Syma X5SW FPV Review
Nowadays, you no longer have to spend a fortune for a drone that offers FPV. Let’s not even talk about what the expense would have been a decade ago. For a while, only the upper-end professional drones (like DJI machines) offered FPV. And you’d have to pay a price for that. With the evolution of drone technology, there are a whole fleet of drones under $200 that sport the same features and capabilities as professional drones (except for the fact that they’re smaller, with cheaper equipment and of lesser quality).
So purchase a drone that’ll offer the full-range of the drone flight experience on a budget. Among these less expensive, very capable drones is the Syma X5SW (under $100). It’s been called the perfect drone for beginners who want to learn the ropes of drone piloting, and the perfect drone to serve as an introduction into the sUAV space. In this review, we’re going to break down the features of this ultra affordable drone and explain why it’s the ‘best bang for your buck’ and why it’s truly a staple of drone-engineering.
Syma X5SW FPV — compatible with your smartphone/tablet.
For starters, let’s give you some scope. A lot of reviews will just throw you to the lions and delve into the pros and cons without first establishing the nature of the drone. So here’s a concise overview of the X5SW’s specifications:
- Size of motor: 8 x 20mm coreless
- 120g in weight (this includes battery, camera, and prop guards attached). Note: no FAA registration required since it is not over 250g.
- Diagonal motor distance: 230mm
- Overall dimensions with prop guards attached: 310 X 310 X 105mm (yes, it’s small)
- Flight time without add-ons (6-10 minutes)
- Flight time with payload maxed (about 4 minutes)
- Control distance of 50m
- 3.7V 500mAh LiPo battery
- Charging time is two hours
- FPV capable
- Transmitter: 4 x 1.5v (needs AA batteries – which are NOT included)
That’s the Syma X5SW in a nutshell. For those of you who are familiar with Syma products, you’re probably aware of the other X5 models (X5SC & X5S). So how do these compared? Basically, the X5SW is the X5SC with an antenna added on to support the FPV system (neither of the earlier units can support FPV). They’re even shipped in the same box with the same accessories and build. The other improvement is in the camera itself. The X5SW has the best camera in the line, but we’ll dive into that later.
First person view? Worth it?
The most impressive thing about the Syma X5SW is the fact that for under $100 you can livestream FPV. Now you’re going to get what you pay for. The FPV is WiFi hotspot generated (a built-in unit integrated in the drone itself), so you’re not going to have the clarity that you see in upper-end drones. That should be obvious. Just because they’re capable of the same things, doesn’t mean they can do it to the same way.
In fact, the FPV livestreams at a very low quality. What you’re getting here is the feel of FPV itself, so that beginners can understand what it means to see what the drone sees and become accustomed to that view before advancing to a more professional machine. The transmission range is strong, and it’s incredibly useful when capturing aerial photography.
Because of the less expensive system, you’ll get some latency. In simple words, there will be a lag between the time the drone ‘sees’ something to the time it streams onto your smartphone or tablet. That means you’ll be seeing everything a second or two later, which can dramatically affects piloting: you can’t rely completely on the FPV for flying your drone, but rather to preview your shots. You’ll still need to pilot the Syma X5SW via line-of-sight. Otherwise you’re playing with fire. You don’t want to crash it.
The Syma application is compatible with either Android or Apple iOS, and there’s actually a holder for your phone on the transmitter (controller, for those of you unfamiliar with drone jargon).
What’s the transmitter like?
Short answer: pretty standard for these little machines. It comes with an LCD screen that streams flight statistics: flight time, battery life, WiFi strength, distance, and more. The directional controls were engineered for user-simplicity. It’s incredibly easy to move the drone in the direction you intend (up, down, left, right) and for such a cheap machine, the controls are surprisingly accurate.
For such a small, affordable drone, the Syma X5SC is quite nimble. We tested it in an indoor environment and used the controls to perform aerial maneuvers such as flips and rolls. As stated before, so long as the drone is within frequency range, the controls are accurate. It transmits at 2.4 GHz, so you might get some interference depending on where you’re flying. Also, you can switch from beginner to advanced modes by a click of a button on the transmitter itself.
It fits well in your hands (although it feels cheap) and it outperforms what you’d expect from a transmitter directing a $60 drone.
Camera quality: how bad is it?
Surprisingly, it’s better than you’d expect. On paper it’s not impressive, the camera is a 640 x 480 pixel, .3 MP capable unit. But let’s be reasonable here, you’re not going to get anything better than that for the price of this drone (and it DOES support FPV). After testing out the camera, we were actually surprised at the clarity of the photos and videos. Although it’s no better than the specs, it’s definitely not as grainy as we expected and it tested better than we anticipated in low light.
However, if you’re going to buy this drone, you’re not buying it because you want to take quality aerial photography that you’ll be proud of and can sell. It’s not engineered for that. You’re buying it because you want to learn the process of aerial photography rather than reaping the rewards from it. Compared to other cameras, what the Syma X5SW supports pales in comparison, but for what it’s worth it’s an excellent addition.
Note: the camera does NOT record audio.
How about the build? Is this drone durable? How does it fly?
Yes. One of the Syma trademarks is durability. These drones are built for beginners, those who simply want a fun toy, and for where the potential for crashing is vastly greater. Syma accounts for this and considers this in the design. With the prop guards attached and the extra propellers that come with the box, even if you do crash and break a propeller you’re going to be okay.
As a whole, it’s pretty crash-resistant. Structurally, the X5SW has an integrated 6-axis-gyroscopic flight system. That’s pretty much the standard for these little drones, and it helps the flight dynamic, maneuverability, and flight stability. You’ll notice its fluidity and the way it naturally wants to right itself when you put it in the air. Once you’re comfortable enough to start trying out the aerial acrobatics, these tendencies continue. The drone relies on its build to maintain motion and preserve stability.
As far as flight-performance goes, it flies well, especially for what you’d expect. It’s best flying indoors, but with perfect weather it can fly outdoors as well. Of course, there are ways to fly in the wind (using forward trim) but let’s be realistic. This drone weighs 120g. If you try and fly it in even mildly windy conditions the drone will be fighting weather. If you want more flight capacity and higher speeds, you can detach the camera and prop guards, as neither of them are built-in.
In terms of aesthetics, it comes in black or white and has LED lights that help identify orientation. It has that sort of, modern, sophisticated, science-fiction-police drone vibe that pairs well with its offsetting colored prop guards. Also, the LED lights will help if you ever want to fly in the dark.
Autonomous components? Intelligent features?
Aside from its flight stabilization system, there’s only one feature this drone comes equipped with: headless mode. If you’re not familiar, headless mode allows you to fly the drone in forward, to your left or right, relative to where you stand, despite which way is front, side, or back on the machine. So you don’t need to be able to see where the front and back of the drone are. If you push forward on the controls, the drone is going to fly in that direction relative to you rather than according to its orientation. This is especially helpful when first learning to pilot, as it can be rather difficult to maintain orientation through visual line-of-sight. Note also that these drones are very small, so even if they have indicators that help identify front and back, it’s really easy to lose them while they fly up in the air. Headless mode reduces the risk of crashes and loss by allowing for beginner pilots to have more control.
Not so great. Only about 4 minutes with all systems go. That means if you only have one battery, you’ll have to wait two hours, fly for four minutes, then wait for two hours again. The 3.7 volt 500 mAh LiPo just doesn’t cut it. You’ll get a bit more life if you take off the camera and prop guards, but even then a couple more minutes. We suggest you buy another battery (or 5) if you’re going to fly this quadcopter. Have a stock of charged batteries on hand for flight time.
Note: some of these little machines are intended to take rests between flights. Their little mechanic can’t really sustain a solid thirty minutes of flying, even if you have all the charged batteries. It’s good to give the little tyke about ten minutes of downtime between flights anyhow; that will reduce the risk of hardware failure.
What’s in the box??? (Seven, anyone?)
Below we’ve included what comes in the box. Note, replacement and additional parts for this drone are plentiful, and Syma as a company is (generally) good with communication and hasty deliveries.
- One X5SW RC quadcopter (with camera included)
- One Transmitter
- One Mobile Phone Holder (attaches to transmitter)
- User Manual
- USB Charger
- Extra Propeller Set
- LiPo Battery
- Color Gift Box For The X5 Series
This drone does not come RTF and does require some assembly. However, the only additional parts you’ll need to get going are AA batteries for the transmitter. So as soon as you assemble it, charge the batteries and put them in the transmitter, you’re ready to put this thing in the air.
The Syma X5SW FPV is a toy, but an optimized toy. We think it’s a great introduction to the drone space for those of you who don’t have the money to buy a mid grade drone ($200-$600). Although you’re not going to take quality aerial photographs, or fly around with the precision of a racing drone, you’ll get a feel for the both. Perhaps you’ll love it so much you’ll commit to the hobby and upgrade.
Aside from a ‘simulation introductory experience’ it’s just a fun toy. Plain and simple. It’s easy to use, flies around well, and can take aerial footage. For its price, it’s a perfect gift for an adolescent who wants to kill some time at home, or has an affinity for gadgets. This drone very much follows the rule of thumb you get what you pay for but also impresses us with its versatility, FPV capabilities, and flight performance. Definitely worth picking up if you want to see what drones are all about, or if you want to give someone a cool gift.