Sometimes, the best value in a drone is in a sturdy, proven model that's been around for a few years—especially if it's a budget drone by an off-brand manufacturer. If you don't need the latest and greatest technology, real bargains—and real values—can be had by shopping great drones that might be a couple of years old or are made by a company you may not have heard of. Such is the case with the Hubsan H501S X4, a rather impressive bargain quadcopter drone with a solid set of features. We'll look into those features and the technical specifications of this great little drone and compare and contrast it to other similar drones on the market.
The Hubsan H501S
The Hubsan H501S is a bargain for a drone with GPS onboard, a 1080p camera, brushless rotors, and a reasonably good controller with a built-in 3.7" monitor that shows live video from the drone's camera. It's quite lightweight at 410g, and on the small side even for a non-folding drone, but solidly constructed and seemingly quite durable. The brushless motors are a prime selling point, as they're similar to those used by drone giant DJI, and brushless motors should last much longer than similar, coreless brush motor drones. The model we tested flew beautifully with no need for adjustments—not even the controller's built-in trim function—and almost no learning curve while using the included controller, thanks to its "headless" flight mode. It features a "follow me" mode and normal "oriented" flight modes, which allow for the camera to be oriented at a specific location, whereas the headless mode will follow the direction the right stick on the controller is pushed, regardless of where the camera is facing.
Its 7.4 volt, 2700mAh LiPo battery delivers around twenty minutes of flight time inside the little drone's 300-meter range. The remote operates at a frequency of 2.4GHz, which may make it susceptible to Wi-Fi interference (though we didn't see any in our tests), and the first-person-view video is transmitted at 5.8GHz. It has a gimble-less 1080p HD camera, a six-axis gyro, and features GPS and barometer position and altitude hold (respectively), as well as a follow-me mode, that "headless" or omnidirectional mode we mentioned earlier, and one-button return and landing, like drones many times its cost.
The Hubsan H501S will set you back depending on where you buy it and whether there are any discounts available at the time of purchase. Prices are always fluctuating, and it's best to do your homework and see if a cheaper deal can be had before shelling out for this little drone, as online prices varied by at least $40 when we did our research.
How It Compares
We picked a few similar drones available on the market to compare and contrast features, pros and cons, and of course, pricing. Those drones are:
- -5.8G FPV Real-time tansmission & 2.4G RC receiver.
- -1080P HD camera with controller 4.3 inch LCD screen.
- -Max Flight radius:300m; 5.8G wireless video transmission distance: 300m.
Ease of Use
The Hubsan H501S will set you back approximately $150 at online retailers.
Though GPS in a drone this size was a big deal when the Hubsan H501S first came out, many other similarly priced and sized drones now also come with GPS and altitude controls. The 1080p camera is a nice extra, but because it's not stabilized, mechanically or via software, the image is often jittery and will show every flight adjustment as a sharp, almost jarring movement. Still, for the price point, it's not a bad buy.
The Hubsan H501S is built solidly enough, and the brushless rotor motors are a nice added bonus, but this design could have been improved by adding larger or deeper standouts, as the stock elements make takeoff or landing in even normal length grass a bit of an issue.
- Headless/IOC function. Usually, the forward direction of a flying multi-rotor is the same as the nose direction. By...
- Equipped with the latest 6-Axis flight control systems, 3D lock, more scheduled flight, operating more to the force!
- Equipped with HD camera to take photos and videos while flying! Bring a new perspective to your photos and videos from...
Like the Hubsan H501S, the Cheerwing Syma X5SW-V3 is a small quadcopter that's manufactured in China and will just about fit in the palm of your hand, but that's where the similarities end. More a toy than a drone proper, this tiny little drone has almost none of the features of the Hubsan H501S but is more of a cheaper "throw away" drone suitable for children who are just learning to fly. With coreless (not brushless) motors and a flight time of around five minutes, the Syma X5SW-V3 doesn't have much going for it—except the price.
Ease of Use
Though this quadcopter does, like the Hubsan H501S, have a "headless" mode, it's more due to the limitations of the design than it is a design feature. The controller is barely adequate, but will more or less control this little toy drone. However, it behaves erratically, won't reliably hover, and is difficult to land without crashing.
It does feature FPV, or first-person-view video, which really just goes to show how far technology has come. You can't record the video and it won't take stills, but it will (mostly) show you where the drone is and what it's facing though it will be hard to get it to rotate to change orientation, even if you want to. And that FPV video? It's 480p.
Though the review version we tested didn't have these problems, many customers report this drone as broken out of the box, and the manufacturer has a lenient return or replacement policy as a result. That's a good feature to rely on for this drone, as many are also reported missing parts or partially or completely failing to respond to the controller.
- Headless security system enables players of any level to fly the drone easily
- 2. 4GHz technology adopted for anti-interference
- More stable and flexible with 6-axis gyro stabilization system
Again, like the Hubsan H501S, this is a small, quadcopter drone that's manufactured in China, and like the Syma X5SW-V3, that's about it for similarities to the Hubsan H501S. This quadcopter is, at least, marketed more as a toy and as "good for drone training," which we can't argue with. It does feature a "headless" mode, but again this is less of a feature and more of a limitation.
It responds to the controller slightly better than the Syma X5SW-V3 and has flight that is both more stable and more predictable, but lacks decent hover functionality and is just as hopeless at landing without a crash. With no recording capabilities of any kind and with an only slightly improved design over the Syma X5SW-V3, it's the definition of a bargain mini-drone: not quite a real drone, and as cheaply made as its price tag would suggest. Still, at this price point, it is fun for kids—until it breaks.
Ease of Use
Easier to use than the Syma quadcopter, but just barely. It will hover for a few moments before losing altitude, which is an improvement over the more expensive Syma, but it is nothing like the controlled altitude flight of the Hubsan H501S.
There really are no "special" features to speak of, but the HS170 doesn't market itself as jam-packed with options.
It seems a bit more durably built than the Syma, and there are no reports (that we could find) of this drone arriving pre-broken in the package, but it isn't really a proper drone. Still, an improvement over the Syma.
- Dual GPS: GPS positioning + GLONASS positioning provide you with accurate positioning details of your drone. Also able...
- Follow Me Mode: Follow to the GPS in your smartphone, ensuring your drone automatically follows and captures you...
- All-Round Functions: Headless mode, altitude hold and one key takeoff / landing for easier operation, no need to worry...
Rounding out our review of mini and small drones is the Potensic T25, another "off brand" name (meaning one that isn't as famous as DJI, Parrot, or any of the other big names in drone manufacture). Potensic sells great entry-level drones that are both affordable and have decent onboard features. While many budget drone makers are prone to using cheaper materials or cutting corners in manufacture or design, the Potensic T25 (like the Hubsan H501S) is a perfect example of a well-built, well-designed budget drone.
This little drone features full GPS and the same kind of location and altitude lock as the Hubsan H501S, a 1080p HD camera with a pretty amazing 120-degree field of vision, and adequate battery life for its range. It has better landing legs than the Hubsan H501S and is similar in shape (if not size) to the DJI Phantom line of drones—that same streamlined "hub quadcopter" shape that fans of DJI's more expensive lineup would know on sight. The controller has a slightly retro feel but does a more than adequate job of keeping the T25 in control, and while it's lacking a screen, it does allow for the easy attachment of an Android or iOS-based phone.
Ease of Use
Like the Hubsan H501S, the "headless" mode of this drone makes it quite easy to fly, but the controls were just a little more sensitive and required some manual trim adjustment for truly level, stationary flight.
The T25 and the Hubsan H501S have an almost identical feature set, with nothing special to set the T25 apart. Though the features it does have are impressive for a drone of this size (and age—like the Hubsan H501S this model is about three years old), newer drones at similar price points do manage to cram in slightly more in the way of features.
The T25 is solidly built, with a one-piece streamlined body and longer landing legs than the standoffs used on the Hubsan H501S, earning it an extra half star here. Though we didn't crash this model, we do feel it would do reasonably well, though the lack of rotor guards means you're investing in some spares for sure unless you have a steady hand and some drone piloting experience.
The two "mini-drones" on our list are really little better than toys and serve to show what's available at the sub-$100 price point (not, in other words, much at all). The T25 and the Hubsan H501S are similar in features, scope, and price, making them the two real combatants here.
So who wins our recommendation? While the T25 does have its upsides (solid body construction, durability, similar features and control modes as the Hubsan H501S), the Hubsan H501S is just that much more fun to fly and easier to learn, due perhaps to superior controller design or just some edge that the onboard software gives it (we're not sure which). The Hubsan H501S is the drone we'd recommend out of this lineup, earning 4 out of 5 stars.