This special edition Sphero droid is indeed special. Yes, it’s essentially a repainted R2-D2 but the different beeps and mannerisms make R2-Q5 its own droid. Even though the R2-Q5 is a little-known droid in the Star Wars pantheon, it made a big impression on us.
Not a well-known character
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Back in October 2017, Sphero announced a new droid into its line up, that wasn’t actually tied to any upcoming Star Wars movie. This was a bit of a shock, given its previous releases were centred around the new batch of Star Wars movies: BB-8 arrived for the Force Awakens crowd, R2-D2 and BB-9E for Last Jedi fans.
Seemingly out of nowhere, though, R2-Q5 was revealed with limited availability - in the US you can get it from Best Buy, in the UK John Lewis.
Unless you are a real Star Wars obsessive, the name R2-Q5 won’t be that familiar to you. But, the droid is canon - according to Wookipedia at least - and was first seen in The Return of the Jedi in a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-it background shots and some deleted scenes. It's described as “a skilled starship mechanic and intimidating Imperial spy”.
It looks like it has been redesigned a little though for the Sphero launch - it’s a replica of R2-D2 with a black-paint makeover, while in the movies it had the body of Artoo and a head more like BB-9Es. Anyway, we are going to stop there before we get sucked down a Star Wars rabbit hole and actually admire Sphero’s version of the droid.
As looks go, it’s the most impressive yet. We’ve made no bones about the fact that the R2-D2 Sphero droid is our favorite of the bunch, thanks to its brilliant movement and faithfulness to the character. But seeing a version of Artoo in black is really something.
Design and features
Sphero has put the utmost care and craft into its droid range and the R2-Q5 is of no exception. For those yet to play with the Artoo version, you might be surprised by the size of the thing. It measures around 7 inches in height.
The level of detail is fantastic. The paint job means that the droid is covered head to track in black, with some splashes of gold.
Much like BB-9E, this darker tone really does make it that bit more menacing. Add to this, flourishes such as the rubber 'hydraulic' foot cabling and what you have is a really nice looking bot.
It also has front and rear LED lights that are fully functional, and it’s integrated speaker means all the bleeps and boops it makes come right from the droid itself. There is one micro USB connectivity port on the back that’s hidden enough so you don’t see it at first glance.
As with all Sphero droids, they come alive once you connect them to the Droids By Sphero app. Available on both iOS and Android, the app allows you control a bevy of droids from one place. Each droid, for the most part, has the same features.
These include a Holographic simulation feature where you can control your droid around one of the many famous Star Wars ships, mapping a course for the droid, watching the Star Wars movies - where the droid’s react to what is on the screen - and if you have more than one droid, they will react to each other, too.
We had no issues when connecting R2-Q5 to both Android and iOS devices. The new-ish Droids by Sphero app is so much more intuitive than the one that was around before and it’s had a recent update so you don’t have to wait for any updates.
To connect bad Artoo we just had to plug it in - charging can take a few hours for a full battery - and turn the app on. It then recognises any Sphero droids in the vicinity and R2-Q5 appeared, flashing on the screen.
The app is where you control everything about R2-Q5. You can immediately start moving it around your home by the virtual d-pad on the left of the app screen. Again, this has been updated so that wherever your thumb lands, that’s where the d-pad is - it’s a real help and means you don’t have to keep looking at the screen.
When you prompt R2-Q5 to move, that’s when its retractable foot comes out and gets into drive mode It’s great when this happens, adding a lovely bit of mechanical work that’s missing from the spherical Spheros.
Given Q5 is a different mech from Artoo, its bleeps and boops in a more sinister way. It’s controlling system is the same, though, slower than the likes of BB-8 but also a lot easier to control, thanks to the track pads.
It also has similar special moves, so there’s one-touch things such as a freak out moment, a button to make it fall over and some more pre-programmed routines. These are a lot of fun but you might get a little fed up of having to pick the droid up again when it’s fallen over for the umpteenth time.
If you want to map out your own route for the RT-Q5, then you can do this by just drawing a rough route with your finger in the relevant place in the app. It works well, but we always found ourselves going back to controlling the droid on our own.
Surprisingly, R2-Q5 is one of the most expressive droids when interacting with other Spheros (another nice touch of a feature that will prompt you to buy more droids for your collection) and when watching the Star Wars movies.
This is a great little feature that’s available through the app. Plonk your droid in front of the television and put on the Original Trilogy, Rogue One, Force Awakens or The Last Jedi and they will react to what is going on. It’s advised that you plug in R2-Q5 when watching this feature, given how long the movies are. When it comes to battery life, we got around 50 minutes of play - handily, the red LED light will start flashing when it’s low on juice.
Sphero’s growing line-up of Star Wars droids is a must for any Star Wars nut. They are sophisticated droids that are a blast to play, packed with Sphero’s AI brain and a level of detail looks-wise that has to be applauded.
As it’s a little known character R2-Q5 is one for the collectors only but but that makes it all the more a 'must have'.
Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.