top of the remote glows blue to show that a button is active. You can easily attach the key fob to a belt loop or a keychain with the included lobster clasp - it's a high quality clasp and I wouldn't worry about it coming off anything or getting lost while clamped. There is a bar code on the back of the remotes for an unknown purpose (possibly for getting new fobs if you lose them). The screws holding the devices together on the back are exposed, so you may be able to replace the battery when/if they die - though I imagine that the scooter itself will wear out before this becomes an issue.
Unfortunately, in terms of functionality, the key fobs are hit and miss. The "unlock" button turns off the scooter if it is powered while not riding, but will not power the scooter on from an unpowered state, which to me is nonsensical in both function and the way that the function is depicted on the key fob. The lock button puts the scooter in a "locked" state so that it cannot be ridden or powered off and on until unlocked again. Considering the weight of the scooter, I find this to be a surprisingly effective way to prevent theft (nobody will want to carry this off). The key fob itself has very sporadic and limited range, which is disappointing and restricts their functionality.
(A side note: throughout the user manual, the scooter is referred to as a "car". Is that why it comes with these?)
Once you finally make your way through the accessories and lift off the top of the packaging, you'll find the scooter wrapped in a tube of plastic. Lift the scooter out of the box (it's heavier than it looks) and pull off the tube, and you'll be confronted with a very interesting looking device - it's the love child of a Segway and a Q-tip.
The scooter is made almost entirely of gloss matte plastic, which I find to be a questionable choice due to the intended use of this device. It looks nice coming out of the box, granted, but it's destined to get banged up and dirty, and gloss plastic will only highlight this type of wear - I would have much preferred that it was built from a more durable and spartan material.
On top of the scooter, you'll find two flexible rubber pads on each side to put your feet on. The rubber pads are nice and grippy, and do an excellent job of keeping you on the scooter and off the pavement. These pads sense your weight on the scooter, and are part of the mechanism that allows you to drive it - once you step on the scooter, the self-balancing algorithm activates to allow you to stay on the scooter).
The rider and battery indicators can be found near these pads, on each side of the center pivot. Once you press and hold the power button on the scooter (next to the charging port, on the back left side), the scooter will beep three times and continuously show the battery level on the right of the pivot. The battery indicator has three levels - green for full battery, orange for medium, and red for low. Once you step on the scooter, the rider indicator will appear next to the battery indicator and will stay lit until you step off again. Both indicators are very bright LEDs and are even visible in direct sunlight. It’s an attractive, simple, and effective way of showing what you need to know. At first I would have liked to see a speedometer instead of the riding indicator, but on second thought, I realized that it would be tempting to stare at while riding.
On the front of the scooter, you’ll find two very bright LED lights that activate while you’re moving and correspond to your control of the scooter while riding. In my opinion, these lights are quite obnoxious and remind me of those children’s shoes with lights that flash when you walk. I imagine that these lights may be useful in certain circumstances when visibility of riding terrain is limited, but in that case I would prefer to have simple, toggleable white lights (possibly activated by the key fob). In most circumstances, they’re not useful for anything but attracting attention, and they certainly don’t help me ride the scooter in any meaningful way.
So here’s the big question I’m sure everyone is asking - what’s it like to ride this thing? I’m pleased to say that it is actually far simpler and easier than you might initially think. There is an initial steep learning curve, but once you understand the relatively easy control mechanism, you learn to ride the scooter at a surprisingly fast rate. It took me approximately thirty minutes to fully grasp how to control the scooter, and about two hours of practice to more or less master indoor use of it.
The scooter is controlled by only one factor, which is the angle of your feet - your weight and balance only help keep you on top of it. When your feet are flat, the scooter does not move. When your feet are angled forward, the scooter moves forward, and vice versa. You control the speed of each wheel of the scooter by tilting the individual sides of the scooter - the motors are independent and the speed differentials between the two determine your handling (much like the treads on a tank).
The hardest part of learning how to operate the scooter is learning how to mount and dismount, mainly due to what I see as a very silly design oversight - the scooter will still move even if you only have one foot planted on the device. I see no reason whatsoever for this to be the case, especially since each pad is capable of sensing the application of weight on its own. Fortunately, the process is still simple once you wrap your head around the core control mechanism - if you focus on keeping your feet flat while you step on and off the scooter, and the scooter will not fly out from under your feet.
In terms of satisfying your need for speed, the scooter is more than up to the task. In my opinion, the device goes much faster than most will feel comfortable riding it at. Ten kilometers per hour may not sound like a lot on paper, but it’s essentially a brisk human jogging speed, and it’s more than enough for you to get Shrekt if you’re not paying attention. As the scooter is electric, it also has plenty of torque on tap and gets to top speed very quickly.
On the other hand, your mileage may vary depending on what kind of riding you’re planning on doing. It’s a blast to ride around if you have the proper terrain, but this scooter is absolutely a fair weather vehicle; it’s water resistant but will not offroad by almost any definition of the word. You will feel every single bump, dip, and piece of gravel you ride over on this vehicle. I would question if this device is even capable of traversing a rough sidewalk for some people. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable skateboarding or rollerblading on it, you probably won’t be able to ride this on it, either. The scooter also has a major flaw that reveals itself once you ride on a hard surface - if you bail while riding it, due to having round wheel covers, it will roll around and scratch itself up quite badly, as well as making you look and feel foolish.
I can’t really comment on the battery life of the device due to the short amount of time I have possessed the scooter. It doesn’t wear out especially quickly and it doesn’t take an outrageous amount of time to charge, but I’m unqualified to speak in any greater depth than that. I also can’t comment much on the attention you’ll get riding this thing around - I haven’t taken it outside of my apartment complex since the terrain where I live is awful, and would eat this scooter for lunch.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with the scooter. It has its flaws, to be sure, but if you’re looking for a fun new gadget to play with, want to learn something new, or want a cool way to transport yourself and can deal with the terrain limitations, this might be for you. Thanks again to Massdrop for letting me spend some time with this scooter, I really enjoyed using it and I hope my words of experience are helpful in determining if this is right for you. I won't be purchasing it since I'm trying to save up for a car, and don't really live in an area ideal for this kind d of transportation, but I would absutely recommend it for urban / city use.
May 26, 2015
itsmottsdoe
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May 27, 2015
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what a wall
May 27, 2015
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