The Leader 3 (SE) is a follow up to the hugely successful Leader 120 which I have reviewed and documented modification extensively, most recently with a summary here. Both are available from Fullspeedrc.com This has been a highly anticipated release not least of which because there has been no releases from Full Speed since last years' Beebee 66 light. The good news is that a big chunk of that wait has been spent working on the Leader 3. FYI two of the main guys are pilots from Full Speed RC are pilots and do a lot of work testing before release which is a welcome change in this hobby compared to many models that come out half-baked.
Firstly the Leader is available in 2 variants. The standard model (Leader 3) can be seen below and weighs 87g with regualar standoffs. The Leader 3 SE is exclusive to Fullspeedrc.com and comes with a 3d printed canopy instead of the standoffs. It is 6g heavier but offers several benefits that I'll cover a little later on.
A run through the components
First the frame. Like the Leader 120 the base plate of the frame is 3mm thick although it has been stretched to 130mm motor to motor diagonally rather than 120mm This means it is capable of accepting a true 3" propeller rather than 2.8" maximum on the Leader 120. The frame is most definitely still a 'deadcat' shape meaning the two motors are further apart (107mm) than the 2 rear motors (98mm). Additionally it is a 'squashed-x' compared to a 'stretched-x' meaning the front and rear motors on the same side are closer together. This means it should be more stable in the roll vs. pitch axis but modern flight software somewhat negates this. Compared to the leader 120, sideplates have increased from 2mm to 3mm thick which should aid durability. More imporatantly a 19mm gap rather than 17-18mm means the leader 3/SE now natively fits a 19mm micro cam. It's worth nothing that the baseplate is only 1 piece so you cannot replace single arms. Personally I think replaceable arms are unnecessary on any quad size less than 4" since there is much less leverage for breaking on a smaller quad. The frame can be purchased separately here.
The canopy (Leader 3SE only). When I first saw the canopy I wasn't keen because it adds 8g weight however I think the functionality may just offset that - jury is out until I fly it some more. The 3d TPU print is of very high quality available in black,white, red, purple, blue or yellow and performs the following functions:
The motors are 1106 4500kv which is the same specs as those found on the Emax Babyhawk R 3 inch and the Skystars X120. They are not open bottom and have mounting holes for regular t-mount props and the emax 2.3" avan props. Most importantly they are rated for up to 4s.
Like the original Leader 120, build quailty is excellent. Solder is clean, wires are cut to length. Not much more to say here, it is well beyond my ability! With the quad assembled there is plenty of room behind the camera to adjust tilt (45° and beyond are capable) and the receiver is mounted in this void. with plenty of room left yet. This is speculation but I'd like to address anyway since it seems like a common thread: my best guess is the caddx turtles HD FPV/DVR (not yet released at time of writing) will fit but not without a little modification. My reasoning is that there seems to be 2-3mm 'spare' room between each stack layer. If these standoffs are trimmed by this amount you will be able to save 6-9mm in height which should be enought to fit the turtles board. It will require some fine wire management and a steady hand to trim the standoff but I do think it may be physically possible - a project for another day. That being said, the double stack of the runcam split micro definitely will not fit.
Plenty to talk about here although most can be foundin commentary of the Betaflight screens below. If you don't choose to read these however:
Final thoughts pre-flight
As you can see from above this looks to be a very well thought out quad and not something slapped together from a spare parts bin. The Babyhawk R and Skystars bolt X120 have both shown that 1106 4500kV motors perform well on 4s in 2.5" and 3" so I am excited to see what the Leader 3SE will add here with all the work that has gone into development from a hardware and software perspective. On paper this looks to have the edge on both of those models in terms of weight, VTX capability and ESC current overhead however the real test will come in flight - stay tuned for part 2 of this review where I will cover flight in full - I already have 3s and 4s batteries charged for tomorrow :)
The Fullspeed RC Leader 3/SE can be bought directly from Fullspeedrc.com and is also available at other retailers however buying from the source is your best chance to get your hands on one quickly.
Firstly, thank you to Gearbest for supplying this model in exchange for a full review including my observations and recommendations from having built a very similar quad from parts. I'll review here and then run a series of tip, tricks, mods depending on how it flies stock. You can find the PNP version (no receiver) here. As at September 2017 try code HarvestRCnew7
to get this for only $US93.99!
I'm going to skip the unboxing, I don't have anything to add other than the picture of all the parts included below, so straight to the good stuff.
The parts included and build quality have improved...
First off the motors are no longer and unbranded red 1104 7500kv. They are now branded SZ speed and full speed but are still rated the same. From what I can see the shaft length extending through the bell is shorter. Great idea - the only job this does is to centre the prop which the screws hold on. Less stress when trying to put tight props on (looking at you Gemfan 2035) and you don't have a 1.5mm drill bit. Below is a comparison to my DYS 1104 7500kV. You can see my review on these here
The comparisons to these motors don't stop there. Both are similar external size, and the magnets are simlarly strong - very notchy compared to the racerstar motors. From there the leader 120 motors are better. Wires are multicore, slightly thicker and much more flexible and easy to manager. On spin up in betaflight they are so quiet and smooth! Not noisy like the DYS even when they were new. In fairness the DYS are powferful so if the stock leader 120 motors get anywhere near this I'll be happy, especially given the improvements.
This flight controller and ESC is ubiquitous and first appeared on the ARFUN90. I've reviewed one in full here - in short reliable and well featured. What impressed me here was the quality of soldering and the cable managent, just so clean - see below. I wasn't going to compare my efforts but I'd already soldered in the receiver and the macro image makes me feel inadequate! From what I can see of the earlier reviews, this looks to have improved substantially.
Betaflight setup and the Flip of Death
This model shipped with the full release at the time of writing - 3.1.7 (3.2.0 still in release candidate). Interestingly along with the physical changes the software settings have been changed to address some of the brownout/flip of death issues the early reviews had. Most notable digital idle is set at 10%. Since I'll maiden this with stock settings I'll go with that and see if moving back to my standard of 3.5% is still viable. 10% is not ideal for me as you will never be able to fully chop throttle for flips and whatnot. Cool to see that they have addressed it and looking forward to seeing if this issue may have gone altogether.
I'll post some pics of the key betaflight screens for prosperity below (flip through them) but I intend to move to 3.2.0 as soon as I have completed initial flights and can confirm everything is functioning as expected.
I'm something of a lightweight jukie when it comes to miniquads, benefits include longer flights, better agility, greater crash resistance through lower intertia. See the gallery below for the various weight measures but in short 64g dry, 94g AUW ready to fly with the stock 2s 500mah battery. This include an ibus FS82 1g receiver which was not present when I too the photos.
This is a very respectable weight for a micro that swings 2.8" props as these props generate a significant amount of lift in combination with a motor of this rating.
All this and it includes my favourite beeper/led combo (reviewed here) - a beeper is a must for micro quads as you can loose them even in short grass! I can anyway.
Size comparison to other micros
This is not a big model by any stretch. The beauty of these micros - and to be clear this is still a micro - is you can fly in small areas (not indoors!) with less danger and concern to the public. They are also quick to get in the air and consumables like batteries and props are cheaper too. This model measures 120mm diagonally motor to motor and offers most of the experience of a 5" FPV quad. Picture below compare to an E011 typical tiny whoop and an 80mm EYAS x2 with 2" props