Syma X5HW (In-Depth Review)
Recently, Syma released an update for its highly popular X5SW toy quadcopter. Dubbed the X5HW, the new model is an incremental update to its predecessor with altitude hold being the key feature that sets it apart.
It also sports a new and fresh color scheme and is available in white with lime green accents or pastel blue with black. Apart from these minor changes, the X5HW is still very similar to the X5SW. It continues to retain the same x-shape quadcopter body and landing legs.
The X5HW is part of a complete update across Syma’s X5 line of toy quadcopters which sees four new models replace the previous X5 lineup. The other models in the new X5 range include the X54HW, X54HC and X5HC.
The Syma X5HW featured in this review was kindly sponsored by GearBest.
- Dimensions: 330 x 330 x 110mm (with prop guards)
- Diagonal motor distance: 230mm
- Flight features:
- Altitude hold
- Headless mode
- 3D flips
- 2 flight speeds (High and Low)
- Motor size: 8mm
- Weight: 127g (with battery, camera and prop guards)
- Camera resolution: 0.3MP stills and video (640 x 480)
- File format: JPEG/3GP
- Flight time: 8 to 10 minutes
- Battery: 3.7V 500mAh Li Po
- Charging time: 120 minutes
- Control distance: approximately 50 – 100m
- Transmitter power: 4 x 1.5V AA batteries (not included)
What Has Changed?
Unlike the X54HW and X54HC which feature a very different body design from the previous X5’s, the X5HW looks more like a face-lifted X5SW. It features thinner plastics for the prop guards, new propellers and new color schemes.
It also features a new proprietary battery connector which seems to be an attempt by Syma to monopolize battery sales for their latest X5 models. The previous X5’s used conventional 2-pin molex connectors which meant they were compatible with a wide range of aftermarket batteries (and chargers). The connectors on the latest X5’s appear like JST connectors but with an added groove. This new proprietary approach may not go well with users who want to use their existing stash of RC batteries for the X5HW or its siblings.
As mentioned earlier, one major addition to the X5HW is the altitude hold feature which has fast become a standard key feature in sub-$100 toy drones. This is undoubtedly a major reason why anyone would want to choose the X5HW over the older X5SW.
Altitude hold makes flying a drone so much easier. To keep its altitude consistent, a barometer in the drone is used to keep track on air pressure. The X5HW attempts to keep this air pressure reading consistent by adjusting its propulsion accordingly to compensate for altitude gains or loss.
On the pilot’s side, keeping the X5HW hovering steadily in the air at a set altitude is very simple — just let go of the throttle stick at 50% and the barometer will work its magic, helping the X5HW keep its altitude within an envelope of about 1 to 2 feet. To make things easier for the pilot, the throttle stick has been configured to be self-centering at 50% which is the level needed to hover the drone. Moving the X5HW up or down is as simple as increasing throttle power or reducing it.
The X5HW also features new motor arm/disarm protocols. To arm the motors, simply push the throttle stick up for about a second. This will cause the motors to start spinning in idle mode. Pushing the throttle up (beyond 50%) will cause the X5HW to rise. To disarm the motors after landing, hold down the throttle stick for 1 or 2 seconds. There is also a way to stop the motors immediately by pushing both stick downwards and towards each other. Be careful not to do this while the X5HW is in the air since it will cause the motors to stop, leading to a crash.
The X5SW, although a pretty decent flier, was notorious for being unable to fly properly in windy conditions. This problem became known as the X5SW “wind bug” among RC enthusiasts and happens when the X5SW is flown into any sort of wind. In such situations, the X5SW will merely tilt forward and is unable to fly into the wind no matter how much input the pilot gives. We’re glad to say that with the X5HW, Syma has finally gotten rid of the problem. The X5HW has no issues whatsoever when flying in light to moderate winds.
When it comes to flight stability, the X5HW seems to have an edge over the X5SW. It is also a lot more subdued and predictable in both fast and slow speed modes. In other words, the X5HW is slower and less aggressive than its predecessor which is fine since it is aimed at beginners and people who just want a cheap flying camera for taking aerial videos and photos.
If you want to use the X5HW for some aggressive sports flying, simply remove the camera, prop guards and landing legs and the X5HW will transform into a lively sport flier, though not as fast as the X5SW.
Automated flips are somewhat quirky on the X5HW. When flipping, the X5HW will rise slightly into the air before performing the flip. Like many other toy drones that feature altitude hold, the X5HW will then plunge slightly before making a sudden surge upwards to compensate for the drop in altitude, causing it to rise at least a few feet. This is true only when flipping indoors in calm flying conditions.
When flipping outdoors, even in very slight winds, it actually gets worse — the X5HW will simply plunge about 12 feet before it starts to maintain a proper hover. It only gets slightly better with the camera removed.
This phenomenon is probably due to a confused flight controller which sees a sudden spike in altitude readings via its pressure sensor at the start of a flip and tries to over correct the spike by dramatically reducing propulsion which causes the X5HW to plunge. It then takes a split second before the flight controller realizes that the drone is plunging to bring its propulsion back up again which explains the dramatic plunge.
Flips are especially clumsy with the prop guards and camera attached. This clumsiness means the X5HW takes up quite a lot of airspace when performing a flip. Flip a few feet above ground or below a ceiling and the X5HW may just crash.
The X5HW is not alone when it comes to plunging flips. The same problem seems to affect many toy drones that feature altitude hold such as the newly released JXD 510G.
Despite this issue, the X5HW is still a very decent toy quadcopter in terms of flight performance. Its stability, smoothness and precision in the air will definitely earn it many fans. Its altitude hold feature also appears to be one of the best we’ve seen so far in a toy quadcopter. We’re quite impressed with the X5HW’s ability to hold itself in a rather tight altitude envelope (about 2 feet), especially in calm flying conditions.
The X5HW appears to use the exact same camera as its predecessor. Exterior-wise, nothing has changed and the camera still features the same 0.3MP WiFi FPV resolution. To view the FPV video downlink, you need to install the Syma FPV app on your smartphone and connect to the drone’s WiFi hotspot. Your smartphone is also used to record the videos and photos taken by the camera.
The camera has a built-in WiFi FPV transmitter that has a range of about 50 to 100 meters. WiFi FPV performance depends on the distance and a clear line of sight. Being a toy drone, the X5HW’s camera uses toy-grade optics so don’t expect to get the same image quality that you’d get from a proper camera. The camera is just good enough for doing stuff like high-rise building inspection or checking your roof.
One thing conspicuously missing from Syma’s latest X5 and X8 range is 5.8GHz FPV which is far superior than WiFi FPV. 5.8G FPV does not suffer from high latency and ensures a smoother video downlink.
Speaking of high latency, the X5HW should never be flown purely on FPV as this will probably lead to crashes since the image you see on your smartphone can sometimes be delayed between 1 and 3 seconds.
While newcomers such as JXD and MJX have rushed to include 5.8G FPV in their toy drones this year, Syma seems to be taking the tried-and-tested approach with their new toy drones. This is quite puzzling since the lack of 5.8G FPV in Syma’s latest products could very well lead to eroding market share for the company.
With the new X5HW, Syma has basically taken one of its bestselling toy drones and upgraded it with altitude hold along with a few minor tweaks. The X5HW is basically a more subdued X5SW with altitude hold, a new color scheme and lighter prop guards.
Syma has also made the X5HW a very focused beginner drone, giving it a smoother and less aggressive flight performance. Clearly, the X5HW was made for beginners and those who want to take aerial videos and photos without spending too much. It may not beat the X5SW in a drag race but it sure is a lot smoother and easier to fly.
One key feature where the X5HW shines very well in is altitude hold which is implemented very well. The drone is able to hold its altitude accurately within an envelope of 1 to 2 feet in calm indoor flying conditions and does not show any of the erratic altitude hold behavior (drifting up and down) that some other toy drones suffer from.
Another important thing Syma has done is to get rid of the infamous wind bug that the X5SW was known to suffer from and this will certainly go down well with Syma fans who have been waiting to see that bug solved.
On the negative side, the X5HW features proprietary battery connectors which can be a bit of a problem if you want to use aftermarket batteries or chargers with it. The X5HW also features clumsy aerial acrobatics, especially when it’s fully loaded and flown outdoors.
Apart from these minor issues, the X5HW is overall a very decent toy quadcopter. It’s a lot more stable and precise in the air compared to its predecessor. Thanks to a more subdued flight performance and superb implementation of the altitude hold feature, we are quite sure the X5HW will at least be as popular as the X5SW though it will certainly face stiff competition from rivals that feature 5.8G FPV.