Cast your mind back to May 2017 when the original Meepo board hit the scene. Now consider how far they've come since then. As we reach the midway point of 2019 it's clear that Meepo isn't just a budget board manufacturer anymore. There are still plenty of drop-shippers selling virtually the same product Meepo presented us with two years ago. Meanwhile, Meepo has evolved.
Whilst Meepo still sell competitively priced, entry-level boards as part of their line-up, Meepo also made their first big push into the mid-tier with the NLS in late 2018. Big 100mm, 400W hub motors, a high quality bamboo and fibreglass deck, Meepo's own remote design (the NR remote) and a Samsung 25R battery pack (up from the standard 20R battery packs) were all high points. Then came the Meepo Classic, which was released in February 2019.
The Meepo Classic was the company's first flirtation with the use of the vastly more popular Hobbywing ESC since their brief stint using it in a solitary batch of V2 Mini's around September 2018. The idea of the Meepo Classic was to regain some of the market share lost to Wowgo and Ownboard. Fast forward to April 2019 and Meepo release yet another new board called the City Rider, also with the Hobbywing ESC. Are we starting to detect a pattern here?
Many of Meepo's rivals have long since transitioned over the Hobbywing ESC. Brands currently dominating the mid-tier like Exway and Backfire already make use of their own customized Hobbywing ESC's. Yet Meepo's flagship product, the NLS, did not.
You knew it was only a matter of time. The signs were there and the writing was on the wall. On damn near the two year anniversary of the Meepo brand, I give you the NLS Pro, featuring the Hobbywing ESC!
In my mind the NLS Pro firmly marks Meepo's intention to really rattle the mid-tier and possibly even beyond.
It might not look like much of a change to the naked eye, but with the NLS Pro running Meepo's own customized Hobbywing ESC and a 10s2p pack of Samsung 40T's (an industry first), it doesn't have to look like much - The change is there and when combined with the previous high points that already existed on the NLS, we have a board that may well redefine what you can expect from an electric skateboard at this price point. Meepo are kind of known for that...
So, let's do this!
A TL;DR is available at the end of this review.
HARDWARE AND DRIVETRAIN
The NLS deck is arguably the creme-de-la-creme of China-direct decks right now. With three layers of bamboo and two layers of fibreglass, it's a similar construction to Evolve's new Bamboo GTR decks. However, the NLS deck has that highly sought after Loaded Vanguard-inspired shape and profiling. Keeping a good thing going, the NLS Pro simply builds on the success of this deck by adding a thick, shock-absorbing layer of griptape to top things off, making the ride even more comfortable than it was before.
Meepo's Shredder trucks continue to feature here, as they do on basically all Meepo boards at this point. Modeled after Bear Kodiak trucks, Meepo's Shredders are now in their second iteration. The Shredder II's are made from premium quality A356 aluminum alloy and feature extra tall, double-barrel bushings at 100A a piece. At the time of writing this review, however, Meepo also released their own range of bushings called "Macaroons." They come in 83A, 90A and 96A. Each board will come with all three sets, so you can install the set most suited to your weight. This is a seriously nice touch.
Bearings are neither here nor there, but Meepo's 100mm wheels are a cushy 78A and match with the 100mm motors at the back. They're a really comfy ride and easily the best urethane formula to come out of Shenzhen yet.
The NLS enclosures are nice and remain unchanged on the NLS Pro. In fact these enclosures are becoming a staple Meepo component, as they also feature on the new Meepo V3, which sits a little further down Meepo's product line (as the V3 maintains a lower capacity 20R (standard) battery and the less favored LingYi/Binary ESC - although there has been some improvements to this ESC also, but that's another story). The battery enclosure features a battery percentage meter and an accessories port and the ESC enslocure features the power button. Between the split enclosure system is some real estate for the nice graphic to hold pride of place together with the Meepo logo. The whole set-up looks polished and complete. Nothing is lacking here.
Powering the board is a 10s2p pack of Samsung 40T's, which are an individual cell size of 21700. We're used to seeing 18650 and 20700b cell sizes, but 21700 not so much. I believe this is an industry first for a production electric skateboard to be using cells of this size. This new pack is also sold separately as Meepo's new Extended Range (ER) pack. This pack is an 8Ah or 288Wh pack (not air travel friendly) and is the most powerful battery pack released by Meepo or any like-brand to-date. We're talking 60A continuous out of a 20 cell pack. Now, that's a pretty big step-up! It's like Meepo went from Samsung 25R's in the NLS, jumped right over 30Q's and landed in a ball pit of 40T's for the NLS Pro. We can probably expect about the same range out of this pack as the equivalent size Sanyo 20700b "Tesla" pack, maybe a tad more (we'll settle this in the Performance section), but there should be even less sag, a lot more power and an extended shelf life with more charge cycles. Bravo Meepo!
The second major upgrade is of course the ESC. Out is the LingYi/Binary ESC; relegated to boards further down the Meepo product line (although don't count the LingYi/Binary ESC out just yet). In is Meepo's own customized Hobbywing ESC, dialed-in specifically to the NLS Pro's battery and motor combination. So, imagine if you will, all of the smoothness and reliability of the Hobbywing ESC, coupled with an industry first Samsung 40T battery pack and two 540W hub motors (up from 400W) on a high quality, flexy bamboo and fibreglass deck. Salivating yet?
Rounding out the main goodies is the Meepo NR remote, or more specifically the NR-B remote. Meepo's NR remote can be configured to run either LingYi/Binary ESC's (NR-A) or Hobbywing ESC's (NR-B), which is pretty cool. They look the same from the outside, but NR-A (LingYi/Binary) configured remotes have four speed modes and braking options, whereas NR-B (Hobbywing) configured remotes only have three speed modes and have smooth braking curves applied across all modes. The LED lighting system is different also. On the NR-A remote the speed mode LED's double as board battery percentage LED's. On the NR-B this isn't the case - They represent the speed mode only; until you're at 50% battery, then the remote will vibrate and the last two LED's then represent your depleting battery percentage from that point onwards. In other words, for the first 50% of your ride the NR-B remote doesn't bother you with any battery data at all. It just lets you ride.
The three speed modes are BEGINNER, ECO and EXP/PRO (EXPERT and PRO are the same mode). The three speed modes might be renamed for all Hobbywing-equipped Meepo boards in the future. It would make sense to do so.
It's also worth noting that I paired a regular three-speed Hobbywing remote (e.g. Meepo Classic remote) to the NLS Pro with no problems at all and it functions exactly like it does on all other boards that use it.
While we're on the subject of remotes, Meepo likes you to have options. Not only is this board compatible with the NR-B remote and all standard (three speed) Hobbywing remotes, Meepo is also releasing an even newer remote called the N2. This will be Meepo's take on a Hobbywing remote with an LED screen. Imagine something in-between the Backfire G2T and Wowgo 3 remotes: Not two speed modes and a temporary turbo (like Backfire) and not four speed modes (like Wowgo) - Just three, solid speed modes and an LED screen similar to Backfire's. (Check the gallery section for a sneak peak of the prototype - very Boosted-esque).
The Meepo NLS Pro also comes with a 2A charger, micro USB cable for charging the remote, a multi-format USB cable to make maximum use of your accessories port, skate tool, spare hardware and an awesome floor (guitar-like) stand as well as a bunch of promo material, all in a really nice accessories case.
For a quick unboxing video of the NLS Pro click here.
PERFORMANCE: CLAIMED VS. REALITY
Claimed (Note: Meepo have updated the specs on their website since conducting this review)
Reality (for this section please note that I weigh about 185 lbs (84 kg) at the moment)
No, it's not a typo. The Meepo NLS Pro hits a top speed of 30.3 mph (48.8 kph). Want to check out my top speed run? Click here.
No turbo required (#noturborequired). The top speed result here both shocked and delighted me. I had no idea it would reach these speeds, let alone get there in such a nonchalant way. You just cruise on up to that speed without even realizing it and the board is comfortable, stable and solid as a rock the whole way.
As for range, well, we all know how I ride: Top speed mode and as fast as possible as often as possible. Clearly this means I came in under the claimed range spec, but it was still as I suspected. I suspected a similar range to what I get with the popular 10s2p Sanyo 20700b packs because they're both around 8Ah. I usually get between 19-25 km out of those packs, so getting 26 km out of the Samsung 40T pack was probably about right all things considered. Any combination of using ECO mode more, being a bit lighter or taking it a bit easier on the throttle from time-to-time will get you closer to the claimed range, but it's nice to know I can get a minimum 25 km out of this thing, even when I thrash it.
Sag? The last 2 km were pretty saggy. Pretty typical of all battery packs at the moment, I'd say. But up until that point it was as strong as an ox. Want to check out my range test data? Click here.
When it comes to hills this is a little harder for me to test. My local "hills" are between 12 and 15.7%. The Meepo NLS Pro creams them easily, but that's not what you want to know. You want to know whether or not it can bomb up the claimed 30%. If you want my opinion based on what I know of the NLS Pro's performance, I'd say probably not. The way the board feels on a 15% incline tells me I could take 20% at a stretch and a lighter rider might be able to take 25%. This is still incredible performance. Very few boards can conquer a 30% grade incline.
When it comes to weight the NLS Pro is starting to get on the heavy side. That Samsung 40T pack weighs quite a bit and the board is harder to kick-up as a result. There are moments where I really miss the handle - Not gonna lie.
For my mind the NLS Pro strikes the best balance between performance and comfort of any board right now.
AESTHETICS AND RIDE FEEL
This is a really comfy, cruisy and carvy board. The combination of 100mm wheels, a high quality bamboo and fibreglass deck, and thick, shock-absorbing griptape (with an honorable mention going to the shockpads and bushings), riding this board is like riding on a cloud! The only step-up from here comfort wise is pneumatic all-terrain tires. Seriously, for a street board, particularly a hub motor street board, this is a phenomenally smooth ride.
The deck is among the nicest I've ever ridden on. Yes, it's Loaded Vanguard-level good! Better flex and a more natural rebound than the Gen3 (Plus/Stealth) Boosted decks, that's for sure.
The deck has both a mild-to-moderate concave and camber, which is just enough all-round, and the 100mm wheels and motors actually really suit the overall aesthetic of this board. I thought they'd look oddly large, but they don't. It's an overall very proportionate looking machine.
My only complaint with the ride feel of the board might have been the bushings. 100A is just a little too hard. But with production units shipping with Meepo's new "Macaroons," this issue is all but sorted.
As for the ride feel of the power ecosystem, it's simply everything you've ever wanted from a Meepo board. We're talking about the best battery and the best ESC further coupled with Meepo's biggest motors. What I notice most is the amount of power on-tap in the mid and upper acceleration curve - It's gradual, but incredibly consistent. I'd be lying if I said torque wasn't a little down. Down by how much, exactly? I'm not sure, but riders coming over to the NLS Pro from the NLS (non-Pro), V2 or perhaps even more relevant now, the V3 (or any board running a Binary/LingYi ESC) will definitely notice. But what you exchange in torque (which is more of an unfavorable control characteristic of Binary/LingYi ESC's) you gain in predictable, gradual, smooth, reliable and precise control - Something many Meepo riders have wanted for a long time. Well, here you are!
I'm surprised to say that I ended up being quite a fan of the NR remote. Looking at it as a stand-alone item in an online store, you're kind of like, 'What is this thing?' But once it's in your hand you kind of "get it." Yes, it's pretty bloody big, but you forget about that pretty quickly once you glide your thumb over over the double-wide scroll wheel. Another "ah-ha" moment was riding home from work one particular evening when it started getting dark rather quickly (winter is here in Oz). What I thought was a gimmick (being the flashlight) actually came in super handy, as I had no other lights on me at the time. It's a nice feature when you're in a jam - You've got a light even when you haven't got any lights. Got your remote? Then you've got a light. It's not as silly as I originally thought it was. Being right/rear handed made things a tad awkward trying to shine the light forward on the path though, but I'm still glad I had it. It's better than nothing.
One thing I'd ask for if I could might be stronger brakes; although I find myself asking this of many boards, so maybe it's just me? I did find they were slightly better/stronger when I switched to the standard Hobbywing remote, so hopefully this will translate over to the new N2 remote when it's released. The brakes aren't that bad. They're incredibly forgiving, which is what we've all been craving. It's the big wheels and higher speeds that just makes it a little harder to pull up in pinch.
Keiran (Meepo board Founder and CEO) sent me this unit for testing and feedback ahead of the official product launch. The idea, which is a common one, is to get a board in the hands of someone who isn't an employee or an ambassador to see what they think from a completely independent perspective. To me, the only way that makes sense for me to test these boards is to use them every day and subject them to the rigors of my daily commute. Suffice to say that I've beaten the hell out of this thing for going on two weeks now and it has yet to skip a beat. It's a sensational combination of components; from the big wheels, luxury deck and Goldilocks zone ESC, I have no complaints about any aspect of the ride from a hardware or software perspective. Plus I've been taking terrain, crappy roads/paths, wood slat bridges and underpasses on this thing that I seldom attempt on my other street set-ups. The NLS Pro takes everything I throw at it and maintains its sublime level of comfort whilst doing so. Of course, it's way too early to comment about the board's longer term durability and reliability, but the trend has been in an upwards trajectory over the last couple of years, why would this case be any different?
Overall the Meepo NLS Pro is a freaking fantastic board to ride. It may not be a drag race contender due to its slightly reduced launch speed, but it's one of the smoothest, most comfortable and most carvy rides going around right now, and the mid and high curves more than make up for what it lacks in the low end. As a daily commuter, the NLS Pro certainly takes the cake in its price bracket - particularly when you consider its outstanding real-world performance relative to its price!
PROS AND CONS
Let's start with the cons. With the NLS Pro running the Hobbwing ESC you can say goodbye to the push-to-start feature. Then, of course, there's the drop in low-end launch speed relative to Binary/LingYi ESC-equipped boards. As with the NLS (non-pro), the NLS Pro has dropped the grab handle that featured so prominently on past Meepo boards (and still features on some Meepo models in one way or another). All of these cons are somewhat subjective. They're more "differences" than they are cons.
Meepo's boxing and packaging of late is very reminiscent of another manufacturer. It would have been nice if a little extra effort was made to be original here, but boxing and packaging is fairly inconsequential at the end of the day. I'm not riding the box to work, am I?
The neoprene, shock absorbing griptape doesn't quite hide the cable running along the top of the deck, but you don't feel this under foot anyway. Meepo also need a little more practice at applying the tape, as a few air bubbles were present.
I also feel that a 2A charger is a little on the low side for a battery this big. Perhaps this will change in future productions runs? I'm not entirely sure.
Now to the pros. Okay, so basically everything else!
That top speed performance is no joke and it gets there smoothly and super comfortably. That range performance isn't a joke either, and we know there's probably more range to be had there for most people.
We've basically begged Keiran to use the Hobbywing ESC in a flagship product, and now we have it. That silky response we've all been craving is finally here. When combined with the NLS Pro's luxe deck and 100mm thane, well, there are very few boxes left to tick from my point of view.
The NLS Pro being compatible with several different remotes is also a nice plus. The forthcoming N2 remote will likely be the new "standard" NLS Pro remote in due time, but don't forget that the NR-B or any standard (three speed) Hobbywing remote are all suitable options.
Also, the guitar-like floor stand is an awesome inclusion, as it's something virtually all riders will make use of, unlike the old wall mount.
Electric skateboards just keep getting better and better, so trying to dig to find the negatives in these things is becoming harder and harder with each passing review. Further, the way these brands are always looking to one-up each other only works to our benefit - The market continues to improve quickly. It seems lately that each brand in this lower to mid-tier of boards has had a moment to shine over the last twelve months - Everyone has had a turn at at the top. Now, it seems, it's Meepo's turn to return to the top step of the podium.
Of the like-brands competing for the same market share as Meepo, the NLS Pro has the best deck, best battery, best ESC, best motors, highest top speed and best range of the lot right now. I really don't need to say much more than that. The product speaks for itself at this point.
Further, the NLS Pro firmly marks Meepo's arrival into the mid-tier with this product. We're talking about a 30 mph/16+ mile range board boasting a quality finish and a highly refined control system.
The Meepo NLS Pro performs just as well or better than many of the premium boards I've tested. It's a serious rival for Boosted in terms of comfort and it easily out-specs other boards more than twice its price. As usual, the only question that remains is the mystery of what the longer term reliability and durability will be like compared to more premium brands with more premium price tags. If that's the only differentiating factor though, and if it turns out these boards stand the test of time, the "premium" brands are going to have some serious trouble continually justifying their higher prices.
Meepo's official website: meepoboard.com (non-affiliate link).
I ride and write about electric skateboards for one reason and one reason only - the love of it!