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Home  >>  Reviews  >>  Misc. Products

Scalextric Advanced 6 Car Powerbase Digital Control Unit

Published: July 31, 2010

Scalextric Advanced 6 Car Powerbase Digital Control Unit

by Greg Gaub aka MrFlippant

Slot Car Illustrated Exclusive

 

Scalextric Advanced 6 Car Powerbase

To say that the Scalextric Advanced 6 Car Powerbase (C7042) is long awaited might be the understatement of the decade. Fortunately, for all of those people who have been waiting, especially those who have placed pre-orders, the wait is over! Mere days after this article is posted, orders all over North America will be shipping to the eagerly waiting hands of their new owners. Those people already know why they wanted one, and will undoubtedly be happy with the new features their track will have.

There are a lot of people who are not sure about this new base, or are just curious. This article is for you fence-sitters.

The Scalextric Advanced 6 Car Powerbase, which I will refer to as simply, the "powerbase", is everything most home racers will ever need for their track, whether it is a Scalextric Digital, or standard (a.k.a.
"analog") track. The feature list on the box is not complete, but that's probably because there's not enough room for them all in 4 languages.

This is what they decided to put on the box:

  • Upgrade ANY Scalextric system
  • Race up to 6 cars
  • Standard OR advanced menu options
  • Skill level control
  • Race standard OR Digital cars
  • Multiple gaming modes
  • Pacer car function
  • Contains display screen and powerbase/half straight
  • Requires Digital hand throttles (sold separately)
  • Requires 15V power supply (sold separately) C7033

The last two "features" are there because the majority of those interested in this powerbase will upgrading from a 4 Car Powerbase that came in the Scalextric Digital set they recently purchased. These people will already have a suitable power supply and controllers. Power supplies and controllers are sold separately, of course, for those purchasing this powerbase for their standard track, or those getting into digital without purchasing a set to get started. The manual recommends two power supplies when racing 4 or more cars and a second power supply is required to run both lanes in standard (analog) mode.

With one power supply, you can race as many cars as you like, but beyond 3 cars might introduce slow downs as each car is added, since each PSU supplies 4 amps, and each car can take up to 1.5 amps from a standing start. Also, in standard mode, if you only have one power supply, you can choose to run one lane or the other, but not both.

 

The powerbase can be booted up into a Basic mode or a Professional mode with access to more options

Basic mode provides access to Race Setup/settings (detailed below), as well as car ID programming

Professional mode provides access to all powerbase functions, including the ability to switch to analog mode for running standard cars.

Analog mode provides the ability to run up to two standard cars on one or both lanes, with full race mode functions as in digital, even Pacer cars.

Digital mode enables racing of up to 6 Digital cars (two power supplies recommended), with full race mode functions.

There is no need to set up races or other options to begin racing cars around. As soon as a car crosses the powerbase sensors, a lap timer will start, and every time it passes a lap time will be displayed.

 

Pre-Race mode options in Professional mode include:

Race Mode options: Choose the race type and race parameters and begin racing (detailed below)

Yellow Flag options: When enabled, Yellow Flag happens when a racer presses their Brake button during a race. Choose the effect of a Yellow Flag (no effect, half power, or stop all cars), the delay between when a button is pressed to when the effect takes place from 0-25 seconds, and the minimum lap time for the circuit from 0-25 seconds.

Handset Calibration: to equalize each hand controller to ensure even performance and maximum power settings. In this mode, each racer presses and releases their controller trigger three times with clear text and beep prompts from the powerbase.

Start or End Game options: Choose if the track has power during the start sequence (yes/no), what level of power cars have at the end of the race (none, half, or full), whether there is false start detection (yes/no) and if there is a penalty added to the false starter (0-25 seconds), when the race is determined to have ended (after the lead car, or after every car completes their laps), and two options to control when Pacer cars can use lane changers to prevent them from going through the pit lane.

Car ID Programming: In this mode, racers need only press the brake button on their controller to program their car (each car on the track in turn, as any/all cars on the track will be programmed when a button is pressed). MUCH simpler than the original 6 car Powerbase, and very similar to the PB-Pro version.

Car set up options: Each car can be individually set to 4 different power level settings (50, 75, 88, 100%), what types of brakes it has (button only, trigger only, neither, or both), throttle minimum control (to overcome throttle delay on the trigger, like a minimum speed setting), and pacer car functions (individual control over each car's speed and lane changing behavior as well as if laps are counted when acting as a Pacer car). Pacer cars can be set to count laps or not, to never change lanes, to change lanes randomly, or to continuously change lanes. This option is more versatile than the PB-Pro functions and is a nice addition to what is more or less an identical list of features to the PB-Pro.

Platform controls: This is where the user can switch between analog mode, digital mode, or reset the powerbase to factory default settings. Analog mode has the option to change the direction of racing. If only one power supply is used, analog mode allows the selection of which lane (1 or 2) to use. Controller port 1 controls lane one, and controller port 2 controls lane two. If two power supplies are used, then the option to choose lanes disappears, and both are controllable.

 

Race Mode options in Basic or Professional mode include:

Practice: kind of like Qualify, where laps are timed and standings are by fastest lap. Optional number of laps from 1 to 9999, where 20 is the default setting.

F1: same as Grand Prix, where the first to finish the set number of laps is the winner. Set number of laps as for Practice mode.

Endurance: Set the amount of time and the person with the most laps wins. Time can be as low as 2 minutes and up to 7 hours.

Pursuit: Set the amount of time or laps. In order to win, the lead car must be in front of the chase car(s).

 

Whew! That's a lot, and I only glossed over it all. This is all detailed in the manual, of course, which will be posted online somewhere at some point, I'm sure. Now that I've listed every possible feature the new powerbase supports, I'll take a closer look at some of my favorites.

The feature that took me by surprise, coming from a PB-Pro* user and knowing that PB-Pro* strongly influenced the development of the new powerbase, was the versatility of the Pacer car function. In a PB-Pro* upgraded original 6 car powerbase, cars could individually be set as a pacer car with a set level of speed, and either random lane changing or no lane changing. Laps of the Pacer cars counted in the powerbase just as if they were being controlled by a player rather than the powerbase.

 

In the Advanced 6 Car Powerbase, not only is speed and lane changing optional, but laps can be counted or ignored. On top of that, the lane changing can be non, random, or constant. As such, there are 6 unique pace car behavior modes to cover each of those options. I really like that feature, one of very few that makes me want my own Advanced 6 Car Powerbase, even though I have what has been considered the best of the best for SSD. ( SSD is an abbreviation for Scalextric Sport Digital )

Another feature I like is how the false start function works. In the original 6 car powerbase, including an upgraded PB-Pro* unit, if false start detection is on, the starting of the race is simply canceled if someone pulls the trigger early. All the cars must be reset on the grid and the race starts again with no penalty other than having to restart the race. With the Advanced 6 Car Powerbase, the false starter gets an optional penalty of up to 25 seconds. I imagine that false starts will be much less common if racers know they'll have a number of seconds added to their race time once the race finally starts properly. Yes, the race start still needs to be reset, but the responsible racer will have the additional punishment of time added to go with their shame for messing up the start.

At the end of a race, the display shows a variety of important data. This is the kind of stuff a race manager application on a computer would often show. When the race is finished, the display rotates between showing the placing of all the racers, total number of laps, fastest lap time, total race time, and time difference from the leader for EACH racer! A lot of products out there will show some of these things, but I believe the Advanced 6 Car Powerbase is the first off the shelf product to show them all, and that's in addition to all the other great features, truly a noteworthy feature.

 

Finally, my favorite feature has to be the built-in Analog mode. With this, I can race standard cars on my layout without ANY modifications to the Powerbase itself. With two power supplies (and I've already got one from my first set with a 4 car base), I can RACE my standard cars. A standard PB-Pro* upgraded original base will allow the driving of one analog car on a track, but additional modifications are required to run two cars, modifications I can't do, and I'm not willing to pay for at this time. Those new to the hobby or to digital slots will be happy to know they can easily switch to analog mode and race their new cars without having to chip them right away. Those with large collections of standard cars who have been hesitant to give digital a real try because they didn't want to have to chip hundreds of cars can rest easy knowing that they can still race their favorite standard cars. As mentioned earlier, the new base does require two C 7033 power supplies to run both lanes in analog mode. With only one power supply, the unit will only allow one lane to work. I even pulled the extra plug without making any changes in settings, and the other lane simply stopped working. As soon as I plugged it back it, it began working again. Controller 1 controlled lane one, the outside lane, and controller 2 controlled lane two, the inside lane. It's also nice to be able to control the direction of driving with a simple option in the Analog mode options.

I do have some important notes for analog mode. Don't use curved lane changers (CLCs). There are two main reasons for that. First off, you'll need to modify them to isolate the lanes from each other. It's simple to do, but also simple to mess up. Unless you're comfortable with voiding the warranty on the track and fixing it yourself if you mess it up (like I did), just leave them out. The other reason is that in analog mode, there's nothing stopping a flipper from moving inadvertently, causing a car to change lanes when you don't mean it to. This is not catastrophic, but in the heat of a race it can be pretty annoying. The simple solution is a bit of tape holding the flipper to the appropriate side. Not a big deal, especially if you only use analog mode occasionally and want to keep your CLCs in your layout. If switching between modes, or even using analog more primarily, is your plan, then my recommendation is to use ONLY straight lane changers (XLC). The lanes are already electrically isolated in the XLC tracks, and it's very rare for a flipper in an XLC to be moved by a passing car. Just make sure they're all in the "straight" position before you start racing standard cars, and you'll be fine.

The rest of the features of the Advanced 6 Car Powerbase all compare almost one to one with a PB-Pro* upgraded original 6 car base. It's clear that PB-Pro* was a big influence on the design. In all honesty, if I were not already an owner of a PB-Pro* unit, I would not hesitate to buy one of these on the spot. With that said, there is one thing that is not possible AT THIS TIME with the new powerbase that is possible with the original, and that is the connection of the unit to a computer for race management and control. This isn't an issue for the vast majority of home racers.

The large and easy to read LCD screen showing all kinds of lap timing and data is more than enough. For those who regularly have guests over to race, such as a club that runs on home tracks, this is a big issue. I personally have no fear that this will  be addressed very shortly. It is only a matter of time for available, or new, RMS** software to be updated to support the new powerbase. Hopefully it will be found to have as much versatility in this regard as the PB-Pro* unit.

Before receiving the unit for review, there were a couple things I was concerned about. First was the display. In all the photos I'd seen, it looked small. The fact that it was an LCD panel also worried me, as in the past, an LCD meant hard to read and you had to have the viewing angle just right for clear reading. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's actually quite large, much larger than I expected it to be. My concerns about readability were also alleviated. The screen is very high contrast for an LCD panel, and reading it is quite easy from any angle other than the rare angles that happen to have a glare from a bright source of light. As long as the light is not directly visible in the reflection of the screen, reading it is not a problem. A backlight might be nice for racing in low light, but it's not something I would complain about.

 

My second concern was power. How will two 4 amp power supplies perform under pressure? In my opinion, it has passed with flying colors. I had 6 cars running while I tried all kinds of things to see power problems. I was actually looking for them, hard, but did not see any. Admittedly this was on a smallish test track (about 30 feet per lane with two CLCs), but the powerbase didn't flinch. It took me adding several cars AND jamming them on and off to trigger the safe mode that the powerbase goes into when there is an overload. I had a lot of fun pushing around freight train long lines of pacer cars around with my car, shifting lanes and pushing another line of cars around, and inevitably pushing them off in spectacular take out crashes just for fun. I don't know how to test how many amps I was getting out of the base, but I think it's safe to say that if it wasn't all 8 amps provided by the two power supplies, that it was pretty close to 8 amps. In analog mode, I was able to get several cars into one lane before triggering safe mode. Running a Slot.it car with extra magnets was not a problem for it. The only way I could overload it with one car was by holding the car down so that the wheels couldn't spin and gunning it for a few seconds. Clearly the Advanced 6 Car Powerbase can handle the vast majority of power requirements for home racers, and I dare say for club racers as well. As far as voltage goes, in Digital mode the rails carry about 13.2 V. In Analog mode, with a controller at full power, I measured about 15.2 V. While that might be a bit hot for some people, remember that each lane/car can have its max speed limited to 50/75/88/100% depending on your preference. 50% is a great way to tame faster cars on a short track, or bring more control into cars that drift a lot as in magnet less racing. ( magnet less racing is where racers prefer to remove the traction magnets in their cars. This creates a loose set up of the car where some drivers feel they are more in control. It is also used to slow down cars such as Classic type race cars that run way over scale corner speeds with traction magnets fitted )

In summary, I would say that without a doubt, the Advanced 6 Car Powerbase from Scalextric is a worthy alternative to the elusive original 6 car powerbase and the upgrades required for that powerbase to be brought up to competition level. With plenty of features and loads of power to spare, this new base will be the measuring stick by which all other powerbases are measured. I'm very excited that this new powerbase will be made available very soon, but I'm even more excited for the future. With the bar raised so high, what will the future bring? I look forward to it!

  •   C7042 Advanced 6 Car Powerbase $149.99
  •   C7033 Switching 15 volt 4 amp Power Supply $59.99

  * PB Pro is an aftermarket development of the original Scalextric 6 Car Powerbase. This unit was developed by enthusiasts who desired more features and a higher level of power control than offered on the original Scalextric Product.

 **RMS ( Race Management System ) is a program developed by enthusiasts to interface a PB Pro unit to a PC for added race management features. now that the Scalextric Advance Powerbase is in the marketplace I am sure those enthusiasts that drive the hobby end of the market will also look at the Advanced powerbase and adapt it to interface with a PC for those that desire that feature.

If this review did not cover something that you were interested in knowing, please don't hesitate to visit Slot Car Illustrated's online forum and ask the people who spend their time in the digital forums for more information. I'm sure someone will be able to help you out.

 Special thanks to Scalextric for developing this unit and allowing SCI to review it for the North American Market.

 



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