VERREAL F1 REVIEW - A BUDGET BOARD THAT HITS ALL THE RIGHT NOTES
The Verreal V1 was pretty much a Meepo 1.5 and the Verreal V1S is pretty much a Meepo V2. The main difference being that Verreal was simply a little further behind in their refinement and identity journey than Meepo. Verreal was more-or-less the "no frills" alternative that had less of a brand presence and came with a few less accessories.
Is the new Verreal F1 the board that finally sees Verreal step out into the light and stake their own claim with something a little different? Maybe even class-leading?
Let's take a closer look.
The F1 is a landmark board for Verreal. When playing in the budget market at their particular price point there's really only two ways you can go, 1. Stick with trying to compete with Meepo, using the same ESC/remote combination as Meepo and continue to present yourself as the "no frills" Meepo alternative, or 2. Switch to the Wowgo/Ownboard-type ESC/remote combination and try to compete with those brands instead. But is there really room for a third player on the Wowgo and Ownboard side, or is there a another option?
Verreal have indeed adopted the Wowgo/Ownboard-type ESC (hereafter known as the Hobbywing ESC) and remote for the F1, but they didn't stop there; if they did the result certainly would have been just another Wowgo/Ownboard variation that, frankly, the market doesn't need.
Instead the Verreal F1 differentiates itself from its Hobbywing ESC contemporaries with a unique, drop-down, downhill-inspired deck and a newer, simpler, single enclosure system. Further, the Verreal F1 retains a version of the typical 90mm, 250W, OEM hub motors that includes the rotor magnets as part of the swappable mechanism, rather than just a replaceable urethane sleeve.
This specific combination of parts and components has enabled Verreal to bring a product to the market that is a genuine forth option not on offer by Meepo, Wowgo or Ownboard.
Yes, the F1 is the board that has finally given Verreal an identity of its own and I, for one, love it!
Check out my unboxing video of the Verreal F1 here.
THE SPEC SHEET
The claimed specs of the Verreal F1 are on par with its peers considering the familiar ESC, battery and motor ecosystem:
- Top Speed: 23.6mph (38kph)
- Range: 8.7mi [fastest mode] to 11mi [slowest mode] (14km to 17.7km)
- Hill Climbing: 25-30% (they say degrees on their website, but I'm sure they mean percent)
- Weight: 15.9lbs (7.2kg)
The range spec I've listed is with the standard 20R, 4.0Ah battery. There are also Panasonic 6.4Ah and Sanyo 8.4Ah battery options. Each step-up in battery size offers an increase in range (and cost). I have the 4.0Ah battery in my F1, so that's what I'll be testing. The 4.0Ah and 6.4Ah battery packs are 10s2p 18650 Li-ion packs, whereas the 8.4Ah pack is a 10s2p 20700B Li-ion pack (also known as the "Tesla" pack).
Only the 4.0Ah battery is air travel friendly (in some countries). Check your local laws, but in many places it is permissible to take up to two Li-ion packs 160Wh or less (the 4.0Ah pack is 144Wh) onto a commercial flight, provided the board and battery are separated. Meaning you check the board in and carry the battery onto the plane with you in your cabin baggage.
The deck is a 38-inch, 7-ply maple construction matched with a generous W concave, which beautifully complements the F1's drop-down, downhill shape and feel. There is probably just the right about of flex in the deck for someone of my weight (203lbs (92kg)), but this would be less noticeable for a lighter rider.
Trucks, bearings, bushings and wheels (90mm, 78A) are all generic and/or clone hardware. Out of all of the F1's traditional skate hardware, the bushings were probably the stand-out items for me. They're a 90A duro and actually turn, carve and rebound quite nicely (at least they do for my weight and riding style). However, I couldn't resist swapping them out for my usual, purple O'Tang Nipples just for comparisons sake. Yes, they just fit and are still the best bushings in the game. As usual they made a good board even better!
The F1's motors are the familiar 250W (500W max) hub motors we've seen many times before. However, unlike much of the competition that have moved on to a new variation of these motors that have a more easily replaceable urethane sleeve, Verreal are sticking with the tried and tested version.
It's an interesting fact that Verreal are the only company who actively promotes that the urethane on these hub motors has always been replaceable. The competition never really did this, as it was seen as more trouble than it was worth.
With the other brands not making the information known and by not having replacements available for purchase on their websites, it was assumed by the community that the hub motor urethane was not replaceable on these motors. Well, Verreal's three main products to-date (V1, V1S and F1) reveal otherwise. The removal and replacement of the hub motor urethane is and always has been achievable on these hub motors, it simply involves the simultaneous removal and replacement of the rotor magnets as well, which forms part of the overall interchangeable mechanism.
Verreal seem to be sticking to their guns here. They don't appear to be in any hurry to move to the redesigned version of this motor. Verreal believes that replacing the urethane and the rotor magnets together (rather than just a urethane sleeve) is a better way to go, will develop less faults down the road and reduces the risk of vibrations and deformities, which does seem to be a problem rearing its head with the new type of replaceable sleeve (urethane only) variant of this motor. It could prove an inspired choice to stick with the known and reliable version here and give people the option to replace the urethane and magnets together if they want.
Another departure from the "traditional" aesthetic these boards are known for is the change from a split enclosure system to single one. The new F1 enclosure is a simple aluminium case attached rearward of the underside of the deck, which houses both the battery pack and ESC.
THE LOOK AND FEEL
The Verreal F1 still hits me as "no frills" type of board. It really is quite a simple piece of hardware. Between the discreet, in-wheel hub motors (which have been blacked-out) and a single, super-slimline enclosure, there's not a lot screams "Look at me, I'm an electric skateboard!"
It's designed to be functional, and functional it is.
The deck choice was a master stroke by Verreal. Had they not gone in this direction we simply would have ended up with a third Wowgo or Ownboard variant. It's good to see that Verreal are starting to blaze their own trail. Not only are they no longer just the "no frills" Meepo alternative, they also avoided becoming a third player in the two-horse race between Wowgo and Ownboard by going in a different direction with their deck choice and re-designing their enclosure system. Now Verreal finally has an identity of its own with the F1.
A welcome side-effect of the F1's new enclosure system is that deck swaps are now easier with the Verreal F1 than they have been on any other budget board before. No more "Boosted clone" split enclosures, channel routing, cables and tape! Four screws - that's it! That's all that's standing between you and mounting the Verreal F1 ecosystem onto a deck of your choice. Verreal even offer the F1 as a kit, so you don't have to bother with the stock F1 deck at all if you don't want to.
As for me, I actually really like the deck. It has similar qualities to what I liked about the Harvoo deck, but without the giant kicktails. The drop-down and lower centre of gravity is a street carvers delight! The drop, together with the concave, grabs and locks your feet in place. You feel stable and secure on the road so you can carve and cut with confidence.
The remote interface is everything we've come to know and love from the Hobbywing ESC and remote combination. The Verreal F1 uses the three-speed variation. The throttle wheel is simply a joy to use. There is so much throw/travel room to play with that it feels finessed and precision perfect. It's incredibly smooth and extremely user friendly. No wonder this ESC and remote continues to be so widely acclaimed in the budget market!
I've used this board on average for about 6.2mi (10km) per day for just over a week so far and I personally have found it extremely comfortable to ride. This is where we get into a bit of personal preference and subjectivity, as I've spoken to other F1 owners who don't find the deck as comfortable as I do.
For me, I find that a drop-down deck distributes and directs your weight a little differently than a typical top-mount deck. Bumps, cracks and inconsistencies in the road surface are absorbed differently too, not just because you're lower to the ground, but more specifically because where your feet are longitudinally in relation to the wheels and trucks is also different. The nose and tail of the deck, which are higher than foot level, bear the brunt of impacts more than a typical top-mount does, which transfers the impact energy straight into your legs. Flexy decks help counteract this in the case of top-mounts; a drop-down is just an alternative way around the issue with less flexy decks. They feel different, and some people prefer one method over the other. I don't have a particular bias in this area. All I know is the drop-down of the Verreal F1 works as it should for me.
Putting better bushings in also makes the ride infinitely more comfortable.
For this section please note that I weigh about 203lbs (92kg) these days and I ride flat-out as often as possible.
Top Speed - It seems Verreal slightly understates the F1's top speed. I hit 24.85mph (40kph). A tad faster than their stated 23.6mph (38kph). A pleasant surprise!
The Hobbywing ESC used in the F1 is generally considered to be "slower" than the alternative ESC (as used by Meepo and the previous Verreal V1S), but in reality the Verreal F1 hits pretty much the same top speed as my Meepo V2 Plus. The acceleration curve on the F1 is certainly a bit gentler, but the resulting top speed is definitely comparable.
It's interesting to look back on the top speeds that I've achieved with other boards utilizing the Hobbywing ESC. On the Harvoo I got 22.4mph (36.1kph) on 83mm wheels. On the Backfire G2S I got 22.05mph (35.5kph) on 80mm wheels and 25.7mph (41.5kph) on 96mm wheels. With all that in mind, the top speed of the F1 seems to be about right for its 90mm wheel size.
Range - I've ridden on plenty of boards with 4.0Ah battery packs before and it always works out the same. With my weight and riding style I always get between 8-8.6mi (13-14km). I'm happy to report that the Verreal F1 was no exception and hit the bulls-eye with an 8.4mi (13.5km) real-world range with an aggressive rider.
What's perhaps even more impressive is Verreal's honesty regarding their claimed range. On the Verreal spec sheet they quite clearly list an 8.7mi (14km) range in fast mode. Well, remove a couple of the steeper inclines I had to contend with and I would have easily made that range!
Check out a short video of my range test here.
Hill Climbing - The F1 barely slowed when I tackled my usual 15.7% test incline on about a 90% charge. It's a short duration hill though, and it did start to slow a little more towards the top. Had it been a longer duration hill it definitely would have continued to slow, thus I feel like the claimed spec of 25-30% hill grade is a little bloated. It might make 20% with a lighter rider, but I highly doubt it would be capable of any more than that.
Here's a short video of my incline test.
Sag - During my 8.4mi (13.5km) range test I didn't really experience any noticeable sag until about 6.8mi (11km) into the ride. I still felt I was able to pull pretty close to top speed the entire time up until this point, which is very impressive. From this point I felt the acceleration and torque start to dwindle a little, but the top speed was still there or there-abouts. It was only in the last km that the top speed started to diminish also.
The F1's 4.0Ah pack is a very solid and stable little unit!
Weight - The Verreal F1 has been one of a few boards that's been closest in weight to its claimed spec. I weighed the F1 in at 16.5lbs (7.5kg), which is just a hairline heavier than Verreal's claims.
The deck - This deck is just such a refreshing change of pace! The subtle drop, the lower centre of gravity and the W concave are all on-point. With this type of deck you don't feel like you're riding "on top" of the board. Instead you feel far more interlocked with the board. It begs to be ridden and is simply a joy to carve on.
Deck swappability - If for whatever reason the stock deck isn't really your thing (although I highly recommend that you give it a go), then you're in for a treat! The Verreal F1 doubles as possibly the simplest electric skateboard kit on the market. Four simple screws and you're on your way to almost any type of deck setup you could possibly imagine. With just one simple enclosure, complete with arguably the best budget ESC and remote in the game, the battery pack of your choice and a dual hub power truck; the possibilities are endless!
ESC and remote - The Hobbywing ESC and remote is famous for its precision, reliability and its general, all-round, buttery smoothness. It's hard to say a bad word against it.
Discrete hubs - Finally! Seriously, I've had it up to here with ostentatious hub caps! No logos, no weird steel-look or chrome and no patterns. Just something that looks like a wheel will do fine, thanks!
Thank you Verreal for having the courage to go for a simple, blacked-out look. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
No frills - Don't expect a mind-blowing experience when you unbox a Verreal F1. The way the board is packaged and presented is reminiscent of the Meepo 1.0. It's just the basics here, friends.
The board arrives single-boxed with no branding and the contents are minimal; limited to the board itself, remote, board charger, USB charging cable, a skate tool and replacement urethane/magnets if you ordered them. The accessories come in a small box and the remote comes in a padded envelope. There's no random extras like a wall mount, tail light, stickers, merch, additional tools or even a manual (the manual is online).
Now, personally I don't have a problem with any of this. I could care less about boxing, branding or accessories. The board, the remote and my ability to charge both are all that matter to me. But as the lack of branding, boxing and accessories is a point of difference between Verreal and its competitors, I thought it would be worth mentioning in this section.
Plain Jane - A small consequence of the F1 being super-minimal in its design (by virtue of the smaller, single enclosure) is the sheer amount of bare real estate available on the underside of the deck. This is probably heaven for you sticker nerds out there, but even as a "less-is-more" kind of guy, the extremely plain belly of the board left me feeling particularly underwhelmed. This area is ripe for a graphic design, etched logo or something.
Durability - For all its positive points the Verreal F1 is still a budget board, and budget boards are budget boards for a reason. The medium to long term durability of these boards is a grey area at best and whether they last any meaningful length of time almost seems like a lottery.
No handle - Yes, I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel here, but I have to point out the obvious. If you're in the market for one of these boards and you've whittled down your choices to what is perhaps the obvious top four at this price point, you'll notice that the F1 is the only one without a handle (but it does look like a board that can be taken more seriously without one (I still like handles though)).
1.5A charger - Life is too short for 1.5A chargers. 2A minimum please! (Only the larger battery packs come with a 2A charger).
With the F1, Verreal has both stepped out from under the shadow of Meepo whilst simultaneously avoiding getting themselves thrown in with Wowgo and Ownboard (despite now sharing in the same ESC and remote as the two aforementioned brands). The Verreal F1 is its "own thing" thanks to some additional differences that gift the F1 its own identity, such as the unique drop-down, downhill-inspired deck, the simpler, single enclosure system and the gumption to stick with arguably a more reliable motor iteration (time will tell on that last point).
The F1 is still a "no frills" board, no two ways about it. But it has everything you need, and nothing that you don't. Functional over fashionable, the Verreal F1 is a solid, simple, comfortable and reliable budget option.
The Verreal F1 meets or exceeds performance expectations considering what we have come to know and expect from the budget end of the market. Perhaps most surprising to me was its top speed. I did not expect to hit 24.85mph (40kph) when other boards with a similar ecosystem tend to top-out at about 23.5mph (38kph).
The ESC and remote is a known quantity and arguably best-in-classs, the deck is comfortable, carvy and a breath of fresh air compared to all of the Loaded Vanguard clones used by the competition, and the new, single enclosure makes maintenance, upgrades or any future deck swaps a cinch!
If I can recommend one upgrade to those of you thinking about a purchase: It's not much more of an upfront investment to get the 6.4Ah Panasonic battery pack. Get it. Everyone wants more range than 8.4mi (13.5km). For a mere $60 USD more you'll get at least another 3-5mi (5-8km) of range out of the F1. You can step-up even further to the Sanyo battery if you like and if your budget allows, but the Panasonic pack is an upgrade that's probably within everyone's budget and should be snapped-up without hesitation.
It's remarkable that with only a few subtle points of difference, Verreal have gone from an "also ran" to having a product that could potentially take out budget board of the year (under $500 USD) in my opinion.
Indeed, Verreal may have just found the elusive budget board "sweet spot" with the F1.