I have decided to piece together a bang for your buck freestyle build to coincide with the summer in the Northern Hemisphere. My objective for this build was not to build the cheapest quad but the best value. This means parts will be from recognised brands with a good track record of performance and reliability with a good degree of future proofing. To be clear, this is not a $99 build, it is more like $150-$170 but will be more reliable AND outperform any pre-built quad and will easily hold it's own against something double or triple the price - I like to think of it as the Sweet Spot.
This Sweet Spot Quad will be split into 3 parts:
For each key component I'll show you what I chose, a cheaper option and a more premium option with price indication and justification. Let's get straight into it!!
This is a review for the Fullspeed Toothpick, an ultralight fully featured micro quadcopter that is 2s and 3s capable. It is available from the following retailers:
The toothpick is the latest release from Fullspeed, the company that bought you the Leader 120, the Leader 2.5 and 3.0 as well as the Tiny Leader. In a departure from the naming system their newest micro qudcopter is called the FullSpeed toothpick as a nod to the motor/prop combination that has been extensively test by Bob @ kababfpv.com (with his blessing). The outcome of using this mix of components is meant to be efficiency, control, surprisingly good power and safety. More on this in the review that follows.
I'll give my quick thoughts on the components below and will point something unique out with this build compared to others in the class - it has indivual components rather that a range of all in one gear we've become so familiar with on the Mobula7, Tinyhawk, Trashcan and even the new Sailfly-X. This means you can replace or upgrade component by component as required.
The Hobbymate Asteroid is a new 3 inch quadcopter that is available in kit, BNF or PNF formats that is available with motors and electronics suitable for 4s or 6s (!) operation. Following on from the awesome Hobbymate Comet (built here and reviewed here) this is another premium set of components at a spectacular price. It is available exclusively from HobbyCool.com here:
The purpose of this blog is to show how I have built in close detail and how I have set up betaflight software for optimal performance. Note you can spend an extra $30 to have this build with a FRSKY receiver but I always like to tinker and optimise my build which is why I have chosen this path.
I like to take my time on a build and ensure I have a clean well lit area. Makes things easier when I inevitably drop screws or small parts on the floor. My recommended list of budget tools is here.
This is a review for the Hawkeye Firefly 2 Micro Action Cam specifically used for recording HD footage on FPV quadcopters
The ability to capture high definition footage for your own use or sharing with others is a key part of the FPV hobby. GoPro have had this market stitched up but are expensive especially now that the session series have been discontinued. The Runcam split, Caddx Turtle and now Foxeer Mix series have been great especially for smaller light quads but your HD recording is then fixed to a specific quad. Last year the Hawkeye Firely Micro Cam was released and had it's niche as a lightweight self-powered transfereable action came but it was forgettable with poor bitrate on 1080p footage which typically looked worse than 720p.
Well the makers from this camera have made real improvements for version 2 which offers the specs below, key of which for me is 1080p @ 60fps (spoiler: it's pretty good) and 2.5k @ 30fps all with its own battery that will power all 31g of it for about 60 minutes.
This is the new Hawkeye Firefly 2 Micro action cam that was released April 2019
The camera itself is small and feels solid but is definitetly not water resistant in it's own right. Water resistance is achieved using the included silicon 'condom' which securely fit on the camera covering potential ingress points: button holes, LED hold, SD card. Only the sealed lens and sealed rear of the camera are exposed. Buttons are easily accesible with recessed button markings in the silicon skin that align perfectly with the actual buttons on the camera. Another thing, with the silicon skin on it actually weights 43g. Regardless I'll only be flying with this on, it offers good physical and protection and some basic water resistance.
The Sailfly-X is a new quadcopter made by Happymodel that is due for imminent release. The objective of this preview is to run through the specifications published and comment on their suitability for this build and expected performance. A review will follow as soon as the first round of reviewer samples are available.
As you probably know, Happymodel's most successful launches have been based around the all in one crazybee board: the snapper7 (reviewed here), mobula7 (reviewed here), eachine trashcan (reviewed here) and the mobula7HD. The Sailfly-X is a departure from the ducted design in response to the massive performance gains shown by Kabab as above. Lets have a look at the specs below and I'll give you my thoughts and a conclusion based on the entire package.
Now that the weather is starting to warm up and the days are getting longer in the Northern Hemisphere, my guess is the hype around brushless whoops like the Mobula7, Tinyhawk, TinyLeader and Trashcan will die back and out attention will return to larger quads. Typically these are 5" quads that suit racing and freestyle but also the larger quads like 6 and 7" that are better suited to long range. It's not the newest kid on the block but the Skystars G730L 7" quadcopter was released a few months back and I've had a chance to review over the length of the NZ summer. It was the first mainstream 7" quadcopter that was available at a reasonable price. Up until then all 7" builds were custom made like the Diatone GT-M7 I built in the long range section.
The Emax Tinyhawk is the latest in the line of ready to fly quadcopters from Emax USA which started with the BabyHawk R and the Hawk 5 both of which have been reviewed here at QuadifyRC. Both had good gear on board but were excellent when considered as a package because unlike any other model available these have been full set up and tuned. The new Emax Tinyhawk follows in the same vein albeit in a much smaller 1s brushless whoop form factor. This review will cover the setup out of the box as well as flight and video performance.
After quite a bit of teasing on their site, Banggood have released the Eachine VRD3 goggles for sale. These are a well-specced low cost 5.8GHz Goggle with DVR aimed at beginners or as a backup pair. On to discussion of the specifications below and what it included
In the world of brushless ducted quadcopters (whoops) I have been lucky enough to review most of the big hype products - Happymodel Snapper7 and upgrades, Happymodel Mobula 7, Full Speed TinyLeader and now the Eachine Trashcan. Clearly it is a silly but memorable name and it will surely be easy to search for online.
It is great to see a case included here and like the mobula7, enough battery power to get flying in earnest. The included XT30 is a small gesture but a nice touch nonetheless.
The Fullspeed Tiny Leader is a new sub-micro class quadcopter from FullSpeedRC.com that is ducted and competes in the now popular and increasingly competitive brushless whoop market. Full Speed is a now well known and respected producer of micro brushless quadcopters including the original Leader 120 (review here) and more recent Leader 2.5 (review here) and Leader 3 (review here). Below I will outline the published specs and what sets this apart from other brushless whoops - good, bad or indifferent. To clarify there are 2 current Full Speed Tiny Leader models: The TinyLeader Regular and TinyLeader HD with onboard HD recording. This review is for the TinyLeader regular
The Diatone 2019 GT R249+ is one of the newest series of micro quadctopers from Diatone that is built around the Mamba mini f4 stack.
The full range from smallest to largest includes:
As you can see there is a high degree of modularity - for all except the largest they share the same 1105 5500kV motors. All sizes feature a 3mm thich carbon baseplate except for the R239 which uses and injection moulded plastic chassis and prop-gaurds. All models share the same injection moulded lightweight canopy and mamba mini f4 stack.
I've chosen to review the R249+ since my experience with micro quadcopters has lead me to believe that this is the 'sweet' spot in terms of performance and staying small and discrete when flying.
The Mobula7 is made by Happymodel who also released the popular Snapper7 which I reviewed here. Like the Snapper 7 it is a 75mm brushless whoop but it is lighter and more importantly, designed for 2s batteries. The Mobula 7 is not the first ready to fly 2s brushless whoop to the market but it is by far and away the lightest at just 28g without battery. That means the small and light 0802 16000kV motors are able to reach their power potential even on the small 260mah batteries included in the kit and make this quadcopter move very quickly with extremely nimble handling.
The Leader 2.5 is a recent release from FullspeedRC and as well as being available on their own website, is also available from Banggood and Gearbest. If you do decide to purchase, Fullspeed over many more customisations and offer free shipping till Jan 2019. The Leader 2.5 follows the recent Leader 3 but is limited to 2.5 inch rather than 3 inch propellers. My objective for this blog is not to write a tradtional review due to the similarities to the Leader 3 but to cover the keys settings and physical changes I'd strongly recommend to enjoy this quadcopter.
Boldclash have recently released a new all in one plug and play fpv solution for brushed and brushless whoops called the F02H PRO following on from the F02H which I reviewed here. This includes:
To briefly cover some old ground, the Hobbymate comet 5" racing drone is a 4s/6s lightweight 5 inch quadcopter with premium components sold exclusively at HobbyCool.com It is available from $180 as a kit up to $210 pre-assembled and tuned with a frsky receiver. After seeing the high quality components used in the build and finding how easy it was to tune in the betaflight setup I have been really looking forward to flying this and I have not been disappointed.
This is the final part of my 3 part blog where I review the flight performance of the Hobbymate Comet 5" racing quadcopter. To recap part 1 is a build walkthrough and part 2 is a full betaflight setup
Starting with the power supply, the Airbot Typhoon V2.1 ESC is loaded with surface mounted capacitors and measured a total capacitance of - the highest I've ever come across on an ESC. Additionally the Omnibus F4 v6 flight controller has a special 8v circuit to run the FPV camera and VTX - unique from the 5v circuit that runs the flight controller and receiver. Combined with a LC filter this theoretically makes the cleanest power feed possible - a great start point for a strong FPV link.
The next key component in the FPV system was a complete unknown to me - the Iflight Force VTX that looks like it is made by PandaRC. It is well specced with a microphone, 0, 25, 100, 200, 400, 600mW, tramp OSD control, MMCX connector but none of this matters if it performs it's core task poorly. The good news it that it performs it's core task very well. This is the cleanest FPV link I've ever had. In fairness though you could pop practically any VTX in between that clean power supply and the excellend Foxeer Lollipop antenna and I think it would perform well. Speaking of the foxeer lollipop antenna it is compact, seemingly robust and performed well with the other components. The image always looked clean and clear in my Aomway Commander Goggles, even on high throttle with 6s drawing 105A (equivaent power to over 155A on 4s). I have included DVR below but for some reason all Commander goggles (V1 and V2) have DVR issues when diversity switches between channels - none of this showed in my gogges during flight.
As for a fundamentally racing quad I'd have no trouble recommending this FPV system - camera and signal transmission. I think even without diversity the signal strength would be just fine with 25mW on a racetrack but adding diversity and bumping up transmission power will give better performance if running behind obstacles or flying further away from yourself.
The Tune and the motors
Although I covered off the tune in the previous blog, I didn't say how I arrived where I did. Previously when I have run a stock betaflight 3.5 tune on a 6s quadcopter (this one) it had terrible oscillations and I had to lower p-gain and d-gain significantly. It was therefore a pleasant suprise to see that the stock tune on betaflight 3.5.1 was perfectly fine on the Hobbymate comet. Never being satisfied I turned on i-term relax, boosted i-gain 50% on pitch and roll, 100% on yaw as per the betaflight 3.5 tuning guide. Still no sign of oscillation so I then narrowed the dynamic filter range. Still no oscillations and motors and barely warm. I've left it there though and now have the most locked in quad I've felt - better than the pro-tuned Emax Hawk 5 which was my previous best tuned quad. This ease of tuning is largely due to the smoothness of the motors and from what I can see seems to be the way to go. All out power is great but if it means you need to run a 'looser' tune you will struggle more in the tune with more lag in the system as the result of more filtering for gyro noise etc. To a lesser extent the stiff frame will also have helped as will a reliable gyro (MPU6000) on the FC.
A full set of screenshots for the specific tune and a CLI diff file can be found in the tuning blog here. To me this quad + tune feels like it can turn on a dime with the least prop-wash I've ever had.
Power, Performance and Prop Choice
Straight up these motors are not as powerful as the Hobbymate 2207 motors (rebadged returner R3). They are however much easier to tune as I mentioned above. kV is relatively high for a 6s motor: 1800kV is the equivalent of 2700kV on 4s is is higher than the 1700/2500kV I typically run on 6s/4s respectively. This means props have to be chosen carefully. I started with the HQ 5x4.8x3 V1s but found peak current draw to be too high at 105A (power equivalent of nearly 160A on 4s!). HQ 5x4.3x3 V1s were a minor improvement at 90A so I'll probably stick with these until I get some of the new 5.1x3.1x3 V1s. It felt like the top end of the throttle was less about delivering additional thrust and more about drawing current which makes sense with a 2305 where the wider, lower stator favours torque at a lower RPM at the expense of efficiency at higher rpm. For this reason I placed a 15% scaled throttle limit on rate profile 2 in my betaflight setup section as I wrote about in the betaflight throttle scaling blog.
I'll close this section by saying that these motors are a good for the beginner - moderate/advanced level. They are powerful and easliy tunable but lack the top end punch of the race motors with taller stators. There are probably less than 10% of pilots that could genuinely take advantage of a bigger motor and these aren't likely the type of pilot that will be buying a ready to fly quad anyway.
A quick note here in that the ESC has caused no fuss whatsoever. BLHELI32 current meter was easy to tune (+25%) and no dipping during full throttle punches or any other odd behaviour. In a current ambient temperature of 20°C the hottest the ESC has gotten is a measly 32°C according to telemmetry.
The HobbyCool comet 5" frame is fairly simple. Strong, chamfered 5mm separate arms in a stretch-x layout with a sandwich lower deck and single top deck. Weight is 85g which is typical for race frames now since they have increased in weight and durabiity again since the original floss, 2.0 floss and v1 mode 2 ghost which tended to break realtively frequently. Rather than go into detail I'll sum up what I like and didn't like about the frame.
When I started this build I noted the quality of the components but I've seen many quads before that have used good components and have been overly expensive or haven't taken advantage of them (or both). I'm pleased to say that the Comet is very sharly priced at $180 for the kit AND brings these elements together for a fast, well balanced and easy to tune racing quadcopter. There will be obvious comparisons to other well prepared 5" racing quads like the Emax Hawk 5 (review here) and HGLRC Batman but these are significantly more expensive: $230-250 and $280-300 respectively. Additionally they do not support 6s out of the box either. There are a few minor cosmetic issues I have with the frame as above but outside of that, I'd recommend this as the best value racing quad presently available for beginner tomoderate/advanced pilots. Note the kit (build it yourself) is $180 or you can buy preassembled without a receiver for $200, with an XM+ receiver for $210 or with an r-xsr receiver for $220.
This is the second part of my coverage of the Hobbymate Comet 5" quadcopter. The first part (parts overview and build walkthrough) can be found here and the third part (review) can be found here. If you are here for the PIDs scroll directly to the bottom but would recommend you read through as tuning in betaflight 5 is more than just the PIDs.
Betaflight setup on this quadcopter is the same as any other but because of the telemetry, VTX OSD control, resource mapping for an ESC that is rotated it is fairly involved. For that reason I have created a betaflight 3.5.1 diff file which can be downloaded below. If you built the way that I did feel free to just load this CLI diff. If you want to read on to see what I changed specifically it's all documented in screenshots and text below. I'll assume a moderate level of betaflight understanding from the audience but happy to point out more information if needed.
My customised 3.5.1 CLI diff file is here:
this diff will change the motor output to be correct assuming you have mounted your ESC with the connector at the back (which I recommend as per build walkthrough)
These are best described by the screengrab below. Changes from stock are PWM rate increase to 48kHz for smoothness, motor direction adjusted for reverse prop direction (you will need you own values here), Auto motor timing, quiet dshot start up tone, loud shot beeper, min and max throttle adjusted for max resolution and most importantly I've used +25% to calibrate the ESC current meters correctly and have validated this number on my setup.
The Hobbymate comet is a 5" quadcopter that is sold in kit, or ready to fly forms and surpasses the Emax Hawk 5 and HGLRC Batman in specs and performance, especially running 6s natively. Better yet it is priced much more sharply. It is available exclusively from HobbyCool.com. My final review is now complete and can be found here
I'll cover this quad over 3 blogs. This first part will cover the build walkthrough, the second the software (betaflight/blheli32) setup here and the last part the flight review.
The Hobbymate Comet Kit is a premium 5" quadcopter that is currently available as a kit for $180 but will soon be available as a bind and fly version. Update: it is now available as a pre-build pnp or bnf with xm+ or r-xsr receivers. In the days since the Holybro Kopis 1 was released there have been some excellent ready to fly models (along with some not-so-great models) available including the Emax Hawk 5 (review here) and the HGLRC Batman (build here) which have been standouts because they have been well balanced, well built and good value for money overall. Since this is a kit, this particular blog is to walk you through the build and then software setup including a betaflight 3.5.1 cli diff.
The Hobbymate Comet from HobbyCool.com (or Amazon) is a kit the consists of higher quality parts than even the HGLRC Batman at only a fraction of the cost. Infact when bought on their own the parts come to $257 which is clearly much more than the $180 the kit costs (or even the $200 PNP kit). The Electronics are rated 6s from the factory (unlike the Hawk 5) and come with motors suited for either 4s/5s operation (2500kV) or 6s operation (1800kV). I'm especially excited that this include a genuine airbot ESC and flight controller. More details on the parts below:
Extra parts and recommended for the build
Firstly you will need extra parts for this build. I've used the following with links to Hobbycool as they tend to have the sharpest price:
And tools/sundry items:
On with the build
Captioned images below should walk you through the build process and I've noted anything tricky as I've gone through. Click on images to zoom.
T-mount propellers are those that are based on a 1.5mm diameter centre shaft secured by a 2mm screw either side. They have been the only mounting option for 2-2.5 inch props but are now becoming more popular for 3" due to the weight they save over a 5mm single shaft prop mount. There are only 4 different types of t-mount 3" prop currently available so I've compared them all plus the new HQ 2 blade which is due for imminent release plus a darkhorse prop in a smaller size to make up the numbers. Please note this is a subjective comparison based on my opinion but my help as a startpoint for your decision. This is based on real world feel, light time and bitter experience with motors I've burnt out.
Emax Avan 3 inch tri-blade
This is the first modern design 3 inch prop designed for a t-mount which was released with the 3" Babyhawk R (reviewed here).
HQ 3x3x3 v1s tri-blade
HQ props have the newest 3" t-mount prop design at present. This has been chosen as the stock propeller for the Full Speed Leader 3 (initial review here and flights here)
Gemfan 3035 triblade
This is quite an old prop and can be hard to find but is still suprisingly relevant.
Gemfan 3025 bi-blade
This is the original 3" t-mount prop and so can be found for sale in weird and wonderful places
HQ 3x3x2 v1s bi-blade
Just released at the time of writing: as per the 3x3x3 above but bi-blade rather than triblade. Disclaimer: I have not tested yet and below information based on assumptions from comparing bi-blades and tri-blades in general. Will update once mine arrive and I've tested.
Dark horse to consider...
Gemfan 2540 flash triblade
Yes this is a 2.5" prop but objectively it is so good it is worth considering downsizing. You can find an earlier review I did on these here and a review on the Skystars Bolt X120 which uses these on 4s here
Please note the King Kong 2840 propeller was not included here because I found the Gemfan 2540 superior in every way. Also I have not include the Rotor X 3044 because it is difficult to source where I am based. The feedback that I have had is that it is more aggressive in pitch than any of the above props and probably only suitable for for stator sizes 13xx and up.
I've had the Taranis X-Lite controller for 2 months now and in that time many reviews have been published, each adding to the information available in the public space. I have made sure I've spent a decent amount of time with this controller before writing my review and as a sneak preview I've sold my Taranis QX7s such is my impression of this controller. I've found that the universal comments that resonate with me are:
I am a thumber I don't care if I can or can't pinch
Let's face it, it's no surprise that this controller has taken design cues from console controllers to target those who have grown up with a controller in their hands. Further more it is suitable for any 'thumber' like myself where your hand naturally fall into a comfortable position with all controls and switches in close proximity. I'm all for the omission of a neckstrap because the weight, size and way you hold makes it unecessary in mind. What if you're a pincher? This review probably isn't for you because I can't empathise but there is no common opinion on whether this will suit you or not. For example two reviews I have a tremendous amount of respect for (NJTech and NickBurnsRC) have opposite ideas on suitability for pinchers. Check out their youtube reviews for more. All I can say is that it is excellent and feels natural for someone who has only ever been a thumber.
Open TX is the operating software
The Taranis X-Lite runs open TX which is the most common transmitter software in FPV (The Flysky Nirvana and new Jumper Radios use open TX too). The X-lite runs the latest version 2.2.2 and find navigating easier than on the X9d or QX7 with the new 'nub' control. I won't cover Open TX here but for those familiar with the system there are no surprises here. The latest version of Open TX for the X-Lite can be found here
I now have a better appreciation for the battery size
When the X-lite was first released everyone was upset about it using 18500 batteries instead of the more commonly available 18650. 18500 batteries were not as common but have now popped up in most stores like Gearbest, Banggood, Piroflip etc. Since battery shipping is still dicey I found an option to use "AA" sized 16500 batteries in my X-lite in this blog. I can now appreciate FRSKY's no compromise approach to choosing the 18500 over the 18650 - it is much more compact especially when considering the batteries used in the QX7 and X9D. Below is a picture of how the X-lite would have looked if they'd gone with 18650 batteries - awkward. Here is the link to thingiverse however if you wish to print.
It is so portable!
Unfortunately the thumbing/pinching has dominated discussion on this transmitter (at least in reviews) that many tend to gloss over what I believe is the strongpoint that sets it aside from most controllers out there - it is very small and very portable. My last controller was a Taranis QX7s which is up until recently has been the most popular transmitter, particularly in the cheaper QX7 form. Although it is an excellent controller, it is large in size (especially if you fly mostly micros!) and it is not especially robust, particularly the auxilliary switches. Really it needs to go in a protective case first and then in your backpack where it tends to take up most of the room. In contrast the X-Lite is small and even if you use the protective case it still doesn't take up much room. Furthermore the Aux switches are smaller, stiffer and overall stronger meaning if you can find a way of protecting gimabls and the screen you could chuck this straight in your backpack without any other protection. Gimbal protection is included but these are loose and would easily come off if the controller was placed directly in your bag. I've recently ordered the "Realacc Stick Rocker Protector & Screen Guard For FrSky Taranis X-Lite" from Banggood which is a 3d printed minimalist gimbal - screen - joystick protecter that *should* allow me to place this directly on the bag and leave a helluva lot more room.
It's worth noting the space and portability was a big reason I preferred Aomway Commanders over box goggles (blog here) and saving room with transmitter is similarly important now I know firsthand what a benefit this is to me.
It takes time to adjust but performs really well
It's no lie saying that my flying was significantly worse than usual when I started out with the X-lite because it felt unfamilar. Yes the gimbals are smaller and yes the have shorter throw. What this meant in the first few packs there was a lot of over correction because it makes you feel like you are running higher rates. Don't adjust any settings though because your brain will adjust and correct. Now I genuinely prefer the X-Lite after this adjustment phase becaue I could never reach full deflection comfortably with the QX7s but can with the X-Lite - I get to make use of the entire gimbal. Bottom line - stick with it, it will feel awful at first but you'll soon come right.
And on to the switches - they are bloody brilliant. They have a much more positive 'click' than other taranis radios and much shorter length meaning no accidental switch flicks plus they will be way more robust (I broke several switches on the QX7s). All four are much easier reach from your index fingers. The practical outcome for me is a can disarm just off the ground during landing rather than trying to land, boucing because of airmode and the disarming... a minor quibble no doubt but definitely still an advantage. There are 4 switches in total - top left and right are 3-way and bottom left and right are 2-way. You can swap these out for other variants including momentary switches if you want. Lastly there are 2 slider style potentiometers (pots) for progressive rather than binary control over gimbals, servos and the like. For most FPV quadcopters these will not be used.
It has a proprietary expansion port
Historically most modern radios including the Taranis range (X9D, QX7) have used the JR expansion port for additional functionality. This includes multiprotocol modules such as the MTX9D and IRange-X IRX4 Plus for control over other receivers and the TBS Crossfire module for a long-range 900MHz control link. For reasons that are becoming clearer now this has changed on the X-Lite. The module is smaller in size and profile and is unique to the X-Lite. At this stage only 3 modules fit the X-lite - the Vantax MPM Lite multiprotocol module, the IRange-X IRX4 Lite multiprotocol module and the FRSKY R9M slim long-range 900MHz control link. The TBS crossfire modules do not physically fit BUT since the pin out is the same, some clever cookies have made 3d print designs that allow the crossfire module to connect to the X-Lite ableit a little ungracefully. As a side note I have a $6 multiprotocol module that I will look to adapt to my X-Lite in order to control my NFE silverware bayang protocol micro brushed quads.
It's really easy to recommend this to a thumber
For a long time there was a lot of hype around project dark knight (now FLYSKY Nirvana) which was due to be the spiritual successor to the Turnigy Evolution. However, the Taranis X-Lite has come out of nowhere with a set of features comparable to the best Taranis controllers in a smaller package at an extremely competitive price and so has kind of knocked the stuffing out of the Nirvana launch. It's a simple upgrade for many in the FRSKY ecosystem because we can use the same receivers which on the whole are the smallest, cheapest and best performing - e.g. the XM+ with excellent range at aroung 1g can be had for around $9 at Hobbycool. The controller is so easy to like and obviously a lot of work has been put in by FRSKY to make this an extremely competitive price - it is only $20 more than their entry level QX7 and includes the much more expensive Hall-effect gimbals as standard rather than an upgrade part.
If you are a thumber or are coming from a game controller I would recommend this highly as a first (and last) controller. Likewise I would strongly recommend this as an upgrade from any other controller especially if you are looking for better portability.
Quick note on the FLYSKY Nirvana
This looks like an excellent controller but is $40 to $50 more expensive that the X-Lite. It has support for a standard sized Crossfire module, better grip options for pinchers and a more colourful touch screen display. It is bigger though - closer to the QX7 in size than the X-lite. If these things are important to you, consider the Flysky Nirvana but if they are not (like for me) then go with the X-lite if you are looking for a console controller style of remote. One potential downside of the Nirvana is that is uses flysky receivers by default which have historically been lacking in features (RSSI, Telemetry) and range although this will supposedly be rectified soon. If you have come from FRSKY though it would mean a full set of new receivers rather than just a re-bind.
Please note this Taranis X-Lite was kindly provided by Gearbest.com. If you find this review help you in your decision to purchase, please consider purchasing from them at this link
Accessories currently available for the X-Lite
Note: Any replacement parts can be purchased from HORUSRC.com
The Hobbymate D6 Pro Duo is quite simply this is the most complete charger I've come across. Up until very recently the charger I have been using most is the ISDT D2 smart charger than can charge up to 6s lipos x2 at a time on separate channels. This has been and excellent charger and the allowance for charging 2 batteries at a time (entirely independently) means that I have no used my balance board since I got it. User interface is very simple and it is a joy to use but there is a glaring omission - it only has AC in put meaning although it can be directly powered from a wall plug, it cannot be powered from a DC (battery) source when you are travelling or have no access to AC power. I'm happy to say the the Hobbymate D6 Dup Pro addresses this and allows you to power and charge from a dc source ranging in 6.5v - 30v meaning you can power from a 2s to 6s lipo/li-ion or a car battery for example.
It's fair to say there is more than passing resemblance to the ISDT D2 as you can see in the image above - the interface although different graphically is almost identical on a functional level. Menus are simple and intuitive as is the way you navigate - a click wheel that is mounted horizontally rather than vertically on the ISDT. The menu and options are a little more extensive in this charger as you can see below. The wireless mobile phone charge is a nice touch but for me at least I haven't had a wireless charging-ready mobile for some time. If I did though I often have my phone floating around when I'm charging lipos so probably makes sense.
In use it works as expected. There are 3 simple modes for your battery - charging, discharging and storage. A very wide range of voltages are available for each mode meaning you can charge, discharge or store rechargable batteries with any chemistry (e.g. Lipo, LiFe, NiMH, NiCd, Lead Acid etc.). The charger will automatically balance each cell in any mode up to 6s as you'd expect. It's easy to adjust current to suit your needs up to 15A on each channel meaning you could easily run 2 parallel boards at a time if you wanted. Current adjust is also available after you have started charging.
I've been using the Hobbymate D6 pro duo for about 2-3 months now and it has become my charger of choice to to flexibility. For the most part I no longer bother with the stress of parallel charging and matching voltages with 2 independent charging channels but with 15A available per channel it is easy to do so. You'll find that many reviewers in the community including Joshua Bardwell and Kabab FPV have also reviewed this charger with a similar conclusion - it simply does everything that is asked of it. It has clearly taken inspiration from the ISDT D2 but they have innovated with additional functionality without losing any of the intuitive functions of the ISDT D2 meaning that they look to have improved on an already excellent product. This charger is made by Hobbymate (HobbyCool) and they are starting to get a number of local retailers but I'd recommend buying from the source at HobbyCool.com here: http://hobbycool.com/d6-duo-pro-ac-dc-battery-charger-w-wireless-smartphone-charging/
Tiny whoops have firmly cemented themselves as a bonafide class of FPV flight. Racing is held indoors and can be run irrespective of weather and is very popular as a dedicated series rather than just something you do when the weather is rubbish. The beauty is that if you only want to do it when the weather is rubbish it is not expensive and you can have a great FPV experience even at the lower end of the scale which you can add to if you feel like it. Last year I wrote a series on the E011 whoop using a budget camera and F3 flight controller (part 1 and part 2 blogs) but in this review I'll cover the Boldclash B03 Pro which has better control as a stock quad, devilishly simply to convert to FPV and offers something for rate mode flight that is superior in performance to Betaflight or Butterflight.
The B03 Pro whoop
The Boldclash B03 Pro is a tiny whoop style quad made by boldclash and features the 716 size motor (7mm diameter, 16mm long) which is now generally recognised as a superior size to the earlier 615 motors for performance and flight time on 31mm props. It is generally similar to the Eachine E011 except in cowl design, transmitter and flight controller. This last bit is particularly important as I'll get to later. It can be bought with either 1 x 300mah battery or 3 x 300mah batteries - larger than the 260mah included with the E011. The set of spares included is basic - screwdriver, 1 spare set of spare props, a prop removal tool and a basic USB charger.
I'll assume you, the reader here is somewhat familiar with quads so in order to keep this review concise will focus on the similarities and differences between this and comparable tiny whoop style quads. First of all I'll note that the B03 Pro compared to the earlier (now obsolete) B03 standard does not have the psuedo altitude-hold mode - the controller operates the same as any other mode 2 controller.
Flight performance is comparable with the E011 which makes complete sense - same motor size, similar weight similar battery size. What heavily weighs in the B03 pro's favour though is that the highest rate mode allows a much greater angle than the E011 meaning much faster forward flight and better rates in general. The B03 pro battery has approximately 15% more capacity meaning that flight times are up about 15-30 seconds but flight-time repleatability is difficult here.
The transmitter is slightly larger than the E011 model but otherwise comparable: toy-style gimbals and basic trim control as well as a 'flip over' button and a button that cycles your rates. I'll mention here that this runs the Bayang protocol which means that you can use your full size remote to run with a cheap multiprototcol module $7 for a FRSKY compatible one from Banggood and the same price for one comparible with a FLYSKY controller at Banggood. Alternatively the Jumper radios (I can recommend the T8SG V2.0 plus) are all compatible with baked in multiprotocol. Interesting fact that Bayang protocol has much lower latency than Frsky, Flysky or even Crossfire...
If you go no further than just buzzing around line of sight then this is a great little quad - solid performance from a ducted brushed micro quad with good battery life and only $17 with one battery or my recommendation is $23 with 3 batteries. We're not here for line of sight though and where Boldclash really stands out is their genuinely plug and play option for FPV. Which brings me to the...
BoldClash F02H FPV - The most complete FPV whoop solution I've ever come across
FPV whoops have the jankiest camera mounting solutions you ever seen - 3d prints that fully expose the delicate camera, rubber bands, double sided tape. I've tried them all and get between 1-5 crash landings before I have to reassemble it or replace the camera/vtx unit due to damage. Sadly this is even the case with my beloved santa whoop as you can see below. Vacuum formed cowls like the one developed bu NotFastEnuf (Shanghai mullet) or the one by BetaFPV improve camera protection greatly but still don't positively mount the camera. The Boldclash F02H fixes all of this by using a purpose build canopy that exactly fits the Boldclash F02 separated camera/VTX and that alone. The result is a unit that is built as one and is very positively mounted and bolts down exactly to the mounting points of any tiny whoop-style quad. Things go one better with the Boldclash B03 pro though where it plugs into the main board. To install:
The finished unit weighs just 5.5g which is very reasonable considering it includes a full cowl. Vtx channel buttons are easily accessble with a button integrated into the canaopy and there is direct provision for video in/out if you wish to use a FC that supports Betaflight OSD. The Angle is fixed at 10° which is very common for whoops. The camera will run down to 2.9v meaning you do not need to run an up-regulator; 1s vbat is just fine. Since the camera vtx is based on a split board it is much lower profile that the BetaFPV cowl, Shanghai Mullet or even the UR65 cowl which I use as well.
Video performance is good - comparable with the VM275t and other more recent AIO cams that I run. It's 48ch/25mW fixed which is pretty much the norm and signal range is no better or worse than anything else I run. I do like that it is switchable PAL/NTSC as I prefer the extra resolution of PAL but I know others prefer the slghtly higher NTSC refresh. I can't recommend this unit enough. It seems more expensive at $20 but it is so sleek, clean and durable that I can see it lasting a heck of a lot longer than anything else I've used so far.
I'll clip this blog here as this is where you may want to stop if you are just want a cheap basher that performs well using the included toy remote or your own with multiprotocol. In the next blog (which I'll link here when available) I'll cover more powerful CM03 insane 19000kV motors and most importantly the upgrade to NotFastEnuf silverware - this particular flight controller lends itself to flashing with this particular firmware that outperforms anything betalfight, butterflight or inductrix is capable of. It is not an easy process though so will keep this to the next blog.
If you haven't yet seen the first part of my Leader 3 (SE) review, click here. In it I cover an overview of the New Leader 3 including full discussion of the components, build and software setup. A quick correction too: I mentioned originally that the flight controller (namely the gyro) will only do 8kHz loop times. This is incorrect - it will actually run up to 32kHz! Certainly the first I'm aware of on a board this size and something for me to test in future.
Before I go any further I should note that my Leader 3 is a review model and so there may be minor improvements in the final version shipped to buyers. I'm in regular contact with Full Speed RC to give them feedback on what I find to assist with these improvements. The Leader 3 is available directly from FullSpeedRC.com, Gearbest or Bangood.
Since FPV performance is common between 3s and 4s I thought I'd cover that first. In short it is outstanding. Fullspeed RC shared a lot of the development of the included TX600 vtx with me an a lot of effort went in to ensuring a clean video signal all the way up to 600mW and the results sure doesn't disappoint. The result is that the Leader 3 has the cleanest video signal I have every used. There is absolutely no impact of throttle or other electrical noise on signal and it is hard to put in words just how much more enjoyable this makes the signal. I do miss the audio that AKK VTXs allow for but most people don't rate this as being important, especially on a micro. It's noteworthy that the the transmission power will go as high as 600mW - equalled only by the AKK FX3 ultimate (review here) in this form factor. OSD control of settings via Tramp works as expected. Antenna connection is via UFL is common for micros and fit for purpose.
No propellers in FPV view
Great news for those who don not like seeing their propellers - the frame design means that even with fairly modest camera angles of around 35°and up there are no props in view. Hopefully this is clear from my videos below. This also make the drums for a Caddx Turtles HD camera install beat even louder...
I wanted to clear things up on camera angle since Nick Burns mentioned it couldn't go past about 45° in his otherwise excellent review. I can confirm that the camera connector does not foul on the flight stack and does infact smoothly go all the way up to about 90° amgle. Pictures are best here so please see below:
Performance on 3s
When the Leader 3 was shipped to me, 2 custom PID prodiles were programmed in by fullspeed, Profile 1 was designed for 3s and profile 2 for 4s. 3s was tested with profile 2. Both of these profiles can be seen in full in part 1 of the review here. For 3s testing I used Turnigy Nanotech 3s 450mah 65c batteries. They weigh less than 45g meaning all up weight was around 140g. Flight time using these batteries was typically around 2.5-3 minutes with batteries coming to a resting voltage of arounf 3.75v per cell.
Flying exclusively with the HQ 3x3x3 propellers flight felt very 'balanced' - what I mean by that is the quad didn't feel overly heavy (or light), top speed was fast enough but not ludicrously fast like the Skystars Bolt X120 on 4s (review here). It was however very predictable - I could hit gaps and avoid obstacles in a way where I felt I had complete control. It was fairly similar to the way the Emax Babyhawk R 3 inch felt (review here) but the HQ props felt more predictable and familar compared to the EMAX Avans. This makes sense - both the Leader 3 and Babyhawk R are of similar weight and with 1106 4500kV motors on 3 inch props and both have optimised PID tunes. Full Speed RC seem to have done a good job on the tune here not just for the feel during flying but also in keeping propwash to a minimum, even when I tried to put myself in dirty air in 180° turns or descending directly down.
Below is a video from an early flight (2nd pack ever) in a local carpark. Typical I had DVR issues in a flight later that day where I'd gotten more familiar with the flight characteristics :/
Performance on 4s
The battery I used for all 4s testing was the China Hobbyline Ministar 4s 650mah pack. It is an excellent battery that I even use on my 4 inch racer so is very capable although a little heavy at 87g.
First of all I'm going to talk about straight up speed and my perception. It did not feel as fast as the Skystars Bolt X120 using the same battery. This is not an objective measure, purely feel. It did feel faster than the Babyhawk R 3" using the same battery.
To dig in to this further though I do need to say that that Skystars Bolt X120 is very hard to control with this battery and I did not enjoy flying it because it felt difficult to control. It felt like it needed more open space which then kinda defeats the purpose of a micro. By comparison the Leader 3 felt in complete control using 4s and PID profile 2 as customised for 4s by Full Speed RC. As a result it felt right at home on 4s with all the control and balance I felt on 3s. I think part of this is due to tune but moreso that that larger 3 inch blade is able to better support the additional weight from the heavier pack and hasn't overloaded the propeller (disc loading theory).
All other features of flight were similar to 3s - excellent video, precise handling and minimised propwash. I was really enjoying flying this until...
When I first received this model, Full Speed RC cautioned me to use 4s using the smaller Gemfan 2540 props (review here) since motors could overheat. Since I was the only reviewer to receive mine where it is winter presently rather than summer, this was less of an issue although I did keep an eye on motor temps. For this reason I stuck with the included 3 inch props for 4s.
About 10 packs in of warm motors (40-50°C only) I fell out of the sky when attempting a short speed run (see video below). On closer inspection the left rear corner had failed that I could later confirm as a motor failure (as opposed to ESC). The motor definitely was warm only as above and not hot. The only other time I've had a motor failure was on the babyhawk r when I used PIDs with too much P and D on 4s and even then the motor did not fail mid flight, rather afterwards intsead. This motor was scorching hot.
I discussed this with Full Speed RC and found that they will be using a stronger motor on the production version - the review version like I have are a prototype. As you can see below when comparing to my burnt out motor on the Emax Babyhawk R, the Fullspeed one does not look nearly as abused - it failed at a much lower load. Interestingly shortly after this I saw Andy RC's review and found he had an identical problem - motor failed mid run using 4s with HQ 3x3x3 props. Update: The prototype motors are actually 4800-4900kV and the production version will be 4500kV.
So, what does this mean for you? Until I can confirm that Fullspeed RC have moved away from the proptotype motors I can't recommend using the HQ 3x3x3 props with 4s, even in cold weather. For now stick with Gemfan 2540 props on 4s. Of course if it ships with new motors then all bets are off. Full Speed RC is sending me a full set of new motors so I will test with these and post my results in a follow up review as soon as I am able. Update: The prototype motors are actually 4800-4900kV and the production version will be 4500kV.
The Full Speed RC Leader 3 is as an excellent flyer on 3s - great video signal and predictable handling make for an enjoyable flying experience. On 4s the Jury is out... custom pids make this fly well too but the motors' inability to cope with the included 3" props are a bit disappointing. For now a bandaid solution is to run with Genfan 2540 props on 4s but I expect that Full Speed will release with a stronger motor for launch as they did with the original Leader 120. Again, my sample is a reviewer model and this feedback is used to make changes if needed to the final launch product. Full Speed RC has proven themselves to be a reputable company with well researched (and tested) quadcopters and I expect them to follow through on this model too.
This review has been kindly written by @fpv_airborne who is looking to become a regular contributor here.
Introducing the 30x30 HGLRC vtx + dvr combo from HGLRC. This is one of the first 30x30 DVR recording vtx available to the public. The DVR is switchable for 40 channels, has power levels of 25mw, 100mw, 200mw, and 500mw, and has a built-in DVR which takes up to a 32gb SD card. This board also includes a built-in microphone that records onboard sound. The vtx has a resolution of 640x480 which is reasonable for DVR recording. The HGLRC AIO VTX DVR can be bought directly from HGLRC here or from your favourite vendors including Banggood and Gearbest. It's about $40 at the time of writing (July 2018).
A closer look at the specs.
The HGLRC vtx has changeable power levels that include pit mode, 25mw, 100mw, 200mw and 500mw. It also includes 40 channels to connect to your goggles such as A band, B band, Fat Shark and R band. The board measures 36mm x 36mm, with the mounting holes 30.5mm apart. The built-in DVR has a slot under the board to accommodate an SD card up to a 32gb. This records 640x480p quality video with no static or breakup while flying FPV and this is what really sets it apart from goggle DVR. The vtx weighs just 7.9 grams and is the same size and thickness as a 30x30 mounting flight controller.
The HGLRC VTX + DVR combo works much better than expected. The small, thin board allows for easy mounting on top of or underneath the flight controller or power distribution board. The easy plug-in and -out MMCX antenna adapter also works much better than the UFL connector which was the main connector used on many types of vtx’s such as TBS unify pro and Tramp vtx. The MMCX adapter is much more durable and sturdy because of the plug-in design instead of the clip-on adapter; the latter can easily pop off during a crash and may not be easily noticed. This in turn can cause major issues such as burning out of the vtx, poor video and overheating and/or ruining other components on the stack.
From my first flight with the vtx + DVR combo I was impressed. The vtx was flawless to set up with clear instructions. Included with the vtx is a manual that includes a diagram of the vtx, wire layout, power levels and bands, and “How to's”.
The manual explains how to set up the vtx including how to wire up and how to change through power levels, bands and channels; this uses only 2 buttons that are nicely placed on the side of the board. Briefly pressing the channel side button once changes the channel from 1 up to 8, whereas pressing the button for 2 seconds changes the band from A band up to F band. Pressing the button for 4 seconds changes the power levels from 25mw up to 500mw. The DVR recording is set up by inserting an SD card (up to 32gb). Then briefly press the “REC” button and wait for the red LED beside the button to start flashing, indicating that recording has started. Once you are done with your videoing, just press the “REC” button again which will stop and finish the current DVR recording. Note that the DVR will automatically stop recording after 5 minutes.
Experience during flight:
As soon as I placed the goggles on my head, I was surprised to see the difference in colour compared to my other vtx, a TBS unify pro. The video quality seemed much more saturated and warmer in sunny areas and darker in shaded areas. This was seen partially in the FPV feed but was much more noticeable in the DVR recording after footage was reviewed. I was previously using a TBS unify pro with Foxeer antenna and Foxeer Predator v1 mini that gave images of more natural colour, but once I switched to the HGLRC dvr vtx, the quality of the image improved. I understand that not everyone will prefer the warmer, more saturated colours. If so, this can be changed with the camera’s OSD cable.
However, while flying I noticed that there was far less static in the goggle view from the HGLRC vtx compared to the TBS unify pro vtx. Both were running 25mw, and both had the same Foxeer antenna, Foxeer Predator camera, and flight controller. I was surprised to notice this difference but it was quite obvious in my test flights of both quads at the same location and under the same conditions. Because of the built-in DVR, there is no static or break-up which makes the video much more pleasing for the viewer to watch.
In conclusion, I would recommend this vtx to people who want to build a light racing quad with quality DVR footage for their races - but without need to add the extra weight of a GoPro. This DVR vtx board can also replace the more expensive Runcam split for most people, if you do not mind the loss of quality but want to have as little delay to the FPV feed as possible; in racing every millisecond counts.
However, there are some issues in terms of possible human error to be considered before purchasing this vtx.
Firstly, if your quad flies far away without control, or crashes in long grass, in high trees, in a different property or even unplugs in mid-air, the video feed, that was recording, is not accessible to review to locate where the quad has landed or crashed because the SD card is in the quad and not the goggles.
Secondly, after the races you might forget to stop the recording by pressing the button on the vtx, and instead just unplug the quad’s power lead. With the battery lead unplugged, the video will be cancelled leaving no trace of the recording on the SD card. This is because unlike goggles, the vtx-dvr unit has little capacitance to keep the circuit charge while recording is finalised.
The HGLRC AIO VTX DVR can be bought directly from HGLRC here or from your favourite vendors including Banggood and Gearbest.