It’s flying season! Or, rather, it’s meant to be flying season but the weather doesn’t seem to want to cooperate. Despite the fact it’s the summer holidays here in Scotland, we’ve had some impressive downpours lately (no jokes about that being the Scottish summer, please).
Despite weather woes, I’ve been enjoying testing out the Syma X5SC Quadcopter, kindly sent to me by Mobile Fun. You may have seen my previous review of the Syma X4 Quadcopter, and the X5SC is its bigger brother. So let’s have a look at what Big Brother is like.
Like the X4, the X5Sc is a 4 channel, 6 axis machine. That gives it the full range of movement we’ve come to expect from the most modern RC flying machines. It has four running lights, the front two being red and the rear two being green. That’s handy if you lose your bearings and need to work out which end is the front.
The running lights are a little different to those on the X4 in that they’re not front-facing. Instead, they’re on the underside of the prop arms. Why is this? Well, if I’m honest, I think it’s to make the X5SC look like a DJI Phantom. We’ll come back to that in a little while because the lights aren’t the only Phantom-like feature.
The controller has a nifty LCD screen on it which tells you how much input you are putting into the control sticks. It’s kind of cool, but I have to say I spend most of my time looking at the quadcopter itself rather than trying to fly by looking at instrumentation. Apart from anything else, you can’t tell how high you are flying or what your actual position is in your flight space.
The major difference between the X5SC and the X4 is the inclusion of a 2-megapixel camera. This can be triggered from the controller to take either a still photograph or capture video. The camera is not stabilised in any way, so when I was flying in windy conditions or near my house, the footage was rather shaky. Take it to a place where there is little wind, or in a field or park where there are fewer eddies to try and deal with, and the footage is actually pretty good. It’s not going to be winning any Oscars, but it’s really nice to be able to download your footage after a flight and see things from a different angle.
Yes, I did say download your footage. The camera carries a microSD card (included in the box) so you need to insert that into the provided USB adapter to view what you have recorded. There is no way to view your footage on the controller, either during flight or afterwards.
Is it easy to fly?
Oh right, more detail is required. The X5SC is a larger beast than the X4, so that makes it a little more stable in flight, and a little more capable of dealing with being blown about if the wind does get up. I would caution, however, that the X5SC is very light for its size, so it doesn’t take too much for it to be blown off course. I took it up over my house at one point and it got caught by an unexpected gust of wind… cue panic as I struggled to bring it back home again.
If you’re careful, though, you shouldn’t run into any difficulties.
If you want to fly indoors, that’s a possibility. The X5Sc comes with prop protectors, which you can screw into place with the screwdriver that comes in the box. That should help prevent you from accidentally decapitating your favourite houseplant although, again, a bit of care is required.
The stated battery life is 5 minutes from a full charge (which takes about an hour). I’ve been getting about 7 minutes out of it, though, so I think the figure given is a little conservative. Perhaps I’ve been lucky and got a good battery, but so far I am getting better performance than expected.
The specified maximum range is 50m, and I reckon that’s about right. The signal was just starting to drop out when I got the X5SC caught in that gust of wind, and I would estimate that happened at around the 50m mark.
Oh, one more thing. The X5SC features the same 360-degree flip trick as the X4. Let me tell you that produces some nice camera footage!
I remember when I first saw a DJI Phantom drone, and I thought it looked quite distinctive with its landing feet, tapered prop arms, and the navigation lights underneath. While the photo of the X5SC on Mobile Fun’s website, and indeed on the box itself, is black, the quadcopter I received was actually white.
The body shape, the landing legs (I understand why there are here… you don’t want to land on your camera!), and the fact that the navigation lights are under the prop arms, really puts me in mind of a Phantom. I don’t know if it’s deliberate or a chance happening, but the similarity is definitely there. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but just something I wanted to mention.
While there are definitely things that feel a little cheap about the Syma X5SC, I think it’s important to put it into its proper context. This quadcopter is cheap, or good value if you prefer to phrase it that way.
At £35 (at the time of writing) you get a great toy and a great introduction to quadcopter flying. The inclusion of a camera, even if the footage needs to be downloaded after your flight is over, is a nice touch and adds to the fun.
I wouldn’t have any hesitation recommending the Syma X5SC to someone looking to purchase a quadcopter on a budget, and don’t have any hesitation recommending it to you. Pop on over to Mobile Fun and check it out there.
Update: Someone asked on Facebook what the rules are about where you can fly quadcopters, and I realised I broke one of them while testing this out. Drones fitted with cameras should remain 50m away from buildings or vehicles not owned or operated by the drone pilot. I should not have had the camera fitted while flying in my back garden. So, two things: Firstly, the camera is removable. Secondly, when I’ve got a camera fitted, I’ll be off to the park from now on. You may want to bear this in mind yourself when considering buying a camera-equipped drone.