It all has to start from somewhere. If you’re interested in flying quadcopters, we highly recommend that you start with a smaller toy-like quadcopter to get the feel for flying.
FPV racing quads can cost several hundred dollars and you don’t want to immediately crash on your first flight. It’s a whole lot better to crash a cheap $20 to $50 drone than absolutely destroying your more expensive FPV quad. If you’re considering flying a more expensive camera drone, like a DJI Phantom or 3DR Solo, learning the ropes on a toy quad really helps. This is due to the control styles being the same, whether it is a toy style quad or an expensive camera drone. Getting flight time and control knowledge with a toy quadcopter will directly carry over to a larger (and more expensive) quadcopter. Once you choose a quadcopter to start learning with, be sure to come back and check out our guide on learning how to fly it!
Below I want to outline a few quads I highly recommend for anyone wanting to start learning to fly. They are all very straight forward and come packed with great features. It’s really amazing how great these lower cost quads are.
Syma X11C (X11C – with camera, X11 – without camera)
The Syma X11C was the first toy quad I got my hands on. I don’t recall what it was exactly that made me first decide on the Syma. It was most likely price that made me pull the trigger. At the time I purchased it, I paid something like $30 on Amazon.
There are a lot of great things to say about this quadcopter. You do have the ability to change between flight modes (Mode 1 and Mode 2), you can easily switch between low rate and higher rate at the press of a button (think of regular mode and turbo mode), and if you opt for the X11C that comes with the camera, you can even control that remotely as well.
I really liked that the X11C gives you the option to start the motors in a lower speed to help you get your bearings while learning to fly. It’s surprising how quickly you can lose control when learning to fly. The quadcopter flies really well and smoothly. It’s a pleasure to fly and I enjoyed learning on this quadcopter.
The main downside to the Syma X11C are the slightly weaker motors. I do think compared to the other quads on this list, that the motors on the Syma X11C just don’t provide the same amount of thrust as other options do. This isn’t a deal breaker, I would still recommend this quad as a first time option, but when it comes down to it, it does make me want to recommend a different quadcopter.
Another consideration to the Syma X11C is the controller. The big difficulty here is that the controller can both be a positive and a negative. If you’re familiar with video game console controllers, then the Syma X11C controller is going to feel right at home in your hands. It’s very similar in shape and style to an Xbox 360 controller. On the other hand, if you are more familiar with traditional tall controller sticks, it is going to feel a little weird.
On the note of controllers, the controller for the Hubsan X4 has very similar sticks to actual flight controllers. They’re a lot taller and you’ll translate very easily into the larger big time controllers. This to me isn’t necessarily that big of a deal, but it can be for some pilots. I started with the X11C and moved onto other controllers and had no problem doing so.
Hubsan X4 (H107C – with camera, H107L – without camera)
If you’ve done any amount of Google searching on good beginner quadcopters, you’ve no doubt found recommendations for the Hubsan X4. I completely agree with those who recommend this quadcopter as a person’s first quad. It’s simple and mirrors many of the great things found in the Syma X11C. The only downside here is typically in price. I find that most vendors have the Hubsan X4 at slightly higher prices compared to the Syma.
Apart from the controller, you’re going to find a lot of similarities between this and the Syma X11C. They can even use the same batteries! Both fly really great and provide a fantastic learning experience in how quadcopters fly. It really does all boil down to understanding what happens when you move a control stick in a certain direction.
The advantage of the Hubsan X4 over the Syma X11C is in its motors which provide greater thrust. While Vesp and I were flying our quadcopters outdoors side-by-side (Vesp owns the Hubsan X4 while I own the Syma X11C), it felt that the Hubsan had an easier time with breezes while the Syma X11C really did feel the effects of outside influences. Generally I’d probably recommend flying both of these quads indoors anyway, but if you’re going outdoors at all, you should probably opt for the Hubsan X4.
I find that the biggest downside to the Hubsan X4 are the propellers. While flying the Syma X11C I never replaced any propellers even after my thousands of crashes. They took a serious beating and kept on performing. I do feel the quality of the Hubsan propellers are a little worse than the Syma’s. Both get the job done well, but I feel that Hubsan will bend or break more so in the long run. Of course, if you’re using propeller guards (which you should!) it’s kind of a moot point anyway.
This is the point where things start to get a bit more interesting. The Syma X5C (there are so many different version of this quadcopter, at the time of this article I’d recommend the Explorers 2 version) takes it to the next step. More of a medium sized quadcopter, the Syma X5C does bring a lot more power to the table.
The larger size of the craft means you’re going to have better thrust. The X5C can really move once you give it that full throttle. It performs much better in outdoor conditions and isn’t as greatly affected by breezes. Which is a good thing because due to its larger size, I would not recommend flying this quadcopter indoors. It’s incredibly fun going full throttle and blasting through the air.
Otherwise, you’re getting a very similar experience here when compared to the Syma X11C and the Hubsan X4. All are very straightforward and simple to fly. The main advantage of the X5C is its larger size and more powerful flying. I really enjoyed flying this quadcopter the most. If you’ve got a good amount of space to fly this in, I really think this is a great choice. This quadcopter also generally runs around $50, which isn’t that much more than the previous mentioned quadcopters. If you can fly in your backyard and can spare the extra cash, I’d go with the X5C over the other two.
- More Batteries! Easily one of the most important upgrades you can get for any craft. Extra batteries allow you to fly for longer periods of time. Having longer practice sessions makes learning easier. These Tenergy batteries work great for both the Syma X11 and the Hubsan X4.
- Battery Charging Hub. Save time by charging multiple batteries on one charger. It’s easy to charge multiple batteries this way rather than having to constantly monitor the charging and going back and forth.
- More Batteries for the Syma X5C. This battery + charging hub combo is a great deal and accessory for the Syma X5C.
- Extra Propellers! It’s a great idea to grab more propellers for any quadcopter you use. You’ll be crashing your quadcopter regardless of how good you are. It’s always good to have extra propellers.
Conclusion… and guides on how to start flying!
You really can’t lose regardless of which of the three you choose. They will all give you a great sense of what the sticks on the controllers do for when you fly a quadcopter. At the end of the day, you want to get a feel for how quadcopters fly and any of the three here are going to work for you.
Ready to learn how to fly your new quadcopter? Check out our three part guide using the links below:
Let me know what you think! Tweet me @Chococopter.