Hubsan is one of the best-known brands in consumer drone technology among hobbyists and the extremely small X4 product line is no exception. Previous X4 quadcopters such as the H107C were quite popular due to their small size and camera.
Unfortunately, the camera on the previous model could only be used to record video and view the feed after landing. Hubsan has addressed this issue with the new X4 FPV (first-person view), otherwise known as the H107D.
By relying on a 4.3” LCD screen built into the control unit, X4 FPV pilots can see what the camera sees in real-time for a true FPV experience in a ridiculously small package.
Available for under $150 dollars for multiple retailers (see here), this small and relatively inexpensive mini drone offers a lot of features and the coolness factor that only comes from the ability to fly by FPV.
Overview of the Hubsan X4
- Camera and Video: The camera included in the X4 FPV is nothing fancy, only boasting a 0.3MP sensor with 640 x 480 resolution. Interestingly enough, the image on the 4.3” LCD is displayed at 720 x 480 (normal) but the video is recorded at 720 x 240.
- This means that if you plan to use the video footage recorded during flight for anything, the raw footage needs to be stretched to 480 using a converter program. For Windows users, Hubsan has included a few links to free converter programs that can be used for this purpose but Mac users may have a slightly harder time finding a freeware converter program. AnyVideo Converter HD is available for six dollars and this is probably the best bet for computer users of the Apple variety.
- Dimensions: The X4 FPV is a mere 4.5 inches (measured diagonally) but feels solid despite its small size.
- Power Source: The included 380 mAh lithium polymer battery takes approximately 30 minutes to recharge using the included USB cable and nets average flight times of approximately seven minutes on a full charge.
- Controls: This quadcopter features six-axis stabilization and auto-leveling. The transmitter also has a microSd card slot that can be used to record video taken with the FPV camera. Turning video recording on and off is as simple as pushing a button the control unit and the X4 even has a “flip” function that automatically initiates a flip maneuver when the sticks are yanked all the way left and then immediately right.
- Telemetry: One nice feature that Hubsan added to this product is a simple telemetry system that sends the current battery voltage back to the transmitter where it is displayed on the LCD screen. This simple function really helps when judging how much flying time you have left. Also, the transmitter is designed to shut down the screen when the AA batteries are low while still allowing the pilot to control the aircraft for landing. This definitely helps to avoid crashes due to low transmitter power.
- Transmitter: The transmitter also has a mini UB port that can be used to upgrade the device firmware and two video outputs that are compatible with Hubsan Video Goggles for a true FPV experience. Actually, any FPV goggles should work assuming a compatible connector is available. Of note, however, is that many pilots have complained that the limited field of view of the VGA camera can make flying using FLV goggles very difficult – something to keep in mind before running out to grab a pair of these glasses for use with the X4 FPV.
- Flight Modes: The X4 is equipped with two flight modes: Normal and Expert. Expert mode is activated by pressing the elevator stick down quickly while the quadcopter is still on the ground and permits full stick travel for complete control of the drone. Normal mode, on the other hand, reduces stick travel to 50%– a good setting for novice pilots.
Unlike its predecessor, the 107C, the X4 FPV has been outfitted with an array of LEDs that can be turned on and off from the control unit. Also, the control unit has been upgraded to a 5.8GHz frequency for less interference and faster reactions to pilot stick input.
The control unit operates using 4 AA batteries which seem to get depleted very quickly. A more cost effective approach would be to purchase a set of rechargeable AA batteries, specifically high-output batteries designed for high drain electronics.
- Only for Good Weather Conditions: The true mark of any quadcopter is how well it flies and despite having six-axis stabilization and auto-leveling functionality, the lightweight design of this drone can make outdoor flying a difficult task. In medium to strong wind conditions, forget flying the X4 at all. It is simple too light to contend with anything stronger than a light breeze.
- Some Drifting: Indoor flying a slightly better although the drone does seem to drift one way or another rather consistently. Even when properly trimmed, the drone may start drifting to the other side after something as simple as a battery change and this can quickly get frustrating.
- Live Video Works Well for the Budget: Surprisingly, the video link works very well and only flickered once in a while, mostly due to an effect called multipathing (when reflected signals bounce off the ground and arrive at the antenna with different phase shifts). The bottom line is that the video feed is certainly good enough for FPV flying assuming there is no source of interference in the area.
- Video Recording Needs Some Work: Video recording, on the other hand, leaves a few things to be desired. First, the transmitter automatically formats any microSD card placed into it without warning. If you want to try this feature using an existing microSd card, make sure you don’t have anything you want to lose on it before inserting it into the control unit. Also, it appears that deleting video files from the SD card via a PC causes the transmitter to display an SD card error until the card is reformatted again.
- Other than those minor issues, recording works fine and can be activated with the press of a single button on the control unit. Just make sure to stop recording before turning off the unit or the video file will become corrupted and not viewable. Perhaps the only other issue with the recording functionality is the weird recording resolution previously mentioned. To view recorded videos, the file must first be runt through a video converter program to stretch the resolution to 720 x 480.
- The reality of video recording with the X4 is that the resolution is too low to really do anything useful with. The VGA camera is perfectly suited to FPV flying but is practically worthless as an aerial photography platform.
- Range is Better Than Expected: Flight range is limited to about 100 meters which is actually pretty impressive considering the small size of the unit. Although a high gain antenna could be added to the unit for increased flight range, the small size of this drone makes that a waste of time in most cases.
- No GPS or Advanced Self-Moderating Features: Unlike many other modern quadcopters, the Hubsan X4 FPV does not have GPS so it does not have a self-hovering feature or the ability to return home when the batteries are low or the aircraft flies out of transmitter range. That said, for under $200, this drone definitely fits into the toy category more than anything else so the addition of these features would simply drive the price up to a level where purchasing this unit wouldn’t be feasible for most enthusiasts.
The Hubsan X4 FPV is a really cool little toy that is affordable for most people interested in drone technology and FPV flying. The transmitter with integrated LCD screen is a nice touch and the overall quality of the miniature quadcopter is up to par.
- USB charging is much faster than competing products
- FPV functionality and range are sufficient
- Built-in telemetry
- LED lights
- Flight performance leaves something to be desired
- Video quality is poor for anything other than FPV flight
- Weird microSD card formatting issues
The X4 FPV isn’t perfect but it also isn’t marketed to professional aerial photographers so for the price, you are unlikely to find a mini quadcopter with as many features or that is nearly as fun to fly around.
If you want a complete FPV package to fly around for fun, you definitely can’t go wrong with the X4 FPV but for everything else, you will probably want to spend your money on a slightly more capable AP platform.
Bottom Line: Given the budget price range, this is a surprisingly well endowed little quadcopter. It’s a great entry level purchase. Just don’t expect a high grade level performance like the DJI Inspire.