If you have mastered walking, running, and jumping, then why not take the next step to get from one pace to another — hovering! Hoverboards are trying hard to become the next generation solution to simmply walking.
We spent more than 35 hours in the field researching the hoverboard market, surveying customers, and talking to a certified hoverboard dealer with several years of experience in the space.
We also tested the top models at the BestReviews lab by riding them on several different surfaces, taking them apart and inspecting their differences under the hood, and putting them through a series of tests to measure their handling and performance.
Here’s what we learned:
Because of the controversy regarding hoverboards catching on fire, our top priority was to get to the bottom of the safety issue.
It's true that some hoverboards have posed a safety risk to consumers over the past few years. And for a while, retailers like Amazon stopped selling them because of the potential danger. But in 2016, the UL introduced a new voluntary safety standard (UL 2272) for hoverboards that addresses the risk. If you're in the market for a hoverboard, we strongly suggest that you buy one that complies with UL 2272.
All five of the products in our matrix, above, are compliant with UL 2272. But we conducted a series of tests with an infrared thermometer anyway, to see if any of the hoverboards actually did heat up to abnormal temperatures during use or while charging.
Our analysis showed that none of the models generated enough heat to make flammability an issue.
When we took apart the hoverboards, we noticed something interesting.
The cheaper hoverboards — those in the $300 to $500 range — have only one battery (on one of the sides), while the more expensive models have two batteries (one on each side). Ironically, this disparity didn’t translate into considerable differences in battery life or charging times between units, but it did affect the stabilization of the boards.
The models with two batteries were much smoother and more balanced than the ones with only one battery.
From the minute we powered on the devices, we noticed some major differences between the models in terms of the stabilization technology.
Some cheaper models have a feedback loop that causes the machine to vibrate and move around erratically.
This makes it much more difficult to get on and off the board, because as soon as you have one foot on the ground, the board can begin spinning uncontrollably.
In this case, the best way to get on or off is to hold onto a stationary object such as a wall or chair.
While this issue wasn’t symptomatic on a smooth surface like concrete, it became a much bigger problem when going over slightly bumpy terrain such as the edge of a carpet, small sidewalk cracks, or minor potholes.
We also tested the boards for inclement weather conditions like rain and sleet. The board had no problems going over water, experiencing zero slippage even over relatively large puddles.
That being said, we would strongly advise not riding a hoverboard during bad weather, as there is the potential to get into serious danger by going over bumps and rough surfaces that are covered by rain or other debris.
The first thing you will notice as soon as you pick up your brand new hoverboard is the weight. These things are very heavy!
We were expecting them to weigh something like a normal scooter, but they actually weigh several times more — ranging from 15 to 26 pounds.
Most of the weight is concentrated in the lithium ion battery (located above the wheels on one or both sides of the board).
All of the models are nearly identical in terms of weight and design. Some of them are assembled abroad and others are made in the U.S. As such, the final products appear slightly different in terms of branding and polish.
All of the hoverboards come with a built-in battery pack, charger, and an instruction manual.
The chargers were virtually identical between models, and the instruction manuals were similar, although a few had some spelling mistakes and some poorly translated English.
Some of the fancier models also come with nice add-ons such as a remote control, bluetooth speakers, and LED lights. While none of these features are essential, they are differentiators that may influence the buying decision for consumers who wnat to use their hoverboard daily.
Here are some videos of our unboxing of the CoolReall and the PhunkeeDuck:
Richard is a seasoned small business owner in the hardware industry. He also owns a pool maintenance business and serves as an advisor on groundskeeping committees for a number of prominent organizations. He’s a regionally renowned safe cracker/locksmith expert, and in his spare time, he renovates and repairs vaults, safes, appliances, and a number of other products.
If you're in the market for a hoverboard, you should be aware that there are inherent risks involved with these machines. While the possibility of a fire is very limited to begin with, the chance is even lower if you purchase a board that is UL-compliant.
In the end, it comes down to personal preference. These things are an absolute joy to ride, and it’s no wonder they have become an international phenomenon.
If you have the risk appetite for it, you will be sure to have a lot of fun zipping through the street on the hottest toy in town!