I just tried the self-transforming Optimus Prime Elite — and it’s amazing

Optimus Prime Elite
(Image credit: Future)

There's a lot of money to be made by appealing to the childhood memories of Gen-Xers with expendable income. Lego figured it out with its collector-series Star Wars sets, and others are cashing in by mining other IP from the 80s.

The Robosen Optimus Prime Elite is an admittedly fun, but expensive — $699 — toy that will delight the inner child of any 40-something who grew up watching Transformers cartoons. I know I was certainly tickled the first time I said "Optimus Prime, move forward," and watched the robot transform from a semi truck into the leader of the Autobots.


♬ squidgame sickmix - Sickickmusic

Optimus Prime Elite in truck form

(Image credit: Future)

The Optimus Prime Elite is the second such robot made by Robosen — the original Optimus came out last year in a limited-edition model that costs $1,199 (it's still available, if you just won the Powerball lottery). 

This year's model is slightly downscaled, but still measures in at 16 inches tall, and contains 60 microchips and 27 high-precision servo motors so that Optimus can not only change from truck to bot, but can also swing his arms, move his legs, and drive around on command.

Optimus comes pre-programmed with 43 commands, and you can create custom commands using the Robosen app. 

Optimus' speech is provided by Peter Cullen, the original voice actor for the animated series as well as the Michael Bay-helmed franchise. Personally, I'd rather drop $700 on this robot than sit through any of his movies. 

Optimus Prime Elite

(Image credit: Future)

In my job, I see a lot of tech, so I can get a little jaded at times. However, the first (and second, and third) time I saw the Optimus Prime Elite transform itself, I couldn't help but exclaim "that's awesome!" 

You can either command the robot using your voice — a vehicular Alexa, if you will — or use the app to control its movements, such as driving it around. 

There's a small directional pad that allows you to drive Optimus or, if he's in robot form, walk him around. The directional pad is small, and jammed into the lower left corner of the app, which made it more difficult to control.

Optimus' movements when walking seem a bit precarious — in fact, he fell over a couple of times on even very thin office carpet — but he moved pretty well on hardwood floors, and was more mobile than Elon Musk's robot by the same name.

Some of the more novel things you can make Optimus do include going into a hero pose — knees bent, with one fist to the ground. You can also have him do push ups, though as my colleague Marshall Honorof said, why would a robot need to do push ups?

The app also lets you create custom actions in two ways: You can manually move Optimus' limbs into different poses, and the app will record it as a macro. Or, you can use a block-based approach in the app. 

Optimus Prime Elite

(Image credit: Future)

When the robot is on and idle, Optimus sways back and forth a little, like he's trembling with the thought of doing battle with the Decepticons. Every now and then, he'll break into a pose or exclaim something, which can be a little surprising if you forgot you left him on. 

The robot comes with Optimus' blaster and battle axe, which you must manually attach to his hands — and remember to remove before trying to change him back into a truck.

Optimus is powered by a 1200 mAh Li-polymer battery; his front grille folds down to reveal a charging port and microUSB port. 

Can you get $700 of enjoyment out of a voice-controlled, self-transforming Transformer before the novelty wears off? It depends on how deep your nostalgia runs for anthropomorphized automobiles. And I'm not talking about the Go-Bots.

Mike Prospero
U.S. Editor-in-Chief, Tom's Guide

Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.