Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sabertrio Skylar FX Lightsaber

One holy grail completed
 
I was once asked what would I need in my collection in order to be proud of. There are a few things in my list. One of them is the Hot Toys 1:6 scale 1989 Batmobile. Another item would be in the form of this clue: "This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age." - Obi-Wan Kenobi. Lightsabers. Who doesn't dream of owning one?  Can't really remember when I first started watching Star Wars but I remember that I have always wanted one and any stick or a long object will be instantly turned into one.
 
When news was out that Hasbro plans to release the FX sabers in 2008, I was very excited thinking finally I can have my very own lightsaber. In case you have been living under a rock, the FX sabers "are high quality reproductions that light up and create sound effects when powered-on, powered-off, and when they impact objects. These sounds replicate the movie sound effects, to create a high quality display toy." - Wikipedia. I remember going to TRU constantly checking for new stocks but the only ones available was the Ultimate FX, buildable lightsabers and electronic lightsabers with extending blades.
 
 
Top Left: Ultimate FX, Top Right: Buildable lightsabers, Above: Electronic Lightsabers with extending blades. Images taken from Google.

It was until about month or so ago that I first saw the Hasbro FX sabers; renamed to the Black Series; at the local TRU. They sure took their time coming to this neck of the woods. They had Kylo Ren, Luke's ANH lightsaber and Darth Vader's lightsaber which I was very interested in. Asked the staff how much it cost. The reply: 9999. I think I went into a shock and was frozen on the spot because the next thing I know was the staff asking me if I was alright. I was thinking to myself how can a replica lightsaber cost 10k. I braved myself and asked the staff to reconfirm the price. The reply: RM 999.90. Ahhh! Now that makes more sense.
 
Long story short, I did not get the saber else the title of the post would read differently. There were a few issues which did not convince me even if it is a collectors' item and the price will increase in future with more Star Wars movies and franchise coming out.
 
While doing some research in Facebook a very interesting advert by Sabertrio keeps popping up. It has a picture of a lightsaber hilt priced from RM299. 299?!? In Malaysian Ringgit?!!?!? Does my eyes deceive me? That piqued my curiosity and clicked on the link which brought me to their facebook page.
 
Stalking around their facebook and website to get as much information as possible, I was happy to know that it is a local based company. Saves a lot on shipping, conversion rates and all other mumbo jumbo. From the company's name and using my special power of deduction, I am guessing that the company either consist of 3 friends who loves Lightsabers and decided to create a company which offers an affordable price for Lightsaber enthusiast in South East Asia or they designed 3 Lightsabers and the third one was a success.
 
At the time of writing, there are only 2 saber designs available: Arclyte - the first saber and Skylar -  which was announced a few weeks ago. This design immediately caught my attention because of the windows at both sides of the emitter, the silver and black colour and the classic look of the slanted emitter. It really looks like an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. I am confident that there will be more interesting designs in the near future.
 
Arclyte                                                Skylar
 
The good thing about Sabertrio is they provide buyers the ability to customize their own sabers:-
 
DIY: All individual saber parts are sold separately (except for the hilt - at time of writing).

 
Illuminated sabers: The first part is to pick either silver or black color hilt and from there there are all types of options available: types of saber, blade length, weathering, sound font, etc...as the list goes on to make a saber truly your own. Some of the items are FOC while others requires a bit of top-up.
 
 
Accessories: All the necessary items in case they are misplaced, spoilt or planning to get in the near future.
 
 
Once awhile they have a special offer called Ready To Ship (RTS) sabers where a limited customization can be done. There are a number of FX and stunt sabers offered. As the name implies, the sabers are ready built and ready to ship within a few days of payment. Note that this is a first come first serve offer. This offer has limited stock and usually in low quantities (typically 1 quantity per type) but they offer free blade plug, free blade length adjustment and free shipping. In order to know when the next RTS offer, like their Facebook page and be on a look out.
 
If there is a saber in the RTS offer you are interested in but stated as Out Of Stock, you can ask Sabertrio about it. They will contact the buyer to enquire if they are interested in purchasing the saber. If they are not, the interested party will be next in line. I do not see a lot of companies providing this service. This is good as there are some people out there who just book the items but are not interested. This gives a chance to those who are interested to own it.
 
It is through this offer I managed to obtain the Skylar Silver Black FX saber with Sith font which cost almost the same as the Hasbro's Black Series but duel worthy. One of the reason I did not get the Black Series was because the LEDs are in the blade instead of the hilt. Using the blade for dueling too many times can cause the connection of the LED to be loose thus causing dead spots along the blade.
 
Arrival/First Impression
 
Shipping is fast. Takes about 2 days (inter-Malaysia) to arrive. The package comes shipped in a long narrow box completely protected with plastic wrapper. After removing the plastic, you are greeted with the black box with the company logo on it.
 
 
The company logo on the top of the box
 
A quote from Obi-Wan to Anakin in The Clone Wars found at the side...
 
...and the company name at the other side. A simple packaging
 
Upon opening the box, you can find the contents inside are neatly packed in their individual compartments.
 
 
Saber Hilt
 
This is one thing I did not expect to see. The hilt is double wrapped for protection.
 
First layer of wrapping.
 
Second layer of wrapping using bubble wrap.
 
Meet Skylar:
 
 
All Sabertrio's handle are made from aircraft grade aluminum. There are no rattling from within the hilt even with rigorous shake. The overall hilt quality and details are excellent and the built is solid. There is good color separation between the black and silver especially the black lines which breaks up the silver sections. There is a heft to it which I did not expect but I am assuming that is how a real lightsaber would feel like. There are 2 choke points on Skylar: Below the emitter and below the power button.
 
Choke point below the emitter...
 
...and below the power button.
 
When I held it for the first time I can't stop rubbing the grip area. It just feels so smooth like a baby's bottom and comfortable. Gives you the confidence to just swing the saber wildly around you without having the saber flying off and people scrambling for safety.
 
 
Skylar can be used with either one or two handed. When using it one handed, the hand falls into the lower choke comfortably with space to spare. Using it as a 2 handed weapon means the top hand will have to choke the saber to allow space for the second hand. The covertech wheel does get in the way when using 2 handed but a bit of repositioning solves the issue.
 
 
Mentioned earlier, one of the reasons I love the design was the windows at both sides of the emitter. At the top is the thumb screw used as the retention screw.
 
The retention screw at the top of the saber
 
 
video
A video to show the windows at the emitter. You can see the pink color paper through the windows.
 
Blade/LED
 
Sabertrio uses the CREE XP-E2 LEDs. The LEDs are really bright and it is not advisable to look directly into it without the inserting the blade. If the manufacturer has a warning in the user manual, you know it is a serious issue:
 
 
The LEDs in the hilt. The 3 primary colors: Red, Green, Blue. The other 3 colors are from the mixture of the primary colors.
 
The LEDs are located in the hilt and offers the FX sabers the 6 color changing capabilities. Below images; taken from the website; shows the different color blades:
 
      Royal Blue                                          Cyan       
 
             Green                                             Purple   
      
               Red                                                 Amber              
 
For my case Skylar comes in red. There are 3 methods to change the blade color.
 
Method 1: Lift one side of the battery out of the battery holder (about 5 seconds) and re-insert the battery. This puts the saber in deep sleep mode. Follow steps in Method 3.
 
Method 2: Unscrew the pommel, insert the charger into the port and remove. This method puts the saber into deep sleep mode. Screw back the pommel and follow the steps in Method 3.
 
Method 3: When the saber is in deep sleep, just keep the activation button pressed.
 
After about 5 seconds there will be 3 beeps. After that press the activation button will cycle through the colors. When a particular colour is selected, press and hold the activation button again (about 3 seconds) until you hear another beep. Power up the saber to the new color. I would recommend changing colors using either method 2 or 3 to reduce any possible damage to the wirings.
 
video
Color changing using Method 3.
 
The blade is a 1" diameter semi transparent white polycarbonate tube with a wall thickness of 2mm. There is a diffuser film rolled and placed into the tube. The film is not glued to prevent wrinkles when the blade flex on impact.
 
 
To insert the blade, loosen the retention screw, remove the blade plug (if any), insert the blade and tighten the retention screw. Make sure that the screw is tight so the blade won't make any unnecessary rattling sound while swinging. When turned on, the LED lights up the entire blade evenly.
 
 
video
 
The RTS has the free option to select the blade length and the one I got was the 36.7" length. Why 36.7"? I did some research and found that most lightsabers has the length of 36". The blade on its own measures at about 37" but when inserted into the hilt, it reduces to about 35" at the lower section of the slant.
 
 
Sounds/Electronics
 
Sabertrio uses the Pico Crumble sound board designed by Plecter Labs. As with any other light saber sound board, there are 2 different sound font to choose from: Jedi or Sith.
 
Video is from Youtube. Click here if the video is unable to load
 
When placing an order for the lightsaber, one has the option to choose either font. Once the font is selected, it cannot be changed (unless you get another saber). For Skylar, I chose the Sith font as it has the more aggressive sound which I love.
 
The heart of Skylar: the Pico sound board located at the chassis behind the battery. A tiny but powerful 'heart'
 
There is a function where Skylar will go into a deep sleep if the blade is off and not activated within 5 minutes. To "wake" it, press the activation button once to boot the saber, and press it again to activate the blade.
 
video
"Waking" Skylar from a deep sleep.
 
The speaker is located at the bottom of the saber and it is loud. Skylar is "equipped with the VECO 2W 8ohm bass speaker; a well tested speaker model that is known for its loud and clear sound output." - Sabertrio
 
 
The saber has the standard sound of powering up and down, idle hum, slow movement, fast movement and there are 2 different clash sound. There is a Flash-on-Clash (FOC) feature which basically flashes the blade when an impact is detected.
 
video
 
In any case you suddenly develop the urge to swing the saber in the middle of the night or to use it as a flash light but do not want to witness the rage of your family members or neighbours, fret not. There is a mute function. When the saber is off (not in deep sleep mode), press and hold the power button for about 2.5 seconds until you hear a beep then release the button. Upon releasing the button, the saber will be powered on but muted and will remain so until it is powered down.
 
video
Muting the saber
 
Handling/Use
 
Most of the weight can be found at the handle. When using it as a single handed weapon the weight will help with flourishes. If the blade is tighten correctly there will be no issue with a loose or a potential flying blade. There are also no issues with using it as a 2 handed weapon. With 2 handed, the swings are naturally heavier and no rattling sound observed. The FOC is very sensitive. It is able to easily detect any impact from the blade.
 
Extras
 
Blade plug - Included in the RTS offer. This is an important piece of accessory as it will protect the LED safe when in storage. I highly recommend for those who are going buy any in-hilt LED saber to get a blade plug. Better to spend a few extra cash on it than spending much more later to replace the LED. There is a retention screw near the emitter to hold the blade/ blade plug in place which can be tighten or loosen by hand.
 
Blade plug and how it looks like in the saber. The retention screw prevents the plug from coming out.
 
Rechargeable battery and rechargeable port - Included in every FX saber. Sabertrio uses the Xtar Protected 18650 battery.
 
To access the battery, first unscrew the pommel and loosen the hex screw at covertech wheel (only for 3D printed chassis). There is a hole at the chassis for the hex screw. If the chassis is the delrin material, there is no need to loosen to the hex screw.
 
Slowly and carefully remove the chassis. Remove the chassis until here to access the charging port. Please be careful as the chassis is a snug fit and requires a bit of force to get it out.
 
Once again slowly turn while pulling the chassis to get to the battery. Since the speaker is directly at the bottom of the chassis, do not press the speaker when pushing the chassis back in. Push the sides of the chassis instead.
 
Charger - Use to charge the battery instead of removing it when it is out of juice. It has built-in safety functions including overcharging protection and an LED indicator to show when the battery is charging (red) or fully charged (green). It comes in 4 interchangeable plug heads for those who are planning to take their saber along for the holidays or planning to attend an overseas convention. Do note that the charger is designed specifically to recharge only 3.7V lithium ion batteries.
 
 
Bullet blade tip - To cover the polycarbonate tip of the blade. Also to make it look more like a blade than a long white tube when lit.
 
 
Silicon dust cap - Included in every purchase from Sabertrio. It is to prevent dust from entering the blade when not in used. Do not loose this piece. As far as I know, they do not sell this in their store but I guess one can do a special request to obtain it.
 
 
Hex keys - These are use to loosen the hex screws found at the covertech wheel (smaller hex) and at the middle of the hilt.
 
 
Customer Service/After sales service

No matter how good the product is, if the customer service/after sales service is crappy, the company will not be able to sustain long. I have had experience with some company where I will receive the same response to anything I enquire: "All the information are available in the website." What can I say about Sabertrio? Their customer service is excellent. From the time I first visited their website to the arrival of the saber, they have answered all my queries within a few minutes (sometimes less). The staff are very patient and friendly and are always there to help and explain things to you even if all the information are available in the website. They keep you up to date on your saber  process. There is a one year warranty period should there be anything wrong with the saber.
 
I was fortunate or unfortunate enough to test their after sales services. After taking photos of the hilt and other accessories, I tried to wake Skylar but could not. Contacted Sabertrio right away and they were very fast in responding and was helpful guiding me to troubleshoot the saber. Possible cause: I could have used too much force to remove the chassis and snapped the wiring to the power button.
 
Left: The 2 white wires snapped from the power button.
Right: Guessing the white wires goes into the hole on the right
 
They are true to their word regarding the one year warranty. This problem could be because I used too much force to remove the chassis but they assured me that they will cover it under their one year warranty plan. Was asked to send the hilt back and send them the receipt of the courier charge for them to reimburse. They will repair and send the hilt back all FOC. Talk about excellent after sales service.
 
Sent the hilt back and after 2 days got a message from them that they have received the hilt and will work on it ASAP. A few minutes later got another message and photo updates on the problem. The wires snapped and the chassis was broken. According to Sabertiro, this is the first time they are having this problem and they will be taking steps to improve their chassis for future customers. Guess I have some dormant super-human strength.
 
 
They went a step further and informed what repairs will be carried out and how they are going to reinforce the wires and make the wires longer to make sure that this incident does not happen again. They also informed that the repair will take some time because they will need to re-build then entire chassis. I am glad for the updates because I am the curious type of person. I want to know what is happening and what will be done and how it will be done.
 
Since I will be sending Skylar for 'surgery' I might as well take this opportunity to upgrade the activation switch to be illuminated with red and offset the amount from the courier charges. After a few weeks of waiting like a caged lion patiently, I finally got a message from them that the saber is ready and has been shipped out.
 
Kudos and keep up the excellent job.
 
2nd Arrival
 
The arrival of the new upgraded hilt is neatly packed in a shoebox protected with a plastic wrap to prevent any damage on the way over.
 
 
The saber itself is wrapped with 2 layers of bubble wrap.
 
 
 
There is a little surprise which I did not expect. Mentioned earlier I requested Sabertrio to upgrade the AV button to be illuminated but did not expect them to include the original button as a spare.
 
 
Upgraded power button:
 
The red color will remain illuminated as long as Skylar is not in deep sleep. This can be used as an indication on which method to use to change the color of the saber.
 
How the saber looks like with the activation switch and the blade lit up. You can also see the lights coming out from the  windows.
 
This time I will not be so curious and remove the chassis unless I have to charge or change the battery. Heck, who am I kidding. That was the first thing I did when I got the saber. I guess I don't learn by mistakes but that is what makes me curious. Removed the pommel, pulled out the entire chassis (until the battery) and placed it back into the pommel. The chassis is now easier to remove and placed back and the pommel can be screwed flushed to the handle.
 
A tip to those who are new to inserting the chassis back. The best method is to insert the chassis until it is flushed with the base of the saber and use the pommel to push the chassis in while tightening. That way there won't have any twisting of the internal wires and the pommel can be tighten properly.
 
Conclusion
 
There are a few minor issues with the overall product. The minor issue is that there are no instructions on how to operate all the functions on the sound board (at time of writing) but they are currently working on it. I don't blame them as the company was officially launched on 3rd December 2016. If there are any queries, just drop them a line and I'm sure they are more than happy to assist.
 
Another issue I discovered when I was holding the saber with 2 hands and trying to turn it on.
 
 
From the above photo, you can see that it is a bit awkward and hard to turn the saber on or off because the button is facing outside. I will have to feel around for the button and when I do, I will have to use my pointer finger to . Maybe I am the only one facing this issue due to my big hands as the covertech wheel is pressing against my fingers but I can live with it just to have the convenience of the power button above my thumb. *Update - 2/8/17* Just found out from the good people at Sabertrio regarding their design for Skylar. It was designed to be gripped at the upper choke and uses the middle finger to trigger the power button.
 
Minor issues aside, the fit and finish and overall product exceeds my expectations. From the brightness of the LED to the loudness of the speaker to the excellent customer service and after sales support, I am a happy buyer and supporter. I cannot wait to see what they have installed in the near future.
 
Overall verdict: Highly recommended for those who are looking for good quality saber with excellent customer service without paying an arm and a leg.
 
*Update - 21/9/17* The saber underwent another minor but important upgrade which can be found in this post
 
On a side note, those who got the Hasbro Black Series FX saber might be interested in this product from US. It is a plastic sleeve which puts over the lightsaber to make it have a more realistic look to it.
 
 

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