Wants and Needs (1): A Quadcopter Romance

My appetite for cool toys and gadgets can no longer be dissuaded by my inherited frugality; I must buy a Quadcopter. Let’s face it, even as we get older, there are some toys that are simply too cool to be forgotten and not played with. As a kid, I was always too concerned that I might end up breaking any flying RC toys I received for Christmas, and I therefore rarely flew them. Naturally, these fragile Air Hogs toys would inevitably get broken due to neglect or by pretending to fly them and “blow them up” while playing with army guys. As I got older, these toys became too childish for a kid my age and people stopped nevertheless, two Christmases ago, my parents got me a small little green RC helicopter (I believe it was a Syma s107). It was 30 or 40 dollars and they figured that I might like it enough to make it worthwhile to get. Although I’m fairly certain that I played some of the video games first (at the time I held stock in Activision so, in a way, it was a company evaluation) I actually spent a good deal of time playing with this simple RC helicopter. I had a lot of fun just flying it around and trying to land it in different places. I would likely still be playing with it today if it hadn’t broken after two week’s use. I must’ve landed it a little too hard during that last flight because it was surprisingly not the blades of the copter that broke, but rather one of the plastic gears on the inside; I found out some time later that the tail motor was burned out, although I’m not sure if that’s related.
Ever since then I’ve been trying to find a better RC copter that is less likely to break and easier to fly. What I’ve found is that Quadcopters seem to be at the top of the RC food chain dude to their superb flight stability. Flight stability not only allows the copter to fly and handle more easily, but it also creates a perfect platform for aerial photography and live streaming; turning a basic Quadcopter into a miniature drone.
A few months ago I got very interested in buying a cheap Quadcopter for flying around my house, but I never pursued buying one because I felt that it would be a waste of money (my dad is pretty frugal and this trait has clearly been passed on to me).
Recently however, I decided to take another look into my favorite models of Quadcopter, and I looked up reviews of some new ones. I don’t want anything too expensive or elaborate but something that will hopefully not break right away. I think I have to be somewhat understanding that at some point the toy will likely break. I’m willing to accept that as long as I get my fun out of it and maybe become a better pilot in the process.
Even in the realm of Quadcopters, there is a seriously wide range of sizes that one can buy. I personally find the smaller Quadcopters to be exceptionally cool, and given that I intend to fly my copter indoors, having a smaller model would seem appropriate.

One of the first models I became interested in was the Blade Nano QX (Avg. price: $89.99)


This little Quadcopter is a small one, but that’s not its claim-to-fame. What the Nano QX does bring to the table is its incredible flight stability and Blade’s Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope (SAFE) technology. Looking into reviews for this Quadcopter, it’s obviously a top contender on any RC enthusiast’s list. Not only does the copter fly perfectly and keep extremely level, the Nano QX also has built in blade protectors which, as the name may suggest, protect the blades from getting damaged during a hard landing and even from contact with a low ceiling. The down sides to this copter are its price and its slightly larger size. As micro Quadcopters go, the Nano QX is on the high end of both size and price, which for some can be a deal breaker.

Another crowd favorite which caught my eye was the Hubsan X4 (H107) (Avg. price: $40-$50)


The X4 brings a few things to the table which counter the Nano QX. The first obvious difference is size. The Hubsan measures out to a mere 60*60mm, compared to the 140*140mm Nano QX. The second and possibly more relevant bonus is the X4’s incredible RC controller. The additional features of this remote allow the pilot to easily perform flips and other cool aerobatic moves which make the copter a much more interesting toy. The down sides to this copter would have to be its exposed blades and its overall heaviness (a good and bad quality).

Last but not least is a relatively new Quadcopter that is upping the game …by making the game really really small; the Estes Proto X (Avg. price: $39.99)


The Proto X surpasses the Hubsan X4 in small size with its 45*45mm frame. Although dimensionally the two are not substantially different (4:3), the weight difference between them is. Due to the Hubsan’s thick plastic frame, this copter weighs in at a whopping 24.66 grams; surpassing the Nano QX at 16.5 grams and the Proto X at a mere 11.5 grams.
While yes, the size of this truly Micro copter is certainly impressive, one must also keep in mind that the Proto X has other “unique” features that do not necessarily make it more attractive. Starting with the copter itself, one will quickly notice that its frame is built from its own circuit board. as precarious as that may seem, the reviews I have read and listened to on YouTube all mentioned that since the copter weighs so little, this really hasn’t been an issue for them and they still feel that the copter is pretty durable. The other major issue is actually with the provided controller. Many have made the joke that “just because this is a micro-copter, does not mean we need a micro-controller”. For some reason the Proto X controller is very small! I have fairly small hands and I don’t believe this will be an issue for me, but for others with thicker fingers, having too small of a controller was the deal breaker; an unfortunate pitfall for an otherwise very cool little copter. Luckily, there is a quick fix for this issue. Hubsan and Estes must use the same technology in the brains of their copters because the controllers of the Hubsan and the Proto X are interchangeable. Therefore, for those consumers with bigger hands, there is always the option of buying the Hubsan controller separately. This will cost more money of course, but it is a solution nevertheless.

So to summarize, the Nano QX is the most expensive by far, probably the most durable, arguably the easiest to fly and the largest in size; the Hubsan X4 is a medium size quad, is still quite durable, flies almost as well as the Nano QX and is only half the cost; and the Proto X is the smallest, lightest and the cheapest of the three, and is surprising durable given its size.

In the end, the Proto X’s small size won me over. Both of the other copters are still favorites of mine and I may decide to buy them in the future, but for now I’m going to see how much fun I have with this very little guy



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