XK Detect X380-C (In-Depth Review)
When WLToys released the V303 Seeker quadcopter just over a year ago, it immediately became an instant hit. Its popularity was driven mainly by an affordable price tag (less than $400), basic but reliable GPS features, decent quality and highly stable flight characteristics which made it an excellent beginner drone for those looking to take up aerial photography at low budgets.
At a time when the cheapest Phantom 2 cost well over $900, the V303 was like a dream come true for many who wanted a semi-pro aerial photography platform minus the hefty price tag of a Phantom.
Fast forward one year into the future and WLToys, via its sister company XK, releases the Detect X380 — a beefed up and improved version of the V303. Appearance-wise, the X380 shares a striking resemblance to its predecessor. Not much has changed on the exterior except for the new faux carbon fiber finishing and a larger battery bay. The X380 still retains the x-shaped body, the twin headlights and landing legs that look like retractable antennas from a 1960’s science fiction movie.
What has changed, among other things, is the battery capacity and control range — the new battery has a capacity of 5400mAh, about twice the capacity of the V303’s while the control range has been doubled from 500m to 1000m. This is good news for V303 owners who wished their drones could fly longer and farther. Best of all, a X380-C with 2-axis camera gimbal system only costs roughly $50 more than its V303 equivalent — not exactly a very large increase considering the generous improvement in battery capacity and control range.
The X380 comes in 4 different kits:
- X380 – standard kit with no camera (30 minutes flight time)
- X380-A – includes fixed gimbal and 1080MP camera (27 minutes flight time)
- X380-B – includes fixed gimbal with 3-point dampening and 1080P HD camera (27 minutes flight time)
- X380-C – includes 2-axis brushless gimbal and 1080P HD camera (22 minutes flight time)
This review is based on a X380-C with an added FPV transmitter and monitor (not included in the original kit).
- Dimensions: 305 x 305 x 210mm
- Diagonal motor distance: 380mm
- Motor size: 2212 950kV brushless
- Weight: Approx 1190g (with battery and camera)
- Flight time: X380 (3o mins) / X380-A (27 mins) / X380-B (27 mins) / X380-C (22 mins)
- Battery: 11.1V 5400mAh 20C 3S Li Po
- Charging time: 90 – 120 minutes
- Control distance: approximately 1000m
- Transmitter power: 6 x 1.5V AA batteries (not included)
Less Is More
The XK X380-C may not have all the bells and whistles of its closest DJI rival — the Phantom 3 Standard but sometimes less is more. Unlike the Phantom 3 which boasts GPS waypoint navigation and a host of other neat features, the X380-C does the bare basics with regards to GPS navigation.
It can take off or land automatically with the press of a button, automatically return to its launching point when needed and also boasts the popular “Hover Around Point” GPS feature which aerial photographers will find very useful (at press time, this feature is only available via a firmware upgrade).
All these GPS features may not seem much but when you’re into aerial photography, you’d rarely need more than what the X380-C has to offer anyway. Features such as waypoint navigation and other more advanced autonomous features may be useful to industries such as agriculture and law enforcement but they are rarely in the average aerial photographer’s wishlist.
The first thing you’ll notice when you get the X380-C up in the air is that this is one drone that was tuned and designed purely for aerial photography. The X380-C is not a drone you’d buy for the thrill of flying, racing or performing aerial stunts. It is a drone that was made to take great photos and videos from the air.
You’ll notice this in its highly stable flying characteristics. The X380-C flies with such stability and grace that you’d think it’s a $1,000 drone. One key feature that makes the X380-C so stable in the air is its barometric pressure sensor and GPS module which give the drone an accurate reading of its altitude (within 0.5M) and position, allowing it to precisely maintain its position in the air even in light to moderate winds.
The X380-C’s spring-loaded self-centering throttle stick rests at 50% so keeping the drone hovering accurately at a specific altitude is very easy. If you need to go higher, just move the throttle stick up till the X380-C rises to where you need it to be, let go of the throttle stick and voila, the X380-C obediently stays put where you left it and will maintain its position until you move it elsewhere (assuming you have a strong GPS reception).
This stability allows you to focus on taking good videos and photos instead of spending your energy and focus in struggling to fly the drone.
Yaw movement in the X380-C is also fluid and smooth, allowing you to take sweeping panoramas of the landscape below with ease. Everything in the X380-C seems dialed in to give you an excellent aerial photography platform.
Another key reason that makes the X380-C such a stable flier is its excellent propulsion system which consists of 2212 950KV brushless motors paired to 9-inch propellers. The quality of these motors are superb and they’re almost as good as what you’d find on the more expensive Phantom 3.
The only thing that needs to be done to get the most out of the X380’s propulsion is to balance the plastic propellers which I find to be mostly out of balance. The motors themselves are already very well balanced out of the box so they don’t really need any tweaking.
The X380 also features “headless” mode — a feature which allows you to fly your drone without worrying where its front is facing. When headless mode is turned on, the drone will fly in any direction you order it relative to your transmitter’s position, irrespective of where its front or “head” is facing. So if your drone has its front facing right at you, it will move to the left if you push your right control stick to the left.
It is important to remember that the “front” direction is determined when you arm the motors and is fixed throughout the flight until you land the X380 and disarm it.
“Headless” mode is really useful when you lose visual orientation of your drone due to distance. However, I advise beginners not to develop the habit of flying in this mode too often since this is simply a great way to develop bad flying habits.
Camera Gimbal System
The XK X380-C kit comes with a 2-axis brushless gimbal and camera system which isn’t the best there is where gimbals are concerned but gets the job done reasonably well nevertheless. The gimbal is attached to the bottom of the body via a set of four rubber dampers and plastic rails that help minimize vibration to the camera. A dial at the lower right of the transmitter allows the pilot to control the pitch angle of the gimbal. This setup is a bit complicated with plastic parts and wires sticking out from underneath the body.
Having only 2 axis, the gimbal is not able to dampen vibration in the yaw axis which is another weakness of the system. Due to this, the X380-C’s camera gimbal system does not offer the same level of stability that a 3-axis gimbal can provide. However, when flying conditions are ideal, the X380-C is still capable of taking great videos. It only starts to struggle in really windy conditions.
The X380-C comes supplied with a 1080P HD camera which appears to be a clone of the popular SJ4000 action camera. Although costing significantly less than a GoPro, the camera is still capable of producing some really impressive images, although not exactly in the same ballpark as the latest GoPros where quality is concerned.
The X380 comes with a redesigned 6-channel transmitter body that also features an improved control range — 1000m to be exact, double the range of its predecessor. While the V303’s transmitter had the appearance of a toy-grade product, the X380’s looks like it means serious business.
Gone are the childish graphics and color scheme, replaced by a more professional all-black look with labels and buttons placed ergonomically. The X380 transmitter not only looks good, it feels good in your hands too.
Power is supplied by 6 AA batteries and there are dedicated switches for “headless” mode and return-to-launch (“Go Home”). An LCD display dominates the lower part of the transmitter and displays important information such as throttle position, battery level and other status details. A dial at the lower right controls the gimbal’s pitch angle and can be pressed to activate the “hover around point” GPS feature (if you already have the latest firmware installed).
There is also a button for automatic take off and landing and another button for toggling between stick modes.
A World of Options
The X380 offers a host of options when it comes to modifications — one thing that makes it more attractive than other drones such as the Phantom 3 that have a more integrated/proprietary approach to their designs.
Don’t like the supplied camera? Just swap it with a GoPro. You can even replace the 2-axis gimbal with a gimbal of your choice and add your own choice of FPV transmitter and antenna.
The X380 is also compatible with generic 5400mAh Li Po batteries that cost about $30 each. That is certainly a far better bargain than the smart batteries that come with the Phantom 3 which can cost well over $100.
For the more technically-inclined, the X380’s flight controller can be accessed via a software connection and its GPS capabilities upgraded with your own DIY copper shield to dramatically improve satellite reception.
These are just some of the upgrades and modifications that can be done on the X380 to make it perform better.
The XK Detect X380-C represents a big improvement over its highly popular predecessor the WLToys Seeker V303. It is an excellent entry-level aerial photography platform that offers nearly the same stability, quality and reliability that you’d normally get in more expensive drones. It also offers plenty of freedom for upgrades and modifications. It may offer only basic GPS features such as Return To Land (RTL) and Hover Around Point — a list which may not appear impressive to some but for the average aerial photographer, such features are just what most assignments need.
With that said, the X380-C was designed primarily as an aerial photography drone. It’s not something that you’d buy for the thrill of flying, racing or performing aerial acrobats. Almost everything about this drone was designed for taking smooth and impressive aerial shots.
Priced between $310 for the X380 model and $480 for the X380-C model, the X380 range stands in a class with few rivals, with only the Cheerson CX-20 and a few other similar models coming close to matching its specs. On the upper price range, it faces stiff competition from the Phantom 3 Standard which is a very well-rounded package itself and represents a formidable rival to the X380-C. But while the P3 Standard offers a highly integrated package, it does have its drawbacks.
Chief among these are its lack of mod options, highly proprietary design, expensive smart batteries, no fly zones and a flight controller that requires mandatory updates. This makes the X380-C a highly attractive option for those seeking an affordable (and less fickle) alternative to the P3 Standard.
Priced at $480, all it takes to make the X380-C fully FPV capable is to purchase at least a 200mW 5.8GHz FPV transmitter and FPV monitor with built-in receiver and battery at a cost of roughly $100. This brings the total cost to about $580 which is still about $120 cheaper than a P3 Standard. Bear in mind that the Phantom 3 does not come with its own FPV monitor as it uses your smartphone for that purpose.
Like the P3, the X380-C has its own drawbacks too but there aren’t many to mention here. One of it is the messy camera gimbal system that leaves plenty of wires sticking out from the underbelly and a 2-axis brushless gimbal that is certainly no match for the P3’s 3-axis gimbal.
Still, the X380-C is overall an excellent package that offers great value. It’s not surprising that the X380-C is already on its way to becoming one of the most popular, if not the most popular, entry-level aerial photography platform below $600 — a worthy successor to the venerable WLToys V303.
The XK Detect X380-C is available for purchase at GearBest.
XK Detect X380-C
Features and Performance8/10
- Very smooth and stable flight
- Decent build quality and reliability
- Room for upgrades, tweaks and modifications
- Affordable batteries
- Decent camera (X380-C)
- Messy wiring on the camera gimbal system
- 2-axis gimbal instead of 3-axis
- No power switch