Hands On With the $399 Bumblebee G1 Robot: Less Than Meets The Eye

Hands On With the $399 Bumblebee G1 Robot: Less Than Meets The Eye

Robosen’s latest expensive, collectible robot toy, the first in a new line of classic-looking Transformers, lacks a major feature of the Optimus Prime models: It doesn’t transform.


(Credit: Eric Griffith)

Robosen’s been making robots under a license with Hasbro’s Transformers for a few years now. The output has been limited to ultra-spiffy versions of the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime. But rabid collectors—the primary audience for these toys, not kids—can’t fight the Decepticons with Prime alone.

Robosen finally has a new Transformer ready for purchase, and it’s the good-guy Cybertronian everyone loves almost as much as Optimus. Bumblebee G1(Opens in a new window) is here and sells for a lot less than his leader. The problem? This new bot lacks the key feature that makes all the Robosen versions of O.P. truly special. Bumblebee G1 Performance (the official name), as agile as it is, does not transform into a car.

Those original Optimus Prime toy bots range from the 19-inch Flagship version, which cost $1,200 at launch but is now $999, down to the $699 16-inch-tall Elite model. Each has servo motor joints (27) and microchips (60). It’s another $799 to get the Flagship trailer that goes on the back when in truck mode. Robosen also has a pre-order version of the Optimus Prime Rise of the Beasts Signature Robot (Limited Edition), which looks more like the movie version of Optimus—it will sell for $699 and ship in 2024.

Pax and Bumblebee

(Credit: Eric Griffith)

Bumblebee G1 Performance (the G1 is for “generation 1”) looks almost exactly like Bee did back in the original 1984 syndicated cartoons, much like the O.P. Elite. This not-quite-14-inch-tall Bumblebee sells for much less than Optimus at $399 but still has many of the same features.

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Bumblebee is a well-designed, beautiful robot that can perform most of the same actions as Optimus, minus converting. It does so with fewer microchips (45) and servos (17). Bee responds to 20 pre-set voice commands, plus has 69 other things to say. Bee’s enthusiastic voice is excellent, as it was provided by original 1980’s voice artist Dan Gilvezan(Opens in a new window)—it’s not going for that movie-only conceit that Bee’s voice box is ruined. Stand-outs on the design include the light-up eyes and feet—you can tell by the oversized feet they’re meant to be the hood of a Volkswagen Beetle.

Pax and Bumblebee

(Credit: Eric Griffith)

The lack of transformation into an 80’s vintage VW bug (the G1 Bee’s disguise of choice) is maddening, even if it’s understandable technology-wise. I get it. My 5-year-old toy testing assistant (code-name Optimus PAX) did not. He was utterly thrilled to see Bumblebee arrive, as Bee is second in his heart only to the Dinobot Grimlock(Opens in a new window). But since he was used to Optimus Prime Elite, the first thing he said, repeatedly, to the voice-operated droid was, “Hey Bumblebee! Transform!” To which it would stand still, awaiting a command it could actually follow.

If you say nothing for a while, Bee will just kind of breathe, waiting for commands to go into battle against the Decepticons. It’s weird and fun to watch. For a while.

Bumblebee G1 vs Optimus Prime Elite: FIGHT!

 Bumblebee box

(Credit: Eric Griffith)

The things Bee lacks in comparison to the Optimus Prime Elite include a case that isn’t as nice (there’s no hinge or handle on the foam box, making it harder to transport); fewer voice controls; and did we mention it can’t transform? All things that keep the price down, no doubt.

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What’s better? The bot has adjustable walking speeds and can even stand back up in some cases if it falls. It’s more flexible than Optimus, capable of a high kick or a full limbo-lean backward. That’s possible because the enormous feet on the droid don’t have transforming concerns. Bee can walk in all directions, but to make a turn left or right it still shuffles, just like the Prime Elite, in a method of locomotion reminiscent of Tim Conway as the Old Man(Opens in a new window) on The Carol Burnett Show. We’re not talking Boston Dynamics style movement here. Bee has one light-up ion blaster weapon, but that’s in keeping with Bee’s offensive capabilities in the old show.

Bumblebee G1 app

(Credit: Robosen)

Where Bee G1 truly outshines the Optimus Prime Elite is in the mobile app used to control it, which you can download for Android or iOS. Connecting Bee to the phone or tablet via Bluetooth is simple in the software. The Bee app is much improved from the separate app that controls/programs Optimus Prime. It appears more professionally designed with a cleaner interface. It can act as a remote control to move Bee and activate actions. In the remote screen, you can set it to a See-Thru mode (below) to watch the robot through the phone’s camera as you control it, and even record a video.

Pax and Bumblebee in app

(Credit: Robosen/Eric Griffith)

Both apps have the same feature for programming movements, using a drag-and-drop process. It’s not intuitive whatsoever, but the new app for Bumblebee features how-to videos that make it a little easier. The whole thing can be a nice introduction to rudimentary programming for some. But not for a 5-year-old. This is fine, since that’s not at all the audience Robosen is targeting with these expensive bots. But there are less expensive ways to learn basic programming.

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Bee and OP

(Credit: Eric Griffith)

For those who have invested in a Robosen Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, the app includes a new “mini theater” option. It allows a Bluetooth connection to both simultaneously, so you can have them perform a little play, of sorts, using a bunch of their pre-programmed voice bytes and actions.

Another Costly Trip to Cybertron’s Past

 Bumblebee in app

(Credit: Robosen/Eric Griffith)

Like the Optimus Primes from Robosen, this robot version of Bumblebee is for collectors and mega-fans of all things related to Transformers. At $399 it doesn’t have enough going for it for non-mega-fans, especially since the most astounding feature of its predecessor—transformation into a vehicle—isn’t there. Without that conversation starter, Bumblebee G1 is a TINO—Transformer In Name Only. But the incremental advances are great to see. Hopefully, they’ll be applied to future members of the lineup … maybe, fingers crossed, a Grimlock that can really go full T-Rex.

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Source: englishtalent.edu.vn

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