I own a ton of quadcopters. A Phantom…a Solo…a Hubsan…a Helipal…a Blade…you get the point. But here is my dirty little secret. My favorite quad to fly for fun is a $50 model from Syma called the X5C-1. This little quadcopter is agile, responsive, durable and dirt cheap! The Syma X5C and X5C-1 are basically the same copter. I believe that 1 button on the remote is moved on the X5C-1, but otherwise, they are exactly the same. For the sake of this article, I will refer to the X5C-1 since it seems to be the most popular right now.
One other quick note: Syma also makes a X5SW, which has FPV capabilities and they make the X5SC, which features “headless” mode which orients that quadcopter relative to the pilot. This article is not about the X5SW or X5SC, it is only about the X5C-1, which I would call the “base model” of the series.
So let’s start with what the Syma X5C-1 is designed to do and who the ideal owner is. The Syma X5C-1 is marketed and sold as a camera platform. It is that, and for the price, it’s not terrible. The camera has a native resolution of 1024 x 768 for stills and manages to interpolate 1280 x 720 video resolution at 30fps from its 2 megapixel sensor. The biggest challenge is that due to the small size and light weight of the X5C-1, the footage tends to be very shaky. You could probably take some decent still images if you had little or no wind, but without a gimbal, the video is almost always going to have some shake and jello in it.
The X5C-1 does come with a 2 gigabyte micro SD card, which is a great addition for the price. However, camera aside, this little quad is at it’s best when the camera is removed and it’s flown with as little extra weight as possible. If you are looking for a camera platform to take high quality still images or video, I would recommend a bigger bird (like the Syma X8C) and if you have some extra money to spend, one with a gimbal (like the Phantom 2 Vision or Phantom 3).
|Camera||2MP 1024 x 768|
|Flight time||Approx. 7 – 10 Minutes, Depending on Configuration|
|Range||150 ft (50 meters)|
|Motors||X5-08 for SYMA X5 RC quadcopter motor B Brushed Motors|
|Stabilization||6 Axis Gyro|
|Weight||Approx. 900 Grams|
|Dimensions||10 in. x 10 in. x 3 in.|
|Flight battery||3.7V 500mAh Lipo|
|Remote Batteries||4 AA Batteries (Not Included)|
Quality of build
The Syma X5C-1 is inexpensive for a reason. It’s cheaply built. The body is light weight plastic and the color gels used to cover the LEDs (red and green) pop out of the frame pretty easily. That said, the simplicity of this quad is part of its appeal. It is very durable. I have given the remote to many first time quadcopter pilots and watched them crash it into trees, cars, parking lots, and almost anything else you can imagine. The worst thing that has happened is broken propellers and one burned out motor. The burned out motor was because the pilot left the stick at full throttle while the quad was upside down in tall grass. Other than that, this thing is very rugged. I believe that one reason it handles crashes so well has to do with its light weight. This also makes it pretty safe to fly because short of direct hit to the face, the odds of hurting someone with this quad are very low.
Maintenance and repairs are pretty simple too. Replacing props is as simple as removing one screw. Replacing a burned out motor requires removing a ton of screws from the frame, but once you have it apart, you can simply cut the wires (make sure the battery is removed) and then solder the replacement motor wires in place. The motors are designed to slide out of the frame quickly, so the hardest part is removing and then replacing all the screws…which is not actually hard, just tedious!
One other note is about the remote control itself. I have found that the remote works well, but the range is not great…about 150 feet before you lose connection. And with no GPS, there is no “return to home” feature on the X5C-1. So be sure that you keep your quad within a reasonable distance to ensure you don’t lose signal. The remotes for the X5C-1 and the X8C are interchangeable and I’ve found that every Syma remote I have tried works with every Syma quadcopter I have tried it with. That means you can take 1 remote out to fly several different Syma quads. And finally, I have been able to bind 2 different X5C-1 quads to the same remote at the same time and it actually works. You can fly 2 at once! However, due to wind, no GPS, and different batteries in the quads, I found it very difficult to keep them in the same area with 1 remote for very long.
Assembly and tuning
In the box the X5C-1 comes with everything you need to start flying.
1 x SYMA X5C -1 Quadcopter
1 x HD 2-Mega Pixel Camera
1 x 2.4 GHz Transmitter
1 x 3.7V 500mAh Li-poly Battery
4 x Prop Guards
4 x Spare Propellers (2CW, 2CCW)
1 x MicroSD card
1 x MicroSD to USB reader
1 x USB Cable Charger
1 x Screwdriver
1 x Instruction Manual
If you are a new pilot or plan to fly primarily indoors, then the propeller guards are probably a good idea. However, if you have flown before and plan to fly outdoors, I recommend leaving the prop guards off because they add weight and make it more susceptible to wind. If you want to use the camera, you have to attach it to the quadcopter and connect the single ⅛” mini connector that powers the camera and allows you to start/stop it. And, of course, if you are using the camera be sure you have the removable landing skids in place…otherwise you will land on the camera when you touch down.
Where the X5C-1 really soars is when it’s stripped down to its essentials. This means no prop guards, no camera, no landing skids…and if you really want to shave off some weight, you can remove the battery door and use velcro to hold the battery in place. In this super-light-weight configuration, the Syma X5C-1 is amazing! Flips are crisp and recovery is immediate. Climbing is fast and you can do a variety of cool stunts with it that you simply can’t do when it has everything attached. There are two flight modes: stability mode and agility mode. Stability mode is very stable and great for learning. There is a single button on the remote to switch between modes and usually, if I’m letting someone new fly my quadcopter, I don’t even tell them about the agility mode. But once you get good at stability, agility is a blast!
In agility mode, you can fly forward at full speed and then pull back quickly on the stick and then push forward again.. This action makes the quad do a quick “nose dip” and then fly upward at an angle. This is one of my favorite tricks. Another thing it does very well is recover from a long fall with no power. Take it up to 50 feet or so and then kill the throttle. The quad will begin to fall out of the sky and seem to spin out of control. The moment you give it gas (above 20 feet is safe), it stabilizes, recovers and shoots back up into the air. Very cool! And there is even an automatic flip buttion! Because this thing is so light and so cheap, I think it’s a great quadcopter to experiment with.