JXD 502 Quadcopter Review

Quick facts:

Battery: Built-in 70 mAh (3.7 volt)
Flight time: ~3½ mins
Charge time: 20-25 mins

Transmitter rates: 3 (variable yaw rate)
Transmitter compatibility: Huiying Toys multirotors
Headless mode: Yes

Competitors: DHD D1, FQ777-124

Video review:

Transcript:

There’s a new house in the realm with a bold claim, being the world’s smallest quadcopter. The last time something conquered that title, it became one of the most popular of it’s kind, the staple of it’s size class, endlessly copied. But is this newcomer the rightful heir to the throne and if so, does it possess the same qualities as it’s predecessor? Welcome to this review and flight test of the 502 nano quadcopter JXD!

Let’s start with the main appeal of the JXD 502, its size. It has been called the world’s smallest… by me… about half a minute ago. Well, it is the smallest quadcopter currently available for purchase to the public that I know of and it certainly is smaller than the Cheerson CX-10 which I know has been called the world’s smallest before. Here it is for comparison. No need for a verdict from the judge here, the difference is definitely apparent to the naked eye. For all I know, record broken! Well done! For what it’s worth the JXD 502 is not only objectively smaller: the miniature size does also provide an unmistakable wow-factor, even for multirotor Muggles. If you wanted to, this is certainly a model you could show off to friends, family and/or significant others at great effect.

So, what’s been given up in order to achieve such a small size? For one thing, there’s only one LED (placed towards the front of the aircraft). Since lights (preferably differently colored) is the only way of telling the direction of a multirotor when it’s too dark to see, this fact makes night flying (depending on your skill) either not ideal or simply impossible. Naturally you’ll also miss out on all the bells and whistles of even marginally bigger aircrafts, like prop guards (protecting the propellers against walls and ceilings) and any kind of rubber feet or landing gear.

The built-in battery has similarly been scaled down to 70 mAh, which is small even by nano standards. What this means in practice is that you shouldn’t expect flight times much beyond the 3 minute mark (on the upside charging only takes 20-25 minutes).

I have noticed the quadcopter does not consistently give off its LVC warning (low voltage cut-off warning, indicating the battery is about to run out). Instead it requires more and more throttle to keep hovering, until finally it can’t keep off the ground. This combined with seeing a few scattered reports of this model failing after just a few flights, gives me fear and suspicion that there might be an inherent problem with the battery or charging mechanism of the current batch. Myself? I’m probably well into my tenth flight at this point without issues, so I’m not raising any red flag here, but maybe a kind of yellowish one? If you want to avoid teething problems, my recommendation is to await further user reports before placing an order.

Another apparent sacrifice for sake of size is taste. With regards to design JXD has chosen to continue in the tradition of their previous JXD 395 “Air Bus” model (which is fine!), but intermingled it with some horrible tribal tattoo aesthetic from the early 2000s. I didn’t know this was also a time machine! Seriously though, I realize you’re very limited when designing something with such tight constraints on size and weight, but even a no-frills, strictly utilitarian design would have been preferable over this in my opinion.

The JXD 502 is not only one of – if not the – smallest quadcopters. It also comes with one of – if not the – smallest transmitters. Size-wise it’s exactly the same as the transmitter for the Top Race Hoverdrone Nano I reviewed recently. Then, I criticized it for this fact at some length, calling it “unnecessarily tiny” and stating it was “impeding precision flying and making it difficult for an adult to grip properly”. Clearly, it would be totally hypocritical of me to take another stance in this case. With that said, I’m going to take another stance in this case.

Sure, all of those criticisms still apply and the experience of flying this quadcopter would be greatly enhanced by – at least the option of – a more proper transmitter. But for one thing, in this case it makes more sense. The Hoverdrone Nano was a micro sized multirotor with a nano sized transmitter, at least the JXD 502 is a nano sized multirotor with a nano sized transmitter. It needs to be that small to fit in the tiny, tiny box of the tiny, tiny quadcopter.

For another thing, there are actually differences (most of which makes the JXD’s transmitter a little nicer). One example is this nice rubbery finish which I would like to say helps with grip, but more than anything just lessens the feeling of this being a cheap, all-expenses-saved piece of plastic. One negative difference with the transmitter is its very quiet beeps. When flying indoors, the buzz of the quadcopter alone can drown them out and I imagine the situation outdoors would be even worse. This annoyance is worsened by the fact that there is no other way to tell which rate you’re on.

Boy! That was a lot of talk about the transmitter. If you zoned out, the takeaway is: For what it is, it gets the job done. It takes 2 AAA batteries, has trims for pitch and roll as well as clicking sticks for rates and flips.

Except for aircraft and transmitter, the JXD 502 offers all the accessories you’ve come to expect and nothing else, meaning: A full set of spare propellers, a USB charger and an instruction manual (in English and Chinese). I say English, but it’s really more like someone’s best attempt at English. The grammar isn’t impeccable, but generally the point gets across the language barrier just fine. The box is actually not so much a box in the traditional sense as it is a case. We’ve seen these before with the Hubsan Q4 and many of Lian Sheng’s models, only this is shrunk down. In theory I love these as they make the whole setup very portable, but in practice I’m not a fan as the lock mechanisms always seem to either not work or break after the first couple of uses for me.

So how does the world’s smallest quadcopter fly? I always expect these record breaking aircrafts to fly like crap, like a proof of concept rather than a finished consumer product. In actuality though, JXD has really hit the ground running with the 502. It overall handles very well in the air, despite its miniature size. I count a total of 0 weird behaviors or unexplained crashes in my 10+ flights so far. Equally important, it’s a lot of fun to fly!

The quadcopter has three rates, which actually covers a wide spectrum (and by extension, different types of users and flight situations). This goes a little bit against the grain: Although it’s more common than not for multirotors to provide more than one rate, the variation they offer is generally limited and feel set with a specific type of user already in mind (be that beginner, expert or anywhere in-between).

The first rate is almost ridiculously slow but with an adequate yaw rate, perfect for absolute beginners or for navigating cramped indoor environments. The second rate dials up both pitch and yaw quite a bit, this is probably the one most people will feel comfortable flying indoors with. The third rate really cranks things up to 11! I don’t trust my skills enough to show you full speed on this rate, even in an open indoor environment like this. It’s real fast! Yaw also increases further, but is still very much manageable.

It’s not all roses when dealing with the JXD 502’s flight characteristics though. For one, the aircraft tend to drift around a bit. It comes and goes and is nowhere near as bad as on other models I’ve flown (where it’s really interfering with your flight), but it’s there. For another, the flips are nothing to write home about. They start off well enough when the battery is fully charged, but quickly goes downhill from there getting lazier and lazier. Still, these criticisms are like the last sour slice of an otherwise well-tasting cake.

It should probably also be noted that the JXD 502 does have headless mode and return to home functionality (the “flying backwards” kind, not the fancier GPS based kind). I only tried it for the briefest of moments, as I’m generally not a fan of this feature, and it all seemed to work okay.

In summation, I was pleasantly surprised by the JXD 502. It’s one of – if not the – smallest of its kind around, but still has flight performance to compete with the best of ‘em. If it weren’t for a bunch of very minor but nevertheless accumulating flaws I could have given this my wholehearted recommendation, which I would really have liked because I haven’t had this much fun with a quadcopter in a long time!

Should I get it? I say do it! It’s cool and fun and flies great. So maybe it’s not perfect, maybe it won’t last forever. Big deal! For the money you’re paying, would you really expect it to?

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