Despite the first product numbers in the ND5 series, these actually came out later than the phase ii ND5's.
I was initially put off from purchasing one of these locomotives given the release photos of them where the color looked like it had been designed by Austin Powers, so Peter Oetterli became my guinea pig to make sure the color looked right. I'm very happy to report that my worries have been laid to rest and I'm very seriously looking at buying one of them very soon. The physical details are slightly different, but are equally impressive, if not more so. Some of the nicer features include see-through foot steps, etched metal grilles over the large radiator fans, very fine windscreen wipers, hollowed out brass airhorns and very fine handrails. A small bag is included with air hoses to be installed by the owner.
(Copied from ND5 ph ii review as information is the same) The performance is exceptional, even though they lose weight being a hood unit, these are very powerful models. Mine had no problems pulling 22 empty gondolas up a 3% grade @ 35% throttle. The motor is dead silent, although there is an awful lot of noise from the gear boxes, not especially surprising after seeing all the oil in the box. This doesn't go away after running in, and an appropriate gearbox lubricant is highly recommended. Top speed is just about right for a scale 120kph.
(Copied from ND5 ph ii review as information is the same) The lighting is very nice, very bright LEDs for the main headlight and number boards, as well as marker lights. I would suggest the lights are too blue, but this can be fixed up by painting a tiny (really tiny) amount of "Tamiya Clear Orange (X-26)" on the surface of the LED's. The red reverse lights look fantastic and shine with a very good brightness level. It is a shame that the front and rear number boards can't be turned on at the same time.
Decoder installation is quite easy. The PC board has an 8 pin socket and I would recommend using a smaller decoder for these engines - for example Digitrax DZ125, or any N scale decoder - as the space inside is quite limited. Inside the fuel tank is a template for drilling speaker holes for those who would like to use a sound decoder.
Swapping couplers is a little trickier on these locomotives, but is a pretty straight forward affair. Unlike the phase ii ND5's, these will accept standard shank Kadee's (#5/58/158's) as they have no in-built snow plough.
(Copied from ND5 ph ii review as information is the same)
Yes, the wheels still have the deep flanges (when will they learn), but this hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for these terrific models and I highly recommend Chinese fans buy one or two at least! You will not be disappointed!
A factory weathered version was released in mid July 2011. These had identical roadnumbers to the first version, however the prefix 'E' was added to the product number.