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I understand if maybe you’re a little sick of drones by now, but hear me out. This one is ridiculously cheap and ridiculously cool.
There are two ways to pilot a quadcopter, right? Either you use an app on your phone or tablet, or you use a handheld remote with a pair of joysticks.
Aha! Turns out there’s a third way, and so help me I’m positively giddy over it. Not only that, it’s stupid-cheap! For a limited time, and while supplies last, Tomtop has the Techboy TB-802 motion-controlled drone for $19.99 shipped. That’s after applying discount code TT802 at checkout.
Take note: This will ship from Tomtop’s China warehouse, meaning it will very likely take 2-3 weeks to arrive. The reseller will be offering it via a U.S. warehouse, but not for a couple weeks — and the price will be a few dollars higher.
Give your drone a hand
The TB-802 is controlled not by an app and not by a traditional remote. Rather, you hold something that closely resembles a computer mouse, and tilt it in the direction you want the drone to fly.
I was really skeptical about this, because it seems like a gimmick that can’t possible work well — certainly not for $20.
Verdict: It works really well. The controller makes the drone easier to fly than just about any other I’ve tried, and I daresay more fun, too.
A little plastic clip keeps it secured beneath two fingers. There’s a little joystick on the side; you push it in to take off, again to land. The drone auto-hovers at about five feet unless you adjust the altitude, which you do by holding the joystick down and angling the controller up or down.
Mostly, though, you just leave the joystick alone and tilt your hand. It’s totally intuitive, totally simple. And it’s always in headless mode, so even if you pivot the “front,” the controls remain consistent.
True story: The lovely and talented Mrs. Cheapskate, who is no doubt sick to death of me showing, talking about and flying drones, watched patiently while I demonstrated yet another one. The moment I explained how the controller works, though, she lit up and said, “I want to try that!” And she did. And she flew it. And she liked it!
That’s a first.
I’m hoping my awesome dad, who’s 84, will like this as well. He’s very interested in all the drones I’ve written about, but can’t quite get the knack of controlling them. I think this might be perfect.
The usual caveats
This is a really lightweight drone (but larger than I expected), so it’s not suitable for outdoor use unless there’s zero breeze. The 3.7V 280mAh battery is good for about 6-8 minutes of flight time, but extras can be had for cheap. (Just make sure the measurements match up, as there are some variances.)
A few readers have experienced delivery and/or customer-service issues with Tomtop, but I have a very responsive contact there who always takes care of any situations that arise. So hit me up if you run into a problem.
Bottom line: This is my new favorite drone, in part because you fly it in a totally unique (and fun) way, and in part because it’s $20!
Bonus deal: While we’re on the subject, Tomtop has another drone deal that I just had to mention. Regular readers will recall the adorable Elfie, which is a hair larger than a deck of cards and folds up for easy transport. Just one wrinkle: The built-in camera was a mere 0.3 megapixel.
Good news: The Eflie has been reborn, or at least rebranded, as the GoolRC T37. It’s virtually identical save for the super-sexy red color and 2-megapixel camera, which should make it much more selfie-friendly.
For a limited time, and while supplies last, Cheapskate readers can get the GoolRC T37 selfie drone for $32.99 shipped. That’s after applying discount code TOP5 at checkout. And this one comes from a U.S. warehouse, so it should arrive in about a week.
This is one is app-controlled, so the learning curve is a bit steeper. But it still blows me away: cute, fun, portable and surprisingly capable.
Bonus deal No. 2: Okay, something that doesn’t fly. I know I just shared a Humble Bundle yesterday, but that one was for Android users only. This one is for Windows, Mac and Linux users, and it’s singularly awesome.
The Humble Game On Bundle gives you eight exceptional PC games for $10. Total value: $150.
Among the highlights: Day of the Tentacle Remastered, The Stanley Parable and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, a game that’s normally $40 all by itself. As usual, a portion of proceeds go to charity, yada-yada. I bought this one; it was too good to pass up.