Syma X8HG (In-Depth Review)
When Syma first released the original X8G, it became an instant hit. For the first time ever, people were able to shoot decent quality videos and stills with a toy drone that cost less than $150. When the cheapest Phantom 3 cost $500, the X8G was an affordable alternative that attracted many.
Of course, the X8G was in no way comparable to proper aerial photography drones that come with 3-axis camera gimbal systems and powerful brushless motors. It was, however, a big step forward for those coming from cheap camera drones that feature low quality optics.
And now, roughly one year later, Syma has updated the X8G with altitude hold and given it a new name — X8HG — the “H” standing for altitude hold.
- Dimensions: 480 x 480 x 170mm (without prop guards)
- Platform: Quadcopter
- Diagonal motor distance: 350mm
- Flight features:
- Altitude hold
- Headless mode
- 3D flips
- 2 flight speeds (High and Low)
- Propulsion: 15mm coreless (motors) / 9-inch propellers
- Weight: 617g (with battery and camera / without prop guards), 551g (without camera and prop guards / with battery)
- Camera weight: 66g (with mount and cable)
- Camera resolution: 8MP (stills), 1080P/720P video at 30fps
- File format: JPEG/MOV
- Battery: 7.4V 2000mAh 2S Li Po
- Charging time: 120 minutes
- Flight time: about 10 minutes (with camera)
- Control distance: about 100 meters
- Transmitter power: 4 AA batteries (not included)
The X8HG is, in essence, a re-badged X8G with altitude hold and new color schemes. Everything else on the X8HG is identical to its predecessor including the transmitter and camera.
This sample of the X8HG was kindly sponsored by Tomtop.
In many ways, the X8HG flies like an oversized X5HW. Like other Syma toy drones, the X8HG is very stable in the air and easy to pilot. Its altitude hold makes flying a lot easier for beginners and really takes out the guesswork when it comes to throttle control. Altitude hold also frees up your attention so you can focus on the aileron and elevator controls when taking videos.
I have some reservations when it comes to altitude hold but the X8HG has a reasonably good implementation of this feature. Due to altitude hold, handling on the X8HG may not be as sharp and precise as other drones that do not have the feature but Syma’s flagship flying camera was not designed to fly fast through hoops and underground carparks like an FPV racer. It was specifically designed to be a low-budget aerial photography platform and that’s where altitude hold plays a useful role.
The X8HG also has headless mode and interestingly, 360 flips, which puzzles me because who would want to perform flips on a drone this big? With altitude hold and an action camera attached, flipping the X8HG can be downright scary. It’s even more scary than the X8G since altitude hold causes it to plunge dramatically after completing a flip. This is a feature that Syma should not have included in the X8HG.
Thanks to its size and weight, the X8HG handles quite well in light to moderate winds. It handles very much like its predecessor with only altitude hold setting it apart.
Two speed modes are available — High and Low and the X8HG has a 7.4V 2000mAh battery which provides a flight time of about 6 to 10 minutes, depending on flying style and conditions.
The X8HG comes with a camera that is capable of taking 1080P or 720P videos at 30fps and 8MP stills. As far as toy drones are concerned, image quality is class-leading although not as good as the latest GoPros or even affordable action cameras such as the SJ4000.
The camera is attached to the body via a special quick-release mount. Power is provided by a stereo 3.5mm headphone jack to micro USB cable which also acts as a control cable. The fixed gimbal has some rubber dampers that help reduce jello. The dampers work reasonably well although not as good as the dampers on the MJX X102H which has a superb gimbal design.
Although the camera looks like other common action cameras such as the SJ4000, it is not a camera that can function as a stand alone unit. The camera does not have its own battery and has no control buttons apart from a simple switch that lets you toggle between 1080P and 720P video recording.
In other words, the camera was designed specifically to work only with the X8HG.
Another thing to note is that the quick-release mount does not fit SJ4000 or GoPro cameras although the X8HG camera looks very similar to these two models. If you want to fit an SJ4000 on the X8HG, you need to purchase a different mount which is available for less than $10.
As mentioned earlier, the image quality on the X8HG camera is superb by toy drone standards. If you’re tired of the poor image quality from cheaper toy drones such as the Syma X5HW or JXD 510G, then the X8HG is an excellent upgrade option if you’re not willing to spend a few hundred dollars on a proper semi-pro aerial photography drone. Images are sharp with adequate contrast and color saturation. Auto white balance also works reasonably well although occasionally it does struggle a bit.
However, the camera isn’t perfect and purple fringing can be seen throughout the entire frame, even in the center. Thanks to the wide angle lens, pincushion distortion is very obvious, especially when shooting architecture or scenes that involve straight lines and geometric shapes. But then again, this is a drone that costs less than $150 (with camera and shipping). The overall image quality and camera performance is great when you consider its very affordable price tag. If you need better image quality, then consider mounting an SJ4000 or GoPro.
Above is a sample gallery of unedited images taken with the X8HG in full 8MP resolution.
Since the X8HG only features a fixed gimbal, it is better at taking stills than videos making it a great choice for people like real estate agents. Trying to get stable videos is quite challenging when you’re using a fixed gimbal and depends a lot on wind conditions and flying style.
Despite having a very good camera, the X8HG does not have FPV which means framing shots with it can be very tricky. If you absolutely have to fly with FPV, then mounting a WiFi enabled action camera could be a solution although it is one method that I do not recommend since WiFi FPV tends to mess around with the drone’s 2.4G control signal.
Another option would be to mount a micro 5.8G FPV transmitter to an SJ4000 although this method would add more weight and draw some power from the drone’s battery which could reduce flight times down to about 5 or 6 minutes only.
The Syma X8HG is a worthy successor to the popular X8G and adds altitude hold to what is already a very good toy-grade aerial photography drone. With its sub-$150 price tag, it is a very attractive option for those who are looking for a toy drone that is capable of taking decent photos and videos.
It does have its flaws like not having an FPV video downlink which makes framing shots difficult and a very basic fixed gimbal which does very little in reducing camera shake. However, at less than $150 it is a steal.
The X8HG does face stiff competition from recent models such as the MJX X102H and Kaideng K70C but while these two drones are priced significantly lower, the MJX does not come with a camera and the Kaideng features one that has a lower resolution (2MP). Both the MJX and Kaideng are also more suited to those who like tinkering around and customizing things. The Syma, on the other hand, can take rather good 8MP images and 1080P videos right out of the box.
With that said, the X8HG is probably the best turnkey solution for those wanting to experience decent aerial photography for less than $150. It is one drone that currently faces very little competition in its class.