The WL Toys WL916 is a 47cm long brushless powered ready to run (RTR) boat that is fast, and durable with an excellent set of fail safe features that will stop you getting stranded. It is a boat that is clearly the result of many tweaks and improvements which means it is fast and reliable out of the box. This is my review.
First lets address the monkey in the room, although this is a blog under the RC Cars heading it is clearly not an RC car but given the tech and manufacturer similarities I thought it'd be good to branch out a little, especially to those lucky sods who are enjoying summer and water-based activities at present. This review will be from the standpoint of someone who is well versed in RC quadcopters and cars and knows the tech but not as they apply to boats. For this reason I probably have the same concerns as most who are looking at boats - what happens if it capsizes? does it fill with water? does it get stranded when the battery is flat? Is the range ok? Can I run it in salt water? I'll look to address all of these and of course cover the specs and give you feedback on how it runs. Read on!
What do you get in the kit?
As with all of my reviews, lets look at what is included in the box:
A closer look at the boat and running gear
Before we go through the review, let's take a closer look at the boat and running gear to see how it measures up
Motor and drive. The brushless, water-cooled motor is a 2212 outrunner (12mm bell length a 22mm diameter). This means the rather than an internal rotating rotor as we find on RC cars, it is the outer bell that rotates, driving the shaft in the centre - similar what we seen on multirotor and planes. The advantage of these is that they run much cooler at the cost of durability and exposure to moving parts. This is no issue in a boat like this since it is well protected within the hull. Motor kV is not stated. The motor directly drives the prop shaft that exits the hull at the rear and turns a steeply pitched twin bladed plastic prop.
Comparison between an inrunner motor on the left to and outrunner on the right
Electronics. The WL916 uses an all in one receiver/brushless ESC unit that is unique to the boat. The main feature of this unit it that it is heavily shrouded by the water cooling heatsink. There is no on/off switch - plugging the battery in powers the system up. The receiver and transmitter use a 2.4GHz digital signal to connect which is commonplace in modern day RC. The receiver may look like the same unit as the WL Toys cars (it uses the same shell) but the internals are unique to the boat, namely it has telemetry meaning that the receiver can send signals to the transmitter in addition to the transmitter sending signals to the receiver. This is important for when the battery in the boat goes low - it will tell your transmitter to start beeping. More on this later.
Water cooling. Unlike other vehicles a boat's hull must be fully watertight... for obvious reasons. This means their is no airflow to assist with cooling and is why water cooling is critical for powerful RC boats like this. Water is forced into the piping from a high pressure inlet at the rear of the boat and then travels through the heatsink on the ESC. There is a lot of thermal paste between the heatsink and ESC mosfets to ensure good heat transfer. The water then travels from here to the heatsink doubling as a motor mount and then exits the boat through a low pressure point on the side of the boat through a grommet. Water has so much more ability to remove heat from a system than air due to it's substantially larger specific heat capacity. In simple terms this is good at keeping the boat cool.
Steering. Steering is powered by a 3-wire 17g servo through a control rod to a rudder in the rear that is offset to the right of the propeller. This system is simple and reliable.
Hull and stabilisation. The hull is injection moulded plastic and is 470mm long. It is compact with a small footprint and is designed to sit low in the water until it planes and becomes more efficient. It cleverly has a rubber cap on the front the will protect the boat from running into objects as well as protecting objects (like shins!) from the boat. There is a cover for the boat that provides a water proof seal by locking down 6 rotating clips. There is another cover that goes on this for further splash protection and aesthetics.
This is a very fast boat and needs help keeping it stable at speed. fixed trim tabs at the rear of the boat help keep the nose down under power keeping all the thrust pointing forward rather up in the air.
The adjustable daggers on the sides of the rear allow for extra 'grip' during turning at the expense of generating noticeably more drag. After having them all the way down the boat needed a lot of power to get planing but turned on a dime. I preferred them in their least aggressive setting.
This image shows one of the two the adjustable daggers to the left that assists with steering and the fixed trim tab in the centre that assist with keeping the nose down at speed.
That'll do it for a review of the systems, let's move on to the actual performance review.
Before we crack in to the serious things I wanted to say 2 things:
Top speed. Sadly I destroyed my GSM020 GPS speedometer and since I wasn't willing to risk my phone I wasn't able to directly measure top speed. However, after reviewing cars for 2-3 years I'd estimate this at 50-55km/h in a straight line. It feels genuinely quick on the water
Planing. I'll take this opportunity to discuss here how performance delivers so differently to a car. Boats of this design sit very low in the water and so there is a huge amount of drag which makes them slow and sluggish to turn whilst sucking down the power from the battery. Once they get up speed though they start to plane - the boat comes out of the water significatly, bouncing along on the top rather than dragging through it. At this point speed pick up is on a differnt level as is effeciency and the ability to corner like it is on rails. Because of this you need to keep the throttle on in corners to keep it planing - since there is more friction in the water that a car on land, it doesn't coast like a car. That is, it slows down and comes off the plane quote quickly. Once you are up on the plane you can keep the throttle down and go for top speed or you can pull back on the throttle and keep planing at a lower speed. Finding this balance was a lot of fun and added a whole new dimension to driving for me.
Handling. This is a small and nimble boat so it will need very calm water to run on otherwise you will struggle to get on a plane and have more risk of capsizing. However, when you have calm water they handling is sublime as you can see from the videos. The ability to turn sharply at speed is something we can't do with RC cars and is the upside of the extra friction that water causes. As I mentioned earlier you can increase this turning ability further by dropping the daggers down but beware the extra drag they create. I liked mine best in the top setting.
Please note that turning while moving slowly is extremely sluggish and you need more speed for better turning - the opposite of and RC car.
The above video will give you a feel for cornering agility
Waterproofing. Given how small this boat is and how low it sits on the surface, I was really worried about water getting in to the electronics. So long as you to the cabin clips up correctly though this boat is very waterproof. During all the splashing, capsizing and beaching I didn't have a since drop in. This is really important because generally speaking the electronics are not resistant to water, especially salt water.
In this video we looked at how well the canopy and cover kept the water out
Battery life. Battery life can last anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes and varies hugely on how you drive it. If you are spending the whole time getting off plane and getting back on, it will suck down the battery like no ones business. Conversely if you get on the plane and stay there (not a full throttle) then you will enjoy much longer battery life as the boat as the boat is much more efficient in this mode.
Salt water. I highly recommend against running this or any other RC boat in salt water. Any RC boat worth your consideration is cooled by the water it runs in. The salt water will corrode heatsinks on the motor and ESC over time. If you are adamant you want to run in salt water, make sure you flush the coolant lines thoroughly and also rinse the external hardware like prop shaft, rudder etc. In the videos here I was running in a tidal lagoon at low tide so predominantly fresh water.
What if I capsize or the battery goes flat?
My biggest concern about getting into RC boats is rescuing it in water that I don't want to swim in. WL Toys have obviously thought of this being a possible barrier to purchase and so have addressed it in the following ways:
All of these features, some of which I don't know were on cheap boats, gave me the peace of mind to drive this boat without fear of needing to rescue it.
The above video shows you what happens when the battery gets low
My Conclusions and Recommendations
The WL Toys WL916 Brushless RC boat is a whole lot of fun. The dynamics of driving it to get it up on a plane is new to me and really rewarding. The boat itself is small and so easy to manage and like most RC boats requires still water to run in. With a brushless motor and 3s power it is extremely quick for it's size yet offers a decent 10-15 minute battery life. Importantly this boat has many fail safe features, notable to aid capsizing and flat batteries to ensure you won't have to swim after it. So far it also seems really durable even though we've crashed it quite a bit
I'm really pleased to recommend the WL916, especially if you haven't dabbled in boats before. As I've said a few times, the WL916 makes for a wonderful break from RC cars that is well worth trying as a new and rewarding challenge. It's also very easy to drive, check out my 3 year old giving it the berries at the bottom of this page!
If you are looking for a discount on this car, I will post any coupon codes or flash sales for it over here on my coupons and discounts page. Remember buying from any of these links supports my page without any cost to you and is appreciated especially since I don't ask for money via patreon and the like. If you want to get involved in this discussion, feel free to join the QuadifyRC Facebook Group Here or like my page below
Here's little Jin giving the WL916 the treatment