Unicorn Smartboard dartboard review




Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_FO0_uY1wE

click here


Ok you will have seen the new Smartboard by now and probably seen the ad that goes with it.

As I was expecting though a lot of comments regarding the price which was always going to be the case but I will talk more of that later.

First of all lets just mention the details and then get into the nitty gritty of it Smile

Its the first app enabled auto scoring steel tip board simply put.  Not the first electronic steel tip board as such as we already know they have been out in the past and its not a copycat of the system at Flight Club which uses cameras to detect where the darts have landed.  With this you can use any set of steel tip darts.

When I did the review some of the info and details were not available but now it is on the Unicorn site for all to see.

I was contacted by Unicorn on 25th November and asked if I would like to review a new product but if I did I had to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement.  I thought they were kidding at first but the next day I had an email with a contract and had to print it and sign it and then scan it and email it back.  I still had no idea what it was.  

The next day DHL Express arrived with a square box and I thought "its a dartboard?"  the box was quite thick so I then thought it must be a soft tip board.  Still had no idea but after opening it I saw it was a steel tip board with auto scoring, that's pretty cool I though but where is the camera?  

I too thought it was a version of the Flight Club system and I thought they had forgot to include the camera but after checking a bit more it did not need a camera, so pretty nifty I thought and quite a cool idea although one I was sure die hard steel tippers would frown upon.

So anyway, I found out how it works and what you do is insert the point of your darts in the Smartbutton on the board.  This magnetises the darts and when you throw them at the board it either creates a mini electric current or it breaks one, not sure exactly but it was very clever I thought.

So I contacted Unicorn to get some more details and info.

The board is £250 which is a lot of money for sure!  You can only buy the board from Unicorn direct and they will offer finance options if you wish to do so.  They will also have bundle deals where you can get the board, surround, stand and oche etc but obviously all that wont be cheap, they do some discounts of course but its still a lot of money.

I cant say I found the site easy as I had to look at one of the threads posted before getting the link, I was looking on Unicorns main site for it but anyway here is the link: http://www.unicornsmartboard.com/smartboard.html

Box And Contents:

It comes in a slightly larger than normal box for a dartboard and feels a little heavier too, thankfully the box has an handle on it.  Along with the board you get 2 sets of darts which are red and blue and with a kind of rubbery plastic feel, an oche mate for measuring the oche and board height etc and the usual dartboard brackets, you just need to provide 3 AA batteries and the appropriate device with Bluetooth LE to use the app, there will also be an instruction sheet which I never got but was sent a pdf version of:

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Pics of the board:

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As you can see its got a blue and red theme which I was not sure about but its grown on me now and I kind of like it.  The board is a little curious though as it has a triangular spider which is a little thicker than say the Eclipse or Blade spiders and its almost like a hybrid of a round wire spider.  But I think the reason it has the round wire bullseye is because to have put in the usual type would may be have interfered with the electronics on the back.

The number ring has the Unicorn replaceable number which I think most people may opt to get in red and blue to match the board but it looks fine in white.

As you can see the Smartbutton is located near the number 15 and the software knows this, so when you rotate the board you have to tell the Scorebuddy app the new location of the Smartbutton so it knows where the numbers are.

It also has the Smartboard logo in 3 places so it looks better once it is rotated.

I don't know why the spider is not the same as the HD2 unless again it has something to do with the electronics.  On my board the serial number is missing too.  It will be in retail versions though.  There is a screw already placed on the back so you just need to put the bracket on the wall to hang it up.

Up And Ready!

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For those that are interested here is some dimensions, I actually did a video of this but then thought it was not needed in the review video as I am not really comparing this board to normal steel tip boards, but here is some pics all the same:

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So as you can see, apart from the bulls eye the segments are smaller than the newer boards recently selling.

Scorebuddy App:

I think its best to view the video to see how this works but its a very slick and neat app that works flawlessly so far although I at first thought there was a bit of quirkiness to it.  You can download it for Android or iOS but there is no Windows version planned at present, click here for download options: http://www.unicornsmartboard.com/smartbo...uddy.html/

The neat thing about the app is it tells you all the instructions you need to set the Smartboard up and how to play and its very straight forward.  There is 8 games available and I am sure many more will come out and in the future there will also be online play.  The app is easy on the eye and well laid out, the connection between the board and the app worked seamlessly.

Once you have the app running you press the Smartbutton and it will flash red and when it turns solid red you are connected and ready to go.  You just enter your name and then choose what you want to do, either play the Robot or enter more names for your friends and that's it.  The Robot has a level from 1 to 9 and it beat me easily on 9, but it was fun to play against!

There is instructions on every game and a history button where you can re-start previously saved games, everything is explained perfectly in the app and you can see its been refined to be as foolproof as possible.  It even tells you the power of your batteries!

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Conclusion:

Ok first of all lets talk about the good things.

This is some clever technology here and its very cool that they can do this now for a steel tip home board and not some big machine.  I have played on it a lot and not had one problem where its registered the wrong score or glitched in any other way, its been very addictive too trying to better the Robot.

Having a steel tip board playing like a soft tip board is something I was not expecting to see for some time, I know we have had those other types but I never thought we would see a mainstream product like this for at least another 10 years.

I have had a lot of fun playing it and been impressed with how its performed.  

Its not something that Unicorn have only just made, they have been developing it in its present state for over 3 years and it was an idea brought to them by some other individuals who had been developing it for nearly 10 years before that!  So its been a long time to get to its retail status.

Unicorn have bought the factory in China where its made so they have complete control over it and they are not distributing it to retailers so they maintain control and I presume to keep the cost for the consumer as low as possible.

It seems that the board is aimed at the casual darter or social darter as it were, may be someone who may only play once or twice a week or even people who are too scared to play because they fear the maths involved, I don't know.

But I can see it been fun in that regard for families or friends having a party and maybe even having Smartboard parties.  It seems to be a trend that's crossed over from the likes of soft tip bars and Flight Club which is why they are probably targeting it as Social Darts.

Now I think in some respects that's a good thing but I also think its still a big gamble because its an unknown market.

I can see it been of some use even for die hard steel tippers when the online play becomes active though as you can obviously play others anywhere in the world just as in the home soft tip boards.

So now for some not so good points.

The darts it came with are horrid, I don't know if it was just me but they seemed to slip out my fingers so just as well you can use your own darts really.

The number ring having replaceable numbers is may be not such a good idea for a board that is aimed at the more casual or new to darts player, I broke the 5 when one of the darts slipped out my hand.  But as its aimed at a more casual player they may love the chance to personalise the colours?

I think the location of the Smartbutton is not such a good spot, its close to the double ring so if your first dart of a throw hits it then it will affectively end your throw although it is rather solid and takes a decent push to activate but a hard thrower or someone using very heavy darts could very likely activate it on a throw.  On the side would have been better but would interfere with a surround so may be a plug in button could have been a better option with a cord, bit of a tough one that and I suspect they may have had some deliberations over it.

I think for an individual the price is immediately off putting, if you have a group of friends who are interested then its worth clubbing together to get one but other than that your only easy option is to buy on finance.

I honestly don't know how cheap they could go with this as I am sure a lot of the price is to pay for the developing time, the factory, the software etc  but I would think it would need to be less than half the current price to appeal to most individuals.

There is a bigger problem with the price though and that is the fact the board wears out.  I have found it quite addictive to play on so far and I have probably played it more than I would a normal board and my wrist is aching due to that lol! but I am wearing the board out quicker too.  So at this rate I think I would be lucky to have it last a year and £250 a year for a board is crazy really!

If Unicorn offered some kind of trade in option where they take the electronics off your board or have an option where they take your electronics and add a new sisal board to it, then if they did that it could ease that big purchase price depending on what they charge, but as it stands I don't see individuals making snap decisions.  I think Unicorn understand that though, hence the finance options.

So are we ready for such a dartboard?  I think die hard steel tippers will say no but they frown on soft tip too so nothing unexpected there, so is there a new market for this board? possibly there is but I am not sure its big enough at present to make a big impact on the sales so that leaves us guys, people like the Nutz, would you buy it?

I think its certainly something I would want definitely but its not something I need as such.  So would I buy it?

Its hard to decide as I have had a lot of fun using it and its very cool and slick and all that but I can get along ok without it and still use software to do similar things, so its a tough one to answer.  I would say if it was less than £150 I would get one for sure but for the £250 I think its very difficult to justify.

I was told the Flight Club system costs I think it was either £4k or £10k so compared to that its super cheap but that's a business that is getting money from people using it regularly so its not quite comparable.

One for you to make your own mind up I think Smile
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I like the idea/technology but the main issue have with it is the sisal wearing down. Most premium soft tip boards have replaceable segments and they will last you for years and years. I don't even think this will last a year if I see how quickly it wears in your review. Also no online play is a big disappointment. It's a ballsy move from Unicorn and perhaps a right step in the future but I see zero advantages over a soft tip board. I'd rather buy a HI darts or Gran Board or whatever.
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(12-16-2016, 08:13 PM)joeriw96 Wrote: I like the idea/technology but the main issue have with it is the sisal wearing down. Most premium soft tip boards have replaceable segments and they will last you for years and years. I don't even think this will last a year if I see how quickly it wears in your review. Also no online play is a big disappointment. It's a ballsy move from Unicorn and perhaps a right step in the future but I see zero advantages over a soft tip board. I'd rather buy a HI darts or Gran Board or whatever.

Yep that's what I say, online play should be coming though.
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Decent idea, but the price for a board that'll wear is just too high really considering the fact Pro-Darter, n01 for PC and other apps are free. I myself would rather just get a Gran Board 2 (like I have! Lol ) for that sort of money. Good review, though, +1 Smile
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Just got back into the game. Trying to decide what works for me after a while out!

High checkout: 124 (T20, T14, D11, steeltip)
Best 501 leg: 20 darts
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(12-16-2016, 08:21 PM)Getagrip Wrote: Yep that's what I say, online play should be coming though.

Can't see anyone having a different conclusion really. Probably won't have many people being online but nice of them to implement online play anyway.

One question though: Have you tried using other darts, do they work just as well?

Also forgot to say: Nice review have a +1 Tongue
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Very intersteing and i think we will see a few more products over the coming years. Personally, I'll stick with a G2, a chalkboard and some mates. +1.
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Wow OK well, I'm very surprised with how advanced it is technology wise, I don't think I'm in the target market, but my first thought is that it's so close to being a full-on solution for monetising the steel tip game in pubs etc. but just a step away. Maybe I'm overthinking it, but I reckon that'd be a big draw for businesses, and kind of a point of pride for consumers that they have the same product as in a professional setting.

For the money though, I might want a couple of things: a power cable, and friends to play with (Tongue)

Seriously though, I think this could be the way Europe pushes into the digital darts market.
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Nice review. I have a few questions and thoughts, though.

1. It seems not to be made for changing with a classic dartboard on the wall unless you change the oche length as well. From the rear side it looks a bit like a wall watch... Isn't it wobbling on the wall?
BTW, the Ochemate is kind of a lottery too. I have got three of them and one of them was completelly wrong (about 3cm /1inch) and I know I wasn't the only one who got the wrong one..

2. I think you haven't measured the trebles and bullseye dimensions correctly. You should measure the peaks of the wire, not the space between wires.

3. How about dart fall outs? Does it count it? I often have quite a few and although it could help I am not sure it should count.

4. I like the magnetism idea. TBH, I was guessing it only could work this way even before I have learnt it really uses this method. I was thinking that using methods like connecting the conducting layers wouldn't work for long because of wearing out.

5. Darts included are horrible.

6. Price...no comment.

7. I am pretty sure I have forgot something :-)
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Awesome review~!

If this was a thing when I started playing darts, I wouldn't have been so on and off for the last 8 years. Then again, I also wouldn't have had the funds to support it back then.  Tongue

All in all it's really nice and all but for that price, I could buy a new board every year. On the other hand, if they came up with a way to change out the bristle, I'm sure a lot of us might just jump on this. Assuming they just sold the electronics and a modified board where the electronics just fit into a hole in the back of the board or something like that. Just a thought though.
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Great review +1 and nice one by Unicorn to send you the board to review.

I'm intrigued by this and after considering it since you posted the review I think this could be a 'genesis' moment. I'm a bit of a fuddy duddy at 46 and only begrudgingly gave in and got a smart phone this year lol. But I suspect most young un's will think this is great and anything with an app is probably cool anyway. It wont be long until it is the norm to control your light and heat in your home from an app on the phone so darts will look old fashioned if it does not do this also I think.

The 2 big catches are price and soft tip. This is expensive, there is no way of getting away from that. But if it succeeds then the price will come down due to more production and other manufacturers getting involved. If it takes off then within a couple of years you might be able to buy one for about twice the price of a normal board. Then we all will get one to put up when friends or family come around which supports the 'social' aspect of the way it is being marketed. It would be a good alternative to a game of cards or trivial pursuit. Serious darters who are aiming to play or are in a team will want to practice and chalk anyway.

The other catch is soft tip which already solves a lot of the enticements of this board. But (I stand to be corrected) soft tip still has made little impact in Europe anyway. This may change of course which would make this redundant. As it stands the great darts we watch are steel tip and we will try and emulate our heroes by playing steel tip.

So hats off to Unicorn. It is a brave decision and someone had to try it, don't you think?
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If the wear issue wasn't there then I'd probably jump on this, I can see the real benefit but there does seem to be odd things like the location of that button plus the electronics in the back must make the board wobble? If the electronic segment was integrated into the back of the board without a hump then it may look a little more sleek. I'd presume the extra hump would mean that most surrounds are not going to be able to sit close to flush with the board but recessed quite a bit - even looking at the picture of the board with their own Solar light system you can see the surround is quite far back.

But I think most could get away from some of these things but the wear, no, if I've got a poor looking board after a couple of weeks I'll soon fall out of love with the board. I think the idea of a replaceable front to the board would be a great idea but I doubt that will happen, after all this board isn't being targeted towards 95% of people on this forum for example who play darts pretty much every day.
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(12-16-2016, 08:36 PM)Kosumo Wrote: Decent idea, but the price for a board that'll wear is just too high really considering the fact Pro-Darter, n01 for PC and other apps are free. I myself would rather just get a Gran Board 2 (like I have! Lol ) for that sort of money. Good review, though, +1 Smile

Thanks Josh! Smile

(12-16-2016, 08:40 PM)joeriw96 Wrote:
(12-16-2016, 08:21 PM)Getagrip Wrote: Yep that's what I say, online play should be coming though.

Can't see anyone having a different conclusion really. Probably won't have many people being online but nice of them to implement online play anyway.

One question though: Have you tried using other darts, do they work just as well?

Also forgot to say: Nice review have a +1 Tongue

Yeah no problem with using other darts, its just the same as any board. Cheers Smile

(12-16-2016, 08:53 PM)Serial 7hriller Wrote: Very intersteing and i think we will see a few more products over the coming years. Personally, I'll stick with a G2, a chalkboard and some mates. +1.

Yeah I think they are making a bold move but who knows it may pay off? Smile

(12-16-2016, 09:28 PM)Steve_00 Wrote: Wow OK well, I'm very surprised with how advanced it is technology wise, I don't think I'm in the target market, but my first thought is that it's so close to being a full-on solution for monetising the steel tip game in pubs etc. but just a step away. Maybe I'm overthinking it, but I reckon that'd be a big draw for businesses, and kind of a point of pride for consumers that they have the same product as in a professional setting.

For the money though, I might want a couple of things: a power cable, and friends to play with (Tongue)

Seriously though, I think this could be the way Europe pushes into the digital darts market.

Interesting thinking, hopefully they wont charge people to play but it could happen as its already like that for soft tip. Cheers! Smile

(12-16-2016, 09:57 PM)elevendarter Wrote: Nice review. I have a few questions and thoughts, though.

1. It seems not to be made for changing with a classic dartboard on the wall unless you change the oche length as well. From the rear side it looks a bit like a wall watch... Isn't it wobbling on the wall?
BTW, the Ochemate is kind of a lottery too. I have got three of them and one of them was completelly wrong (about 3cm /1inch) and I know I wasn't the only one who got the wrong one..

2. I think you haven't measured the trebles and bullseye dimensions correctly. You should measure the peaks of the wire, not the space between wires.

3. How about dart fall outs? Does it count it? I often have quite a few and although it could help I am not sure it should count.

4. I like the magnetism idea. TBH, I was guessing it only could work this way even before I have learnt it really uses this method. I was thinking that using methods like connecting the conducting layers wouldn't work for long because of wearing out.

5. Darts included are horrible.

6. Price...no comment.

7. I am pretty sure I have forgot something :-)

1. Yes you will need to make your oche longer, about 6mm I think. No if your wall is flat unlike mine it is very stable, my wall is uneven so if I push the top it wobbles but its more stable than the other boards I have hung up unless I add the One80 rotafix or use the B4/5 DC rota lok, its fine really.

2. I have had that argument before and while the rules say its apex to apex I don't care about that fact, I want to know the size of the area I can score in, if my dart stick in the wire what score do I get?

3. I have not had any so far, the only one is in the video where I throw the dart when its on the table and it does score it.

4. Yeah its very clever.

5. They are indeed Smile

6. Understandable Smile

7. I don't know Tongue

(12-16-2016, 11:19 PM)mkchoi5354 Wrote: Awesome review~!

If this was a thing when I started playing darts, I wouldn't have been so on and off for the last 8 years. Then again, I also wouldn't have had the funds to support it back then.  Tongue

All in all it's really nice and all but for that price, I could buy a new board every year. On the other hand, if they came up with a way to change out the bristle, I'm sure a lot of us might just jump on this. Assuming they just sold the electronics and a modified board where the electronics just fit into a hole in the back of the board or something like that. Just a thought though.

Cheers! I think what would be even better is if you could adapt it to fit any board, that way you could buy the electronics and use on a board of your choice but its probably a lot more complicated than that Smile

(12-17-2016, 11:35 AM)jc14 Wrote: Great review +1 and nice one by Unicorn to send you the board to review.

I'm intrigued by this and after considering it since you posted the review I think this could be a 'genesis' moment.  I'm a bit of a fuddy duddy at 46 and only begrudgingly gave in and got a smart phone this year lol.  But I suspect most young un's will think this is great and anything with an app is probably cool anyway. It wont be long until it is the norm to control your light and heat in your home from an app on the phone so darts will look old fashioned if it does not do this also I think.

The 2 big catches are price and soft tip.  This is expensive, there is no way of getting away from that.  But if it succeeds then the price will come down due to more production and other manufacturers getting involved.  If it takes off then within a couple of years you might be able to buy one for about twice the price of a normal board.  Then we all will get one to put up when friends or family come around which supports the 'social' aspect of the way it is being marketed.  It would be a good alternative to a game of cards or trivial pursuit.  Serious darters who are aiming to play or are in a team will want to practice and chalk anyway.

The other catch is soft tip which already solves a lot of the enticements of this board.  But (I stand to be corrected) soft tip still has made little impact in Europe anyway.  This may change of course which would make this redundant.  As it stands the great darts we watch are steel tip and we will try and emulate our heroes by playing steel tip.

So hats off to Unicorn.  It is a brave decision and someone had to try it, don't you think?

Cheers James! Some good observations and I think its a gamble that can go either way really. On the one hand its really cool tech and works well and is gadgety enough to appeal to many but on the other is the issues we have already mentioned so its going to be interesting to see how it pans out. I think soft tip has struggled so may be this could be the thing that people take to instead but I do see more people getting interested in soft tip now so its going to fun seeing what happens in the next year or two, I do think other manufacturers are trying a similar thing and I think one is already near to releasing one but I don't know exact details on that.


(12-17-2016, 12:28 PM)goonas Wrote: If the wear issue wasn't there then I'd probably jump on this, I can see the real benefit but there does seem to be odd things like the location of that button plus the electronics in the back must make the board wobble? If the electronic segment was integrated into the back of the board without a hump then it may look a little more sleek. I'd presume the extra hump would mean that most surrounds are not going to be able to sit close to flush with the board but recessed quite a bit - even looking at the picture of the board with their own Solar light system you can see the surround is quite far back.

But I think most could get away from some of these things but the wear, no, if I've got a poor looking board after a couple of weeks I'll soon fall out of love with the board. I think the idea of a replaceable front to the board would be a great idea but I doubt that will happen, after all this board isn't being targeted towards 95% of people on this forum for example who play darts pretty much every day.


It is very stable actually, using a normal bracket that it comes with it is more stable than my normal boards but it is a bit thicker, around 6mm or so. The wear is the biggest problem I think, all sisal boards wear no matter what so at some point your £250 board will look bad and if you play 1 to 2 hours a day then you may get a year out of it which is not that long for the price. Smile
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I have become a fan of darts. And as such, I wish for darts to be a booming business and all manufacturers that make quality gear to do well. It saddens me to see stuff like this. Especially with an iconic name like Unicorn.  Sad

As far as I can tell, this does nothing a stand-alone scorer couldn't do with the exception of inputing where the darts have landed. And I would not want to throw at that thing. The wire flattened and bent over the other wires held by staples poses a serious threat to the integrity of my chosen darting implements. Not worth the risk. 

I think, given the choice between a Winmau and Unicorn board, most people with a little familiarity on the subject are going to get the Winmau. I don't understand why Unicorn would waste its efforts and resources on a gimmicky mess rather than simply building a better board that more people would want.

(I admit that I am not a soft tip fan. That is my bias. I think it is gimmick to make money off of dart players by bars that serve crappy beer and can't make money that way. Keep darts free and people will pay the price for premium beer. I think I would last maybe 15 minutes of flashing lights, beeps, buzzers, and bells, before I'd have to punch a board right in the bull. Angry )
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Thunk, thunk, thunk, walk, chalk, pull, turn, walk, turn, repeat...

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I kind of have to disagree with you there, not just for the sake of playing devil's advocate but because I've experienced a similar exodus in another of my interests, skateboarding. (Stunt scooters came along, and divided new users between scooter, skateboard and BMX... Long story, but skate and bike stores both lost out) I personally believe that this innovation could draw a wider audience and more varied participants to the sport and is a good thing, because otherwise, those potential players will go elsewhere. The competition will eventually dwindle, and so will the money, interest and investment in the sport. It will simply go elsewhere. I don't consider the soft tip market a threat so much as an investment in darts, as a different aspect of the same game. The same shops and players will benefit from soft tip and electronic darts, and I personally think that drawing a wider audience to the game can only be a good thing.

Quick edit: I also can't stand the noise and flashing lights of soft tip. Beer aside, people can get into darts in a number of ways, and I can't wait to lose against someone who got into it by spending a ton and magnetising their points ?
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(12-18-2016, 01:47 AM)Steve_00 Wrote: I kind of have to disagree with you there, not just for the sake of playing devil's advocate but because I've experienced a similar exodus in another of my interests, skateboarding. (Stunt scooters came along, and divided new users between scooter, skateboard and BMX... Long story, but skate and bike stores both lost out) I personally believe that this innovation could draw a wider audience and more varied participants to the sport and is a good thing, because otherwise, those potential players will go elsewhere. The competition will eventually dwindle, and so will the money, interest and investment in the sport. It will simply go elsewhere. I don't consider the soft tip market a threat so much as an investment in darts, as a different aspect of the same game. The same shops and players will benefit from soft tip and electronic darts, and I personally think that drawing a wider audience to the game can only be a good thing.

Quick edit: I also can't stand the noise and flashing lights of soft tip. Beer aside, people can get into darts in a number of ways, and I can't wait to lose against someone who got into it by spending a ton and magnetising their points ?

I respect your point of view, I just differ. I don't see these catching on. I think Unicorn is blowing it. I think there is a lot of room for improvement in the stand-alone scoreboard market and they could innovate in that direction. Putting the electronics in the board is no real advantage, especially when the board wears out. If I had spent that kind of money and then had to suffer 1 in 10 darts bouncing off the wire, I'd be cheesed.
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Thunk, thunk, thunk, walk, chalk, pull, turn, walk, turn, repeat...

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