User-friendly and on the lower end of the Ready-to-Fly (RTF) drone price spectrum, the Blade 350 QX3 is a consumer-grade quadcopter offering enough features to keep even dedicated drone enthusiasts happy.
The base model of the QX3 comes video photography ready but does not include a camera.
In a departure from its usual product line setup, Blade has opted to offer the QX3 in three different packages – one of which does include a 16MP camera capable of recording 1080p video at 60 frames per second (for a price, of course).
Blade’s newest offering packs a lot of features and a price point that is reasonable for its capabilities, but is it worth the money or are you better off purchasing a competing product in the same price range?
Keep reading to find out…
Contents (Jump to)
Overview of the QX3
It was only a few months ago that Blade released the 350 QX2 AP Combo and although this quadcopter was a competent contender in the intermediate-level drone market, there were a couple of things Blade could have done differently.
The CG01 camera of the QX2, for instance, left much to be desired and although the 2-axis gimbal of that model worked well, getting good aerial shots remained rather elusive for QX2 pilots.
The QX3, on the other hand, sports a new camera (CG02) mounted on the 3-axis gimbal as well as a bunch of other new features that put the QX3 miles ahead of its predecessor in terms of overall quality and functionality.
The QX3’s camera is attached to an integrated 3-axis gimbal that stabilizes the camera across the pitch, roll, and yaw axes. Unfortunately, only the pitch can be manually controlled by the pilot but overall the gimbal performed very well in a variety of flight configurations and shooting scenarios. The CG02 camera is capable of capturing 16MP still photos and can record video at 1080p and an impressive 60fps – the CG01 was only capable of 1080p at 30fps.
Other new features of the QX3 include an 8GB microSD card for onboard recording of photos and videos as well as a USB cable that can be used to configure the quadcopter firmware.
BNF Version: As previously mentioned, the QX3 is offered in three packages. The first, and most basic, package is the Bind and Fly (BNF) version. Equipped with a fixed camera mount capable of accepting GoPro and other popular action cameras, this unit does not come with a transmitter or camera but is significantly less expensive than the other two packages offered by Blade.
Nano Version: The second package is called the Blade Nano QX3 RTF and according to the manufacturer, this is the best quadcopter kit for first-time pilots. The RTF comes equipped with a Spektrum DX4 transmitter but still doesn’t include a cameras.
AP Combo: Finally, the Blade 350 QX3 AP Combo is available and this package does come with the new CG02 camera setup as well as the Spektrum DX4 transmitter. While this unit is the only unit ready to record out of the box, its steeper price point may be a turn off to some drone pilots, especially those just getting into the hobby of aerial photography.
Blade QX3 Performance
Equipped with a 3000 mAh battery that powers the drone and the onboard camera (if equipped), the QX3 achieves consistent flight times of 10-15 minutes depending on flying conditions.
While this is generally considered an acceptable flight time for most drones, some of the DJI products with comparable features can achieve flight times of nearly twice as long and with such a large battery, Blade could have taken steps to make the unit more battery-efficient.
Flight speeds are about average with a top speed of around 20 meters per second. The control range of the QX3 is only about 100 feet. This short range could present a challenge for some pilots as it can make it difficult to capture difficult shots without flying the drone out of radio range.
Where the QX3 really shines is in the navigation department. Regardless of the transmitter used to control the quadcopter, it’s very easy to maneuver, even for novice pilots. The QX3 sports three different flight modes that alter the way it flies and responds to pilot inputs.
The most basic of these flying modes is called “Smart Mode” and is the perfect choice for new pilots. In Smart Mode, stick relativity is enabled–allowing the drone to move in the direction the user wants regardless of which way its nose is oriented.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is aerial photography (AP) mode. This disables the stick relativity feature, thus providing more control over hovering when filming tracking or action shots.
Despite the improvements to the camera for the new model, the CG02 still falls into the mid-range quality category at best. Although 60fps at full 1080p seems good enough, testing showed that the colors appeared very saturated during recording.
One area that Blade has failed to address is smartphone compatibility. The control app is available for both Android and iOS devices; however, at this time it is only available on high-end products from Samsung, HTC, Sony, and Apple.
For the QX3 to really gain popularity, the app needs to be available to a larger assortment of mobile devices.
In terms of safety features, Blade has done a good job. Programmable flight boundaries can be set up by the pilot and the drone also features the SAFE Circle Flight Boundary system.
This system basically creates an imaginary circle around the pilot that the QX3 cannot cross. This prevents the drone from wandering outside of radio range and crashing.
The QX2 was a solid quadcopter platform with its only major flaw being the inferior camera.
The improved CG02 camera included with the AP package is adequate for most amateur aerial photographers and for professionals, the popular GoPro HERO line of action cameras work well with this unit. You can see below where to insert the GoPro, if you decide to go this route.
Other improvements to the drone design such as a new throttle setup and the addition of the significantly more nimble “Agility” flight mode combine to create a solid drone platform that transcends the boundary between entry-level consumer style quadcopters and more professional-level equipment at a price that fits snuggly in between the two extremes.
Pros of the QX3
- Flight and navigation controls work exceptionally well
- Multiple packages available depending on features needed
- Functional safety features not typically found in drones in this price range
- User friendly controls (i.e. Smart Mode)
- Competitive price point
- Ability to take still photos while recoding video (CG02 camera-equipped units only)
Cons of the QX3
- Excessive color saturation when recording video at full resolution
- Mobile app only available for select, high-end phone models
- Comparatively short battery life
- Short control range
Overall, the Blade 350 QX3 is a solid performer with enough features to keep most enthusiasts entertained for quite a while.
The short control range and limited battery life, however, may quickly frustrate more experienced drone pilots and the reality is that for only a few hundred dollars more, a pilot can purchase one of the high-end DJI Phantom products that boast a better camera and gimbal setup as well as a vastly longer control range.
Is the QX3 worth the cost? It might be depending on whether or not you already own a GoPro and just need a flying platform to mount it or if you are looking for an all-encompassing aerial photography solution. Be sure to check out this listing for the best discounts.
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!