Syma X5UW (In-Depth Review)
The Syma X5UW is the latest addition to Syma’s popular X5 line of mini quadcopters and is currently the flagship X5 model. It also features the most advanced WiFi FPV camera that any X5 has seen to date.
The X5UW, along with its non-FPV sibling — the X5UC — represent a huge improvement in design and features when compared to earlier X5 models. They also cost more — the X5UW currently sells for $89.99 while the X5UC sells for $54.99. Both models are now available at most popular online stores such as GearBest which provided the sample featured in this review.
At roughly $35 more than Syma’s other new WiFI FPV drone — the X5HW, is the X5UW worth its price tag? After having over a dozen flights with the X5UW, I’m glad to say that it is worth it. Read on and you’ll find out why.
- Dimensions: 320 x 320 x 70mm (without prop guards)
- Platform: Quadcopter
- Diagonal motor distance: 230mm
- Flight features:
- Altitude hold
- Headless mode
- 3D flips
- Waypoint navigation
- 2 flight speeds (High and Low)
- Accelerometer control (via smartphone)
- Propulsion: 8mm coreless (motors) / 145mm propellers
- Weight: 118g (with battery and camera/without prop guards)
- Camera resolution: 1MP stills (1280 x 720) and HD 720P video @ 15fps
- File format: JPEG/MOV
- Battery: 3.7V 500mAh Li Po
- Charging time: 60 minutes
- Flight time: about 7-10 minutes
- Control distance: about 50 to 100 meters
- Transmitter power: 4 AAA batteries (not included)
For a start, the X5UW features a completely new body and has a number of design features that are different when compared to earlier X5 models. Even the transmitter has a completely new design, looking more like a DJI Phantom 4 transmitter. At the top of the body is a neat power button which is easier to access compared to the power switches that were located at the bottom on earlier models.
I’m quite impressed with the overall look of the body. Its candy red color and other fine details such as the circular chrome motif and vents give it a premium look and feel. What I’m not impressed with is that Syma has chosen to stick with hard plastic for the body instead of softer and more flexible plastic which are less likely to break or crack when exposed to impact.
LED lights are located directly below the motors which is great for orientation. Earlier X5’s had their LED lights underneath the motor arms and because they’re closer to each other, orientation can be a bit difficult over long distances. The X5UW’s lights are round and spaced further apart, making it easier for you to discern front from back.
Landing legs are also new and lighter besides being shorter. This helps reduce the chance of the drone tipping over during hard landings — something which is common with earlier X5’s that feature taller legs.
The X5UW features a proprietary battery design which slots into the rear of the body. Gone is the battery door and the new battery comes with no connector wires. It is a lot easier to use and looks neat too. You no longer need to fidget with connector wires and stuff them into the bay before closing the battery door which can sometimes lead to wires getting clipped and damaged. With the new design, you just slide the battery in and it will click in place securely.
The prop guards, too, have been redesigned. In earlier models, prop guards were secured with really tiny screws which are very hard to find when they go missing. The X5UW prop guards feature a slot-in design that doesn’t require any screws.
The transmitter is something worth talking about as well. It features a pebble-shape design and although it has a body made entirely of plastic, it actually feels very comfortable. Fine touches such as the red chrome rings around the control sticks give the transmitter a premium look. It’s nice to see Syma get rid of the old transmitter design that came with earlier X5’s. I’ve never been a fan of how they looked.
At the top of the transmitter is a slot that allows you to attach a phone holder. When not in use, the holder can be removed and the slot closed with a cover. This design approach is a lot more neat compared to the slip-on method used in the older transmitter.
On the down side, the new transmitter no longer features an LCD screen and trimming is done by pressing in the left control stick. This means you will not be able to see your trim values and other details such as battery power.
One of the most impressive features of the X5UW is its camera. Not only does it feature HD 720P video and a much better image sensor, it also has a completely new body with a twist-to-lock design. Syma has also found a new way to conceal the camera wire from view by hiding it inside the locking mechanism. This approach creates a very tidy overall look.
Syma’s older WiFi FPV camera does not have a memory card slot for recording videos and photos. It instead relied on the Syma FPV app to record the files on a smartphone. This wasn’t the best method as latency lags were also recorded by the app. To solve this problem, Syma has added a micro SD card slot in its latest WiFi FPV camera. Image quality is also significantly better when compared to the earlier model.
Besides the higher 1MP resolution, the X5UW’s camera has better dynamic range and sharpness, although colors are less saturated. There is also less contrast, with images having a more natural look. As can be seen from the comparison below, the X5UW images show more detail in the highlights (sky and clouds) and shadows. The lens on the X5UW also has a slightly wider angle (notice the metal bars on both sides of the image). In the comparison below, the X5UW image had been downsized to 0.3MP to match the X5HW’s image resolution.
One thing that Syma still hasn’t done is to release a drone that sports 5.8G FPV. All X5’s to date (not including the non-FPV versions) have featured only WiFi FPV and I’m puzzled why Syma has yet to release one that has 5.8G FPV when many of its rivals have done so this year.
The X5UW has two-speed modes — High and Low. It also has the usual staple of flight features commonly available in toy drones of this price range — altitude hold, 3D flips, one-key takeoff/land and headless mode. In addition to these common features, it also sports some newer features such as waypoint navigation and accelerometer control.
Both High and Low speed modes are faster than the ones on the X5HW, making the X5UW a better choice for sport flying. Overall flight performance and stability is very impressive. It feels a bit more stable than the X5HW and interestingly, has a smoother motor sound (the X5HW sounds coarser). When in High speed mode the X5UW really shines, taking sharp turns and performing funnels smoothly.
Flips on the X5UW are another interesting point. Unlike other toy drones with altitude hold such as the X5HW and JXD 510G, the X5UW does not plunge that badly. It rises before a flip and seems to flip in a much smaller radius than the X5HW and recovers a lot better. As a result, flips are a lot less clumsy although the X5UW will still rise and dive a little.
Syma GO app
Along with the release of its three new drones (including the X14W), Syma has also released a new app called Syma GO which features both drone and camera control. It is very similar to the earlier Syma FPV app but with some newly added features. For a start, there is the transmitter emulator which allows you to pilot the drone using two virtual controller sticks — not the best way to fly your drone but can come in handy if your transmitter is not around or is out of battery.
One new feature is waypoint navigation (similar to what’s available on the MJX X601H). Since the X5UW does not come with GPS, this feature should not be confused with the more sophisticated GPS-assisted navigation in more advanced drones such as the Phantom 4.
The X5UW executes flight plans created in the app by estimating the distance it needs to fly along the X and Y axis. The feature does not allow you to set altitude information in the flight plan (throttle control is made available on the app screen when the drone is executing the flight plan so the pilot can manually control its altitude). Waypoint navigation in the Syma GO app is very similar to what is featured in the MJX H app. Click here to read more about it.
Another way to pilot the X5UW is via accelerometer control (Syma calls it “App Gravity Control”). This method uses your smartphone’s accelerometer to fly the drone (tilting your phone forward will cause the drone to fly forward). This is very much like how you’d drive a race car in one of those racing simulation apps — by tilting your phone in various directions. This method is a lot more intuitive than using the virtual transmitter controls.
The Syma X5UW is quite easily the best X5 Syma has produced to date. It features a completely new body and camera design. Image quality is also much better than its predecessors and the camera now sports HD 720P resolution. There are so many things to like about the new body design which makes the older X5’s look dated. Minor details such as the well-designed and positioned power button and the chrome motifs give the X5UW a premium look.
Lower landing legs on the X5UW also provides better stability and LED lights are now round and spaced further apart, making it easier to discern between front and back. Another impressive feature is the newly designed transmitter which now has a pebble-shape design which is very comfortable in the hands. Like the drone, there are many details on the transmitter that give it that chic premium look. Unfortunately, the transmitter does not feature an LCD screen, so knowing your trim values and other details such as transmitter battery power can be tricky.
Overall, Syma has done a great job with the X5UW. It simply looks better and flies better than earlier X5’s, although costing more. In short, it is the best X5 Syma has ever produced.
Features and Performance9/10
- Improved HD 720P camera
- Great flight performance
- Flips quite well
- Good looks, design and build quality
- Well-designed transmitter
- Somewhat pricey
- No LCD screen on transmitter
- Slow video frame rate (15fps)