Why do Align Helicopters remain to be popular? Simple, they do everything right – from design to parts support; Align RC knows the RC helicopter business better than most and what it takes to make some of the nicest birds and support equipment out there for the price.
In the 30 years I have been involved in this hobby, I have never seen the type of dominance one brand holds over all the others the way Align RC and its line up of T-Rex helicopters do. Add to this a huge Trex aftermarket parts & Trex clone market and it's hard to ignore how Align has and continues to shape our hobby.
Yes, SAB's line of Goblins have certainly eaten into Align's domination over the past several years with outstanding high end RC helicopters and innovations as well. I actually consider SAB, the "Ferrari of RC helicopters", and you pay a premium for that exotic design and ultra high performance. For average Joe flier however like myself, Align offers really reliable, no hassle bang for the buck.
Align Helicopters are still winning their fair share of competition titles world wide after all, so performance & precision is not lacking in the least. If SAB's are the Ferrari's, perhaps Align's are the Porsche's :-)
Align is a company based in Taiwan and quite recently got
into the RC side of things first with helicopters, and then jumped on the "multi-copter bandwagon" to bonus in on that target rich gravy train. Just what the world needs, another brand of multirotors - yuk!
Multirotor bitching aside, Align’s main products before getting into the RC market were milling attachments for lathes & milling machines, high end vacuum cleaners, and small household appliances. All areas of manufacture that lend themselves nicely to radio controlled helicopter manufacturing and design as well. Toshiba was Align’s most recognized customer and partner, along with other popular brands such Hitachi, & Sanyo.
Align RC sweats the details and it shows in their helicopter kits.
Align helicopters have some of the nicest CNC machined parts going with nice little details such as heat sinking, colored anodizing, laser engraving, and offer a wide selection of kits to suit almost everyone’s needs & budget.
In recent years however, the main focus for Align (as with most of the higher end RC helicopter manufacturers) has been higher and higher performance and power to cater to the hard core 3D crowd.
Many versions for example now
come with DFC
(direct flight control)
rotor heads and the electric 600 and up are only available as HV (high
voltage) 12S power versions. 450 sizes up to 550, only in 6S power versions.
The fiberglass airbrushed canopies seem to get nicer every year with easy to see, bright bold colors and graphics.
With collective pitch helicopter sizes ranging from the tiny T-Rex 150 up to the large T-Rex 800, there is an Align Helicopter for most people and most budgets. The T-Rex 150 up to the 800 are all available in electric powered versions as well the fixed pitch entry level micro T-Rex 100.
The T-Rex 600 & 700 are also available in nitro powered
versions. Some people are even converting their T-Rex 600's & 700’s to gassers, and a few have converted their 700 to turbine. Due to the popularity of Align, aftermarket conversion kits do exist.
Align Helicopter kits are a pure joy to build. Whether this is your first RC helicopter build or your fiftieth, I think everyone will appreciate how well the parts are identified, how easy the kits go together, and how good the instructions are.
As you can see, every part grouping is nicely and compactly packaged and identified making for easy and fast assembly.
The instructions are logical and well laid out showing the corresponding parts bag identification, exploded parts view, assembly instructions, and listing each part down to the last set screw.
The first time builder will be impressed how nicely an Align helicopter kit goes together, and the more experienced RC heli builder will be amazed how quickly a T-Rex can be built with many of the fiddly parts already being pre-assembled.
I have built and flown my share of RC helicopters over the years
and was loyal to Miniature Aircraft USA which up here in Canada became harder and harder to get parts for, and sadly closed their doors after over 25 years in business in February 2014.
helicopters on the other hand are carried at almost every good hobby
shop around the world with an outstanding parts support network
including many aftermarket parts. I'm a true fan of Align now flying
three Trex 600’s (two ESP's in scale bodies and the electric Pro), a
tiny 150X, a 250, a 450, a 700E with BlackShark3 F3C fuselage, and an 800E DFC.
As I mentioned, Align jumped on the DFC bandwagon in a very big way back in 2014 and starting incorporating DFC heads on every single model other than their one remaining 700F3C that uses a conventional flybar.
I'm still not convinced this is a good idea nor am I convinced DFC is a better way to phase the swashplate to the head over the conventional tried & true washout links.
Align listens to their customers and pro-pilots however, and the latest "X" versions of their helicopters are once again going back to standard FBL heads with washout's - nice!
DFC debate aside; most Align T-Rex helicopter kits come in "Super Combo" versions. These "combos" include their full range of helicopter specific digital, digital coreless, and HV digital brushless servos, plus a full line-up of very powerful high quality Align MX brushless motors, ESC’s (Castle Creations), and the Beast X/Plus flybarless systems.
This gives you in my opinion some of the best quality, all inclusive, high performance helicopter kits for the price. As I said before, best bang for the buck is how I look at all these Align super combo kits.
With all the various Align Helicopter Kits currently offered, it's impossible to recommend what is best since it depends on your specific needs, flying area, & budget. As I just mentioned however, all their combo kits offer the best no hassle value since most include everything other than the receiver, radio, LiPo battery for the electric versions & nitro engine/muffler for the nitro versions.
I have also included a few links to eBay for some Align Helicopter deal hunting possibilities.
The Trex 150X (link to my full article on it), is Align's smallest collective pitch helicopter. It is also the only collective pitch RC helicopter in Align's line up that uses a fixed pitch motor driven tail.
The tail hold on this little micro CP heli is surprisingly good however due to both the small heli size/mass and the fact it uses a pretty strong and high quality brushless motor on the tail. The Trex 150 DFC Combo like may of Align's birds these days is sporting a DFC rotor head but it comes fully assembled with all electronics in place and is ready to bind and fly (or as Align calls it "bind to fly").
Now this is the very unique feature this little micro CP heli is sporting and that is the ability to bind to both Spektrum/JR DSM2/X radios as well as Futaba S-FHSS radios. This is a pretty cool feature and in my opinion what makes this little micro CP stand taller than much of it's competition.
To bind to Spektrum or JR, you still have to use a separate Spektrum or JR satellite receiver, so that adds to the costs slightly over a Futaba S-FHSS pairing; but still, the "multi receiver" feature in the this size segment not to mention the overall high quality of the helicopter gives it very good value.
The next smallest collective pitch bird in Align's fleet is their T-Rex 250. For most people this small powerful heli doesn’t make the best first collective pitch helicopter due to the small size and twitchy nature.
This is not to say you can’t learn to fly on one, but it can be quite challenging. The 250 is also more difficult to build, not because the process is hard, it's just the darn parts are so small - no coffee plus access to tweezers are the rules when assembling the 250.
Unlike so many other less expensive 200-300 size helicopters, Align’s T-Rex 250 stays true to a variable pitch tail rotor over a problematic and slow responding fixed pitch electric tail rotor motor. The 250 is a great indoor gymnasium helicopter and that’s generally the type of environment most people fly the Rex 250 in. I use mine for practicing out in yard however.
The T-Rex 250 Pro DFC Super Combo kit includes servos, 3GX flybarless system, brushless motor, ESC, carbon & standard blades, and tools. All you will need is your computerized radio, receiver, 3S 800-850 mAh LiPo battery/s & charger.
As I say many times, I feel 450 size electrics (300 to 330mm long rotor blades) are one of the best ways, and sizes to get into single rotor collective pitch for many people.
They are not as twitchy as a smaller micro CP or even a 250 and much easier to see and work on. They cost considerably less than the larger birds (both up front and for replacement parts & LiPo battery costs) making for a less stressful learning experience. 450's as a general rule of thumb give you the most rotor size to dollar ratio out of all sizes of collective pitch helicopters from micro to monster.
Trex 450 Plus DFC was Align's first ready to fly helicopter that comes paired with a
decent computerized radio. This heli competed directly with the Blade
450X and was my number one pick for beginners who were looking
to get their first collective pitch heli (assuming they want a pre-built flybarless heli to start with). Unfortunately, they stopped making this great little starter heli package but you can still find them at some hobby shops, and there are rumors floating around they will be bringing back an updated version.
The Align Trex 450L Dominator Super Combo is their high end 6S powered 450 size helicopter. It boasts many higher end components than the 450 Plus DFC and is meant for the serious 450 flyer and pro pilots.
Full metal DFC flybarless head components and torque tube tail
drives are the main component differences along with a high end digital servo
package and BeastX Plus flybarless system.
The 450L Dominator is sporting the new 460MX motor and use many of the design features such as sliding battery trail rails once only seen on Align's larger birds.
Following the release of the T-REX 450L, which introduced an
innovative design and came equipped with high-end electronic equipment.
Align's most anticipated helicopter release in 2016 was their 470LT.
The new 470 rotor head provides superior flight stability and offers a lower center of mass washout design to reduce flying resistance while providing a more rigid and fast rotor head response. To improve the strength and durability of the main and feathering shaft the 470 main shaft diameter was increased from Ø5mm to Ø6mm. The feathering shaft diameter was increased from Ø4mm to Ø5mm.
The 470LT has adopted a
high standard 1.2mm 3K carbon fiber main frame and a wider body design
which increases the size of the battery compartment allowing the use of
larger capacity LiPo packs.
The 470L utilizes a new torque drive assembly,
highly reduce gear abrasion and increase power output gives more direct
and precise flight performance and extraordinary tail performance. The
landing skid is tilted 5 degrees forward to improve crash worthiness.
Refreshed and refined, the T-Rex 500XT utilizes a new washout head design that lowers the center of mass which reduces resistance during 3D maneuvers while increasing flight responsiveness and precision.
CNC parts sport silver & red anodizing, extending Align's quality development based on their 700 & 800 class helicopters. The T-Rex 500XT main frame utilizes composite material integration technology on carbon side frame plates, including the addition of battery mounting side rails, and a top motor mount design.
The 500XT incorporates a new torque drive assembly, highly reducing gear
abrasion and increasing power output, giving a more direct and precise tail performance. The landing skids are tilted 5 degrees forward to improve tail rotor ground clearance.
For those of you with 30 sized nitro helicopters and are looking at getting into electric flight with a bird roughly the same size as what you are familiar with, the T-Rex 550’s are for you. This is the size most people consider “regular” since it is what most of us “old guys” learned on when nitro was the only power option.
Now that the Trex 600ESP is no longer available, in my opinion, the 550 is a very nice collective pitch machine to start on in this size segment. It's the one I would most like to instruct on and what I recommend to people who I know they want a larger bird to start with but don't want the large step up into double the LiPo costs with the 600 nor want to deal with the (almost scary) power increase.
Like the new 470X and 500X, the T-Rex 550X has gone back to a conventional FBL head with washouts and the landing skids are angled 5 degrees forward for improved tail strike immunity.
Ah yes, the good old 600’s – my personal favorite. The Trex 600’s both in electric and nitro versions are next to the 450’s and 550's Align’s top sellers at most hobby shops. This has so much to do with the size and the price. The 600’s (same size as a 50 size nitro) are such a nice size and simply a joy to pilot.
The Align helicopter T-Rex 600ESP Superior Combo offered tremendous bang for the buck and remains to be one of my favorite RC helicopters of all time.
True, an electric 6S (22.2 volt) powered 50 size heli may be somewhat under-powered for the high performance hard core 3D crowd, but for the average flier up to enthusiastic sport/light 3D pilot, there is more than enough power. Keeping the costs lower by not requiring a much more expensive 10S or even 12S LiPo power system makes economical sense for most folks who put budget before insane performance. These 6S 600ESP versions also make for great scale mechanics offering easy battery access.
Unfortunately as I mentioned, they are no longer available but if you are lucky, used ones do show up from time to time; however people tend to hold onto them like treasured tools. I've also started selling Phoenixtech 600 ESP clones. Here is my full review on them.
This is one of my Trex 600ESP's inside a Bell 222 Fuselage
If you do want insane hard 3D power however, Align has the new high voltage 600L Dominator running two 6S packs in series (12S power) just like the 700E and 800E.
I've been flying the previous 12S version (the 600E Pro) now for 4 years and it's a pretty sweet and addicting machine once I got used to all the power. The helical main gear has next to no gear whine that the ESP version had.
This rascal just sits up in the sky humming away until you start throwing it around and then that magical sound of the blades smacking and cracking the air becomes the only noise you hear and what a great noise it is! This thing begs to be flown hard and if you're not shaking or sweating a little after flying it - you're likely not having fun ;-)
For the nitro enthusiast, there is the T-Rex 600N.
What can I say, the 700X is a big bird (same size as most 90 size
nitros). It's powered by 2 6S 5000 mAh LiPo’s wired in series (12S =
44.4 volts). The 700X is a power hungry machine yet when flown
conservatively can produce some impressive flight times (over 12 minutes). I'm currently flying the first
generation 700E FBL Super Combo and it has been a fantastic heli from
the very first flight.
The unique Split-Type Main Frame design on the new 700X incorporates composite material side plates, is engineered using Align's proprietary embedding technology, which strengthens the entire structure and provides better accessibility for servicing the T-Rex 700X.
Again like other Align "X" models, the landing skids are angled forward to improve tail rotor ground clearance and they have gone back to a conventional washout type FBL rotor head.
Without a doubt, the 700 is the size I usually gravitate to when I just want to have insane fun out at the field as it usually puts on the best show and eats up my less than perfect stick inputs. It's pretty much my favorite heli right now for acro flight - period! Skinning it out with the Align/BlackShark3 F3C fuselage (designed specifically for the Trex 700E) has only helped improve the overall enjoyment and visual impact of this wonderful helicopter.
I would have to say for my
flying style, where I fly, and my overall average skill level, this is the favorite heli in my current fleet. To me, this is what flying an RC helicopter
is all about! Ear to ear grin every time I fly it :-)
Like the 600, the 700 also is offered in a nitro version, the T-Rex 700N to be exact. This heli is still based on the older design of the 700L Dominator and utilizes the 700L DFC rotor head.
The brand new Align T-Rex 760X features a longer length over the 700 and new
760 main blades for F3C/3D flight precision and slightly different flying
feeling. A "stretched" 700 in other words.
Like Align's other "X" models, the 700X goes back to a conventional flybarless rotor head with washout linkages. The really neat feature however is it comes with two different styles of blade grip arms.
There is an F3C arm set and a 3D arm set. The F3C arm effectively doubles the flight stability with excellent and precise control accuracy. The 3D arm is more suited to extreme 3D flight and provides more direct and faster control response. A tri-blade tail rotor is used for maximum tail hold and authority. I predict, a tri-blade main rotor head option will be introduced as it seems tri-blades are the new marketing must have. I see them as nothing more than added cost, drag, and complexity, but we are all different thank goodness.
Rounding out the "X" features is the 5 degree tilted landing strut forward design; again to increase tail rotor ground clearance and because SAB and others are doing it, guess Align figures they should as well.
The T-Rex 800E Pro DFC is a big brute with full aerobatic 3D ability. It's pretty much the same size as my Intrepid turbine and yes I had been saving up the hobby funds as it was going to be my one and only big heli purchase the first year it came out (then called the 800E DFC Trekker).
I was also seriously considering the SAB Goblin 770; but again the overall value and bang for the buck on the 800E Super Combo was just too good to pass up and as a result, I added another Align helicopter to the fleet.
I just love seeing this big beast up in the sky
having lots of fun flying it fast and hearing those 800mm rotors "barking". Heli heaven, worth every cent and second!
I encourage you to look through Align's web site just to see what other kits are available because they are always changing and bringing out new product. I last updated this page in August 2017, and even being an Align flyer, I have a hard time keeping up with all the new models & product. Align is not slowing down in other words and keeps on innovating.
Align's site also has the latest firmware downloads for their Align brand flybarless systems and of course owners manuals for all their products.
Lastly, what would an Align Helicopter write-up be without a video of what one can do in the hands of a much better pilot than I am. May as well have a look at the 800E Pro DFC being "worked" & showing off some of its amazing potential.
Turn up the volume and enjoy!