-The controls work very well, for the most part. Sometimes there's a little delay that seems related to bluetooth, and I wish there was a dedicated controller for greater precision. But learning to operate R2 is a gentle curve. Having independent control over rotating the top dome is a nice touch.
-The built-in sounds and lights are fantastic. It makes the character come alive on a whole new level, especially to those watching. My wife loved this part.
-I enjoy the pre-set commands. R2 will do all kinds of chirping, wiggling his legs, spinning, and will even fall over (as if shocked). It seems quite durable.
-Carpet is a struggle. We have hardwood floors, but R2 cannot drive up onto even a small lip of a floor rug. If placed on the floor rug he can drive around it, but not nearly as smoothly as on hardwood. I also have concerns about debris getting stuck in the treads over time, as they don't look easily removable if something gross got rolled up in there.
-The third front leg has no wheel or tread, it's just a smooth piece of plastic. It has already scuffed considerably.
-There's something about the sheen of the white plastic that seems a bit "cheap," for whatever reason. It's an aesthetic thing, but it doesn't have the look of plastic I would expect in this price range.
-"Patrol Mode" seems to be a complete miss. Within 10 seconds R2 drives into a wall/obstacle and gets stuck there. He doesn't back up or turn himself around, even after a couple of minutes. There are clearly no proximity sensors built in.
-I don't have the Sphero BB-8, but from the videos I've watched it appears R2 is significantly slower. There is a turbo button that you can hold down to increase top speed, but it's still not fast. This limits some of the fun.
-Matching the charge cable to the copper-painted cables on R2's feet is a very nice touch.
-My dog goes absolutely nuts when R2 drives around. He's not the type of dog to rip something apart, but if you do own that type of dog this may not be the toy for you.
Finally, my initial verdict: There's a good chance it's going back. It does pretty much everything it sets out to do, and the personality is spot-on. But, having played around for about 30 minutes, I'm already thinking two things: 1) Does it do anything else?, and 2) HOW much did I pay for this?!
If I take away the fact that this is R2-D2 and objectively look at the features, the experience is basically the same as driving a slow remote-controlled car with clunky cell phone controls, but also with lots of lights and sounds. I played with R/C vehicles for several years, so this feels like a step backward.
Despite that, this IS R2-D2, and it's the best controllable version to date. If the character is an important part of your fandom and you can swallow the price you will most likely be satisfied. If the price is already bothering you, bringing R2 home at full retail may not change your mind. For up to $100 it would be an easy keeper, but for $180 I'm having trouble justifying the high cost relative to how often I would use this.
(Edit: Video added. Trying to drive on my phone while filming with the iPad. The loud howl is my dog wanting to attack R2)