Walkera QR X350 Pro (In-Depth Review)
About a month ago I purchased the Walkera QR X350 Pro which came with a Devo F12E transmitter, Walkera G-2D Gimbal and Walkera iLook+ camera. The X350 Pro is Walkera’s entry-level offering in their Ready-To-Fly (RTF) multicopter range and now sits below the Scout X4 and Tali H500 in terms of pricing and features. It is aimed squarely at multicopter enthusiasts and users who want features of more expensive models at an affordable price.
Features such as the APM flight controller which was once available only in higher end multicopters is now packed as standard feature in the X350 Pro. This, along with other improvements, gives the X350 Pro an edge over its rivals in the same price range.
A Rocky Start for an Amateur
The X350 Pro is essentially the updated and beefed up version of Walkera’s first stab at the 300-size multicopter market for serious enthusiasts — the X350. Walkera is no stranger to the RC scene and has been around for some time, producing smaller RC toys such as helicopters and smaller quadcopters. The X350 marked Walkera’s official entry into the enthusiast RTF multicopter market in the summer of 2013, competing directly with the popular DJI Phantom.
Initial reaction to the X350 was mixed. Being Walkera’s first 300-size multicopter, it was inevitable that the X350 would be plagued by a few flaws. Among these was a puny 2200mAh battery which provided a flight time of approximately 8 to 10 mins only. Then there was Walkera’s uninspiring first generation GPS flight controller and poorly designed plastic body that flexed a lot.
Early users of the X350 also reported poorly soldered wiring and circuit boards that could potentially cause serious damage during flight. It was clear that the X350 was put together in a hurry to compete in the highly lucrative RTF multicopter market which is seeing explosive growth lately. Naturally, the complaints and rants began to pile up.
The QR X350 Turns Pro
Fortunately, Walkera listened to its customers and about a year later released the improved QR X350 Pro. The new incarnation was everything its predecessor should have been and Walkera did an excellent job in weeding out almost all critical flaws that were present in the first model. Below is a summary of these new improvements:
- APM flight controller by ArduCopter
- 5200mAh 3S battery (twice the capacity of its predecessor)
- Higher landing legs
- Stronger plastic body
One of the first things I did after buying my X350 Pro was to open the body to have a look at the soldering work inside — knowing very well that the earlier X350 suffered from countless complaints about shoddy workmanship. I was surprised to find that the solders were done very well. They were not only done well but Walkera also went one step further and added some neat insulation to the solders.
APM Flight Controller
A key feature of the X350 Pro is the highly versatile open source APM flight controller by ArduPilot which puts it on par with the DJI Phantom 2. If you’re not familiar with multicopters, a flight controller is essentially the software brains of a multicopter and dictates what it is capable of doing and how it flies. To configure the flight controller in the X350 Pro, simply connect it to a computer via a USB cable and you can start tweaking around with it.
The APM flight controller presents a host of features that were not present in the earlier X350. Among this is mission planning with waypoint navigation using Google Maps — a feature which has got many multicopter fans excited about the X350 Pro. To begin planning your missions, just download the free Mission Planner software and you can start plotting your waypoints for your mission.
Below is a summary of key features of the APM flight controller, as taken from the Arducopter website:
- High quality auto-level and auto altitude control – fly level and straight. Or fly the awesome “simple flight” mode, which makes ArduCopter one of the easiest multicopters to fly. Don’t worry about keeping an eye on your multicopter’s orientation — let the computer figure it out! You just push the stick the way you want to go, and the autopilot figures out what that means for whatever orientation the copter is in, using its onboard magnetometer. “Front”, “back”…who cares? Just fly!
- No programming required. Just use an easy-to-use desktop utility to load the software with one click and set up ArduCopter with quick visual displays, a point-and-click mission planner and a full ground station option.
- Hundreds of GPS waypoints, free (the exact number depends on the memory of the hardware you’re using; APM support 127 waypoints, but platforms based on PX4 can accommodate many times that). Just point and click waypoints in the Mission Planner, and APMArduCopter Copter will fly itself to them. No distance limits! You can script entire missions, including camera control!
- “Loiter” anywhere. Just flip the toggle switch and your copter will hold its position using its GPS and altitude sensors.
- Return to launch. Flip a switch to have ArduCopter fly back to the launch location automatically.
- Do all mission planning via a two-way wireless connection option. Waypoints, mode changing, even changing the gains of every control parameter can be done from your laptop, even while the copter is in the air!
- Automatic takeoff and landing. Just flick a switch and watch ArduCopter execute its mission completely autonomously, returning home to land by itself in front of you when it’s done.
Since the APM flight controller is rich in features, mastering it requires a rather steep learning curve. It is advisable to read all important info on the ArduCopter website before you attempt to tweak your multicopter with Mission Planner. Messing about with your multicopter settings has the potential of creating a lot of problems and headaches if you’re not sure what you’re doing. It may also cause your multicopter to crash when flying, resulting in expensive repairs and damage.
Battery and Flight Time
As mentioned earlier, the X350 Pro comes with a huge 5200mAh battery which is twice the capacity of what its predecessor had. With double the capacity, we now have double the flight time. When flying with no payload, the X350 Pro has a flight time of about 21 mins. With the G-2D gimbal and Ilook+ camera attached, flight time is reduced to approximately 15 mins.
Flight time is also determined by how aggressively you fly it. Flying in strong windy conditions or at high speeds will drain the battery faster. Temperature also plays a role here with warmer temperatures resulting in slightly longer battery life.
Shopping around for a X350 Pro can be a bit confusing since there are so many different configurations around. Walkera generally ships the X350 Pro with the Devo F7, 10 or F12E transmitters and some configurations may include a gimbal and camera. If you already have your own transmitter, you may want to consider buying the [easyazon_link asin=”B00M31FYUU” locale=”US” new_window=”yes” nofollow=”default” tag=”ridinpania-20″]BNF version of the QR X350 Pro[/easyazon_link] which comes with 1 battery and charger. BNF means “Bind and Fly”. Simply bind your transmitter to the X350 Pro and it’s ready to fly.
Be careful when purchasing online since the first generation X350 shares a striking resemblance with the newer X350 Pro and is still available by many online sellers for a much lower price. Although cheaper, the X350 is simply something that I don’t recommend at all since the newer X350 Pro is a great leap forward compared to its predecessor so make sure to read the fine print before purchasing.
If you’re new to the quadcopter scene and want to purchase your very first RTF package on a tight budget then I’d recommend the [easyazon_link asin=”B00MS5UATG” locale=”US” new_window=”yes” nofollow=”default” tag=”ridinpania-20″]X350 Pro with Devo 7[/easyazon_link]. This is a complete RTF package which comes with a battery and charger. The Devo 7 is Walkera’s entry level transmitter with 7 channels — hence the name Devo 7.
If you have a bigger budget, I’d recommend buying the [easyazon_link asin=”B00RBC9M4K” locale=”US” new_window=”yes” nofollow=”default” tag=”ridinpania-20″]X350 Pro bundled with a Devo F12E[/easyazon_link]. The Devo F12E is Walkera’s flagship 12-channel transmitter and will be a good investment for years to come. The antennas on the Devo F12E are removable and can be fitted with any third party antennas for improved range and reception. If you choose to upgrade to a larger and more advanced multicopter in the future, the Devo F12E would be a good transmitter to have compared to its smaller and less capable siblings — the Devo 7, F7 and 10. This is, of course, the way to go if you’re thinking of flying multicopters for the long term.
Gimbal and Camera Options
If you want to go full monty, Walkera has First-Person-View (FPV) packages which include a brushless gimbal, camera and your choice of transmitter (F7, 10 or F12E). Walkera gimbals typically come in G-2D or G-3D forms. The G-2D gimbal allows rotation on 2 axis (roll and tilt) while the G-3D adds a third axis (pan) to the existing two. I personally wouldn’t recommend the G-3D gimbal unless you have a separate operator to control the camera or if video quality is very important to you. The G-3D gimbal provides more stable video as it dampens movement on all 3 axis while the G-2D is not able to absorb vibrations in the third (pan) axis hence any unwanted movement in the third axis will appear in your video.
If I were to use a G-3D gimbal, I would use it purely for video stability rather than use it to pan the camera. After all, the X350 Pro does not come with retractable landing skids so the skids are probably going to appear in your video when the camera is panning around.
As for camera options, most X350 Pro FPV packages are compatible with the GoPro Hero 3 or 4 action cameras. The Walkera gimbals were designed specifically for GoPro cameras and all you need to transmit video feed to the FPV screen on your transmitter is a separate video transmitter that attaches to your GoPro. This 5.8GHz video transmitter is usually sold separately but some sellers might include it in their packages.
If you’re not too particular with video quality, you might want to get Walkera’s iLook+ camera instead. The iLook+ was designed specifically for aerial video, is a lot cheaper than a GoPro, has a built-in video transmitter and detachable mushroom antenna. Having an iLook+ setup on your X350 Pro is a lot cleaner with less cables and parts hanging around which can get quite messy. Video quality on the iLook+ is also pretty decent and is about 80 to 90% similar to the class-leading GoPro.
Below is a list comparing the various X350 Pro FPV/RTF packages that are available.
[table id=1 /]
Walkera released the QR X350 Pro to compete directly with the DJI Phantom 2 Vision but making a direct comparison with its closest rival is a rather tricky affair. This is mainly because the Phantom was designed to be the ultimate RTF quad with the easiest learning curve. This less intimidating learning curve also comes at a high price and has its disadvantages as well. The Walkera, on the other hand, comes with a more affordable price tag and is a quad that begs you to understand its inner workings. It has a much steeper learning curve but is also a lot more configurable than the Vision.
Although it is marketed as a RTF package, it is a quad that requires some learning (and tweaking) before you can unleash its fullest potential. Flick the wrong switch on any Devo controller and you might crash or lose your X350 Pro altogether but when you do master it, the experience of owning and flying a X350 Pro is a lot more gratifying than what a Phantom 2 Vision can offer you.
With that said, rushing to fly the X350 Pro out of the box with little or no experience is not advisable. Give yourself some time and patience and the X350 Pro will delight you in many ways.
P/S: After several months of using the X350 Pro, I have come up with a long term review available here. The review ratings below have been updated to reflect the findings of the long term review.
Walkera QR X350 Pro
Features and performance7.2/10
- Reasonably affordable
- Well built and good-looking body
- Above average flight time
- Waypoint navigation
- iLook+ performs great and is durable
- Botched implementation of APM ArduPilot
- LVC not disabled by default (can cause crashes)
- 15A stock ESCs (it should be 30A for 1000kv motors)
- Poor customer service