Half Segway, half unicycle, the Airwheel Q3 arrived in the TechRadar office at the beginning of August promising a "revolution" in personal mobility.
I was intrigued. After all, why walk to work when you can just… stand to work?
The AirWheel is a personal transport vehicle that uses a gyroscope and attitude control stabilisation to stay upright on its wheel without any other supports.
With one foot either side of the wheel, you simply stand up straight and lean forward to move forward, lean back to slow down or go backwards and lean sideways to steer. Easy, right? Well not exactly – but we'll come back to that.
It's certainly not cheap. The AirWheel Q3 we tested is the most expensive in the range and costs all of $799 in the UK and $1333 in the US.
Even the cheapest model, the AirWheel X3 costs 拢510/$849 – hardly an impulse purchase.
You can see the full range on the AirWheel website but the top-end Q3 model I tested has dual 14-inch wheels because it's so damn big, an 800W motor and a 340W battery that's good for 24 miles of about-town scooting at a maximum speed of 12kph. That range is impressive.
All models will actually go as fast as 16kph if you're moving down hill, but at that point it'll use its motor to start slowing you down.
How the Airwheel works
Concept-wise, the AirWheel is very similar to the Segway, but with a crucial difference. Instead of having a platform to stand on in between two gyro-controlled wheels and a handle to hold on to, the AirWheel has you standing on two pedals either side of a single wheel (two adjacent wheels in the case of the Q3).
It's far less stable – there are no handlebars, and you can't just stand still on it – you have to keep moving to stay balanced like a bike.
You have to find this all out for yourself because the 'user manual' you get in the box doesn't even begin to explain how to ride the thing. It tells you how to charge it, store it and maintain it in badly-translated English, but not to actually use it. The most you get is along the lines of "press the on button and the unit is ready to be used". Right. Thanks for that.
The ON/OFF button performs the vital function of killing the unit's terrible beeping sound.