Out of the box, it takes a few minutes to attach the propeller guards and landing gear using the supplied mini screwdriver. You'll also want to plug the included batteries in to a USB charger. The manual suggests using a charger rated at no more than 1 amp to prolong battery life. Mine came partially charged and took about 30 minutes to top off. You'll need 4x AA batteries for the remote.
The remote is easy to pair with the drone on startup, just tap the left stick up and down quickly and you are set. Put the drone on a flat surface so the gyro can stabilize and the lights on the drone will stop blinking. Make sure that the drone is in front of you and facing away. This is important especially when you are learning to fly and if you want to use the "headless" mode, which I'll describe later. Now you are ready to hit the launch button (up/down arrows on the left of the left d-pad) to spin up the motors. Gently press up on the left stick and you are flying. The drone will hold its altitude as best it can (drafts indoors and wind outside can cause it to fluctuate). I suggest practicing low to the ground for the first few flights until you get the hang of it. I suggest getting used to the adjusting the gain setting on the remote (left shoulder button). After a few flights, I set it to 100% immediately as the controllers analog sticks are nice and sensitive and easy to feather around in any direction. With a little practice I was racing laps smoothly up and down the block.
Headless mode is fun in that when it's enabled, the heading of the drone will not impact its direction of travel when you move the right stick. In regular operating mode, just like an RC car driving toward you, left becomes right and vice versa when the drone is flying toward you. Add in the dimensions of up/down, heading, and strafing left/right and it can get pretty confusing. In headless mode, it's almost like controlling a video game, you can spin the drone in any direction and pushing the stick down always brings it back toward you, up goes away, left goes left, and right goes right. The headless mode button can also be used to help get the drone back to the line of scrimmage automatically. All this really does is helps slowly pull the drone back to the point of origin assuming you started with the drone facing away and you haven't turned your body during flight. It's essentially an automated movement of the right stick down toward home and likely also uses the signal strength of the remote to determine how close it is getting. It's not super accurate, especially in the wind where it may have a hard time moving on its own, but it's a nice feature as a last resort. I suggest getting really good at flying it home yourself. Remember if you move around while flying, the headless mode and return home feature will not work! This entry level aircraft doesn't have GPS or the ability to lock on to visual queues in the camera frame!!
Speaking of the camera . . . I had a problem with it out of the box. It would only take one video and the only way to record another was to completely delete the contents of the included MicroSD card (and another spare I had) and start over. A quick email to Holystone (on a Saturday night nonetheless) yielded a very fast response that they'd send me a replacement camera. Very good customer service. Since then I've been playing around with formatting on the card and it seems to now be working more reliably. I can start and stop the recording and take pictures via the remote now. If you are having problems, customer service has been great, or you may just want to try formatting the card as FAT32/GUID (not MBR). I did so via my Mac and so far so good.
Video quality is pretty decent, but does drop frames occasionally when there is a lot of action/movement, especially when fighting the wind. It seems like the more deliberate and smooth you are with movements, the better the video quality. Resulting AVI files are a reasonable file size, and look pretty decent. Start off with a manual naming convention for your files as the date/time stamp seems to default to 4PM in 1969. I'm not sure there is a way to set that like you would on similar 808 keychain remotes. Again, this isn't a drone you are going to be using for video productions or amazing gimbal stabilized time lapses, but it does satisfy that urge to send a camera up in to the sky and see what you can see. I've been strapping small cameras to rockets for years and this is so much faster and easier! Low light quality is actually pretty good too!
One quick upgrade I did to help the video: I noticed that high prop speeds meant the resulting vibrations translated in to a "jello" effect on the video. To dampen the vibrations, I stuck a couple of round sticky felt pads near the mounting clips. This seemed to drastically reduce the jello effect.
The range of the remote seems good, I'll put it through it's paces on a calm day at the park. I don't want to send it down the block too far right now. I've sent it up 2 to 3 times the height of the 2 story homes in my neighborhood and will try for more at the park some day. The LED lights on the bottom help you keep an eye on it, especially at night.
You can also do neat acrobatic tricks, flipping the drone in any direction by clicking the right shoulder button and then the right stick in any direction. The drone will only do a flip if it's high enough up as it loses several feet of altitude during the maneuver. It will not let you flip if you are too low. Nice safety feature.
As for durability, it's taken a few pretty rough sliding landings, a bump in to the stairs, and a quick trip in to the dwarf oleander bush next door with no damage. It comes with a spare set of props but if you are not reckless in flight I can see them lasting for a very long time.
I'm uploading a video of some sunset and night footage I took. It was pretty windy, but at this point I was already confident enough to send it way up above the houses and have a look around.
All in all, I'm really happy I received this as a gift and already have a friend who bought one too. I can tell that customer service is going to be very friendly and responsive, so I have no worries that I can keep this drone running affordably for as long as I like. Parts and spare batteries are very affordable, and I'm looking forward to flying it multiple times a day, even inside when it's really windy out. Given how easy it is to charge it up, pair the remote, and take off that seems like an achievable idea.
I'd give it 5 stars if the video quality was just a little better. Will revise when I get the replacement camera to see if that makes a difference.