In this shootout I'll be using my opinion to compare some of the most popular radios on the market to an incumbent and a dark horse. I'll give you some insight to what drives my opinion so you can see why I've made the decision I have. Specifically I'll be looking at:
Personally radios, goggles and chargers are not something I replace regularly. Since they are not subjected to the "unexpected landings" that our quads are they tend to last longer, especially if you but the right product. I've had the Xlite for nearly 2 years (reviewed here) and it has been the only controller I've used over the whole time. As a reviewer with access to all of the new stuff this is an age for me and I don't think I've had any piece of gear longer than this. Prior to this I used the Taranis QX7s which was a great controller but just not portable enough for me due to its size. Without me rambling too much I'm trying to say if you find the right controller for you based on your needs then it should last you a LONG time. In this shootout I'll look at the characteristics, benefits and limitations of these four controllers to help you understand what might be important to you. First let's start with a quick overview of the controllers I'm comparing
The Eachine CVATAR is the first true Cinewhoop to fall under the Eachine Brand. A Cinewhoop is a larger ducted quadcopter which is safer around people and objects thanks to shrouding of the propellers and soft foam padding which allows it to bump off objects without damage to the quad or object. It is available in 4s and 6s version which differ only in motor KV. The Eachine CVATAR is available exclusively from Banggood here: Eachine CVATAR 3 Inch Cinewhoop Duct FPV Racing Drone
No doubt there has been an explosion in the popularity of Cinewhoops because of the kind of footage you can capture in HD - slower, smoother and more stable akin to a gimballed camera but without the limitations. The CVATAR follows the increasingly common format of 3 inch ducted cinewhoop in a very versatile package with mounting options for all the popular HD options including compact session-style cameras, full size go pro 6, 7, 8 cameras and the necessary parts for securely mounting the full DJI air unit. For this review well have a closer look at the specs, the setup of the quad and then the performance with the recommendation conclusions last.
For my review I've chosen the 6s version over the 4s as I have preference the versatility that lower 6s motors offer. Motor kV is the ONLY difference between the versions
The FUS Spartan V3 is the first fully assembled quadcopter from FUS. It is a toothpick style micro with AIO FC/ESC and larger than normal 1104 5400kV motors. Most noticeably it has a VERY low price - just $85 before any discounts are applied (read on for those). In this review we will take a close look at components and the build quality. I'll share my recommended ESC and betaflight tune including VTX tables and of course review flight performance on 2s and 3s batteries including DVR. I'll also recommend a better set of propellers than the stock ones they are delivered with plus other cheap or free improvements.
Breaking down the specifications piece by piece
All of the components used are off the shelf parts meaning replacing or upgrading is a very straightforward affair. Below are all the parts that make up this assembled quad:
If you haven't yet seen the first part of my review of the new T-motor FT5 5 inch freestyle quad, I looked at the specification of the components used, the build quality and betaflight setup here:
T-MOTOR FT5 PNP REVIEW PART 1: FIRST LOOK AND BETAFLIGHT SETUP
This means that for this second part of the review I can focus in on flight performance and any recommendations. For the purpose of flight performance I'll break this down into FPV performance, performance on 6s and performance on 4s
The Caddx Ratel has been around a little while and has been hugely popular. This is the second commercial FPV camera made with the massive 1 1/8" CMOS sensor that makes for an image that is pushing the quality limits of the NTSC/PAL protocols for analogue FPV. This is my first chance to use one and I've been impressed. It is comparable to the Runcam Micro Eagle but more compact, lighter and at a much more reasonable price. Caddx camera QA has been benefiting from their partnership with DJI as well, presumably from an upgrade to their manufacturing facility. My guess is they have a better, cleaner manufacturing error that keeps the dust off their sensors. The unit included with the FT5 has a 2.1mm lens which offers a fairly mid-range field of view. It's a really nice camera from the goggles especially since I have been flying micro quads a lot recently but of course the DVR (below) never really does it justice.
Because this frame is made for analogue and digital I don't love how the camera is mounted here, the location feels like a bit of an afterthought. Sure there is no frame in view but it does sit proud of the frame and is more prone to damage depending of course on how you fly.
The new T-motor FT5 PNP is a new 5 inch freestyle drone from T-motor.
It is available in the following options:
Analogue video with 4s 2306 2400kv motors
Analogue video with 5s/6s 2207.5 1950kv motors
Digital video with 2306 motors in 4s 1750kv and 2550kv options
I've chosen to review the most powerful of these options - the Analogue 6s with the largest 2207.5 motors in 1950kv. In this part of the review I'll look at the components in the build, the quality of the build and will comment on the default betaflight settings. I'm currently test flying and once I have at least a dozen packs under my belt will start the main review.
The best way I have of summarising the specs is that it does the basics really well and this is not to damn it by faint praise. Other than the removable top deck for easy electronic access there is no F7 processor, no bluetooth access, no 4k HD recording on board. What you get instead is:
The Zeez Racing Combo is a F7 flight control and 4x60A BLHeli_32 combo that includes 4 plug and play discrete, addressable LED strips. It is in the standard 30.5mm mount size meaning it will fit 5 to 8 inch quadcopters. It can be considered a premium set based on the retail price of just over $100 but the cleverness in design and execution in quality make this stand out for me.
Zeez is a relatively new company in the FPV scene based out of Italy that looks to be made up of a group of racing and freestyle pilots. At this stage they have a race frame available plus an ambitious flight control-ESC combo which I'm reviewing here. Individual components are also available:
Design has been completed in Italy by this team based on their needs. We can see immediately that this bottom up design has made for a lot clever tricks to make building and setup cleaner and more efficient with a heap of features. Before we go into that let's look at the core specs and discuss the benefits to the average punter:
The Emax Eco 1404 is a newly released lightweight brushless micro motor and is available in both 3700kV and 6000kV variants. It follows on from the successful Emax Eco 2207 and 2306 5" motors which have redefined the budget motor offering with a much higher build quality. I have been using the 3700kv variant on a lightweight 3 inch HD build with battery sizes ranging from 2-4s and my review is below.
The objective of this particular build is a light, stable 3 inch HD platform that has exceptional control so that I can fly like a regular quad or fly around objects in close proximity at low-medium speed. Basically a cinewhoop without limitations of duct performance or weight. The lightweight 1404 fits this brief well with the large diameter to height ratio making for great control in the lower rev ranges. The smaller magnets on the eco series means the motors are not a notchy so smoother and much more effcient at the cost of a bit of top end speed.
I quickly need to disclose my bias for Emax ECO motors as I've had a really good experience with the larger ECO 2306 motors that I use on my 5 inch sweet spot build that I built here and reviewed here. After a year of use and abuse the motors are still performing well. They are not the most powerful but are light, smooth, efficient, reliable and very durable which are excellent characteristics for a freestyle quadcopter. Building on this foundation Emax have released the eco as a micro series in 1407, 1106 and 1404 sizes. I leapt at the chance to order the 1404 as this is my ideal lightweight 3 inch size for efficiency and smoothness. 1407 is a good size for a 'power' 3 inch build (or even a 4 inch build like this one) but not what I was wanting here. 1106 are better suited for a power 2.5 inch build. I chose 3700kv as a good motors speed for 4s that could run more sedately on 2s. I have no interest in 6000kv in a motor this size as you are limited to 2s batteries which don't suit me.
Motor details are below:
The Rush Tiny Tank is a nano class VTX that has power output options of 0, 25, 100, 200 and 350mW output. It uses smart audio for parameter adjustment via betaflight OSD and has lock on technology that supposedly helps the signal. Perhaps more importantly it is very, very small and very light (1.6g). I used this VTX for my recent ultralight 3" TP3 build which I documented here.
Rush FPV as a brand is relatively new but made a huge splash with their premium full-sized tank VTX. Many found these vtxs as good if not better than the best-in-market TBS unify VTXs but as the name suggests, more robust. They followed the initial Rush Tank with the Rush race (similar but no mounting points and recently the rush mini 20mm mount. Their latest version is tiny tank reviewed here and at 1.6g is designed for micro builds or even racers (where 350mw is much more than you are allowed to run anyway). For me it is a perfect size for a toothpick build where keeping it light is the build. Due to it's small size install was simple and I was glad to see it offers multiple wiring options as below - mounted in line with camera or separately to the flight controller.
The NamelessRC AIO412T is an All-In-One flight controller and ESC. It has 25.5 x 25.5 mounting which is the common standard for whoop and toothpick boards. It includes and F4(11) flight controller and 12a x 4 BLHeli_S ESC set. This particular board is optimised for custom and toothpick build with larger motor and component pads, a horizontal USB port and upgraded 12A ESC FETs
This board was originally a NamelessRC collaboration with KababFPV and he looks to have given some thoughtful feedback on pad layout for custom builds. For this reason I chose this board for my custom TP3 build here. Specifications from the manufacturer are:
The GepRC GR1204 is a 1204 sized motor (12mm wide, 04mm high stator) suitable for micro quadcopters that is available in 5000kv. Specifically this stator size and kV has been identified as an ideal size to build an ultralight 3 inch build like a TP3. I bought mine from Banggood here to use for a ultralight 3" TP3 build that I've reviewed and discussed here.
The GR1204 uses modern design and manufacturing so that weight is just 3.8g per motor (no wire). The stator is 1mm wider than early 11 series motors which offers slightly better torque and efficiency which is needed to better control a light 3 inch propeller. They are in a gold colour that looks better than the stock image suggest - they are beautiful in real life. Mounting for propeller is a standard 1.5mm shaft with 2 x m2 screws for a t-mount.
The "toothpick" series of ultra lightweight quad was made popular by Bob Roogi (Kabab FPV). all original parts can be found on his site here: https://fpvcycle.com/ After enjoying the original 65mm toothpick builds I was very excited to build a larger, more powerful 3 inch "TP3" version but I've never been able to buy all the parts owing to the popularity.
So I've decided to spec my own TP3 build inspired by his specifications. Since this quad is essenially a sum of components I will do breakout reviews linked in this master review which ties it all together,
Here are the parts I've chosen
Frame - ZJWRC 115X
This frame has a truly unforgettable name and a waste of time canopy but the baseplate is TOUGH and the hardware is actually useful. At $14 the price is ok and it is always in stock. See more details in my frame review here. Premium alternatives include the original TP3, racer-x twig, and more but for me if a frame does the basics well I don't bother with something expensive. I'm pleased to say this frame does do the basics well. If you are looking for something cheaper and lighter consider the Eachine Twig frame at $8 but personally I prefer the stiffness of the ZJWRC 115x frame I used here.
The ORT dual shield pro 5.8GHz antenna is unique take on goggle diversity antennas that allow for maximum portability and have surprisingly good performance. It consistents of two circular polarised patch antennas on a 3d printed mount that allows the antennas to attach directly to your goggles. They are available fairly widely but I bought from Banggood here because of their free and reliable international shipping since I don't live in the US. Although none of the components are ground breaking the way it all comes together is an awesome solution for getting up and flying quickly with little to no compromise. They are available in both left and right hand circular polarisation. Read on for more...
Most of the flying I do these days, for one reason or another is a quick 3-4 batteries, flying out of a grab bag that contains my small x-lite transmitter (review), Skyzone Sky03O goggles (review), batteries and only the very most essential field tools. This means my gear is always ready to go and I can fly new spots with just the smallest bit of spare time. When I get to a spot I can turn on my transmitter, strap on and plug in my battery but then I need to choose two antenna and screw them in place in the correct alignment (and repeat in reverse at the end of the session). Although this seems like a pointless moan it takes up valuable time I could be in the air and puts strain and wear on SMA connectors attached to my goggles.
Recently I had a first look at the Eachine Lal5 - a new 5 inch freestlye quadcopter from Eachine with built in 4k recording and massive 6s 2507 motors. At the time it flew well but I felt it was overpowered (and overweight) for a 5 inch quad. There were a few minor build issues that also affected the quality of video transmission. Shortly after release, Eachine announced that initial models should have had nylon screws rather than steel for the Caddx tarsier stack to fix the video issues and recommended this upgrade on the early models. They also released 6 and 7 inch arms based on popular demand. For this review I've chosen to show you how to complete these upgrades and what you can expect from performance when you do. Here's a teaser - it is much improved
Correcting the video feed
The video feed on the Lal5 suffers 2 issues: firstly the steel screws on the stack in the early models create electrical noise in the video feed and secondly the low profile antenna is easily obstrcted by the frame and battery.
The ISDT 608AC Smart Charger with Detachable Power Supply is a new entry-level LiPo battery charger from ISDT, the most consistently high quality charger manufacturer in the business. It has the capability of taking power supply from both AC (mains) and DC (battery) power which is usually a feature of the more expensive chargers and also offers a first in that the AC adaptor is a modular detachable unit. This is a full review and operation overview of the ISDT 608AC charger as it relates to use for quadcopters.
Lipo charging background
Charging is perhaps the least exciting topic in the world of quads but very important; safe, reliable chargers are hugely under-appreciated... until you have an accident. If you are new to the hobby you'll probably want to spend the minimum on the charger possible which tends to point you in the direction of DC chargers that require an additional power adaptor. I remember there being a bit of a minefield of choosing the charger but more so the adaptor that you needed to use; do you run it of mains power? What voltage? What power rating? What plug size? After all this you still don't know the quality of the power pack and I have certainly seen some dodgy ones. When you have a dodgy power pack pulling upwards of 5 amps (and often a lot more) it is a distinct risk.
Until now, if you wanted a charger with a built in AC power supply you have needed to spend more, Like the Hota/Hobbymate D6 Pro Duo (reviewed here) or the ISDT D2 which are both well upwards of $100. The new ISDT 608AC is a DC charger at heart with a very nice slide on modular DC adapter that comes included. Since ISDT is perhaps the best charger manufacturer out there, the implication is that this power supply is of the same high quality and just as importantly you can guarantee it is correctly rated.
What's included?, build and dimensions
Captioned pictures do the best job here. As usual, click to embiggen.
The Racerstar AirA 2508 motor is a brushless quadcopter motor sold under the racerstar brand but made by T-motor. This motor has a broad stator and tall height matched with a relatively low kV making it an ideal option for 6 or 7 inch quadcopters running 5-6s.
Up until recently there were few large stator motors available, typically the largest we saw on long range 7 inch rigs were 2208 (MB Primo). In fact for this reason I chose 2306 when I built my long range rig here. Although light, the disadvantage with the relatively small stator given the large and heavy propeller it needed to spin was poor control over the prop and a tapering off of power in the high throttle range along with a large increase in current draw (with no output benefit). This resulted in the quad feeling sluggish which I thought was just the accepted norm for a 7 inch quad.
Now there are a lot more larger stator motors around with wids of 24mm right up to 28mm and heights of between 6 and 8mm that are much better suited to 6 and 7 inch propellers. I chose to try the Racerstar AirA motors on my 7 inch build because they have a great price to quality ratio.
The "Air" sub brand from t-motor usually signalled a lighter weight price competitive motor and it is the same here. Retail on this is $20 each or $70 for 4 although they've been as low as $12 on sale. For this you get excellent t-motor build quality that cannot be compared to regular racerstar motors but not the titanium shaft, single strand windings or super strong 7075 aluminium bell of the much more expensive motors. I don't find these especially important though and many tend to agree which is why we see 'budget' lines of premium motor makers (like the Emax Eco) doing so well in the market. Motors for 6 and 7 inch quads especially don't need these super strong materials because they don't tend to be crashed as much given they are typically used for long range flights rather than freestyle. Oh, big 9mm bearings mean smooth operation and good durability too.
Summary: Great quality to value ratio, similar to the Emax ECO in value proposition.
The Eachine Novice I is a brushless 2s capable ducted micro FPV quadcopter that includes a basic transmitter, FPV goggles and batteries making it a genuine Ready To Fly (RTF) kit option for $145-$165 retail. It is available exclusively from Banggood here. The lightweight ducted frame makes it safe to fly inside and around people but it still has enough power to fly outdoors. Since it can run on 1 battery (1s) or 2 batteries (2s) you can fly it slow or fast. It will compete directly with the Emax Tinyhawk RTF which is 1s capable only and is $156 with only 1 battery. I've reviewed the Emax Tinyhawk here if you wish to compare.
A closer look at the components:
Below are all the components, click through for more details or if you need to purchase spares
Introduction and spec
The Eachine Lal5 is a new 5" freestyle quadcopter from Eachine. It's most notable features are the new Caddx Tarsier V2 camera system that offers a high quality analogue feed and up to 4k HD recording. Also worth pointing out is the impressively specced powertrain - high quality 2507 1850kV motors that look like they are made by the same OEM as flywoo. These are the biggest motors I've seen on a 5 inch quad before. Further details on specs:
Update: See the unofficial part 2 of the review here with low cost and effective upgrades
Build quality and component choice discussion
Electronics: Looking more closely at the electronics build it seems to be fairly well thought out. The primary stack contains the 50A BLHeli_32 esc, f4 flight controller and the TX805 VTX (my favourite budget vtx as reviewed here). Looking a little closer at the flight controller it actually has a barometer (for accurate altitude readings and bluetooth for connection via speedybee app. It also has a 10v rail for super clean video much life the Airbot Omibus F4 V6 which I love. Behind this there is a separate 20mm stack that holds the 2 boards that run the Caddx Tarsier v2. Aluminium standoffs are 30mm high so definitely not a low rider but the advantage is plenty of room to fit the stack with good spacing. The ESC has a 35v 470microfarad capacitor that should help manage voltage spikes and keep video clean and up front is the dual lens tarsier camera unit. Included is their ND8 filter which is a nice touch. The TPU 3d printed camera mount does a good job of bringing the camera forward to minimise props in view but still protects that camera well. Print quality is the best I have ever seen. Antenna is well integrated with the TPU mount but I fear signal will be blocked by the battery when flying towards myself - something I must test for sure. There is no receiver included but there is a loom pre-wired to 5v, ground and sbus for a frsky receiver. All pictures below can be embiggened
Ever since the HQ3x2 t-mount prop and the more powerful nameless RC 412T FC/ESC board was released I've wanted to build a 3 inch ultra-light 'toothpick' style quad. Since then Speed Racer released the 3" Twig and Kabab has released the TP3. International shipping on these can be a killer though so when there was a frame released on Banggood I opted to give it a try.
Let's take a closer look at the components:
The Larva-X is a new lightweight micro FPV quadcopter made by Happymodel, a company who are very well known now to innovate new trends and hype in micro quadcopters. The Larva-x looks to be a more robust and refined evolution of the "toothpick" class of ultra light weight quads, this time with a more robust frame, better receiver options and a better FPV system, which addresses complaints on some of their earlier models.
The Larva-X is available now from many retailers. Below is the link from Banggood who ship internationally from $0 and up. At time of writing (9 September 2019) they have their big anniversary sale on and have the Larva-X on Special for $83 using the code "BGANLX" and this link: Happymodel Larva X 100mm 2-3S 2.5 Inch FPV Racing Drone
100mm carbon fibre frame - Although a spindly design, this is 3mm thick carbon. It feels rigid and very robust, a big improvement on previous frames which were light but prone to breaking.
Happymodel EX1103 7000KV Motor - An extra 1mm stator height gives 50% volume over the 1102 motors found on the sailfly-x. 7000kV is a good rating for 3s primarily or 2s for smaller areas.
Crazybee F4 Pro V3 Flight Controller - V3 of this flight controller no longer requires the additional capacitor as seen on the sailfly-x and eachine red devil
Onboard 10A 4in1 ESC - The extra current overhead (10a vs 6a) and voltage overhead (up to 4s) means that this should be MUCH more reliable on 3s... it is well away from current and voltage limits with 1103 7000kV motors
Multiple receiver options - Have options to choose onboard frsky/flysky/dsmx which have typically poor range but for the first time they are offering discrete receiver options including XM+, R-XSR and even TBS crossfire!
Happymodel Diamond VTX - Not only does this offer 25mw-200mW OSD selectable transmit power but it also includes an onboard DVR for static-free recording.
Runcam NANO2 FPV Camera - Hooray! A better camera. The rancam nano 2 is currentl recognised as the best price per performance nano size cam at present.
What is included in the kit (other than the quad as specced above)?
The Skyzone SKY03O is a new premium FPV goggle with built in diversity from Skyzone, a revision of their 3rd generation of goggles. Perhaps their biggest point of difference is the large OLED screens which are being recognised as the best currently available. In this review I'll look at what's included, the specs, a brief setup and what they are actually like to use. Then I will finish with a summary and recommendations.
If you follow my facebook feeds you may have seen I've treated myself to some new goggles, namely the Fatshark Attitude V5 that I bought from Banggood on pre-order. These are part of the slew of new mid-range binocular goggles from several manufacturers as below:
The Runcam 5 is the latest HD cam suitable for FPV quadcopters released by renowned FPV camera manufacturer Runcam. It is a cube form factor following on from the shape made popular by the now discontinued GoPro Session 4 and Session 5 cameras. It measures 38mm x 38mm x 36mm which is nearly identical to the Session meaning it fits easily in to the commonly available 'GoPro' mounts. My Runcam 5 was ordered from Banggood and can be found at the link here: RunCam 5 12MP 56g Smallest 4K Cam HD Recording. It retails for $99 and can be had on special for a little as $87 - see my coupons page for up to date discount codes.
RunCam 5 12MP 56g 4K Cam HD Recording 145 Degree NTSC/PAL 16:9/4:3 Switchable FPV Action Camera Bulit-in Battery for RC Racing Drone
What's in the pack?
A closer look at the specs:
A closer look at the quad itself
Recently I've built a 5" Freestyle quadcopter based on the best value components - not the cheapest but the best price/performance ratio (i.e. bang for buck). The components I've chosen plus comparison to alternatives can be found in the component selection article here. As it stands the build cost of this one is around $150-$170 depending on which specials you can take advantage of. I see the RC Addict (His YT channel here) has done a similar thing for a race build and he refers to it as the "The cheapest quad worth building"
This quad has since been built, setup, flown, adjusted and then flown a lot more. I'm now in a position to pass judgement over all of the components and will then cover as the quad in total. For each I'll look at the positives and negatives and then go into a little more discussion with my recommendations
Discussion and recommendation
At the time these Emax Eco were chosen as they were the standout budget motor. They have been available for $10-$12 and based on how they perform represent outstanding value - the top equal standout recommendation for this parts list. Emax had the original breakthrouhg brushless motor in the quad scene - the RS2205s which changed the industry. While others have caught up since they still make well-researched high quality motors. The Eco series draws off the learnings from the LS and RS2 series - they remain VERY light but have increased the bearing size from 8mm to 9mm to improve durability significantly. Retained from the RS2 and LS series however are the thin magnets. Although these mean the motor doesn't make the same peak thrust as heavier motors with larger magnets, it does gain in improvements through being lighter, more efficient and smoother at throttle transition. This makes it a great match to freestyle where these positive attributes tend to be preferred over peak thrust @ 100% throttle. In use these are very nice motors to fly. They are quiet, smooth and cause less battery sag and longer flight time than more expensive motors I use such as the brother hobby returner R6 2306.
Interesting that based on the success of the Emax Eco, iflight and brotherhobby have followed suit. 3bhobby also have the training motor although this may have just been out when the emax eco was launched.
The Turbobee 120RS is an ultra-lightweight micro quadcopted that loosely fits into the new 'toothpick' class. It is available in 2 variants below (2-3s and 4s), each offered with multiple receiver options (frsky, flysky, dsmx, futaba ad even TBS crossfire:
My review is based on the 2-3s version with 1103 10,000kV motors as above
iFlight is a brand that is rapidly growing and is going some impressive things in the FPV space - everything from micro quads to the Giant X-Class rigs. They have always been middle range for value but now they are bringing polish to their products. Here I've reviewed the Turbobee 120RS 2-3s micro. It does fall into the toothpick class and yes, although it comes with Gemfan 2540 props it does fit the 65mm bi-blades.
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