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Lifewire / Jonno Hill
Surprisingly stable flight
Poor video quality
Somewhat flimsy construction
The SYMA X5C RC Quadcopter is a ton of fun and an easy recommendation for first-time drone shoppers who wish to learn on a platform that won’t break the bank.
The SYMA X5C RC Quadcopter is a very fun entry-level quadcopter. Sitting at the lower end of the price spectrum, it’s definitely on the cheaper side when it comes to materials and construction, but users who observe a bit of caution should have no problem keeping this drone alive long enough to get plenty of value from their purchase.
The XC5 features a 2.4Ghz controller, and comes equipped with a very rudimentary camera for taking photos and videos, although without the ability to preview your photos remotely you’re mostly just hoping for the best. Overall, we had a great experience testing the X5C, but there are a few quirks and limitations worth describing, so we’ll make sure to take a fair look at both the good and the bad.
At 12.2 inches square, the SYMA X5C RC Quadcopter is a mid-size drone that will be somewhat portable, but not necessarily backpack portable. This can be a bit of a downside for those wishing to bring it with them wherever they travel, but the slightly larger dimensions and bigger blades mean that the X5C is far more stable in the air than a lot of other inexpensive drones. This is particularly important for beginners, who often have difficulty figuring out the mechanics of horizontal motion in the air.
The construction of the X5C is somewhat flimsy and very light, which is another double-edged sword. A child or a pet would have a pretty easy time accidentally destroying this drone. At the same time, the featherweight construction means that the drone can withstand a few knocks and bumps, or an unexpected fall from the sky.
As long as you observe some basic precautions during flight, you should be able to fly this drone for a long time.
The SYMA X5C RC Quadcopter comes equipped with a camera, although it’s certainly an afterthought. You won’t get any award-winning photos or videos out of the tiny sensor on this super cheap camera.
And finally, the remote control. This is perhaps the single most prominent part of the X5C that screams “budget”. The construction of the remote control is very flimsy, featuring a number of functionless vestigial buttons that are unnecessarily distracting. It also features one of the worst control schemes we’ve seen, which we will explore more in a later section.
In the box, you’ll find the quadcopter, remote control, four main blades, four screws, a screwdriver, USB charging cable, battery, and instruction manual. Not included are the four AA batteries necessary to operate the remote control so make sure to purchase these in advance.
When you first unpack the contents of the box, locate the battery cover on the underside of the drone and remove the battery, making sure to pull the battery wire from the power port before removing it from its casing. This battery is then connected to the included USB charging cable and can be simply charged from any USB port. After approximately 100 minutes, the battery should be fully charged and ready for flight.
We found the setup process to be fairly simple and straightforward, requiring most of the usual steps we’ve become accustomed to when it comes to drone setup. The blades come already attached in the box, unlike many drones, but the blade guards still need to be installed using the included screws.
After these steps, you should be ready for flight. With the battery installed back in the frame and a microSD card for any photos you wish to take, simply follow the instructions outlined in the manual to operate the remote control and fly the drone. Note that there is a pre-flight routine that must be performed to sync the transmitter and enter its pre-fly state.
The SYMA X5C RC Quadcopter features a fairly standard control scheme for flight, with the left stick handling throttle/hover and rotation (yaw), and the left stick handling forward, backward, and sideways motion (pitch and roll). This is the default layout, which SYMA calls Mode 1. If you prefer, you may switch to Mode 2, which flips the yaw and roll controls.
We didn’t have any difficulty getting the X5C off the ground and maneuvering around in the air—the controls were responsive and the drone didn’t have any unexpected disposition in a given direction. The main shortcoming is the lack of a true hover mode, but the throttle is on the left stick does at least stay in place to prevent accidental descent. This is pretty standard for a lot of remote-controlled aerial devices, but more modern and high-end drones feature the ability to maintain a given elevation at a constant.
The controls of the SYMA X5C RC Quadcopter are simple enough to be handled by first-time flyers, with a few caveats. The drone is light enough that it can be taken away by the wind at high elevations. The range of the controller is also somewhat limited at around 50 meters (164 feet), so make sure to fly in an area large and open enough. Otherwise, if you get out of range, you might have to go chasing after the drone and might lose control altogether.
Two other tricks supported by the X5C are something they call “3D Eversion”, which allows the user to perform a flip in any given direction by flipping a switch on the transmitter and pressing the right stick in any direction, and throwing, letting you start your flight by literally tossing the quadcopter into the sky and jamming the throttle up until the 6-axis gyroscope figures out the correct orientation and rights itself.
Lastly, there is nothing resembling object avoidance or automatic safe landing when it comes to the SYMA X5C Quadcopter. You’re largely on your own, so observe as much precaution as possible, and only fly away from trees, power lines, and other common obstacles.
The camera on the SYMA X5C RC Quadcopter is at the very lowest end of camera performance we’ve seen on drones. It’s a 2-megapixel camera capable of fairly grainy 720p video. To make matters worse, controlling the camera, and determining if you’ve even taken a photo or video is made difficult by the strange control scheme outlined in the manual.
That said, if you take the time to learn how to use it optimally, and you take photos in broad daylight conditions, you might manage to capture a decent image or two. We suppose having some ability to capture what your drone is seeing from the sky is better than nothing.
You won’t get any award-winning photos or videos out of the tiny sensor on this super cheap camera.
We might not be super upbeat about the quality of the camera, but at the price of the X5C we honestly wouldn’t expect much more, so we can’t say we are all that disappointed.
Flight time ranges from around 5.5 to 7 minutes during our testing, varying quite a bit depending on weather and other contributing flight factors. Since the charge time is around 100 minutes, you will certainly want to purchase additional batteries if you want to fly for extended sessions. We found a six-pack of compatible batteries online for around $20. One thing to keep in mind—the manual warns against taking hot batteries directly out of the drone and charging them immediately, warning that this could present a potential fire hazard. This warning is only reinforced by user reports we found online of the drone catching fire unexpectedly.
As touched on earlier, range is a bit of a concern at a very modest 150 feet. We found it easy to bump up against that limit, and new users should definitely take some precautions before flying the drone at the far end of its control range.
And where stability is concerned, we couldn't hope for more out of such a modestly priced drone. The SYMA X5C RC Quadcopter managed to stay very stable even in conditions with light wind. Fly it at higher elevations, however, and you might have a difficult time maintaining control.
The SYMA X5C RC Quadcopter is a mid-size drone that will be somewhat portable, but not necessarily backpack portable.
The 3.7V 500 mAh battery is good for between 5.5 and 7 minutes of flight time with average use, but doesn’t come with any kind of safe landing features when the battery runs out. Users should keep the drone at a safe height and distance towards the end of the battery life, unless you want to fish the drone out of nearby trees, something we experienced.
As mentioned previously, backup batteries can be purchased to allow for longer flight sessions, and those wishing to fly for more than a few minutes every 2 hours should probably look into this as an option.
For all the areas you could fault the SYMA X5C RC Quadcopter, price is not one of them. At around $40 on Amazon, you are getting a lot of drone for the price. As long as you observe some basic precautions during flight, you should be able to fly this drone for a long time—certainly long enough to improve your flight skills and graduate to a more serious drone.
The only thing we might have hoped for was a camera-free option. We’re not sure how much this tiny camera costs, but we’re sure plenty of users would rather not have to pay for it at all.
One of the closest rivals to the SYMA X5C RC Quadcopter was the HS170 Predator Mini RC Helicopter Drone. Unlike the X5C, the HS170 is an extremely small and backpack-portable drone selling for around $10 less. This is where the strengths of this particular drone end, however. The HS170 is a lot more fragile, easily taken by the wind, and probably a less viable platform to begin learning how to fly. As a toy, on the other hand, the HS170 is perfectly suitable.
Great for the money.
We didn’t have high expectations for the SYMA X5C RC Quadcopter so it had no trouble quickly exceeding the low bar we set for it. Flying the X5C is fun, setup is simple, and the drone proved resilient enough to withstand a few instances of user error that some other competing drones did not. If you’re in the market for an entry-level quadcopter, the X5C is a fairly easy recommendation.