This is part 2 of the review. In part 1 I discuss an overview and setup (including betaflight settings from factory) are covered in detail: Part 1 review
Firstly a very important correction. In the first review I showed a picture of the quadcopter minus battery sitting on a set of scales at 65g. I took this for granted and after measuring on my own scales got 84g. I don't usually trust weight in text but seeing it was sitting on digital scales I did not measure myself. Disappointing as this is misleading so I updated Gearbest immediately. To their credit they promptly took the image down and corrected the weight in the description - see below.
Preparing for flight
Just some minor housekeeping prior to the first flight. XM receiver was fixed in place on top of the VTX as it was dangling free when I received it. Antenna was fixed in place with a cable tie off the rear arm and heatshrink to secure. VTX antenna got the same treatment off the rear upper-deck of the frame. Lastly I replaced the rubbish battery strap with one from RJX hobbies (review here). Although a buckled strap was included as well as the one picture above, it was much too long? Weird.
Flight performance on 2s
Just because the Bolt X120 *can* fly on 2s doesn't mean you *should* fly on 2s. I used my Turnigy Nanotech 2s 950mah (47g) pack and needed about 40% throttle to hover. I could fly but performance was lacklustre and I got bored. I did get about 4 minutes flight time but won't say any more.
Flight performance on 3s
After my initial disappointment on the weight, performance on 3s 450mah turnigy nanotech was better than I had expected. It felt controlled with enough speed to be enjoyable. I had to switch to default betaflight 3.3 PIDs though since the customised PIDs look more like a 4s tune and felt sloppy as a result. I did manage to get good flight times on these little batteries of approximately 2.5 - 3.0 coming down at 3.75 volts and had fun doing so. Given then power of the quad I'd probably pefer a 650mah 3s for another minute or so of flight and would have less concern about sagging on big throttle punches. For the places I usually enjoy micros the most (tight with small trees) I found 3s the most fun.
Quick update: compared back to back on same batteries with my Leader 120 which is lighter (68g vs 84g) with 'smaller' motors (1104 7500kV vs. 1106 4500kV). I found it was similar speed with comparable handling and I actually got as good if not slightly better flight time on the Skystars Bolt - the extra stator size was negated by the lower kV from an efficiency standpoint. The leader however cannot do 4s...
When I went from 3s to 4s on the BabyHawk R 3" (review here) I got a reasonable increase in speed but not 33% as you'd probably expect. Given the same motor size (1106 4500kV) I was expecting something similar here but got a complete shock here - This thing ABSOLUTELY SCREAMS on 4s. I've always liked the Gemfan 2540 props (review here) but have never tried them on 4s and boy, they sure hold up and deliver on the extra power, it was like a different quad altogether. The speed was like nothing I'd felt on a micro and I had real trouble managing in a tight area. This probably wasn't helped by the fact I was using a CNHL Ministar 4s 650mah battery which weighs 87g so I was really blowing out on corners, even with a lot of extra throttle. It reminded my of running a heavy 4s 3 inch with 1408 motors - super fast but handled like a brick. I'd dare say 450mah 4s at around 62g would be a better option for weight control. at the cost of some flight time. As it stood I was getting 4 - 4.5 minutes on the 650mah battery. I've since moved to betaflight 3.4.0 and have got the tune tighter without oscillations but it is still a handful. For my piloting ability running this quad on 4s requires a bigger area akin to my 4 and 5 inch quads but that kind of deafeats the purpose of this micro. For my money and ability I actually prefer this on 3s - It is much quieter and handles better with the lower weight which is better suited to small parks. The noise alone on 4s makes people more wary of this one.
Rather than trying to recommend how many cells you should run I've merely stated my opinions on what I want from a micro. The most important thing here is that this Skystars Bolt X120 is well and truly capable of comfortably running 3s or 4s depending on where you are flying or how you are feeling on a particular day. The new throttle limiting feature on betaflight is a great way of limiting power to fly on 4s if for example you want to stick with just this battery size with power more akin to 3s. I've written a full tutorial on this here including how to assign to an AUX switch.
Although I alluded to the similarities to the original Leader 120 (review here) it is clearly a different quadcopter with a different feel and different capabilities - it has a much better camera and VTX but is much heavier and designed to run on more cells which make it heavier again for a different flight feel. A better comparison is perhaps the BabyHawk R 3 inch which I find handles better but lacks the speed of this model, particularly on 4s. Images below on a scale for all of these for comparison.
The Skystars bolt can be bought exclusively from Gearbest in several different formats - an unbuilt kit with no receiver (PNF), a built quad with no receiver, or as a built quad with FRSKY or Flysky receivers.
Check on my discounts page regularly for specials but at the time of writing the unbuilt kit is available for $117 and the FRSKY BNF as seen here is available for $134
After several false starts including the FullspeedRC beebee66 which looked so promising (review here) I've finally found a real brushless tiny whoop - the Happy Model Snapper 7. This 75mm brushless quadcopter is 10mm larger in diagonal motor to motor distance than a typical tiny whoop or clone but can still be very much classified as an micro indoor quadcopter. I'm pleased to say that the awfully named Happy Model Snapper 7 exceeded my expectations in practically every area.
What is included?
The standard version is $10 more than the basic version and simply speaking offers superior value for money. Included is:
As you can probably see above the standard version includes 3 batteries instead of 1 and a 6 channel charger instead of a single USB charger. Because I was so impressed by the charger, I'll call out here the details of what made it so special:
Quad specs and discussion
Key specifications of the quad are:
The real innovation and star of the show is the integrated flight control/ESC/receiver. The flight control and BLHeli_S ESC on the same board is nice and a useful step forward from spearate boards as on the BeeBee 66 that mean it is more compact and weighs less (4.3g for this board). We've seen integrated receivers before but not with an SPI interface as this one has. In theory the SPI interface is much faster than the SBUS interface (gyro is connected via SPI) but for practical results this frees up a spare UART and ensures you get FULL telemetry (confirmed on my Taranis Q-X7s). Addionally it means that rather than choosing a serial receiver in betaflight, you choose a dedicated SPI receiver and can choose between D8 or D16 for FRSKY or AFDHS or AFDHS2a for FRSKY. Lastly binding is easy! you no longer need to use 3 hands to hold the tiny button down while binding - power on and then hold the bind button down for 2 seconds. Bliss!! The Crazybee F3/ESC/RX is available separately in FRSKY and FLYSKY versions
Nothing much to note about the AIO camera from spec perspective, nor the motors - the real test will be in flight. The frame however is intersting. The rings around the props look like ducts but are actually just protectors meaning you should expect flight performance more like a typical guard-less quadcopter rather than a ducted whoop. Guards look to be cast from 7075 aluminium and are integral to the frame, i.e. cannot be removed.
The instructions that come with this model are succinct, well written and complete. It goes into detail with receiver choice in betaflight and binding procedure due to the SPI interface. As mentioned above: Easier to bind and choose the correct recevier. For flysky users it is particularly useful that you can choose between AFDHS and AFDHS2a. You'll be pleased to know that betaflight has been full set up from factory for all the elements that are unique to this quad althought the PIDs are stock (yet run fine). Please see below for stock betaflight setup and my comments in the gallery below:
It's worth noting that since this runs BLHeli_S, all of the latest Dshot commands are available including motor beep and anti-turtle mode aka 'flip over after' crash. Both work very well :)
I've seen a number of brushless whoops that have looked great on paper but none yet have actually bettered the flight experience by a simple brushed whoop like my santa whoop (part 1 and part 2 reviews here). That's because until now the brushless motors haven't scaled down well and offered poor power and efficiency. This meant they had no better thrust than a good brushed whoop and much worse battery life.
I'm really pleased to say that this model is different. Yes I know it has a 10mm larger frame and a 450mah battery but performance is superior to even a heavily modded whoop. What does this mean? It can better recover from manouvers and it is a more viable outdoor flier on still days. Punch outs are surprisingly good! As you can see from the video it will happily navigate a playground and trees. The flight characteristics are really interesting. I'd liken it more to a micro burshless than a whoop because of the extra power and lack of full ducts. This means I can be more aggresive with cornering using more roll rather than the yaw-heavy flying I do with whoops. Further to this it makes me more confident in acro mode whereas I find a whoop in acro mode really foreign. In tight spaces and obstacles and at lower speed (e.g. indoors) I still feel more comfortable in angle mode, just like a brushless whoop.
For flight time I got about 3 minutes when charged to 4.2v or 3.5 minutes when charged to 4.35v. Open field flying dropped battery life to about 2 minutes but this is not typical flight with a micro like this. This tells me these motors are most efficient in the 30-80% throttle range which is where most tighter flying is done - like the playground, indoors or around small trees. Nice to know the power is there if needed though. I'm not a fan of brushless motors smaller than 1102 but think these 0703s are actually pretty good - particularly with this combination of components. Furthermore they are the quietest sub-1102 motor I have heard. Spares are available here: https://www.gearbest.com/motor/pp_1717534.html
I was really pleased with the image out of the little AIO cam - it was as crisp as I've seen with as good a colour handling as you can expect for this type of camera. The camera angle adjustment was really nice and with the power this offered a well thought out capability. Video signal was very good even around trees and I started to drop RSSI on the control link well before video deteriotation before travelling out on an open field. I think the receiver antenna location could be optimised (below) but think you'll struggle to get the 300m claimed range... <Quick update> I've since routed the antenna up through the canopy rather than underneath. I think the reception may be marginally better but certainly no more than 100m in line of sight conditions.
The HappyModel Snapper7 is an excellent supermicro brushless whoop-style quadcopter that is available in a great value 'standard' pack which includes 3 batteries and and versatile charger. For it's size it is very light weight thanks to the heavily integrated FC/receiver/ESC board that includes the very latest receiver interface that makes setup extremely simple. By combining this with well made 19000kV motors and a suprisingly good AIO camera they have created a brushless tiny whoop that lives up to what we've wanted - a familiar whoop style quad that is suitable for indoors with a level of power and response that micro brushed quads just cannot achieve. Furthermore it feels much more at home in rate mode (acro) flight compared to a ducted whoop. Unlike earlier brushless models this does not come at the cost of battery life where 3-3.5 minutes flight time is realistic. Only time will tell how the motors and aluminium prop guards will hold up but with 20 or so packs through I've not caused any permanent damage plus the motors are still running quietly.
The Happymodel Snapper7 is available in a basic bind and fly package with 1 battery and a simple charger for just $85 in flysky or frsky versions but I'd recommend instead going for the $95 standard package which includes 3 batteries and an excellent 6 port charger.
I'd happily recommend this as more powerful alternative for a brushless whoop for indoor flying and even outdoor flying in no or low wind. Unlike a the heavier brushless ET100, ET115 and ET125 models, the light weight will have much less chance of damaging your home with crashes when flying indoors.
The Emax Baby Hawk R is a micro brushless quadcopter that was launched by Emax in early 2018 as a follow up to the highly successful Emax Babyhawk (not r). It was launched as a 2 inch but 2.5 inch aftermarket arms quickly became available in the aftermarket and hugely improved the power to weight ratio, disc loading and efficiency. Emax themselves have now taken this one step further with the Babyhawk R 136mm (3 inch). Compared to the 2 inch version is has the longer arms with the new Avanflow 3 inch 3-blade propellers and a reduction in motor KV from 6000kv down to 4500kv although motor size is still the same 1106. Weight of the 3 inch is 86g compared to 82g. I will review the Babykawk R 136mm (3 inch) here.
Specs and discussion
On paper none of these components are especially exciting or on the hype-train. A big HOWEVER though - all are very tried and true, solid and well balanced. This means reliability and reduced cost. The each have a job to do and do it without fuss or flair. It's fair to say though that when you bring them together they are greater than the sum of parts.
Quick rambling thoughts how 3 inch quad weights
I think of 3 inch quads in 2 ways - a shrunk down 5" based on large motors and 4s batteries or an embiggened micro based on 11XX series motors and 3s. This clearly fits in the camp of "embiggened micro" since it is based around 1106 motors however it is farily unique in that the ESC, motors as well tough frame and cowling are well and truly engineered for 4s - best of both worlds as it were. By constrast my lightweight FlexRC komori (build blog is here) can take 4s but the frame would not hold up to carrying the extra weight of a 4s. Conversely something like the Furibee X140 (review blog here) is pretty gutless on a 3s where it can't overcome the 120g+ weight of the quad.
I haven't delved into all the betaflight screens this time because for the most part this is down to preference and your gear. What I can say though is that although not installed from the factory, EMAX have provided some VERY good PIDS for both 3s and 4s. Here is the link to their page or for convinience please see below:
Fly the damned thing
At the time of writing I've only run this on 2s and 3s. 2s was using a 46g 950mah turnigy nanotech battery and was very uninspiring but hey, at least it can be done! 3s was much better than I thought it would be. I used the Turnigy Nanotech 3s 460mah battery (about 42g) and got 2.5 - 3 minutes flight depending on how hard i pushed, coming down at about 3.75v per cell at rest.
The first thing I have to say about the flight is that all of these solid if unspectacular components do come together so nicely - they are all well suited which not only make for an enjoyable and reliable fllight experience but means the cost does not blow out. In addition the protection offered by the 3mm carbon-armed and cowled frame means that even after tumbles there is a good chance you can just rearm and get flying again - it is tough! The other benefit of the cowl is that it looks cool, different from the top plate/bottom plate or side cage frames that are out there.
Punch out power is ok on 3s but will hold my judgement till I get some 4s packs. understandably the light 3s packs make for great agility which is why I had a lot of fun with proximity around the small trees in the park that I have close to work.
For FPV camera performance is good - as to be expected from the foxeer arrow micro CCD. VTX is clear in the right conditions and is better than most other micros however I do undersand this can be improved significantly with an AXII ufl antenna (or the cheaper UXII). Channel and power level is easy to change via the small button but as suggested above there is no smart audio or tramp protocol to do this over betaflight OSD.
Obviously I haven't tried on 4s yet (I am just choosing a 500-700mah 4s to order), but based on the performance of 3s I think this quad is a real winner.
Emax have done a fantastic job on not getting carried away on needlessly overspeccing the quad in areas you cannot really taking advantage of. In doing so they have a solid, robust and well priced offering that I can see becoming very popular like the babyhawk before it albeit with less shortcomings. Better still the support that emax appear to be offering beyond regular customer service such as offering tuned PIDs means that community support will mean there are always going to be clever fixes and modifications that will be available, making obsolesence for this model is less likely. Make no mistake obsolesence is a real issue with quads because once the community moves away from a model there is less support in total available.
Although experienced builders and customisers will still likely want to build their own, It is very easy to recommend this as a first 'racing' micro quad becuase of it's inherent features and support. As a micro quad builder myself it's hard for me to say but this is actually more enjoyable to fly than most of my custom builds because it all comes together so nicely. For that reason it is easy to recommend this to the more experienced set that just want to fly and not fiddle with the micro electronics etc - for example if you have come from 5 inch racing or freestyle quads.
The Emax BabyHawk R is currently available from Gearbest with or without receiver. The model without receiver is $166. If I get access to any specials I'll post on my coupons ans discounts page.
The Flyfox 110mm is a BNF Micro 2 inch quadcopter for newcomers HobbyCool.com. I was most interested in this micro quadcopter because so far as I can see, the BNF model here is completely exclusive to HobbyCool.
The frame is based on a 3mm bottom plate with 1.5mm sideplates attached by tabs and 3d printed standoff - very similar to the Leader 120 but with a different look and more importantly, a factory micro CCD camera. The frame with hardware on its own weighs 15g and is available here for less than $10. Speaking of the camera, it looks to be nicely protected by the frame without impacting the view however only a limited amount of camera angle is available as can be seen in the image below:
Electronics are fairly typical - F4 flight control and 20A DSHOT600 ESC. 2 nice suprises I was not expecting here though - tramp control of VTX (my first in a micro) and a baromoter in the flight controler (my first altogether!). ESC uses a JST connect which should be ok although I would have preferred a XT30. Voltage drop may or may not be an issue but in practicality in all except my lightest brushless quads (less than half this weight), it is a much more robust and convinient connector.
This quad is PNP so does not ship with a receiver so I used my favourite XMPlus for FRSKY. It does however ship with a nice 550mah 2s GNB battery which unfortunately for me is still with Hobbycool since getting batteries to where I live (NZ) is getting harder and harder. Lastly a buzzer and 2 x programmable LEDS are connected and mounted and 16 x Kingkong 2035 4 bladed props with screws are included.
All solder joints that I could see looked to be good, wires were well trimmed, routed and secured and the build quality looked good.
All up weight including props, battery strap but no battery is 78g which is heavy but it's worth noting that this is in a power class of it's own with these monstrous motors.
When I first plugged in betaflight configurator in I was expecting to see a dead stock list of settings but was pleased to find some customisation - see below for a list of stock settings which included a number of modes set, craft name, DSHOT600 etc but unfortunately no custom PIDs (or rates). Prior to the initial flight the only changes I made to setting were for my receiver with RSSI set to channel 16 and my stock modes - arm-disarm; angle-horizon-air; beeper off-beeper on.
Getting ready for FPV Maiden
Even before I started FPV I could tell from the hover test that the PIDs were too aggressive by the excessive fluttering I could hear. This is to be expected because the comparitively large motors have absolute control of the motors and so the feedback loop is exaggurated. I knocked P, I and D down for all three axes to get it in the air without risk of damage but it could certainly do with some more tuning to crispen up the controls. Since it was Betaflight 3.2.0 that was installed, PIDs were easily changed via OSD.
Since I did not have the stock 550mah 2S GNB battery (which is highly regarded) I used my turnigy bolt HV 2s 500mah 65c batteries charged to regular voltage with stock jst discharge connectors. For what it is worth, radio was FRSKY QX7s and goggles were the AOMWAY commander V1s. Takeoff weight was 104g
The quad powered on without issue and I was off flying immediately. I started with the stock propellers but switched the the Gemfan 2035 4-blades after finding that they had a bit more top end through a wider blade at the tip. Power was predictably high for a 2 inch but regardless of the large motors lacked a bit compared to a quad swinging a 2.5 inch prop (e.g. leader 120, HGLRC Hornet, Mini Fight). Update: After more time with the Gemfan 2040 Hulkie 3 bladed props I found I was able to get better performance again out of these 3 bladed props over either set of 4 blades. As I suspected when I first reviewed the hulkies, their stiffness and less blades are better suited to a high power setup.
Due to the large motor size response was excellent but given I tend to have a preference for light weight over power I found that hard flying took quite a toll on the batteries. For moderate to heavy flying I found I got about 2 minutes of flight on the 500mah batteries, which recovered to about 3.73 v per cell on resting. During flight though I did get a lot of warning of battery low and land now but in reality just need to change the battery voltage hysterisis setting to be a little more tolerant - article on how to do that here. Update: 15 packs later I consistently get 2 minutes on these batteries.
It is fair to say that between the large stator height of 6mm and very high kV of 7800, this motor is designed for 2s and no more - even trying 3s did not cross my mind... not only because of the likelihood of the motor cooking itself but because you simply cannot take advantage of it with the 2 inch props - it will just make more noise and heat.
Batteries and motors aside, the quad feels like any other high powered 2 inch - powerful but certainly not floaty where you need more throttle to make it change direction. Camera performance was on par with other CCD micro cameras including the Runcam swift micro, Foxeer arrow micro, HGLRC Elf, Furibee MS 1672. Video signal was good - typical for a dipole but like that it had the option of switching by 25mW-100mW-200mW via tramp protocol in the ESC. To be consistent with other reviews I stuck with 25mW. It's worth mentioning that when the vtx dipole is laying flat against the quads as in my pictures the reception is poor. Even when I temporarily bent it up performance improved a lot, but will cover this more in my list of recommendations.
The Flyfox 110mm BNF from Hobbycool is a high powered 2 inch drone that is well built and fairly priced at $129 the time of writing. It's key feature is the massively powerful 1106 AOKFLY motors that are fast but make the quad heavy and limits battery choice to 2s, even though the electronics can take up to 4s. These features make for a fast quad in a straight line that needs extra throttle in corners to help keep a line. The downside is that battery life is shortish - 2 minutes flat out on a 500mah battery. The kit is well provisioned with 16 propellers in total and a very nice 2s 550mah GNB battery.
The FlyFox 110mm BNF Micro brushless quadcopter is available exclusively at HobbyCool.com I'd like the thank Kevin for the sample he provided for me to review.
Since half of the planet is currently having weather that is forcing people indoors at the moment (not me haha!) I've reviewed some All In One (AIO) camera and VTX combos. Traditionally these have been used on tiny whoop style indoor brushed quads and smaller micro brushless quads although more and more brushless quads are using slightly heavier micro CCDs as standard.
Weight is still very much the name of the game in brushed quads as you'll struggle to get a 4:1 power to weight ratio even on the larger 8520-based brushed micros. This means CMOS-based AIO cameras are still the norm because they are so light. In this round up I've gone for some of the lightest cameras I can find and best of all, 2 include video in / video out so that no tricky wiring hacks are needed to run betaflight OSD.
Note: This is clearly not an exhaustive test, I happened to have a number of AIO camera at the same time I ordered for various micros so had a chance to compare. I though the improvements over the Eachine TX01 were impressive so thought it would be work sharing.
Clearly discussion on image quality is missing here - I found the 4 CMOS AIO camera above very similar and wouldn't be able to tell apart in a blind test. The only AIO I've picked up which is clearly inferior is the VM2751 standard on the leader which is not included in this shootout. I thought this camera/vtx was the weak point of the Leader 120 quadcopter.
For a micro brushed quad without an OSD I'd recommend the LST S2. For goodness sakes it is only $9!!! Further to that it is light, easy to change channel / band / video format and small.
For a micro brushed quad with OSD or if you are after every milligram of weight savings, get the CM275T. It is CRAZY light at 3.2g and has a very convinient video/in out so that you don't need to mod your cam just to enjoy betaflight OSD - assuming your FC supports it. I know it's at odds with what I said about brushless and ccd cameras but this will be going on my Eyas X2 rebuild going for the lightest 2" possible - targetng 35g with props. Here is my original X2 eyas build on rotorbuilds if your curious.
For a brushless quad 2s and up just get the micro swift or equivalent and the TX200 VTX. The video quality is just so superior in all but the best lighting conditions. VTX can be a little tricky with band / channel display but transmission quality is excellent and you have the ability to bump the transmission power up to 200mW.
The Beebee 66 is a micro 1s brushless powered quadcopter which is essentially a brushless Tiny Whoop. It is made by Full Speed RC, the same company that produced the highly successful Leader 120. (review here). Gearbest kindly supplied me a BNF Beebee 66 to review. I was desperately hoping for this to be the brushless answer to the tiny whoop but I'm really bummed out that it just isn't. Read on to find out why.
Adding a receiver
Since this was supplied as a BNF model, it came without a receiver. I opted to use the lightest FRSKY receiver I had on hand - an XM that I'd finally figured out how to fash with the RSSI channel 16 firmware. In most models this is a matter of soldering wires to the exposed pads on the top of the flight controller. However,since the FC and ESC are part of the structure of this quad AND the FC is flipped upside down to sit the ESC connector in a manageable location, the prop gaurd, 4 nylon nuts and the flight controller itself had to be removed before I could access the receiver solder pads. Then I needed the help of a multimeter to figure out ground, +5v and signal wires. Once soldered up with a short length of silicon wire to the receiver it was easy enough to re-assemble and tuck the XM reciever underneath the canopy behind the AIO camera/VTX. Pics below of course can explain this better:
It's not the end of the world wiring in a reciever here but can be fiddly with particularly small hardware. I'd recommend if you did buy this model that you purchase with the receiver of your choice pre-fitted.
Kept it pretty simple here. Because this is quite a different steup than I am used to I retained the stock settings on Betaflight 3.1.7 that it arrived with. All I did was set an arm switch and a mode switch for angle-horizon-air. Below are the default settings from Betaflight 3.1.7. Oh yeah, receiver had to be set up too. Like most f3 boards receiver is on UART 3.
The only other preparation was pretty straighforward. The included GNB High Voltage 1s 260mah Lipo battery was easily charged using the included USB adaptor and a micro usb cable I had on hand. Only 1 set of props was included that are press-fitted on the tiny 0705 fullspeed branded (Sunny Sky made) 0705 brushless motors. I left the VTX on the default channel for the initial flight that my Aomway Commanders (review here) picked up as 5905MHz.
Please look away if you love your Beebee 66 because it starts to get a bit ugly here. After fully charging the LiHV batteryand confirming everything was working ok I armed and found the props were fouling on the TPU canopy. Minor annoyance down to the tight tolerance in the slightly flexible TPU canopy. Easy enough to bend out of the way and I was back in action.
The first thing I noticed how loud the motors are - not in idle where they are practically silent but under any sort of load. Next as part of test with line of sight attempting a 'punchout' I could clearly see the quad dipping (pitch/roll) and twisting (yaw) under load. I'll attempt to tune this out later on and will post another review if successful. Moving on to line of sight I found the flight performance dull and uninspiring. What's worse was that after just one and a half minutes flight my battery was sagging down below 2.7v - the motors were clearly very demanding for their relatively mild output. I really wanted this quad to be a success and in fairness there is a chance I could have a less than perfect unit but my experience is my experience and I was disappointed. I do have some thoughts on how to improve though and I'll cover this in my Next Steps section below.
Comparison to a brushed micro
Please understand that these comments aren't made from isolation - I've had some experience with tiny whoops based on 7mm motors (like the JJRC H67 or Eachine E011) and although these are cheap brushed toy grade quads, they offered equivalent or better power and a flight time of 4 minutes plus on the same size battery with much smoother flight performance. A quick note that I actually tried the stock battery from the JJRC H67 (260mah non-HV) and got only 1 minute flight before it sagged below 2.7v under load. After recovery it bounced back to 3.65V but this same battery give my 4 minutes plus in my E011 FPV or santa whoop.
At this point I can't recommend this quad. The performance I experienced was poor and the flight time was unacceptable. My guess it that the brushless motors do not scale down well to 7mm, at this size the brushed motors seem to be more approprate. I'd recommend going in one of two directions:
I'm not content to leave things be with the Beebee 66 and the latest version of this model (Beebee 66 lite) has shown the direction I want to go in - removing weight. I'm skeptical of getting to the level of improvement I want but with some of the parts below I think I can replace the canopy with a simple camera holder. remove the propgaurd and TPU supports and save up to about 4g. Will this make enough difference? Not sure but will report back when I'm done. Make sure you bug me about the follow up in the comments if I'm too slow! Below are some of the weights of the components I'm interested in:
Gemfan have recently released the 2540 Flash propeller to add to their growing library of micro propellers. This time rather than sticking with their 'Hulkie' naming on the 1940 and 2040 propellers, they have gone with 'flash' from their popular 5" 5152 prop.
The design is stylistically similar to the 5152 in that it is a swooping 3 bladed propeller with a pronounced wingtip. Colours currently available as below. I like the yellow as they are easy to find!
The material feels very much the same as the gemfan 2040 Hulkies which I reviewed here but the design is much more refined and so will not make any further comparisons as design will impact performance and durability more than material.
For testing I used my Leader 120. This is a popular model and I have put 80 odd packs through this one making it a good test mule. Also, I have experimented with other props like the Gemfan 3025 alongside the stock King kong 2840 for more than one point of reference.
Since this frame will fit a 2.8 inch 2840 prop there is plenty of room on a 2.5 inch 2540 without losing too much blade area. No issue installing so will move on to flight performance.
Performance on 2s
The first thing I noticed about these props is that they were very quiet. I flew in a reserve where there were several people enjoying the sun and very few people even noticed the quad flying about. The noise made was even less than the 2840s which are already very quiet. On 2s the performance was almost on par with the 2840s. I was able to hover at around 25% throttle with a 47g 950mah 2s battery and had flat out speed close to the 2840s. Cornering (grip) felt about 90% as good as the 2840s which is the grippiest quad/prop I have - even more than my 5" racing floss 2. Balance was excellent with no increase in jello at high throttle over the 2840s which have always been well balanced for me.
Battery life was definitely superior to the 2840 props. As you'll see from my pics below I got around 6 minutes from the 950mah battery with fairly heavy throttle flights as I was in a large reserve. This is about a minute more the the king kong 2840s with similar flying and comparable times to the Gemfan 3025 (although the 3025s were slower on 2s). It was an enjoyable 6 minutes too - the quad felt tight with these on.
Performance on 3s
For 3s testing I used my Turnigy Nantoech 3s 450mah 65C batteries that weigh approximately 45g.
The performance gap between the stock 2840 and new 2540 propellers were even less pronounced than on 2s. If there was a difference in performance compared to the 2840s in top speed or cornering grip I could not tell. The advantages did remain though - 2540 propellers were again more quiet and I had a similar increase in battery life: from roughly 3 minutes of hard flying to roughly 3.5 minutes+ hard flying (see below). Lastly at higher RPM I actually had less jello than any prop I have used on this quad before. This suggests they have excellent balance.
In short I got all of the benefits I enjoyed on 2s with none of the downsides.
Oddly enough I haven't had a crash worth speaking of yet. I'll update here once I've had a view and can give more of an opnion on this.
Simply put these are now my favourite prop on both 2s and 3s for the Leader 120. I can only guess that the more modern design helps get the efficiency up over the 2840 on 2s with very nearly the same top speed and grip through corners. On 3s the gap was even less and I'd struggle to tell the difference between these and the 2840s. The only real change was that there was less noise and more flight time.
In conclusion these will be my go-to prop from now on my leader 120 on 2s or 3s. The slight downside of marginally less top speed and cornering grip is easily outweighed by the reduced noise and improved battery life. Give them a try for yourself, they are inexpensive.
Time for a cheap, high performing tiny whoop build with a twist - Christmas style. I know it is a novelty but the JJRC H67 Flying Santa Claus RC Quadcopter is actually the Eachine E011 in disguise. The E011 in my mind is the absolute best starting poing for a tiny whoop with the larger 716 motors that have absolutely no problem lifting an All In One (AIO) camera. So what make this build so special? Freakin' Santa Claus does!
The JJRC drone is in Christmas themed colours and comes with a Santa minifig. The best (and most annoying part as a parent) is the noisy sound module on board that plays a Christmas tune. As a stand alone unit this is a micro brushed quad that flies very well albeit with a small but proportional remote. Of particular note, the motors and battery are very good and will give you a genuine 5 minutes of throttle-heavy flight time. Included in this pack is:
This quad is a lot of fun but it needs more FPV! I used the LST - S2 5.8G 800TVL HD Micro CMOS FPV Camera which is tiny and weighs only 3.5g. I've built an E011 whoop before with a 5g AIO Eachine TX01 camera and it had no problem lifting that. This new LST camera will offer much better performance even the seemingly small 1.5g weight difference has a very big performance impact on these brushed whoops.
See below for pictorial instructions for mounting the camera in the spirit of Christmas. The minifig is very heavy at 4g but I couldn't leave santa out of this garish whoop so will take him off when we start taking the Christmas decorations down, weight savings will have to wait for now.
Here is a handy tip given the crappy stock reciever range. Drill a 2mm hole on the canopy as shown above and poke the antenna through it. You get over 100% more range which is absolutely necessary as this does not have a failsafe and will fly away from you if you lose signal!
In conclusion this is an absolute bargain for a basic little FPV rig. To date all of cheaper fpv ready whoops have the smaller and less powerful 6mm motors and I'm suprised that a 7mm motors FPV ready unit hasn't been released. No problem though, as you can see above building this is not difficult or expensive and much more rewarding. The set up as above flies well enough but needs quite a bit of throttle. When you decide to take the minifig, canopy and speaker out you'll find performance will increase dramatically but that can wait till after the novelty has worn off :)
If you want to use your own hobby-grade transmitter and have the full control of betaflight with acro/air mode, check out part 2: Adding the Furibee F3 Flight Controller. I'll have a link live here by 4 November.
Parts in this build:
See this page for current bargains on Gearbest for play and racing
This is part 2 of my review of the Leader 120 by Full Speed from Gearbest. For part 1 click here. As at September 2017 try code HarvestRCnew7 to get this for only $US93.99!
None of the dreaded "brown outs" here
Straight up I have had none of the reported issues of brownouts as many of the youtube reviewers found on the first version of the Leader 120. In saying that my review modelis version 2 which I has the fullspeed branded black motors. The default idle speed of which there was a lot of chatter about was set at 10% from the factory in Betaflight 3.1.7. This is very high and reducing it to my regular 3.5% caused no issues. So on to the more interesting stuff!
This is a great little flier, As I expected from hearing the motors run in betaflight they are very quiet and coupled with the well-balanced KK 2840 props it lets off very little noise in flight. Coupled with the size, this makes it much more socially acceptable to be flying in areas that aren't completed isolated. The rates are not stock either and I actually really liked them, even compared to my stock betaflight 3.2.0 settings when I flew my 5" quad immediately afterwards. There are an awful lot of micros that have poor or no tuning from the factory so was escpecially pleased when the tuning here required practically nothing for those either lacking the know-how or too lazy to do. Power is excellent on 2s and comparable to many 2" quads on the 3s - the bigger props and relatively light weight really make these motors come alive. Handling was predicatable and I felt I had good control even in heavy gusts.
The stock battery can be described as adequate. I can see the voltage alarms were set low at 3.0 warning, 2.9 critical to allow for the sag but it keeps you in the air with moderate flying for up to 4 minutes. Considering I was able to flow without esc desync, losing vtx signal or getting failsafe, this probably makes it better than 90% of included batteries out there (not kidding).
I'll have a follow up tips and tricks article soon where I look at some of the other internationally available battery options including 3s.
FPV - Camera and VTX
Ahh a chink in the armour. Hitting a sharp price point eventually means compromise and I think I've found it. Typical of All In One (AIO) cameras this handled low light on a dull day poorly even with the focus correct. Kind of makes branches jump out at you when flying under trees - that's my excuse anyway. Secondly although the VTX does well enough for 25mW, it still only does 25mW. That means that I started seeing breakup at 100-150M away or as soon as I was on the wrong side of even small trees. The good news is you can pop this on your RC car or tiny whoop (I STRONGLY recommed the Eachine E011) and upgrade this one. There is more than enough lift for the extra weight of a micro CCD camera like the Foxeer arrow micro or Runcam swift micro and a Vtx like the new one from fullspeed that is 25mW/200mW switchable to mount on the back. I'll be making such a change in the near future and reporting back in a new article in the tips and tricks section.
This model is an amazing combination of well-matched parts with good assembly and a custom tune making it compelling on paper. I'm pleased to say that this transfers into flight characteristics and power making it an option you should definitely be considering if looking at a micro in 2017. I personally think this frame size that allows for a 2.8" prop rather than 2" is much better matched to this motor size and not nearly so sensitive to weight meaning for a more robust and enjoyable flying experience. My only real gripe is the video quality where camera light handling and vtx power lets it down. It is hard to argue at this price point though and in a future article I'll be doing a budget mod to address this.
Most interestingly, I built a model from parts that was very similar to this before this model was announced. Cutting to the chase the PNP version from Gearbest was more quiet and felt more solid in the air (perhaps due to the tune/rates) than my own build. Power was similar: although noisier I think the DYS motors had an edge although for the small difference I prefered the ones in this PNP model. I preferred the adjustible power vtx on the model I built to bump up power but this is really starting to split hairs. This does have me second guessing my build vs buy strategy but I think this is testament to the well thought out component list Full Speed have chosen.
Buy the Leader 120 from Gearbest
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