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HobbyKing HK 450TT Pro Helicopter Review

It looks like a high-end helicopter model, but the question is, will it act like one? We're going in-depth as we place this clone's transmitter in the hands of accomplished 3D helicopter pilots.

Splash

Introduction

You, dear reader, are doubtless familiar with the "duck test." That of course is the test which states that if it looks, swims and quacks like a duck, it must therefore be a duck.

In the case of the HobbyKing HK 450TT Pro, the duck test doesn't quite apply.

Oh, sure. This helicopter looks for all the world like the Align T-Rex 450 Pro it's based on and virtually all the parts are interchangeable with those of its cousin, but surprise! This is a low-cost but very high quality model, made of much the same good stuff expensive kits are made of.

Here's an easily assembled helicopter with a lot of prebuilt assemblies destined to give experienced pilots a machine on which to practice 3D maneuvers, to use as an affordable basis for a scale project or to simply fly for fun. It will also give newer users an excuse to step up to a sophisticated 400-series CCPM machine without breaking the hobby budget.

That said, I want to stress that this is not an Align product nor am I going to tout this model as an alternative to a T-Rex. There are several good reasons why Align helicopters command a premium price, starting with the fact that they're premium products backed by Horizon Hobby's gold-standard customer service. The machining, fit and finish, laser etching, silk screening and molding are world class and, in my opinion, the hobby equivalent of a Rolex watch.

The other cloned product in this review is the HK401B gyro which, while similar to the Futaba GY401 gyro it's based on, is not in any way a substitute for the real thing. The GY401 is considered by many on discussion boards to be the finest gyro on the market today.

The 450TT Pro is nice. Very nice. But not as nice as the original.

Think of the 450TT Pro as a knock-off of a Rolex watch or a designer handbag at a very small fraction of the price of the original. The fake Rolex will keep time, the fake designer bag will carry anything the owner wants to place in it and both examples will look good doing what they do, but the fakes simply don't compare to the quality and craftsmanship found on the originals.

In short, though the 450TT Pro may quack like a T-Rex, it isn't a T-Rex, much like my sister's cloned designer handbags aren't real designer handbags. A cloned handbag isn't a cloned helicopter, but you get the idea.

On the other hand, this is a much nicer piece than the low price would suggest with its carbon fiber, composite and alloy construction like the original. There are some differences in the materials used on certain items; for example, the tail rotor blades and flybar paddles are composite, while the main blades are gel-coated fiberglass. On the genuine article, these would all be carbon fiber. Different too is the Lexan canopy where one would find a fiberglass unit on the T-Rex.

The cool part? You can upgrade these bits with Align or aftermarket 450 Pro bits.

The reviews of the individual steps will outline any potential problems instead of serving as a 450TT Pro assembly manual. Interestingly, there's a lot of prefabrication in the 450TT Pro, but it's still a kit and the prefabricated assemblies should be double-checked for loose hardware and/or lack of threadlocking compound on metal-to-metal areas. To state the obvious, this is pretty much SOP for any helicopter.

Second, this is an all-HobbyKing build with a full compliment of the best servos, batteries, motor and ESC Turnigy and HobbyKing have to offer. With the exception of linkage balls, which I'd later find to be necessary because of their longer mounting studs, no Align parts were used in the build.

Finally and perhaps most fun of all, this eggbeater is going to be put through its paces by two of the most accomplished helicopter pilots I know. Manny Torres was the pilot in the R/C helicopter chase scenes in the 2009 motion picture, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. The helis used in that movie were real T-Rex 450s with scale fuselages, Futaba 12MZ radios and Rhino batteries from HobbyKing; they were given to Manny after shooting wrapped. I'm pleased to report that I've seen them fly and Manny still flies them regularly. As of this writing, Manny had just completed flying an aerial photography platform-equipped helicopter in Vancouver, British Columbia for the filming of a commercial for Molson beer and still finds the time to run a successful auto body shop in Palm Desert, California.

Rob Thomas is an expert R/C helicopter pilot and instructor who has been a tremendous help to me over the years for all things related to helicopters. He's also a fabulous 3D heli pilot.

Let's get our clone in the air!


HobbyKing HK450TT Pro
Main Rotor Diameter:27.95" (710mm)
Tail Rotor Diameter:6.22" (158mm)
Length:25" (635mm)
Weight (airframe only/flying weight):15.8 oz./27.5 oz. (450g/780g)
Main Drive Gear:150t
Autorotation/Tail Drive Gear:106t
Tail Drive Gear:25t
Motor Drive Gear:14t
Construction:Carbon fiber and aluminum alloy main frame; aluminum alloy main rotor head; aluminum alloy torque tube and tail rotor assembly; carbon fiber and aluminum tail reinforcement rods; fiberglass main blades; composite flybar paddles, tail rotor blades and landing skids; pre-painted polycarbonate canopy
Cyclic Servos:Turnigy DS480 digital metal-geared micro
Rudder Servo:GoTeck GS-D9257 coreless digital nylon-geared mini, gyro compatible
Transmitter:Airtronics SD-6G 2.4GHz six-channel FHSS-1 aircraft
Receiver:Airtronics RX600 2.4GHz six-channel mini FHSS-1 full range aircraft
Battery:Zippy 2200mAh 3S 30C lithium polymer
Motor:Turnigy 2215H 3550Kv helicopter
ESC:Turnigy K-Force 40A brushless
Gyro:HobbyKing HK401B
Skill Level:Intermediate/advanced
Catalog Number:HK450TTPRO
Available From:HobbyKing via Hong Kong, USA, Australia or Germany
Bare Airframe Price (USD from Hong Kong/USA/Australia/Germany:$59.99/$69.99/$69.99/$77.45

Kit Contents

The following is included in the modest purchase price:

  • Preassembled carbon fiber and alloy frame
  • Preassembled all-alloy Pro-style main rotor head
  • Preassembled tail rotor slider
  • Preassembled torque tube tail assembly
  • Fiberglass main rotor blades
  • Composite tail rotor blades, flybar paddles and skids
  • Carbon fiber tail boom support rods
  • Carbon fiber tail fins with machined alloy mounts
  • Painted polycarbonate canopy
  • Hardware package
  • Foam blade holder

In order to duplicate this build, the following components from HobbyKing are required:

  • HobbyKing HK401B gyro
  • Turnigy DS480 digital metal-geared micro servos (3)
  • GoTeck GS-D9257 coreless digital rudder servo, sold under catalog number HKS-9257
  • Turnigy 2215 brushless helicopter motor
  • Turnigy K-Force 40A ESC and optional programming card
  • Turnigy 2200mAh 3S 30C lithium-polymer batteries (two were provided for the review)

The internet and your friendly neighborhood hobby shop have the rest of the supplies:

  • Align T-Rex 450 Pro assembly manual, downloadable here.
  • Futaba GY401 manual, downloadable here.
  • 3.5mm male bullet connectors (E-flite EFLA241 or equivalent)
  • 3mm motor mounting screws and washers (Team Integy C22961BLUE or equivalent)
  • Deans Ultra Plugs, male HobbyKing XT60 connectors or the builder's connectors of choice
  • Align linkage ball set (AGNHS1285)
  • M2 nuts and washers
  • Small phillips screwdriver
  • Metric allen wrenches
  • 40W soldering iron with rosin core solder
  • Helicopter pitch gauge
  • Metric ruler
  • Medium-hold threadlocking compound
  • Electronic caliper (optional)

Assembly

Main rotor check

When I'd first opened the plain Jane shipping box, I expected to be staring down at a jumble of parts.

It wasn't packed like a T-Rex, but nor were the parts simply tossed into the box. All of the bagged parts and subassemblies were carefully wrapped in bubble wrap and placed in the box; the 450 Pro-styled main rotor head, tail rotor, swashplate and even the pushrods were already assembled. For that matter, so too was the frame.

Neat.

All of the mainshaft's parts attached with phillips head screws seemed to be snug, but the socket head bolts holding the flybar arms were loose. The socket head bolt and nut holding the main rotor housing to the mainshaft was snug, but there was no threadlocker used. Per the manual, I used a bit of blue threadlocking compound to secure them. That machined main rotor housing showed its low-cost roots with a lot of visible swirling and a slightly pitted edge, although the silk-screened "HK 450TT Pro" logo looked nice and straight.

Speaking of the flybar arms, it's necessary to loosen the grub screws which normally secure the flybar in order to remove a couple of machine screws. The screws were installed at the factory in lieu of the flybar to help keep the assembly together. The flybar itself was nice and straight if somewhat of a snug fit, but it's quite a bit shorter than the Align part. The manual recommends a spread of 75mm between the inside tips of the flybar paddles and the rotor head, but the shaft itself only extended about 75mm to each side.

Unlike the Align's carbon fiber paddles, the 450TT Pro makes use of composite paddles which are held in place by a combination of the threaded flybar and metal sleeves with grub screws on either end. They also needed trimming to remove a bit of molding flash. It was of course impossible to get the 75mm spread recommended in the manual; the best I could do was 65mm. If I were to upgrade some of the supplied parts with Align parts down the line, this might be a good place to start.

With that, the main rotor is ready to go.

Frame

Not much to report here other than the fact it's preassembled and in good alignment; the main rotor shaft slid into place without binding and the bearings operated smoothly. The carbon fiber side plates don't quite match up color-wise to each other since the sheet both were cut out of was slightly glossier on one side than the other. The edges are a bit rough as well but easily smoothed with some fine sandpaper.

The frame looked pretty good with the added benefit of the servo and landing skid mounting bolts already in place. Nice touch, but once more, any metal-to-metal contact was unprotected by threadlocker. In a way, this might be a good thing since any needed alignment of the frame components would be a lot easier if one didn't have to first break threadlocked hardware loose.

Like the main rotor head, the machining of the aluminum parts simply doesn't come close to the smooth, polished finish found on the original. Nice and shiny, yes. Deep swirl marks, most definitely. Worse, this is where I found my first real problem regarding the fitting of the parts.

The front cyclic servos fit pretty well, requiring only that I first remove the battery tray and open up the mounting holes on each servo with an X-Acto so that the bolts wouldn't bind. Even though Align rightly calls for the use of washers, none were provided with the 450TT Pro. A bit of searching through my parts bin yielded some M2 washers; it's a genuine mystery as to why no washers are provided in the otherwise well-stocked hardware bag. Naturally, a bit of blue Loctite was used on each bolt along with the washers.

The rear servo was a different story; the upper and lower holes were simply too wide to match properly. The M2 washers helped to hold down the tabs once I cut open the mounting holes at each end, creating U-shaped holes which allowed me to align the servo for the best possible contact with the bolts and washers. This may have been due to the servos and not the model, but the fix was easy enough.

Strange too were the supplied ball links. The Align parts have a machine-threaded shank which goes through the servo arm and is secured on the opposite side of the arm by a nut. The 450TT Pro uses an older Align design through which a small machine screw is inserted; the end is then screwed into the arm.

Unfortunately, the little machine screws do not extend past the opposite side of the servo arm and screws of the correct length aren't provided. They seemed to hold well, but failure is simply not an option here and I opted to use real Align ball links in this step. The full set of stainless steel balls are available for about nine dollars under part number AGNHS1285. I may eventually convert all of the screw-type balls to this newer design; I swapped out the balls on the swashplate for the Align parts while I could.

The preassembled frame made instaling the servos somewhat difficult, especially when it came to starting the bolts on the rear swashplate servos, but perserverence paid off. If I were to do another one of these whirlybirds, I'd install the servos after first disassembling the frame.

As far as the metal-geared Turnigy DS480 digital servos themselves were concerned, they had the look and feel of servos costing considerably more. Here are the specs:

 <b>Turnigy DS480 Digital Servo</b>
Turnigy DS480 Digital Servo
Type: Micro Digital Metal-Geared Servo
Operating Speed 0.068 sec/60
Stall Torque (4.8V): 25.7 oz-in. (1.85kg/cm)
Weight: 0.38oz (10.9g)
Dimensions (LWH): 22.5mm x 10mm x 23.5mm
Motor Type: Coreless
Gear Type: All metal
Rotation/Support: Dual ball bearings
Operating Voltage: 4.8V - 6.0V
Available From: HobbyKing
Price (USD): $25.90

Tail

Once more, there isn't much to report here. The tail rotor slider assembly and torque tube come preassembled and, needless to say, the metal-to-metal contacts are going to need some Loctite. The machine work appeared to be better finish-wise, but there were still a few swirls. The tube itself was a nicely made from the same pewter-colored aluminum alloy used throughout the model.

There were also some oddities that bear mentioning. One is the slider housing and its one-piece sleeve machined as part of the housing itself. On the T-Rex, the left half of the sleeve is a separate piece with a locating pin intended to align and lock down the housing. Since the sleeve on the 450TT Pro is machined as an integral part of the case, it utilizes a small machined aluminum pin trapped in place by the vertical tail fin. Another oddity was the inclusion of some tiny, mysterious cupped washers machined from aluminum. I saw nothing on the Align manual like them, but it didn't take long for the light to come on. They're thrust washers used when bolting down the carbon fiber tail fins.

The final oddity presented itself in the machined aluminum horizontal fin clamp which doubles as a mounting point for the carbon fiber tail reinforcement rods. It's seemingly machined upside down with the flat surface which the fin would normally rest upon machined onto the wrong part. Really nasty swirls and cuts abounded on that lower half of the sleeve. Odd though it was, the fin fit just fine.

On my example, some CA was called for in order to secure the mounts to the reinforcement rods.

Once the composite tail rotor blades are installed, simply sliding the torque tube into the rear of the frame and securing it with the reinforcement rods completes the tail section.

Not only does the 450TT Pro actually look like a helicopter at this point, it's looking like a doggoned nice one, far nicer than one might expect a $60 airframe to look.

Main Rotor Installation

Now is where some fun begins (sarcasm on).

Here's where I had to get out the Dremel in order to carefully trim the sides of the frame in order to clear the motor drive gear. There's also a slight variation here which the Align manual doesn't mention.

Try as I might, I couldn't seem to get the shaft to install properly. By that, I mean way too much vertical play once it was attached to the drive gear.

The answer presented itself in the hardware package in the guise of a couple of shims, one slightly thicker than the other and sized perfectly to fit over the end of the mainshaft against the retaining collar. That thicker shim was the ticket. When the main rotor assembly was assembled for the umpteenth time, I finally had a properly working main rotor, albeit with a slightly out-of-true motor drive gear. I'd seen other comments on these boards regarding out-of-true gears on other HK helicopters, so this came as no surprise. The little bit of wobble was no worse than what I'd experienced with my Blade 400, so I elected to use the gears to stay within the letter of the promise I'd made of an all-HK build.

Another problem was with the servo arms; the ones I used were too short and caused the control links to bow inward. The Align manual doesn't state how long the arms muct be; the illustration only shows the arms supplied with the recommended Align servos. No real problem since the Turnigy servos came with longer arms. This also gave me the opportunity to use the aforementioned Align hardware package with ball links that could be retained better and more reliably than the factory setup.

This package doesn't come with the necessary M2 nuts used to cinch down the ball joints, but a bit of digging around through my parts bin turned some up. A bit of blue threadlocker was used to insure these little nuts will stay put in use.

Canopy and blades

Once the main rotor blades and the onboard electronics are installed, the 450TT Pro is pretty much complete. The standard-sized 325mm "Pro 3D" blades were a pleasant surprise. They aren't the types of shrink wrap-covered wooden blades found on similarly sized name-brand RTFs, but rather fiberglass with a smooth gel coat finish and brass mounting grommets.

The canopy, however, is a matter of taste.

It's vacuformed from two-part "smoked" Lexan as evidenced by the windshield. Because if that, the canopy had to be painted on the outside. The candy apple red and silver scheme is nice looking if less glossy than a clear canopy painted from behind, but it gives the canopy more than a passing resemblance to the Red Ranger's helmet from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television series.

If one has small kids at home who are familiar with the shows, they're going to love the looks of the 450TT Pro.

For this helicopter to go up against the Megazords, it will first need electronics. Here are the rest of the specs:

 <b>Turnigy K-Force 40A ESC</b>
Turnigy K-Force 40A ESC
Type: Brushless Speed Controller
Number of cells: 2-6 lithium-polymer or 5-18 nickel-metal-hydride
Max Continuous Amps: 40A; bursts of 57A up to ten seconds
Weight: 38g
BEC Operating Voltage: Selectable between 5.25V and 6V
Control Signal Transmission: Optical coupling
Dimensions (LWH): 59mm x 27mm x 12mm
Available From: HobbyKing
Price (USD): $31.49

<b>Turnigy Typhoon 2215H Brushless 450-Size Helicopter Motor</b>
Turnigy Typhoon 2215H Brushless 450-Size Helicopter Motor
Type: Brushless Outrunner
Number of cells: 2S - 3S lithium polymer
RPM/V (Kv): 3550
Weight: 63g less connectors
Shaft Diameter: 3.17mm
Length of Output Shaft: 16mm
Max Current: 20~28A
Poles: 12
Available From: HobbyKing
Price (USD): $11.79

 <b>Turnigy HK401B Digital Head Lock Gyro</b>
Turnigy HK401B Digital Head Lock Gyro
Type: Piezoelectric Gyroscope
Operating Voltage: 4.8V - 6V
Operating Current: 80mA
Dimensions (LWH): 28mm x 26mm x 20mm
Available From: HobbyKing
Price (USD): $11.99

 <b>GoTeck GS-D9257/HKS-9257 Programmable Coreless Digital Servo</b>
GoTeck GS-D9257/HKS-9257 Programmable Coreless Digital Servo
Type: High-Speed, High Torque Digital Servo
Operating Speed (4.8V/6.0V): 0.08 sec/60; 0.07 sec/60 with no load
Stall Torque (4.8V/6.0V): 52.7 oz.in/58.3 oz.in (3.8 kg.cm/4.2 kg.cm)
Weight: .88 oz (25g)
Dimensions (LWH): 1.41 x .60 x .85" (36 x 15.3 x 21.8mm)
Gear Type: All nylon
Operating Voltage: 4.8V - 6.0V
Available From: HobbyKing
Price (USD): $10.92

Motor and final electronics installation

Installing the motor pinion was straightforward, but installing the motor itself into the frame was not. The motor was shipped by itself in a zip-lock plastic bag. No hardware, no bullet connectors, nothing. The hardware bag supplied with the 450TT Pro had a cornucopia of odd metric hardware within, but no nice, simple M3 motor screws and washers.

I found a rather nice solution over at the car section of the hobby shop in the guise of a four-pack of M3 flat head motor screws, an allen wrench and machined aluminum cupped washers from Team Integy under part number C22961BLUE. The hardware is specifically designed for attaching motors and do a great job of holding the Turnigy motor in place.

If the motor installation was merely frustrating, the tail servo installation was the perfect way to induce stress overload.

The GoTeck gyro-controlled servo fit perfectly within the machined aluminum frame, but mounting it was another matter altogether.

The frame was the single nicest bit of machine work on the model and may actually be a genuine upgrade over the Align's composite frame. However, mounting the GoTeck servo turned out to be different than installing the Align servo in the T-Rex.

My solution was to mount the servo from the bottom of the frame and to retain it less the rubber and brass grommets with the supplied M2 screws and more M2 washers from the parts bin. Installing the servo from the top meant serious interference between the ball link and the bottom of the servo tray. The circular servo arm with an Align ball link was the best choice and even though the pushrod had a slight downward bow in this configuration, a quick bench test showed it to work well with no binding.

Installing the HK401B servo was certainly simple, but the supplied double-sided foam tape squares aren't the greatest quality in the world. The adhesive-covered plastic film stuck well the the gyro's case, but didn't want to stay stuck to the foam base. I was going to simply replace the square, but I tried a dab of Beacon Foam-Tac adhesive on the film instead. This marvelous adhesive is available from YardbirdRC.com if your local hobby shop doesn't stock it. That did the trick and is likely stronger than any double-sided tape I could have used.

There was an inadvertent and rather long delay in getting the necessary Airtronics RX-600 receiver due to a problem with the post office, but when it finally did arrive, I was able to complete the model.

Installing the electronics and running all the leads was quite an adventure onto itself and I won't bore you with the details. The eventual result was nice and elegant with the ESC mounted on the right side of the frame next to the battery tray and the receiver inside the frame. I originally had the ESC mounted under the battery tray, but this made the model difficult to service and placed the battery retaining strap in an awkward place.

Since the RX-600 has coaxial receiver leads longer than many other brands, I elected to run them parallel to one another along the tail support rods. One thing I will say: Have a receiver ready and set the throws before the swashplate block goes in the model. I'd made the mistake of centering the servos with a sport airplane radio, which meant having to take things apart to set things right.

Such is the legacy of learning how to fly on a 400-class RTF, but hey, I'm learning the ropes in regards to a kit. It's a real advantage to have a good friend with extensive heli experience like Manny Torres. Manny took time out of his busy schedule at his Auto Pro Collision Center franchise in Palm Desert, California to go over the model and initial radio settings. You'll recall that Manny was responsible for the setup and flight of several real T-Rex 450s in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.

I left it with him at the body shop so that he could do the final adjustments; we'll cover the specifics of the Airtronics SD-6G radio in part two of that product's review.

With everything properly set and moving in the proper direction, we're ready to fly!

Flying

Basics

I met Manny and Ken Alan, my friend and regular videographer at a regular test location. There's an enormous grassy parade ground and overflow parking lot open to electric fliers at Southwest Community Church in nearby Palm Desert.

Manny took the time to go over both the radio and model setup in great detail; the intuitive programming of the SD-6G made the programming easy. He did have to remove the back of the radio and disable the throttle ratchet, relocate the ESC back to the outside of the frame and do some mechanical tweaks to the 450TT Pro itself, but he assured me that everything was A-OK.

One thing Manny didn't feel he had to do was to reprogram the ESC for soft start. The default setup is exceptionally smooth and worked well for him.

The gyro was another factor. Its operational curve is different than that of the Futaba GY401 it's based on, but some tweaking of the radio settings got it working perfectly. That was apparent in the liftoff; Manny smoothly brought up the revs and the tail stayed perfectly locked without a trace of wander as the 450TT left the grass.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

After a few moments of hovering for Ken's benefit, Manny flipped the idle up switch and pushed up the collective.

ZOOM! The speed of the Turnigy 2215H motor nearly doubled and the 450TT was off like a shot.

For starters, this was one of the fastest model helicopters I had ever seen. I eyeballed it to be at least 50 MPH (80km/h) if not faster as Manny screamed it around the pattern, blades snapping out that marvelous cadence only a high-performance model helicopter can make. The pitch curve was darn near close to perfect as evidenced by the silky smooth transition from forward flight to touchdown.

It didn't stay down for long.

Up it went once more, this time for some loops, rolls and inverted flight. Ken valiantly photographed the fast-moving 450TT Pro as Manny put it through its aerobatic paces. Again, the only weak part of the setup was the gyro. It held beautifully through the maneuvers Manny demanded of it, but he was afraid that extreme 3D maneuvers would have been too much to ask without risking an unrecoverable blowout of the tail.

Another arguably weak point was the model's basic coloring. The matte candy apple red and silver canopy combined with the black landing skids might make it difficult to track in 3D flight.

Other than those issues, everything worked to perfection. The Turnigy and GoTeck servos operated with the precision of more expensive servos, the Turnigy K-Force ESC returned to earth at ambient temperature and the Zippy battery only slightly above ambient. It is as well-matched a combo as one could hope for.

I simply had to try this chopper for myself. Since I was only a few days away from the removal of a cataract in my left eye which, along with a developing cataract in my right eye, had curtailed my flying fun, I would limit my time to a simple tail-in hover.

The difference between the 450TT Pro and my RTF 400-class machine was simply that of night and day. That latter model's inexpensive swash servos (I've upgraded the tail servo) and entry-level gyro impacts that model's hovering and overall control. The 450TT hovered like it was dangling from a string once I got past the ground effects and got a feel for the sticks. I would even go so far as to say that the $12 gyro held better and felt better than the $50 brand name gyro I bought to replace the RTF's burned-out original, at least in a hover.

A failed SD card in Ken's camera resulted in a loss of Manny's video, but I was able to get video of the 450TT Pro under the control of R/C helicopter expert Rob Thomas. It also netted me a second opinion of the model.

I arranged a meeting between the three of us at the Coachella Valley Radio Control Club outside Coachella, California. The AMA Gold-rated club not only has one of the nicest runways in the country, it boasts a combination helicopter pad and U-control pad.

While Manny was comfortable with the setup he'd done, Rob was less so in a pre-video test flight out on the pad. He would have done some of his spectacular 3D moves, but like Manny, Rob felt the HK401 gyro wasn't up to the task of the extreme 3D he was capable of tossing at it. Rather than risk a tail blowout and crash, Rob elected to limit his flying to non-3D maneuvers.

Like Manny before him, Rob had the 450TT Pro streaking across the clear desert sky like a miniature attack helicopter; a Blackhawk scale fuselage wouldn't be out of place on this model. He topped off a truly spectacular flight demonstration with some low-altitude, slow pirouettes directly in front of Ken before autorotating down.

It wa the perfect ending to a dramatic, perfect flight.

Is This For a Beginner?

This is by no means a machine for a raw beginner, at least not without an instructor. Operating and setting up a model of this level of performance and sophistication regardless of cost requires previous experience. Conversely, the low cost is certainly an enticement for someone who wishes to learn helicopter flight and who has access to an experienced instructor. I see no reason why this machine couldn't be outfitted with training skids and a buddy box.

It's also an excellent choice for someone like myself stepping out of the RTF world and into the broader phases of the hobby which include assembly and proper setup.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

Downloads

Conclusion

The HobbyKing 450TT Pro is a remarkable value which raises the quality bar for clones. Everything fit well, the quality of the components appears to be top-notch with the exception of some of the finish machining and the weird little canopy and it flies beautifully on the supplied Turnigy electronics. It's affordable as well. The model, electronics and two batteries at US$8.49 each as reviewed and shipped from the Hong Kong warehouse comes out to $230.85. That includes $9.99 for the Align ball link kit. The actual final cost would be determined by the cost of a receiver and building supplies.

Assuming one doen't have a helicopter-compatible radio, adding the Airtronics SD-6G for $189.99 would bring the total to $420.84, less than the average $470 cost of an RTF 400-class helicopter.

Another possibility for someone on a budget and who really wants a T-Rex would be to buy this airframe and put the name-brand electronics in it with the eventual goal of transfering those electronics to a real T-Rex.

To be sure, the 450TT Pro is not a T-Rex. It won't be supported by Horizon Hobby and repairing this model with Align parts after a crash means it costs the same to repair it as it would a T-Rex, although some low-cost parts are available through HobbyKing.

It is a surprisingly high-quality and sophisticated unit with a lot of careful preassembly already done and which goes together with relative ease. It's a lot closer in quality and performance to a T-Rex than my earlier examples of fake Rolexes and designer handbags would be to their name-brand counterparts, but time will tell how well the materials hold up.

I give the 450TT Pro a huge two thumbs up for not only being a good value, but a really fine helicopter as well. Time will tell as to how well the model and electronics will hold up, but it's a real winner based on my initial impression.

Many thanks go to marketing manager Ryan at Hextronik in Hong Kong for providing this marvelous chopper for review. Mike Greenshields of Global Hobby Distributors in Fountain Valley, California is literally the man behind the development of the Airtronics SD-6G and the man who was kind enough to provide the RX-600 full-range receiver. Manny Torres took time from his busy Auto Pro Collision Center shop in Palm Desert, California to get this model set and running properly. Rob Thomas happily spent part of a glorious Sunday morning to get the 450TT Pro in the air for the video reshoot. Ken Alan, equally busy as the vice-president of video producers Kaminsky Productions in Cathedral City, California is my intrepid and enthusiastic videographer and RCGroups.com administrator Angela Haglund is the catalyst through whom these reviews are arranged. None would be possible without her.

I'd really be remiss if I didn't thank my sister, Susan Moore and my brother-in-law, motivational speaker Mike Moore for their generous and frequent hospitality and for the privilege of photographing Sue's cloned designer and real designer handbags.

You, our readers, are why we do what we do. All of us here at RCGroups.com thank you for your time and we hope you'll visit soon and often.

Pluses and minuses

Lots of good, positive stuff to like here:

  • Affordably priced
  • Overall good quality airframe and electronics; the metal-geared servos are smooth, quiet and precise
  • Good quality, well-balanced main blades
  • Parts interchangeability with the T-Rex
  • Affordable parts available through HobbyKing
  • Excellent basis for a sport flyer, 3D practice machine or scale fuselage
  • Preassembled main rotor and frame are well-assembled
  • Very fast, maneuverable and lots of fun

There's a small handful of minuses:

  • Finish machining on some metal parts on the frame and rotor head looks bad
  • Some of the preassembly on the frame is actually a bit of a problem; the swashplate servo block will have to come out to simplfy assembly
  • Alignment of the main drive gears was difficult and required some trimming of the frame
  • Where are the washers?
  • Canopy has a cheap appearance
  • That canopy coupled with black landing skids might make the model hard to see during extreme manuevers
  • The gyro is good for most flying but is too slow for extreme 3D
Last edited by DismayingObservation; Sep 22, 2011 at 08:29 PM..

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Old Sep 23, 2011, 12:10 PM
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I had trouble with my HK401B gyro on a HK450 also. There was a terrible twitch present at all times. Switched it out for a xmhobbies G401B and now the tail is rock solid.
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Old Sep 23, 2011, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by mrmj2u View Post
I had trouble with my HK401B gyro on a HK450 also. There was a terrible twitch present at all times. Switched it out for a xmhobbies G401B and now the tail is rock solid.
Sounds good. I'm considering a Futaba for it sometime down the line. I first have to get that cataract out of my right eye next week (the left has been fixed) and get some real stick time to see how well it really performs. Manny liked it as he'd set it; Rob didn't. Both felt the gyro was running just short of a tail blowout. I'll leave a comment once I actually get to fly it beyond a couple of hovering sessions.
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Old Sep 23, 2011, 12:49 PM
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After reading this I am sold and I am going to buy one. I have a pretty badly mangled Trex 450 SE V2 that has been laying around but a LOT of the parts on it are still in great condition after its crash, especially the electronics. I figure I can buy this model very cheaply, swap everything from my Trex 450 that is still in good shape, and I have just saved myself $400 from not having to buy a real Trex 450 Pro and I will have a machine that is very close to a real one. My hat is off to Hobby King for bringing such a good value to the marketplace!
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Old Sep 23, 2011, 02:34 PM
just gotta mess with it!
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my solution to mounting the 9257 clone in the tail servo mount was a bit lower tech - I simply bent the mount down a bit to get clearance between the link ball and the underside of the boom block.
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Old Sep 23, 2011, 03:29 PM
rather fly, but this'll do
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A very thorough and well-written article. I have the belt-drive version of this, and my experience hasn't been as good. Between the number of parts that needed to be replaced out of the box and additional components that wore quickly and needed replacing after just a few flights, I gotta say I wouldn't recommend it to others.
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Old Sep 23, 2011, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by krefi View Post
A very thorough and well-written article. I have the belt-drive version of this, and my experience hasn't been as good. Between the number of parts that needed to be replaced out of the box and additional components that wore quickly and needed replacing after just a few flights, I gotta say I wouldn't recommend it to others.
Thanks, Krefi. Much obliged.

Once I get some in-depth stick time on this thing, I'll report back regarding any issues with broken or prematurely worn parts. Conversely, if it holds up, I'll report that as well.
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Old Sep 23, 2011, 09:57 PM
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Thanks for the article. Just today I was thinking about looking through the forums and asking about what parts would be needed to complete a Hobby King helicopter setup.

I've never flow a helicopter yet, and am considering getting one, but this seems like it would be too much helicopter to start with. Does Hobby King offer anything that would be more suited to learning on?
Cheers,
Rob
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Old Sep 23, 2011, 10:09 PM
just gotta mess with it!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by krefi View Post
A very thorough and well-written article. I have the belt-drive version of this, and my experience hasn't been as good. Between the number of parts that needed to be replaced out of the box and additional components that wore quickly and needed replacing after just a few flights, I gotta say I wouldn't recommend it to others.
Whereas I would unreservedly recommend it! I'm happy to get a couple of mainshafts for not much more than a buck, and replace them after even the smallest crash. I can't think of any clone parts that really wear out more quickly than Align originals - possibly OWB's if you're using an ESC with a fierce governor mode - but the clone parts would have to wear out several times quicker to make it more economical to use Align ones. I really like my Mini Titan, but the plastic links and tail linkage wear just as quickly as the same parts on my HK 450 Pro, and the 450 Pro just flies better than the MT - it's so much more agile. I've broken MT main frames in crashes, but have yet to break a 450 Pro frame. The review that started this thread puzzled me though - the kit has been out for ages, with many threads associated with it and a huge fund of knowledge on all the forums - it's as if the O.P. is doing a dry run for a web site or a journalistic career. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, and good luck to them in either case!
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Old Sep 23, 2011, 10:45 PM
rather fly, but this'll do
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Ha ha, I wondered about the vintage of this article myself, when the OP referred to a 401 as the greatest gyro out there. Ya, maybe four years ago!
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Old Sep 24, 2011, 12:42 AM
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It's a new article. Really. Cross my heart.

I'd contacted HobbyKing with the idea of doing an all-HK build of a popular clone. I suggested this one unless they had one they'd prefer to be reviewed. Anyway, HK liked the idea of an in-depth review of this model and sent me this one.

Since RCG works closely with Hobbico, the last thing I'd want them to think was that I was equating a cloned gyro with their original, hence my comment.
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Old Sep 24, 2011, 03:04 AM
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Align is the Rolex of rc helicopters? Gy401 best gyro out there?
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Old Sep 24, 2011, 05:39 AM
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Align is the Rolex of rc helicopters? Gy401 best gyro out there?
I was just about to ask the same thing. Never thought I would see an Align compared to a Rolex.
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Old Sep 24, 2011, 12:26 PM
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Gentlemen, your enthusiasm is greatly appreciated.

However, my statements weren't absolute and I apologize if my attempt to distance the clones from the real products was misleading. My intent was to say that while the clones are nice, they aren't anywhere as nice as the brand-name items, especially since we work so closely with Hobbico and Horizon.

The comment about the Futaba servo was a last-minute addition which should have been worded differently.

Hoping this clears things up.
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Old Sep 24, 2011, 02:25 PM
just gotta mess with it!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DismayingObservation View Post
It's a new article. Really. Cross my heart.

I'd contacted HobbyKing with the idea of doing an all-HK build of a popular clone. I suggested this one unless they had one they'd prefer to be reviewed. Anyway, HK liked the idea of an in-depth review of this model and sent me this one.

Since RCG works closely with Hobbico, the last thing I'd want them to think was that I was equating a cloned gyro with their original, hence my comment.
Say what? They sent you a model just so that you could review it? Hmmm, I might start doing reviews....!
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