Thursday, August 1, 2013

TBs TechReview 24 – 41999, 4x4 Crawler Exclusive Edition (Part II)

[Part I]

And here we're for the 2nd part of my review of 41999 4x4 Crawler Exclusive Edition.

4. Building experience

Once this model inherits the chassis from 9398 4x4 Crawler by definition, we will here start with the last steps from this.
In fact the chassis are virtually identical, with small detail differences regarding the attachment points for the body, the mudguards, etc.
Additionally and because there are also extra electrical functions (front winch and PF headlights), these also appear early on top of the original chassis, connected to the IR Receiver (V2).

Hence we will start with the PF Battery Box installment, right after the middle of building instructions book 2.
And this is also where the first intriguing point comes up. The 5L beams got 1L displacement relative to the similar arrangement on 9398. When I first saw it, immediately thought the battery box was moved 1 module lower, to improve the model center of gravity. But soon I realized it was not the case since the battery box lays exactly in the same place inside the chassis.
Hence the reason for this change remains a mystery to me, once it doesn't even makes the battery box insertion significantly easier. Eventually it slightly strengthens the installation of the PF Switch in the next steps, but I'm not sure whether this is the reason also because it was applied on both sides.

The images below, show the chassis after adding the PF headlights and the PF Switch, which will command the front winch, and having connected all electrical components to the IR Receiver.

It uses the same the same design on the chassis, which was introduced on 9398 shortly after its release, because inexperienced or more distracted builders could use connector 6536 in a way that would prevent the L-motors on the chassis to run. Then this was replaced with an alternative element (44809) which prevents that possibility to happen.

This is where the building of the chassis ends before getting into the details of the upper body, starting with the winch itself.
Before that, we still do some short steps to build the remote control assembly, which is identical to the one used with the 9398, appart the color change of the 3/4 Technic pin (blue to tan as it happens also with the other 2013 Technic models).

At a certain point, the building of the winch sub-assembly requires to wind the string into the reel and pass it through the hole on the hook element. Here LEGO used the same new string type as used on the 42009 Mobile Crane MK II, which is one of a thicker type and made of a different type of fibers. To avoid the string shredding,a common trick is used and it is supplied with burnt tips.
In my case, this turned completely impossible to pass the the string from both ends, through the hook hole... I had to cut a small piece and eventually burn it later again.

Surpassed this first difficulty, the winch assembly is easy to build and gets fully integrated behind the front grill. This is later attached to the chassis, already a few pages after starting with building instructions book3 (some pictures below).

And here we have the motorized winch already in place. It is something we have got relative often in large vehicles, from the past years (8110 in 2011, and 8297 in 2008). This is just another example on the unlimited ways we have to implement a certain mechanism with LEGO Technic elements.

Not exactly at this point, but during the live build session, when I tried to test the winch function, it did not work at first. As it turned not immediate to find what the problem was, I decided to leave for a later analysis - after all we was broadcasting live, and being stuck around such a problem was not really fun...
Later already offline I tried to find what went wrong with the winch, but it didn't turn obvious. Maybe a defective PF Switch or even the PF M-motor. Trying to replace the motor at that stage would be a feat... hence I tried with another PF Switch, to find it was perfectly working then. Did I get a defective element was now the question - but then I found by chance the polarity switch in the original PF Switch was positioned at middle course leading to the observed "failure" behavior.
Problem solved! And changed it back to the original PF Switch.

The building proceeds with the rear, side fairings and doors. By the end of third book you're eventually at this point.

Proceeding with fourth book, it will take you still another 20 pages to complete the first body level which comprises the side fairings with doors, the rear with the taillights and the special license plate, and the front grill plus winch where we started.

This is a good point to stare and show how 41999 starts looking compared to the original 9398. Both have the passenger doors and mudguards directly attached to the chassis, but the new crawler got a different solution and also some other parts from the body go directly with the chassis.
With this one, only the upper part of the body pivots from the rest, to service the model and replace the batteries.

Then it is time to build the upper section of the body!
It has pair of cool brick built seats tan colored, and a couple of nice white stripes characteristic of some sport cars, as part of the decoration, along with some stickers - a few of them evoking the name of the challenge winner, 'Egor' and original designer of the model that inspired this crawler exclusive edition.

Here both parts alongside each other.

Once put together we can experiment the mechanism that allows to pivot the upper body section. It is identical to the one used with 9398 and remains perfectly functional with the new model. The illustrations below confirm how it works.

Once lowered and the doors closed, here it is how it looks like.

At this point we are just missing the last step on book 4, where this model exclusive wheels and tires, are attached (here already after some use as it was one of last photos taken...)

It is also time to show another very exclusive element. The license plate silver printed with the unique number identifying your model among the 20.000 units produced. Numbers should go from 00001 until 20000 and it seems I'm a proud owner of the exemplar numbered with 06061.

We are done building this beauty and as usual there are some leftovers. I finished with these and if there were no mistakes you will probably end with the same, after building yours.

The white tile 2x4 is there for the case you want to save your exclusive numbered license. Then you can apply a more generic and less valuable one, with the extra label present in the sticker sheet, where we can read the inscription "EK 41999".

5. Functionality and playability

Before getting into the functions and play experience, let me focus a bit on the aesthetics.

In order to test the model and prepare one video for this review, I decided to produce a few home made rocks made of Polyurethane (PU) and painted them to achieve a realistic look.
These were then used as the main elements of my test field, but even before they served as scenario for a photo session. Below some examples shown in pairs to highlight how the exclusive Dark Blue color appears with and without flash.

The Dark Blue in contrast with the white stripes, the flat silver elements and some decorative stickers, produces a really nice and appealing visual effect. In fact as you may remember this was also the color that many of you shown interest for, even before we knew which exclusive color the co-creation will gonna have [1].

Below some other shots where you can see this beauty model, from some other angles.

Although when compared to the 9398, in my personal opinion, I still like much the original orange/black/white color schema (with stickers) and I know this is a controversial position as many have criticized that color mix.
Also I tend to like more the little wider back on 9398, which has one extra module at the rear mudguards. A small difference but still noticeable to the eye.
As noticeable as the fact that designers managed to make 41999 even lower then its ancestor 9398. Only about 4mm but still lower which is something I wouldn't be expecting, besides the top headlights removal (they were present on 9398 and also at Egor's original design).

As per the functions added to this exclusive model, you already know from the building stages above, that we got included a front winch and working headlights. Both are a natural addition if we think about things that could be added to the original crawler, when we are restricted to use the same chassis.

There is also the trunk which can be opened, although the same can't be done with the hood.
The white rear aileron addition and design is absolutely genial IMO!

A couple of things I really liked about this model, was related with the doors and body locking mechanisms design. The solution used in 9398 to lock the doors was already quite ingenuous and innovative, as described on this model review. Although I got surprised once more, with the solution used with 41999 - a 2L axle on the doors that fits between a couple of double axle flexible rubber connectors (45590). It is something I never thought about and that really amazed me.

Interestingly both locking mechanisms are achieved with the doors in this model. After lowering the body (e.g. after replacing the batteries), the doors are again used to lock it to the chassis. While this provides a better and easier handling compared to 9398, it has also a small disadvantage to get the body automatically free or unlocked if one open both doors, or partially unlocked if only one of them is opened. Not a big issue though!

Now getting to drive it!

As soon as I tried the first test drive, immediately after the first roll over, some parts broke apart from one of the A-pillars (those at front). This made me think the design of 41999 body was somehow less robust then its ancestor (9398 is really robust in that aspect). Although this never happened again and I must conclude it was a fortuity happening.

For your reference, let me state that all tests ahead were done making use of rechargeable AA batteries. Duracell 2.650mAh or Energizer 2.500mAh.

Do you remember the PU rocks mentioned above, right!?
Likely some of these ended a bit too high and difficult to surpass by these crawlers. But that's also the intention, to see how the model performs, which makes them a good testbed for this review.

I found it out quite difficult to cross over these rocks, although if used the front winch turned to be a very useful addition as you may seen in the review video (when available...).

Some attempts were in fact successful, right after a fresh charge of the batteries. But generally I observed some difficulty from 41999 to cope with the challenge and the L-motors often whistle while the crawler attacks and stuck somewhere on the rocks.

Across several attempts I started getting the impression that 9398 (the original crawler) would be a bit more successful with these obstacles, and up to the challenge. Because the chassis is basically the same, I started to think there might be some other factor leading to this result. Thought one reason could be the significant partcount increase on 41999 (from 1.327 to 1.585) - in fact there were added almost 300g to the original model (1.420g to 1.715g, almost 21%). But also observed the PF LEDs on the headlights dimmed until they light off, when the crawler stuck and the motors stall, sinking all the current from the battery box. Didn't thought this would be the root cause but decided to test it anyay, by disconecting the PF LEDs, recharging the batteries anf giving it another try.

Besides unexpected, the results proved the presence of the LEDs was also a determinant factor affecting the performance of the model, to fight against the more difficult obstacles.

In the video below I intend to demonstrate a bit of what we have been talking here.

And you can take a look into the timelapse below, recorded while doing the building live stream event, a few weeks ago.

One last aspect I found was that on 9398, the body often clashes with the IR Receiver when lowering it, thus requiring some manual adjustment. By chance or intentionally, this odd behavior has been eliminated on 41999.

6. The B-model

Well... there is no B-model known for 41999, although taking into consideration the nature of this model and the process involved with its design, it was not really expectable to see an official B-model for this.

Maybe some fans will come with their own proposals in the time to come...

7. Final thoughts

This time I'd try to summarize my final thoughts and comments in a short set of Pros and Cons that come to my mind, regarding this exclusive model from 2013.
- Color schema unique for Technic team. Nice for exhibition!
- Exclusive decorated parts and easy to reuse (wheels).
- Bigger value associated with extra PF elements being included at a good price point. Big value for the money!
- Simpler design to fix the body onto the chassis. Although opening the doors, potentially unlocks the body from the chassis.
- The presence of additional working functions like the front winch and headlights.

- Some exclusive colored elements, hard to reuse in MOCs, due to its limited availability. You may need several sets to gather a more useful assortment of these elements.
- The extra PF elements drain power from the batteries, which is needed in the drivetrain at more demanding conditions. Not very efficient as a crawler, if we stay strict to the set official name...

I'm sure you will find your own set of Pros and Cons, that will guide through the decision to buy this set, while it lasts.

On another aspect I fell this set a bit more of the same. It intends to be another crawler (from its name), while it could have been something different or even much different. However this was not really controlled by TLG, but the fans choice. In the end it hurts to see the performance as a crawler was significantly compromised because of the reasons already exposed.
It rests the consolation this is a very unique set and will be reminded as such. A symbol of cooperation between the LEGO Technic team and the theme fans, through a very successful build challenge!

8. The ratings

While using the same evaluation points as we used to do at TBs TechReviews, we had to adapt a bit the meaning of some criteria to the specificity of this set.
For instance, we don't have really new parts in this set, however we got several in very exclusive colors or decorations, which was also considered in terms of parts innovation.
As for the set innovation we also took in consideration the whole process and spirit behind the conception of this set, which it is also an innovation in itself.
While there are some really good design details in this set, it suffered a bit in this criteria along with its functionality and playability, from the fact that some decisions (in most cases consequences from the initial objectives set for this model/challenge) are the root cause behind some functional performance decrease.

   as value for the money
   for parts innovation
   for set innovation
   for set design
   for functionality and playability

Overall rate: Recomended  

This is a very recommended set specially for die-hard Technic fans and collectors, mainly because of its uniqueness, collectible value and very limited availability, as an Exclusive Edition that it is!
If you still don't have 9398 and you're in doubt about which one to buy, I can only help saying - If the crawling capabilities are your priority, you should buy the 9398, in any other case the 41999 should be your choice (if it rests anyone available...)

Thanks to the LEGO Technic team, for the great challenge they have offered us in 2012/13!


kABUSE said...

great work as always.

today i got the confirmation for the shipment of my 41999 :)

will leave it untouched 1 year, then sell it on ebay.. lol.

sorry about that but at least i try to be honest :D

Unknown said...

Using plastic rocks to test the crawler's capabilities was a smart idea: from personal experience, I can confirm that real limestone can scratch the chassis. That is the price one pays for using Lego outdoors. :(

A note about 41999's value for money rating: while the exclusive set does contain more Technic bricks and PF elements than 9398, 9398 has been discounted heavily (30% or more) by Amazon UK and other merchants. Since 41999's 20.000 units will likely sell out before it is discounted, I consider 9398 a better value in many cases.

Fernando Correia said...

In fact I have scratched my 9398 too, in outdoors footage. :)

I got your point about 9398 value, however I was just comparing the regular and official S@H prices, as not everyone have access to those discounted prices. At least in the same amount.

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