Are you trying to catch a family member or pet in the act to doing something nefarious? Do you need a cool, high-tech, smartphone-controlled toy? If so, a wireless spy tank seems like the perfect solution to both of those questions. Not only could it be useful, but you be sure to have a little fun in the process.
Naturally, we were a bit skeptical, so what better way to find out if it’s any good than to buy the Brookstone Rover 2.0 WiFi Spy Tank ($119.99) for ourselves and test it out! Best of all, you’ll be able to win it by reading this review all the way until the end and joining the giveaway.
About the Rover 2.0
The Rover 2.0 is a wireless spy tank (and remote-controlled toy) which comes with a visible-light camera as well as an infrared camera. It is controlled by a smart device app for iOS and Android via ad-hoc WiFi — the toy creates its own WiFi network rather than using your home’s network, and this means it’ll work anywhere, not just within the confines of your house. Besides being cool and relatively high-tech, it also boasts a handful of other features, which I’ll cover in detail below.
The only other product that’s similar to the Rover 2.0 wireless spy tank is the similarly-named i-Spy WiFi Spy Tank, which you can nab from Amazon for $89.95. It comes with most of the same features, although it does seem to be missing two-way sound communication and compatibility with Android devices.
If you’re looking for something more sophisticated, and can fly, check out the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0. on Amazon. At $299.99 it’s a lot more expensive but its higher resolution camera records 720p video. We bought one and reviewed it; check it out, the review should give you an idea of how this thing performs.
The Rover 2.0 Wireless Spy Tank comes with the following specifications:
- App-controlled via any iOS or Android device
- Built-in night vision
- Stream and record live video and stills (at 320 x 240 pixel resolution) and upload to Facebook, Youtube and Twitter sites right from the smartphone application
- Wireless range up to 200 ft unobstructed; 100 feet with obstructions (walls)
- Connects via ad-hoc WiFi
- Two-way sound communication
- 8x AA-battery operated
There’s not much that comes with the tank, surprisingly. Squished between two pieces of egg carton-like packaging is the tank itself, the detachable antenna, and an 8-pack of AA batteries. What I find missing from this packaging is a small screwdriver that works with the screws that keep the battery bay door shut — I had to find my own screwdriver to put in the batteries.
Initial Impressions and Setting Up
The entire tank is made out of plastic, which isn’t a surprise. However, it seems to hold up just fine so I don’t really have any complaints about it. The only thing I do have to mention is that the plastic does show off fingerprints very easily, and it’s not easy at all to clean them off.
Setup is really easy, and I’m glad that was the case because Brookstone didn’t include any reading material on how to get started. Once the batteries have been inserted, you just have to flip the on/off switch on the bottom of the tank to turn it on. Then, wait about a minute and a new WiFi network will be created, which you’ll be able to see on your smartphone’s WiFi settings page. It should be called Rover_xxxxx, with some random numbers and letters in place of xxxxx.
The Rover 2.0 spy tank is controlled using a companion smartphone app. Android and iOS versions of the app are available and has quite a number of features. Once the app is launched, the center area of the app relays what the tank sees. You’ll also notice a zoom in and zoom out button — these can be used to go anywhere from 100% zoom (normal view) to 200% zoom, which it achieves digitally rather than optically. You can then take a picture — which gets sent straight to your phone as if you took it with your camera — or a video. You can also send those videos to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube if you’d like, but I’d only advise that if something really interesting happened while you were recording.
Both pictures and videos are recorded in an appalling 320 x 240 pixel resolution.
Aside from the video stream itself, the tank and app offer two-way audio communication. As one of its “spy” features, you can turn up the volume in the app and instantly listen to whatever is going on around in the tank’s vicinity. You can also hold down the “Talk” button in the app, and have the tank act as a megaphone — anything you say to your smart device will be heard through the speaker on the tank. It’s an alternative, yet decent way to have a conversation if you’re super lazy (but you should try to be a better person than that).
Besides video and sound, there are a few more buttons in the app.
The “Stealth” button disables the WiFi indicator at the top of the tank and turns on the infrared camera, allowing it to hide and function well in dark areas.
Clicking on the “Camera” button brings up a slider which allows you to change the viewing angle of the camera.
The Path buttons, which record and playback respectively, allow you to record a certain set of movements and then play it back. I’m not entirely sure what it’s for, but I’m certain that it will be quite useful with a bit of creativity.
Finally, the “Brights” button enables some cool green lights in the front and back, two on each side.
Besides all of this, the app has one more feature: choice of motion control. By default, you’re presented with two sliders on each side of the video feed which control the two tracks that the tank uses. So sliding both of them upwards causes the tank to move forward, slide both of them downwards to move backwards, or use a combination which will make the tank turn. Navigating the tank does take a little practice.
If you’re not a fan of controlling the tank this way, you can also tap on the “G Drive” button which is located right above the right motion control slider. This button removes the two sliders, and allows you to use your smart device’s gyroscope as a way to control the tank. Tilting the smart device backwards will make the tank move forward, and tilting forward will move the tank backward. You can also tilt the smart device to either side to make the tank turn as well.
This isn’t exactly any easier, but it’s another way of control that some people may prefer.
While the tank functions well, I do think there is some room for improvement. Like I mentioned, it’s a little hard to control the tank using either motion control method. However, like most other things, a little practice is all you’ll need.
Besides this, I don’t see why the tank requires AA batteries, as opposed to using a single, custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery. There’s a reason why rechargeable batteries are currently used in virtually every other device: you don’t have to buy new ones all the time, and they’re more environmentally-friendly. I would have loved to see a custom rechargeable battery pack with a regular microUSB port for charging. However, since it doesn’t have that, I’d recommend just getting rechargeable AA batteries (the higher the capacity, the longer they will last before requiring a recharge) and using those instead.
Also, for a tank, it doesn’t climbing over obstacles very well. Maybe I have my expectations set too high for a little toy to actually behave like a tank, but I tried it anyways. It didn’t even manage to climb over my foot.
Finally, the device fails majorly at an important part of being a spy tank: sound. Simply put, it’s not going to sneak up on anything. The electric motors that control the two tracks are rather loud, and anyone can easily hear it coming from down the hall. If it was silent, then it’d actually be very effective as a spy tank, but it isn’t.
I had high hopes for this spy tank. It is packed with a lot of features and is compatible with any smart device given it connects through an ad-hoc Wi-Fi network. Even then, the few minor downsides to the tank could be easily overcome with rechargeable AA batteries and some practice, but it’s rather loud motor announces its arrival, so I can’t call it a spy tank but just a device with a camera and wheels (well, tracks, but you get the point). If it were a silent and stealthy tank, it’d be totally legit. But alas, it’s just a toy.
MakeUseOf recommends: Buy it if you want a high-tech toy, but it certainly isn’t a spy tank.
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