Ownboard has been locked in a heated battle for budget board supremacy ever since semi-decent, sub-$500 boards started pouring out of Shenzhen a few years ago. However, what set Ownboard apart from the very beginning was their pioneering use of the now renowned Hobbywing ESC. They may not have been the first electric skateboard company to use Hobbywing, but I think they can certainly take credit for popularizing it. It was only after Ownboard emerged using Hobbywing that many of their rivals began to follow suit.
Fast-forward to the recent Ownboard W1S and Wowgo 2S era, and it was becoming increasingly hard to differentiate between the various products being offered at the sub-$500 price point. Now, it seems, that time may have passed. Each of the well-known budget brands are beginning to find their own micro-niche, as they each edge further and further towards the mid-tier.
Ownboard’s micro-niche is belts. None of the other well-known budget brands are doing belts. Just Ownboard (for now at least). Moreover, of the lesser-known budget brands out there on the fringe that are doing belts, as far as I can tell, none of them are using a Hobbywing ESC. Again, just Ownboard. The same rationale can be applied to Ownboard's forthcoming Carbon AT. Yes, there are other budget/mid-tier AT (pneumatic/airless) boards out there, but again, Ownboard is the only one I see running a Hobbywing ESC. In my mind this makes Ownboard's line-up of mid-tier belt drives the only ones worth looking at.
So, let’s take a closer look at the Ownboard W2.
A TL;DR is available at the end of this review.
HARDWARE AND DRIVETRAIN
The deck is a 38-inch, Loaded Vanguard-inspired bamboo and fiberglass composite (I believe it’s two layers of each). There is a mild camber to aid in rebound and a mild concave to cradle the feet. The deck is complimented by a thick, shock-absorbing, neoprene griptape.
Trucks are Paris clones and wheels are Flywheel clones. Ownboard have been experimenting with different wheels on the W2 since the prototype stage. At the point of purchase you can now choose between green 83x52mm 80A wheels or black 90x54mm 80A wheels. I actually ended up with both of these, as well as an additional set of black, off-set, 90x63mm 78A wheels. This second set of black 90mm wheels retain a Flywheel-type core, but are closer to something like an Orangatang Caguma in their overall shape and construction. It’s on these wheels that I conducted most of this review, including the performance tests. Ownboard tell me that this new 90x63mm 78A off-set wheel will become their new standard 90mm wheel from June 15, 2019.
The wheel pulleys that come with the W2 (which are 36T by the way) are suitable for Flywheel-type cores only. Ownboard will be releasing Kegel-type wheel pulleys shortly, so unfortunately I didn’t have these for this review.
The wheel pulleys themselves are a solid, CNC aluminium construction. Although, I'm told Ownboard may change this to Polyoxymethylene (POM) for both Flywheel and Kegel-type pulleys moving forward.
The entire drive system actually seems incredibly robust and well-built. Almost everything is custom, CNC aluminium and looks rock-solid. This is a super high-quality drive system to find at a surprisingly low price point. This system is miles ahead of the DIYeboard dual belt kits, that's for sure.
The spring loaded belt tensioning system works well. Squeeze the motor closer to the wheel pulley to remove/replace a belt and/or the wheel pulley itself if you need to, then simply release the motor when everything is in place and the springs push the motor/motor pulley to the perfect tension. It works a treat! Don't be tempted to remove and leave the motor/belt covers off the W2 for the sake of trying to fit bigger wheels though. The motor/belt covers form an essential part of keeping the motor/motor pulleys aligned within the overall spring loaded mechanism. 97mm wheels will fit within the dimensions of the W2's motor/belt covers (just), but nothing bigger.
The W2's bushings are a 95A super high rebound (SHR) formula. SHR 95A's don't feel like 95A's. They feel kind of sloppy at low speeds and conversely quite lively at higher speeds. If you're not used to them, they take a ride or two to get used to. Also, having some quality ceramic bearings come standard with this board is a nice bonus that you don't often get with Shenzhen boards, so top marks to Ownboard there.
The enclosures appear to be pretty stock-standard items. They’re a strong nylon construction, but I was surprised to find absolutely no branding on the enclosures or anywhere on underside of the deck. All you’ll find is a charging port on the battery enclosure, and a battery percentage meter and power button on the ESC enclosure. The battery percentage meter is an awesome little addition, which has carried over from the W1S. The battery enclosure is big enough to house a 10s3p pack of Samsung 30Q’s (9.0Ah), which is a decent size pack with quality 18650 cells. Early prototype boards were reported to be running with 10s3p packs of Samsung 25R’s, with the 30Q’s held in reserve to be an optional upgrade. However, it was decided that all production W2’s will ship with 30Q’s as standard. Nice work, Ownboard!
The Hobbywing ESC is, of course, the golden child of all non-VESC (or non-proprietary) ESC’s. The W2’s Hobbywing ESC is a custom, 40A, 3-speed ESC; designed to run with Ownboard’s dual 5045 (270kV 650W) outrunner, belt drive motors. The ESC is partnered nicely by the standard 3-speed Hobbywing remote.
To check out my super quick unboxing video, click here.
PERFORMANCE: CLAIMED VS. REALITY
For this section please note that I weigh about 185lbs (84kg) at the moment.
Just for fun, let's recap the 'reality' performance tests from my Boosted Stealth review. Top Speed = 21.7 mph (35 kph) in PRO mode (or 24.2 mph (39 kph) in HYPER). Range = 7.14 miles (11.5 km) in PRO mode. Hills = 25% (likely). Weight = 17.85 lbs (8.1 kg).
So, what's not to like about the Ownboard W2 on a pound-for-pound comparison? It's a faster, lighter board with more than twice the range of a Boosted Stealth for less than half the price! The Ownboard W2 exceeds expectations in almost all regards.
Want to check out my top speed test? Click here.
Want to check out the data from my range test? Click here.
So, the question remains: Where does the W2 fall short against something like the Boosted Stealth? That would be torque, acceleration and hill-climbing. Another point back towards the Boosted would also be its ESC and BMS programming, resulting in zero sag. The W2 does suffer from what I felt were two distinct stages of sag. The first was a subtle drop in peak performance heading into the last 5 km and then a significant drop in the very last km of those 5 kms. The W2's sag behavior is pretty normal, it's Boosted that remains an exception to the rule.
Living in a relatively flat area, hills are hard for me to test. The W2 makes it up all of my local 12-15.7% "hills." Based on what I've come to learn about how the W2 performs, I think a 25% grade could be achieved. A Boosted would make the same grade (maybe more), but it would do so stronger and faster.
Why does the W2 suffer in the low end but out-spec the Boosted in the high end, you might ask? Well, there's a lot of elements to that, and I only profess to know/understand a bit about it, but a significant part of it has to do with the high kV run by the W2's motors (270kV is quite high). These motors are good for top speed, but not so much for torque. Boosted is the opposite.
So, if low end performance and fast 0-100m sprint times mean more to you than out-right specs, if you want to be quick off the line, have torque on-tap and crush hills with confidence, Boosted might still be worth the price tag for you. Otherwise, if you want more range, a better top speed and all the Boosted comfort for far less than the Boosted price, then the Ownboard W2 is a seriously, seriously appealing option.
I'll finish this section with a reminder that all performance tests were conducted on the 90x63mm 78A off-set wheels on this occasion. Due to inclement weather, I have been unable to do any decent running on the 83mm wheels and due to high interest in this board I wanted to get my review out sooner rather than later. However, if you're curious, the usual wheel size formula would apply here: Smaller wheels (on the same size wheel pulley) = more torque (including potentially better hill-climbing) and faster acceleration at the cost of a bit of comfort and a reduced top speed. What kind of rider you are and where you ride will determine your wheel choice at the point of purchase.
AESTHETICS AND RIDE FEEL
This is about as close to a Boosted clone as you can possibly get. Split enclosures, Vanguard-style deck, dual belt drive, even the griptape design! Am I fan of the derivative look? In the case of the griptape, no. I prefer a bit of originality. I actually like Ownboard’s previous logo and griptape aesthetic a little better. Speaking of branding, the Ownboard W2 is surprisingly devoid of it. There’s nothing on the enclosures, nothing on the wheels, no etching on the belly of the deck or anything. The result is something surprisingly generic looking, even more so than previous generation boards like the W1S and W1. But none of this has any bearing on performance, so it’s really all to be taken with a pinch of salt.
As for the rest of the aesthetic, well, it's a winning formula. If you want a flexy deck, that (almost always) means a split enclosure. This means most boards invariably end up looking like a lot of other boards. It's unavoidable, so it's a good thing it's a good look.
Getting into more detail, the first thing I noticed about the Ownboard W2 is just how flexy and bouncy it really is. It rivals Meepo’s NLS/NLS Pro deck and the Loaded Vanguard in terms of flex.
For a quick flex comparison video between the Ownboard W2, Meepo NLS Pro and Boosted Stealth (note: I know the Boosted Stealth doesn't use a Loaded Vanguard deck, but it's what I've got, so), click here.
On top of its generous flex, the W2 also has a very lively rebound. At first I would have said it’s right on the edge of being a little too lively, at least for my tastes, but the more I rode it the more I got used to it. The deck and bushing combination on the W2 creates ride feel that just wants to "dance" on the road - in a good way though. It's all good.
Unlike a lot of their rivals, Ownboard retains the popular grab handle on their flagship model by default. Although, for such a light board I'm not so sure that it's needed. On moving to the W2 from the Raptor 2.1 or even the Meepo NLS Pro, the W2 feels as light as a feather by comparison.
On top of being relatively light weight (all things considered), the W2 is also surprisingly quiet. Dual belt drive boards usually scream and howl, but not the W2. This is by far the quietest belt drive board I've ever ridden.
Okay, so far we have a comfortable, flexy, light weight, lively, carvy and quiet dual belt drive electric longboard. Let's move onto how the controls feel.
Acceleration, deceleration and braking is all smooth, predictable and reliable, as you'd expect from Hobbywing equipped board. I was unsure just how the "Hobbywing feel" would translate over to a belt drive. The answer is "perfectly." Silky and gradual acceleration complimented by safe and smooth braking in all three speed modes. I'd expect nothing less from Hobbywing at this point and the Ownboard W2 doesn't dissapoint.
PROS AND CONS
Very few boards beat their own top speed, range and weight specs in real world testing. The Ownboard W2 did. It won the trifecta, which is actually a first for me in my time testing and reviewing electric skateboards. So, well done to Ownboard for that!
Another solid point is Ownboard's gamble on belts. So far they're the only one of the "big four" in Shenzhen to go in this direction and they're the only ones (compared to their even lesser rivals) to do it right. Samsung 30Q battery cells and a Hobbywing ESC. It's not hard, yet for some reason a lot of these lesser known fringe brands seem intent on cheaping-out on their customers. At least Ownboard are coming to the party with something solid and reliable. This is further highlighted by the time and effort put into engineering their own drive system.
Further pros include the sheer amount of stuff you get in the box. Ownboard give you spare, regular griptape (if neoprene isn't your thing), nose and tail bash guards, 2x spare belts, a tail light, as well as all of the other normal goods and chattels. Topping everything off is a 3A charger, which is awesome for the 10s3p battery.
I only have a small number of cons worth mentioning. First is the branding. The griptape design and logo placement could obviously be more original. I'm also used to seeing a bit more from Ownboard under the deck and on the wheels. Maybe they'll do a bit more branding on the W2 in future batches? I don't know.
Next is the remote. Now, it's not like me to criticize a Hobbywing remote, and I'm not. But, we all know that Hobbywing do custom remotes with displays for some of their other retail clients now. Ownboard didn't go down this route and have instead opted to stay with the generic, default remote. I'm disappointed that Ownboard didn't go the extra mile and organize something custom and unique with Hobbywing for the release of the W2. But again, this could be something they do in the future.
During my testing of the W2, the battery enclosure screws managed to rattle loose - very loose - that is to say, "completely off." They seemed to be devoid of (or had very little) thread-locker. I gave this feedback to Ownboard and they took it on-board. I have no doubt they'll take it to heart and make improvements to their processes. After all, they improved on everything Daniel Kwan pointed out to them in prototype testing. In the meantime, if you have an early production W2, I'd remove and apply thread-locker to all of your screws as an extra precaution.
Of course, this leads into the inevitable comment on long term durability. Admittedly, it's an unknown. But, as I've said in the past, if it turns out these boards stand the test of time, the "premium" category needs to watch its back.
Finishing on a high, let's just state the obvious - The Ownboard W2 is a seriously comfortable, smooth and quiet ride for a dual belt drive. It's a genuine pleasure to cruise on. You get all the benefits of running full urethane wheels on the rear, but without the obnoxious squeal you get from most belt drives. Cruising along beachside, carving up a storm with all of that rear urethane grip, without people turning their heads in disgust at the noise is a massive plus.
VERDICT / TL;DR
The Ownboard W2 is the best mid-tier belt drive money can buy. It earns this title by use of a beautifully flexy deck, a top notch 10s3p Samsung 30Q battery pack, an industry-renowned Hobbywing ESC and remote combination, and a high quality CNC aluminium drive system. It is faster, lighter and packs twice the range of a Boosted board for less than half the price. The board comes with Flywheel-type pulleys, with Kegel-type pulleys coming soon. It can run wheels up to 97mm in size. This means you can run 97mm Flywheels or 85mm Caguma's without any aftermarket modifications. The choice is yours.
Yes, the W2 lacks the torque, acceleration and hill-climbing capabilities of the more illustrious brand on which it is based, but if you don't need these things, then it becomes pretty hard to justify the extra cost, particularly when the W2 out-specs Boosted in every other way. If you live in a relatively flat area, isn't it a more sensible idea to save half your money and get twice the range? It's a compelling argument - and it's not as if the W2 can't climb hills. It sure can, just with not as much pull as a Boosted.
The question of long term durability and the variable nature of Chinese customer service notwithstanding, this board does everything you want it to. It literally out-specs its own spec sheet! Is that worth the roughly $650 USD (correct at the time of writing - with coupon) it costs to get W2? If you're after a sensibly priced dual belt drive with reliable and smooth controls, and great top speed and range, then I think the answer is obvious.
UPDATE: Within hours of releasing this review Ownboard announced that all future W2's will ship with both sets of wheels (83x52mm and 90x63mm) and both pulley types (Flywheel and Kegel). A great value package.
Ownboard's official website: ownboard.net (non-affiliate link).
Use the code Samja for 10% off the purchase of a W2. This is not an affiliate code. I earn nothing and have nothing to gain. It's just something Ownboard gave me to share with my readers. I hope it helps if you're keen on purchasing this board.
I ride and write about electric skateboards for one reason and one reason only - the love of it!