Battery: Removable (proprietary) 520 mAh, 3.7 volt
Flight time: 7 mins
Charge time: 70-80 mins
Transmitter rates: 2 (customizable)
Transmitter compatibility: ?
Headless mode: Yes
Competitors: The original H107C, Syma X11C, JJRC H6C
Hubsan, out of Shenzhen, China, is a company designing and manufacturing mainly RC quadcopters. Much like its “China’s Silicone Valley” neighbor, DJI, it specializes in adapting the – to a layman – perceivably complicated RC hobby into an accessible, consumer-friendly package. But while DJI focuses on big, expensive aircrafts, Hubsan operates in the more affordable realm of micro quadcopters, a size class they actually helped create.
The company was formed in 2010 and 2 years later – in the fall of 2012 – the Hubsan X4 was released, a product which would come to skyrocket in popularity and from then on be synonymous with the Hubsan brand. The X4 was a micro sized toy grade quadcopter, the first one of its kind and the smallest ready-to-fly quadcopter at the time.
Over the years, Hubsan has released variations of the X4 in order to appeal to various niches of the hobby and – like any smart company – generally capitalize of their success. 2013 saw the release of a camera variant for the aspiring aerial photographer, an FPV variant for people looking to increase their immersion and a slimmed, trimmed and generally improved variant for anyone not yet on the bandwagon.
Fast forward to late 2014 and Hubsan announces its plans for the next generation of X4 quadcopters, with new features, new design and a new symbol – a plus sign – at the end of the model name to signify the difference. Then… nothing. Numerous official or official-seeming release dates are circulated, but they all pass without any X4 Plus models in sight and little in the way of explanation.
That is, until now. Out of the three variants announced over a year ago (excluding the X4 Pro, which I consider a whole other story), at least two are finally starting to show up at retailers: The camera equipped H107C+ and the FPV ready H107D+, this being the former.
Believe it or not, the original H107C was the first quadcopter I ever bought and in many ways my gateway to the hobby. At the time, I was acting under the – I think common… and false – assumption that there’s such a thing as a definitive all-purpose multirotor and this Hubsan seemed to tick all the boxes.
As it turned out, the H107C wasn’t to the ideal purchase for a complete beginner. The original X4s were definitely leaning towards the sport flyer end of the agility spectrum, more so than this – at the time – newbie had bargained for. At the same time, its exemplary durability probably saved me from quitting the hobby prematurely many times.
What kept bugging me about the original even as I got better at flying it (and probably the reason I eventually got rid of it) was the camera. Even under optimal conditions and even with the HD version, the videos always seemed to come out slightly washed-out, out-of-focus and either over or under-exposed. I know it’s one of the better included cameras in the toy multirotor segment. Reasonable or unreasonable, it just didn’t live up to my expectations.
…but when Hubsan announced the X4+ product line, that dream I’d given up on of an all-purpose quadcopter with a good enough camera came back to me. Now finally in my hands, I want to know what has changed and if it’s for better or worse. Let’s find out! Welcome to this review and flight test of the Hubsan X4 H107C+ micro quadcopter!
Just a glance at the aircraft itself immediately reveals a number of changes: An updated – albeit still recognizable – design, a new rubbery-feeling material (supposedly improving durability) and more prominent LED placement are all welcome touch-ups, but perhaps don’t in and of themselves warrant an upgrade. However, scratching the surface uncovers a number of less obvious changes more telling about Hubsan’s vision.
After over a week’s use, it’s my overall impression that the intention with the X4+ line of quadcopters has been to break away from the hobby, strip away all aspects deemed complicated and provide an as streamlined and beginner-friendly experience as possible. Less of a kit of components and more of a unified pick-up-and-go product.
A noteworthy example of what I mean is the battery, which is now proprietary. The 530 mAh 3.7 volt battery slides and clicks in place, becoming a part of the body when installed. On the upside, there’s no arguing this is a both convenient and elegant solution. On the downside and something that is sure to set people – especially hobby purists – off, only batteries designed specifically for use with an X4+ quadcopter can be used.
Two other new details that goes in line with the proprietary battery system and experience streamlining in general are a power button and a charging port, found on one of the sides of the body. To turn the quadcopter on, hold the power button until all LEDs have been lit. To turn it off, do same thing until all LEDs have gone out. The power button is convenient as it saves you the trouble of messing with cables and allows you to leave the battery inserted while the hold mechanic is convenient as it prevents you from accidentally powering the quadcopter while handling or transporting it.
To charge the battery: Insert the battery into the quadcopter, connect the quadcopter to the charging cable and insert the charging cable into a USB port. This may sound cumbersome and does rule some things like flying with one battery while charging another, but there is a silver lining: Since the charging circuit is now in the quadcopter, the charging cable is just a common, easily replaceable micro USB cable, which also supports data transfer. This should make it possible to access your photos, videos and down the line maybe even update the quadcopter firmware!
Charging takes a little over an hour and provides around 7 minutes of flight.
The X4+ transmitter has, much like the aircraft, undergone a re-design and while the other changes so far have been a mixed bag, I consider this entirely for the better. The most practically noticeable difference is the sticks which have been shortened to be more accommodating to thumb flyers like myself. Also notice that both sticks now are spring loaded on both axes, which has to do with the altitude hold function I’ll discuss later. The small display has carried over from the original X4, allowing you to adjust the sensitivity of the two rates (“Normal” and “Expert”). Also just as on the predecessor, the same transmitter can be used with both mode 1 and mode 2.
Unlike its predecessor, no prop guard is included this time around. Apart from what I’ve already mentioned, only a set of spare props, a prop removal tool and an instruction manual (living up to Hubsan’s usual high standard) was included in my package.
The flight characteristics of the Hubsan X4+ are probably best described as “floaty”. Instead of having a direct, forceful response it has a slower, measured response. You can basically go crazy on the sticks without much happening until you leave them in one position for half a second or so. Then a momentum starts to build up. This comes as quite a surprise seeing as the original X4s were quite the opposite, responsive to the point of being twitchy.
Another area where the X4+ differs greatly from its predecessor is rates. Where the original X4s could arguably be considered sport flyers, the upgrade has been dialed down. Even on the “Expert” rate with the transmitter configured to 100% sensitivity the X4+ does not have a very deep pitch. The yaw is especially slow, un-proportional even to the already limited pitch and roll.
Overall Hubsan has done a complete 180° with regards to the flight characteristics, going from responsive and zippy to measured and leisurely. My initial reaction from flying the X4+ was one of disappointment, but with repeated flights Hubsan’s intention has dawned on me. This is definitely a case of “fly it as it wants to be flown”: Go in expecting a sport flyer and you’re going to be disappointed. Go in looking to hover around in a more controlled manner and you’re probably going to feel at home.
The problem is that people are going to expect – and justifiably so! – similar flight characteristics from the X4+ as the original X4, while in reality they couldn’t be further apart. I’m starting to feel like a broken record, but this all goes very much in line with my impression of Hubsan having gone for a streamlined, beginner-friendly experience with the X4+ line. This is made even more evident by the inclusion of altitude hold.
Altitude hold means that throttle is automatically controlled using an atmospheric pressure sensor in the quadcopter. In a working implementation this means that unless you – via the transmitter – tell the quadcopter to either ascend or descend it should automatically maintain its altitude regardless of other factors. Unfortunately, I would hesitate to call the X4+ a “working implementation”.
About half of the time it works and – while requiring some getting used to – is quite convenient. About half of the time though, the quadcopter is confused which usually means it decides to ascend, sometimes at a rate you can’t even counter with the transmitter. The only solution I’ve found in this scenario is to simply kill the motors. In the end altitude hold feels semi-broken, more trouble than it’s worth and I catch myself wishing there was a way to turn it off.
The camera is the one thing I personally would’ve wanted to see improved versus the original. Sadly the difference is in my opinion negligible at best. I’ve recorded several videos under varying conditions and – save for a few well-lit indoor scenes which turned out surprisingly good – the results have been underwhelming. Still, due to the lack of quality competition in this area it remains one of the better included cameras in the toy grade segment.
Lastly, a few flight-related things I feel should be included in the review for sake of completeness: The X4+, unlike its predecessor, does include a headless mode which from my limited testing of the feature seems to work well. It also does flips and does so well and in all directions. In terms of range – and transmitter-receiver communication in general – I have experienced no issues whatsoever.
In conclusion, with the X4+ Hubsan seems to have targeted beginners, uninitiated and perhaps uninterested in the minutiae of the hobby, looking for a heavily-assisted, zero-learning-curve type product. This would of course have been fine – if confusing, as it’s such a significant departure from the predecessors – but the execution is flawed, not least the altitude hold function.
With this in mind, it’s hard to recommend – at least the X4 H107C+ – to anyone, especially considering the hefty price tag. It’s mostly a bust and no one is more saddened by this than me. I like Hubsan and I can’t shake the feeling they had a great vision for this product line, but that it was pushed out the door before they had time to iron out all the kinks. If nothing else, I want to give them credit for trying something new.