JJRC H20C Review

Quick facts:

Battery: Removable 280 mAh, 3.7 volt
Flight time: 4½-5 mins
Charge time: 45 mins

Transmitter rates: 3 (variable yaw)
Transmitter compatibility: ?
Headless mode: Yes

Competitors: JJRC H20, Hubsan X4 H107C

Video review:

Transcript:

Mid 2015 saw the release of the JJRC H20, an inexpensive nano hexacopter with two things lacking from its – at the time – main competitor the MJX X900: a removable battery and some real in-air attitude. The model was unfortunately plagued by transmitter issues, but if you got lucky or modified your transmitter you know it was also a blast to fly.

It’s now 2016 and the H20 is back for round two, with – appropriately – not one but two new variants: The 2MP camera version H20C and the Wi-Fi FPV version H20W. In this review I’ll be checking out the former to see if it manages to integrate the new without destroying the old.

Welcome to this review and flight test of the H20C nano or micro hexacopter from JJRC!

Since I’ve already done a proper full-length review of the original JJRC H20, my initial plan for the H20C was to just do something quick where I demonstrated the camera and noted any differences between the two variants. It quickly dawned on me that this was unrealistic though, as it turned out the H20C differs in at least some way from the original in practically every regard. Still, keeping with the initial vision of a shorter review, I’ll try to focus on the differences and for everything else refer to the H20 video.

Having just said basically everything about the H20C is different from the original; let’s start with an aspect that’s not: the design. A quick glance will suggest nothing expect possibly the paint job has been updated and while the overall design is obviously unaltered, there are significant differences there:

Perhaps most significantly the removable battery, one of the advantages of the original, has been switched up, now being mounted in a kind of cartridge in order to – I guess – facilitate connecting and disconnecting it? If this is the intended upside I find it somewhat debatable, or are there maybe actually lots of people out there who find connecting up a battery really difficult?

The downside is that the mounting of the battery into the cartridge frame is kind of a botched job, at least on mine. I don’t look forward to dealing with this when it starts coming apart. “Isn’t the fact that the battery is now basically proprietary another downside?” I hear you asking. Actually no, JJRC has kindly provided a second battery connector to which you can connect regular LiPo batteries

In terms of other – more minor – changes to the aircraft, there’s the inclusion of a convenient on/off switch, a memory card slot (…but note that no memory card came with mine!) and – of course – a camera. While probably not apparent until put side-by-side, the H20C is also somewhat scaled up from the original, pushing it even closer to (if not over) the border that separates nano and micro. The battery capacity has likewise been up-scaled from 150 to 280 mAh to cope with the weight of the added camera. Finally – and sadly – the contrasting props of the original are inexplicably gone, replaced by – possibly more aesthetically pleasing, but less useful for flying – unicolor ones.

Let’s move on to the transmitter where the difference is much more noticeable, possibly in an effort from JJRC to distance themselves from the troubles many people experienced with the original:

While the original JJRC H20 came with a big version of your typical, cheap-feeling nano transmitters, the H20C comes with something that seems to use the left-over mold from one of those Bluetooth gamepads. You can even see where the smartphone clamp would’ve folded out! Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s an overall nice transmitter, its biggest strengths being the clearly labeled buttons, solid feel of the sticks and the fact that it’s big enough to hold properly. Too bad it doesn’t feel like it’s offering any greater resolution and that it won’t bind to the original H20!

The H20C comes in a box with…

  • A nice reusable plastic mold to hold it in place
  • A set of spare propellers
  • A screwdriver for accessing the transmitter battery compartment and removing the pre-mounted prop guards, if so desired
  • The sadly quite usual sub-par instruction manual with the usual machine-translated English, lacking coverage of the aircraft’s features and – in this case – even some German thrown in there for no apparent reason whatsoever!

One of the greatest strengths of the original H20 turned out to be how it flew and this has been carried over almost intact to the H20C. Overall it feels a little more restrained and seems to pack a little less punch than its predecessor (again, probably due to the weight of the added camera), but on the flipside there’s still great – possibly even greater – variety to the three rates.

Using the rates to really transform the flight characteristics of the aircraft and cater to all skill levels is something I really appreciate and feel should be promoted: The low rate is slow but well-rounded, the middle rate remains – if somewhat slower than on the original – a good compromise between speed and maneuverability and the high rate is still as crazy – or crazier – than ever with regards to yaw speed. It’s cool and all, but renders the highest rate effectively useless for normal flying as it makes balanced turning near impossible.

While talking flight related things, it should also be mentioned that the – by this point – standard headless mode and return-to-home is in place and working, just know the headless direction is set once when you bind the aircraft and not each time headless mode is activated.

Flight times with the JJRC H20C aren’t the greatest, mine have measured around 4½ minutes when recording and maybe another minute or so when not. Then again, since the battery is removable you could use a battery with larger capacity, thereby potentially extending flight times. Just be careful: I’m not particularly well-versed in electronics, but understand the battery polarity is reversed on both this model and its predecessor. Hooking up a battery incorrectly can cause damage to both the aircraft and the battery itself. The LVC warning – included in the flight times I just provided – is quite generous, lasting around 30 seconds.

Range, or rather issues with range, was the thing that kept the original H20 from achieving greatness for me and the reason that review ended up taking so long. I – like many people – actually had a flyaway and had to order a new one to complete it. Well, I’m happy to report I have tested specifically for this and experienced no such issues with the H20C. Range is still not yaw-droppingly long (60 m is the figure provided by JJRC), but it’s a small aircraft and unless you have the vision of an eagle you’re not likely to want to fly it further away from you than that. No transmitter modification needed, at least in my case.

Finally, there’s the camera: You’re seeing the raw, unaltered footage straight of the memory card here and – at least in my eyes – it fails to impress. There’s a stuttering or choppiness to the video that – yes, could be due to the memory card type, speed or formatting – but even disregarding that there’s noise to the picture that’s unjustifiable in a well-lit environment like this and an apparent lack of detail for a supposed 720p camera. It should be noted it isn’t completely without merit though, especially the color reproduction.

In conclusion, the camera was – in a way – in the position to either make or break the JJRC H20C …‘cause face it: apart from perhaps the nicer transmitter, it’s the only really significant departure from a predecessor that’s otherwise at least slightly more capable and more than slightly cheaper.

Seeing as the camera perhaps not flat-out fails, but fails to impress to any greater degree, I’m inclined to instead recommend either the original JJRC H20 (if a camera is not a strict requirement) or something like the similarly priced original Hubsan X4 H107C (if you’re after a cheapish 720p aircraft).

This is not to say the JJRC H20C is bad: it’s a solid follow-up to a well-liked product. It’s only unfortunate that its main attraction perhaps isn’t all it could’ve been, which makes it not the best choice for its intended application.

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