Battery: Removable 1 200 mAh, 7.4 volt
Flight time: 8 min
Charge time: 180+ min
Transmitter rates: 3 (fixed yaw)
Transmitter compatibility: WLToys v262, JJRC H8C etc.
Competitors: YiZhan Tarantula X6, WLToys v262
I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I like to take my multirotors with me. When I take a walk, when I visit friends, when I go to work… basically whenever I leave home! With the nano and micro size classes this is no problem, but sometimes I wish I could bring something bigger, with payload capacity to do more than just fly around. You know, carry a camera or maybe even some FPV equipment! It’s admittedly a niche problem, but – as of recently – it’s a niche problem with a solution. The JJRC H28 promises the size and power of a full-blown – albeit brushed – quadcopter in the package of… Well, a smaller package anyway! This is achieved with its removable arms which – supposedly – allow you to partly assemble and disassemble it in the field. How well does this work and how well does the quadcopter work overall? Let’s find out!
Starting off with the quadcopter itself, it’s – once assembled – actually bigger than I expected, definitely towards the high end of the toy quadcopter spectrum. Scale is always difficult to communicate through video, but think Tarantula X6 rather than the Syma X5. Without any accessories the whole shebang weighs in at 350 grams (of which the battery makes up around 65). Regardless how you count it though, you will have to register it with the FAA if you live in the US.
Before we go any further, I should probably address this. At one point flying it I done goofed and flew it full speed into a wire, causing this arm to almost break off. Luckily though, I was able to repair it back to fully working order. The whole incident was completely on me and experiencing it first-hand I’m actually surprised the H28 survived as well as it did, so no shadow should be cast over JJRC for this.
Apart from that ugly injury I caused myself, the H28 doesn’t look half bad with its angular, utilitarian design, matte black body and discreet splashes of color that are actually color coding to guide the assembly process, but JJRC have cleverly managed to turn into an aspect of the design. It’s also exemplary lit with bright, differently colored LEDs on both the body and the arms, though the arms only light up when the motors are powered.
As for that thing that makes the H28 unique, the ability to detach its arms for more convenient transport, this works well. A simple clasp mechanism makes for easy enough attaching and detaching, the arms fit well as to not move or rattle once attached and I already mentioned the color coding that minimizes the risk for confusion. My only real complaint is that disassembling the quadcopter still doesn’t make it that portable. Although it’s real close, it – for example – still won’t fit in my backpack as was my big hope.
Included with the JJRC H28 comes a transmitter that doesn’t look like much, but manages to get the essentials right. The sticks have good travel, aren’t prone to getting stuck and should be long enough for pinch flyers yet not too long for thumb flyers. Trims, shoulder buttons and display are all there as well, working as expected. A nice surprise is that the H28 uses the WLToys v2x2 protocol, which means you can also fly it with an alternative transmitter either from popular models such as the JJRC H8C or a Walkera Devo-series transmitter using the Deviation firmware.
The battery is understandably, due to the weight and power of the quadcopter, much bigger than the ones I usually deal with on this channel and comes in at a whopping 1200 mAh distributed over 2 cells in series. This provides for – actually quite impressive – 8+ minutes flight times without accessories, but also takes a long time to charge. A very long time! The manual says 2 hours, my experience says more than 3 hours!
This may have something to do with the fact that the included charger is of the USB rather than the wall socket variety one has come to expect for multi-cell LiPos and unable to draw the intended current from both the 1 and 2 amp USB power adapters I’ve tried. I know, I know: It’s time I get myself a proper battery charger. Anyway, this was my experience out-of-the-box.
Other experiences out-of-the-box includes sets of spare propellers, prop guards, landing gears as well as a decent instruction manual, a nice screwdriver and… a pair of sunglasses? JJRC are also making other versions of the H28 model: The H28C, which includes a 2 megapixel camera, and the H28W, which include a 2 megapixel WiFi FPV camera with a built-in 1 axis gimbal. For this reason, ports for connecting both camera and gimbal are provided next to the on/off switch.
Taking the H28 for a test spin quickly reveals its character, and – for better and worse – it’s almost exactly what one would expect from a brushed, geared quadcopter of this size: Very stable and quite docile. The three rates do offer some variation, but even on the highest the pitch isn’t particularly deep. Contrary to what other reviews have stated the yaw speed on mine does not change with the rates, but at least its “one size fits all” setting is a decent compromise.
Response to yaw input is quite binary, not offering the fine-grained control one would’ve preferred, especially as the overall impression is otherwise more akin to an aerial photography platform than a sports flyer. It does do flips, but these look far from gracious, bordering on dangerous. It’s also very noisy even compared to other big brushed, geared quadcopters.
One thing that did surprise about the H28, at least – as here – when flown without prop guards or landing gears attached, was its vertical punch: It requires little throttle to get off the ground and can under full pitch not only maintain elevation, but actually ascend. This is of course partly a product of the modest pitch, but still gives me the impression there is power to spare here.
One of the more common questions I get in the comments on my videos is “Can it lift a GoPro?”. For once, let’s try to forego the question with the answer! Whenever someone asks this, I interpret the questions not as “Is it able to get off the ground carrying a GoPro?”, but rather “Does is handle well carrying a GoPro?” There’s a significant difference between the two and in-between there’s overloading, which makes the quadcopter unwieldy and puts a strain on the motors that causes them to burn out prematurely.
I digress, but the answer – regardless of your interpretation – is yes: The H28 handles the weight of a standard action camera (in this case the SJCAM SJ4000) without problem. As you can see though, under some circumstances there’s a noticeable “jello effect” caused by vibrations, suggesting 1) that a dampened camera mount is strongly recommended and 2) that the non-dampened camera versions JJRC offers may not produce the best video results.
Something worrying I snapped up from early reviews and was shocked to discover hadn’t been addressed for the final retail release is that the H28 seems to be missing any form of failsafe mechanism for handling the loss of transmitter signal:
This means the quadcopter will just keep on doing whatever it was doing when the signal was lost – seemingly indefinitely! – with the only way of stopping it being to either reestablish the connection, which may or may not be not be possible depending on what input was active right at the point it lost contact, or get at its power – removing the battery or letting it run its course.
I don’t think I have to – or want to! – go into all the ways such a situation could end badly! The only mitigating factor in all this is that – in my experience and for what it’s worth – range seems perfectly adequate, although I haven’t tested it all the way up to the advertised 200 meters.
Partly because I didn’t want to end on such a low note, partly because I just forgot to mention it anywhere else in the review: Like just about every multirotor released in the past 12 months or so, the JJRC H28 of course also has a headless mode and return-to-home command. These work well, considering they lack the assistance from GPS and compass, if you can only put up with the incessant beeping of the transmitter and flashing of the quadcopter.
In conclusion, the JJRC H28 is a stable, well lit quadcopter with more than adequate flight times and payload capacity for a brushed configuration. The ability to detach its arms saves space and facilitates transport, offering a unique albeit niche advantage with few downsides (save possibly for a noisier, more vibration-prone setup, in turn affecting video quality).
My biggest reservation regards the apparent lack of any form of failsafe in case of signal loss. The range – by all means – seems fine, but if you intend to test the limits of it I urge you to weigh the benefit of portability against the risk of a fly-away.