Top positive review
78 people found this helpful
Well, color me impressed. (with caveats)
on November 4, 2014
I'm very impressed with this, but there are a few caveats that keep it from being 5 stars. Let me start by saying that I am blown away by the all the technology that's crammed into quadcopters. The sophistication is truly incredible. That is true of the full size and mini quadcopters, but even more so with nano quads like this one. Gyro self-stabilization, responsive and adaptive controls, and a power source capable of providing several minutes of flight, all in one tiny package. I have only been flying these for about 20 days now, and this one is my third (the others are a Dromida Ominus and a Hubsan H107D). This one has most of the bells and whistles of the larger ones, but it's packed into a 2" diagonal frame. If you look around here on Amazon you will see quite a few nanos like this. I chose this one for two reasons (okay, three reasons). 1, it's made by Syma and I am more familiar with them than others. 2, the controller has a "flip mode" button and looked more comfortable to use than some others. 3, it's a really nice shade of red, hehe. I'm a sucker for red.
I was going to say that there are clones of this model all over Amazon, but the more I look at ones from Cheerson and Top Race, I've noticed that they are very very similar but different. The other ones have a different controller, but the quads themselves are also missing the little rubber feet that extend below the motors, and they are also missing the white LED headlight. As other reviewers have mentioned, the LED lights on top are very hard to see when this thing is above your head, so the headlight is a very nice way to get orientation. The rear LEDs are red, and the front ones are green. They are on top of the craft because they are soldered onto the main board to reduce costs. I'm more than okay with the red, but I wish they'd chosen almost any color other than green for the front. Makes this look like a Christmas toy. Oh well, I guess there are worse things in life.
Obviously, the controller was designed to mimic an Xbox controller. This makes for a great look and feel, but has a few drawbacks. The major drawback is that the main control sticks are very very short. My other quads have longer sticks, which means I have to move them quite a bit more to get the same reaction. With these, a tiny movement of the stick can result in a pretty drastic reaction, so what was already a fairly touchy control situation is amplified. I find that I'm constantly "bouncing" this thing up and down trying to find and maintain the right altitude. Additionally, the springs that move the sticks back to center/home are a lot stronger than necessary. This gives a strange tactile feel, and you actually have to push harder to move them which can result in overdoing it and pushing too far. The little rubber pads on the sticks are nice and grippy, and seem like they should hold up well. The other downside of the Xbox controller design (and it's not a true downside, I guess) is that there are more buttons on the controller than actual controls - several of the buttons are are completely fake and have no function. Not a big deal, but it can throw you off if you have to remember which are fake every time you need to adjust something. It's easy to switch between low rates and high rates by pressing the left "bumper button" on the front of the controller. To perform a flip, hold the right bumper button down and move the right stick in the direction you want to flip in. If you have enough starting altitude, you can chain quite a few flips together. The flips are nice and tight with a loop diameter of only about 12 or 14", and the quad doesn't seem to lose altitude afterwards, unlike my other quads.
The quadcopter itself seems to be of pretty good quality, and certainly moves up, down and laterally very quickly. Unfortunately as other reviewers have said, the yaw rates are quite slow. I find that if I am headed for a wall, I have to mash the left stick all the way to one side or the other, and then manipulate the right stick to perform a kind of "J" maneuver. If I relied on yaw alone, it would probably crash.
Speaking of crashes, lets get to some of those caveats I mentioned earlier. In the middle of my second flight with this thing, I crashed into the windshield of my car from a total height of maybe 6 or 7 feet. I set it down to take off again, and found that the front left motor would no longer spin. Uh oh! Turns out I managed to snap one of the motor leads off where it was soldered into the main PCB. Those little wires are single strand and very tiny, probably 30 gauge or smaller, so it doesn't take very much. The factory soldering of the motor leads isn't the best, and that may be at least partly to blame for the wire breakage. I also think that not quite enough slack was given to the wire to allow it to flex with the frame during impact, and it snapped. I have had a lot of experience with component level repairs of medical devices, so I'm fairly decent at soldering and got it patched up. Getting the quadcopter body apart was easy enough (they include the perfect screwdriver for this), but removing the PCB and motors without breaking anything was a delicate operation, not to mention getting it back together. There is a full list of replacement parts in the back of the manual, but no indication of where to obtain them or how much they would cost to buy and ship. For most folks, this toy is pretty much disposable. If you break it, do yourself a favor: recycle it and buy a new one. For the advanced hobbyist, repairs are feasible if you're gentle and good with small work, but you'd also probably be better off buying a new one and using your old one for spare parts, rather than order the necessary parts individually and wait who knows how long for them to show up.
The manual states that the charge time is 50 minutes and the flight time is 4 minutes. This is about right. You should also be sure to allow at least 15 minutes of cooldown after a flight before you start charging again. Lithium ion batteries are finicky and you can run into some very serious problems if you try to charge a hot battery. The "low voltage warning" indication - when all the lights start flashing - is really more of a "oh by the way, I just fell out of the sky" indicator. Once the lights start flashing, this thing is already on its way down and the best you can do is steer it away from bad landing spots, if you can. I'm sure this is done to extend the "usable" flight time - the battery is only 100mAh, and we're lucky to get 4 minutes flight time out of it. If the warning lights turned on sooner, that would probably be 3 minutes of flight time. I wish that this thing had a prop guard, but the extra weight would only further reduce the time it spends in the air.
The manual is the last caveat - there's a lot of information in there, but the writing is hilariously bad. It helps to combine a good imagination with a decent understanding of the material. I'd read something and say to myself, "Okay, what the &@#$ does THAT mean? Wait... wait.... oh, alright, now I get it". Good for a few chuckles, unless you're not really familiar with this sort of stuff.
Overall, I'd recommend this to just about anyone wanting to get into quadcopter flying, as long as you're okay with the things I've mentioned here. It's a fun little gadget, and though the manual says otherwise it's definitely "toy grade". At $30, it's really hard to go wrong. Enjoy!