Segway Ninebot S Review
Pros: Smooth ride, all-terrain master, good customer service
Cons: Non-adjustable steering column, heavy, only two color options
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Segway isn't shy about straying from the mainstream with their innovative designs in the electric vehicle market. The Ninebot S is no exception. The knee driven steering column departs from the standard footpad pressure-driven device in the class. It's also self-balancing, which means that the S will remain upright without external input. While this product is quite fun to ride, we would not describe it as a toy. It has large 10.5" wheels with burley pneumatic tires that make it a boss on all terrain types. It has a long-lasting battery and two powerful electric motors. Our only complaints focus on the steering column. First off, the steering column isn't adjustable which is problematic for taller riders. Moreover, as the board cruising at or near top speed the platform tilts back pointing the rider's toes up in the air. As if this position wasn't awkward enough, the steering column angles back behind the calves in such a scenario making it difficult to pressure the steering column for turning.
Over the years we have conducted hands-on reviews of over a dozen of the best hoverboards on the market. This process is structured by a comprehensive suite of tests that allows us to quantify any statement made about the products in our review. We call the results of these tests our metrics and how we produced them for the S is discussed in detail below. Enjoy!
In general, hoverboards are all about having fun. As a result, the fun metric accounts for half of the overall scoring of the products in this review. To hone in on what makes something fun we looked at five characteristics that, when realized, produce what we consider to be an entertaining, even smile-inducing, experience. These are the negotiation of a basic obstacle course, speed trials, weight (because carrying heavy things is NOT fun), color options, Bluetooth capability, and accessories such as interchangeable skins and bags.
While the S is fast, stable and relatively nimble, it suffered in the fun category because at just under 30 lbs. it is on the heavier end of the class.
Considering the weight, we were a little surprised that Segway removed the telescoping dolly handle that was present on the S's predecessor. By removing the telescoping handle, adjustability on the steering column was also sacrificed, and this caused some testers discomfort and at times resulted in a loss of control. Further hurting this product's performance in the fun factor category is the lack of several little goodies that competitors have, such as onboard Bluetooth speakers, and aftermarket skins. In the Ninebot's defense, we do not think that these shortcomings are oversights. Quite the contrary. Segway is attempting to keep this machine as simplistic and intuitive as possible. Unfortunately, some comfort and playfulness were sacrificed in this effort.
Unequaled in all-terrain aptitude, the Ninebot S is a standard-setter in the outdoor capabilities category. You might be thinking: okay, that sounds great… But what does that actually mean? Good question. What we are trying to capture in this assessment is a comprehensive understanding of how these machines will fare when a rider steers them off level pavement. To answer this question we tested the boards on a variety of surfaces such as inclines, grass, packed dirt and sand, cracked and loose tarmac as well as crossing thresholds like the weather strips found below industrial double doors.
The S excelled on every surface type that we ran it across and testers reported that they felt stable and confident for the most part. The ease in which this machine traverses uneven surfaces is primarily due to the robust 10.5" pneumatic tires propelled by twin 800-watt electric motors. With this kind of hardware it's no wonder that the S outperformed the other products in the class — no other has wheels and motors of this caliber.
An important part of purchase satisfaction is how a company treats its patrons when things go wrong with their product. To analyze this aspect of hoverboard ownership we asked ourselves what could go wrong with a board and what would be the easiest solutions to these speculative problems. First, we established the means of contact that the company provides to its customers. We then made use of these contacts, recording the response time and whether the response resolved our problem. We found Segway to be timely and helpful in their email response to our hypothetical problem. However, we were less than impressed with the S's warranty which is simply described as limited. We could find no additional information, so we were left to assume that Segway addresses these matters on a case-by-case basis.
Crashes (and the damage that result from them) are one aspect of the support metric that is not speculative. We tested these machines aggressively, and we took a few diggers along the way. At the conclusion of our testing we thoroughly inspected each machine to see how well it held up. The S is soundly constructed and was no worse for the wear. However, we were a bit concerned with the longevity of the steering column as it is the primary point of impact when the machine turns over. Moreover, the top of the steering column is constructed of a soft foam that is not as durable as the rest of the construction materials.
Although the battery metric comprises just 10% of the overall score, it is nonetheless a principal evaluation category. This metric quantifies the longevity of the power source balancing and driving the hoverboard, as well as the period required to recharge the battery when it is fully depleted. To formalize the questions we had about battery life we performed two kinds of tests. First, we ran a range test on a flat track that we circled again and again ad nauseam until the hoverboard would no longer propel the rider. The total miles from that test is the board's travel radius or range. Second was a run time test. The run time (or fun time as we dubbed it) was measured on an obstacle course as we deemed this a more realistic assessment of how the machine would actually be used. Like the range test, we ran the S through the obstacle course until the battery died. Finally, charge time was an assessment of how long it takes to recharge the battery following the complete drain resulting from the range tests.
In this metric the S did quite well, delivering a performance that is competitive with the best in the class. Its run time is approximately 1hr 35mins. However, the range and the battery charge time did not render such clear cut results. While the S's maximum range is 11.3 miles, the last few of those miles are pretty inconsistent, with jerkiness in propulsion and some instability in the self-balancing system. As a result, we put the effective maximum range at 9.75 miles because this was when the board started to behave unpredictably. Finally, charge time was a bit hard to nail down as well. There are two charing indicators to reference, one on the hoverboard itself and the other on the charger. The onboard charge meter showed a full charge at 1h 10mins, the charger meter showed a full charge at 2h 40mins. While we didn't retest the board to determine which charge time was more accurate, given the run time to charge time ratios on similar products we think that the actual charge time is closer to 2h 40mins.
Here at TechGearLab we do not include product cost in our evaluation of product performance as we want the best products to win awards regardless of monetary impact. That being said, we do try to temper our final results with an acknowledge that price is an important consideration for most consumers. That's why we have an award for the best buys. While the Ninebot S gets a Top Pick award for commuting, we think that it's quite a deal as well. There are several products in this review that cost significantly more and yet deliver less. Moreover, the miniPRO (the S's predecessor) costs nearly twice as much and delivered an almost identical performance in our test regiment!
The Segway Ninebot S is one heck of a machine. With its robust tires and ample wheel diameter, it is like the monster truck of hoverboards. However, it's fairly agile as well. Add to this a comfortable standing platform, powerful motors, and a long-lasting battery, and we feel comfortable recommending this sweet machine to all comers, especially those who intend to put in the miles on this platform.
— Nick Miley and Austin Palmer