Electric personal transporters are mostly horrible. Segways are reserved for mall cops and helmeted tourists interested in experiencing both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial without taking a single step. Hoverboards, which also explode, are just fodder for America's Funniest Home Videos. Everyone I've ever seen riding one of those electric unicycles has nearly caused a car accident. These machines are strange status symbols of lazy American excess.
All images: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo
AU Editor's Note: You can't buy the Halo Board in Australia. They're probably illegal to ride in public spaces. But this review is interesting nonetheless. Enjoy. -- Cam
So, when the carbon fibre Halo Board arrived at the Gizmodo office, I took it home as a joke. I thought I'd just play with it, act dumb with it and post pictures online then forget about it.
I was very, very wrong.
Despite claiming to be the "lightest and thinnest electric skateboard," the 6kg board is so heavy that I found it annoying to carry with the rest of my stuff. That might be really light for an electric skateboard -- the Boosted Board starts at 7kg and goes up to 15.5 -- but it's heavy if you're carrying it home.
So I put it on the ground and rode it to the subway station. Pressing a small button below the trucks lights a blue ring, powering on the motorised rear wheels. A plastic remote control governs the speed, with two modes: "I" is fast, and "II" is holy-shit-this-is-too-fast-I-am-going-to-fall-and-die, screaming with arms flailing like a toddler. Push the joystick forward slowly and the board speeds up. Push it backwards and the wheels stop. Click it to switch between forward and reverse mode.
My lack of longboard riding experience meant that "straight" was not much of an option for me, and I swerved back and forth on the bike lane as the board wobbled atop the skate trucks. But I did not die. I made the journey despite New York City traffic and realised that, well, this was actually kind of fun.
I hopped on the subway with the massive board trying to carry myself like a veteran rider and caught glances from all of the rush hour passengers. A man came up to me and said "is that thing remote controlled?" "Yeah," I said. "How much does it cost," he asked. "I don't know, I took it from my office." "You mean you get to play with that for work?" I realised that my opinion about personal transporters was probably not a universal one. I was a cool person for that brief moment on the train, showing off my massive foot vape to the admiration of others. I wanted to put two middle fingers up but the subway line I take is usually populated by at least one parent with a stroller.
The charging port, power button, and cords connecting motors to wheels are all in one place. For a while only one wheel worked. Then I wiggled a cord and all was saved.
I took the board out to the handball courts near my apartment like a parent taking a child out to teach them to ride a bike. In this case, I was a parentless child and the ground would have to substitute as the pair of supporting arms.
The Halo Board responds quickly to a touch on the control and accelerates like a hydraulic roller coaster. Travelling in mode II, I needed to feather it forward like a toe on a Corvette's gas pedal lest it shoot out from under me and leave me sitting on my arse -- wear a helmet. Thankfully, I remained mostly upright during my experience. I figured out turning pretty quickly -- I did not adjust the trucks but was able to manoeuvre around obstacles like some smashed beer bottles and a tight space between a handball court and a fence.
All of this, by the way, was on a single charge which usually lasts 19km, enough for maybe a day or two of riding depending on how far you have to travel and assuming you're doing something cooler than playing in a lot.
The Carbon Fibre Halo Board is $US1300 -- that's steep, ten times more than a longboard that would actually count as "physical activity." The Halo Board certainly isn't the only motorised board on the market; another tried to kill a Gizmodo writer (and was then investigated for its overheating lithium battery). There are plenty of other options, and you can find even cheaper ones online (though, as with hoverboards, be wary of battery quality), but the Halo Board happens to run on the more affordable side of higher-quality boards, and there really isn't any board that is as light or fast at this price.
And this carbon fibre board feels pretty durable too. It flexes when you bounce on it, but you can drop, crash, and thwack with it and the pretty finish only scuffs a little.. Maybe if I was a Silicon Valley programmer desiring a fun way to get around that looks less lame than a hoverboard I'd spend the money.
I thought that -- until disaster struck.
I just moved to a new neighbourhood, and during the move, the board with the remote hooked around a wheel fell over. The remote control had shattered from the fall. I feared I would never take my journey.
Did the small fall cause the break, or did the board fall on top of the control? I couldn't tell, but one thought stood out: That should not have happened. If I am going to pay $US1300 to go 35km an hour on a future foot board, I should not have to worry about the remote shattering. The plastic controller has only a wrist strap to secure it during a ride -- what if I dropped it? I should not have to worry about rendering my skateboard useless after I inevitably fall off.
If this board has one problem, it is this very very cheap remote. It feels extremely flimsy in the hand, even when you aren't accidentally shattering it with 6kg of longboard.
Though this would normally be beyond the scope of the board's warranty, the company sent us a new remote. I looked it over and realised that, yeah, this controller is pretty cheap and the joystick seemed to click and stick. But I was finally able to take it out around the loop of Prospect Park. It was incredible -- I swerved around the evening and travelled faster than some of the bikers, weaving confidently through the wooded scenery without falling over. The board propels fairly easily uphill once you've gotten it going, and braking at high speeds wasn't too much of a jolt. I had to brake a lot. The board is very, very, very fast.
I realise that I am a clumsy idiot reviewing about as high tech a skateboard as it gets. Still, I can confidently say that the Halo Board is both incredibly fun and a Good Board. You won't find one of this quality and price that's anywhere near as light. Although there's no getting around the fact that if you're rough with it, you'll probably break the remote. You might want to glue it to your hands.
- Incredibly fast, relatively light motorised longboard
- I have never used a longboard and got the hang of it really quickly
- Ergonomic plastic controller broke after a single accident
- Definitely cooler than a hoverboard or Segway but not as cool as a real longboard