The AOMWAY Commander V1 video goggles are often cited as a great option for FPV racing based on their price and feature set alone. Thanks to Gearbest, we’re taking a deep look of our own.
AOMWAY caused some confusion by releasing a small number of the original Commander goggles (notably, to reviewers,). Later on, the goggles were updated with additional features before most users were sent their orders. Some called the update version “V2”, but no official “V2” model exists. Adding to the confusion, AOMWAY marked this newer version as “V1”. You’re not likely to find the limited first-run release if you buy now. If there’s a head strap across the top, you’re looking at the newer second release. That’s what we have for this review.
Features and Specs
- 854×480px WVGA displays (16:9) with 32° FOV
- Diopter insert slots
- 5.8G 40-channel diversity receiver with Raceband
- SMA connectors
- Power input: 7–18V (2–4S)
- IPD adjustment 59–69mm
- Supported input: Analog RF or AV-in, NTSC/PAL; Analog 3D side-by-side; HDMI up to 720P; HDMI 3D
- Built-in DVR (from RF or AV-in) with microSD card slot for storage up to 32GB
- Anti-fog fan
Included in the package are the goggles (with the head straps and thin face foam installed), two antennas (a cloverleaf and a patch), an analog AV cable, a power input filter/cable, thicker face foam, a manual, and a sticker sheet. You won’t find a battery. With a 2–4S input range, you have a wide array of choices so if you’ve been in the hobby a while or if you are upgrading from another goggle set you probably have something you can use. Otherwise, newer 2S batteries that charge by USB are a nice option, or you might choose a large battery to have more flight time between charges.
Aomway has included a case as well. Much like the case that comes with some Fat Shark goggles, it’s not thought through completely. You have to remove both antennas to close it, but the case isn’t designed to hold them. Many batteries won’t fit, either. There’s a divot in the bottom of the case that doesn’t match up with the goggles, suggesting it might be re-purposed rather than developed specifically for the Commanders. The case is opaque and moderately hard-sided, so it will at least protect the plastic from scratches and the screens from direct sunlight. I don’t expect the zipper to last long, especially because the SMA connectors press against it even when closed.
Build and Fit
The Commanders fit well, but there’s some room for improvement in ergonomics. My old Fat Shark Predators, and even the Eachine EV100 beat out the Aomways. The curve across the face is far wider than my head, leaving me with a light leak at both left and right edges. It’s not a terrible amount, but the Fat Sharks don’t have this problem. I can’t say I find the amount of light leak hugely distracting, but others may. I replaced the foam with the thicker version that came in the box and it definitely helped improve both light leak and comfort. Once I had the straps adjusted, the goggles stayed in place and I could wear them for a long time. I don’t get eye strain from the view—which is more than I can say for many of the cheap box-style viewers I’ve tried.
As box-viewers use increasingly capable screens, they’re also getting heavier and place a lot of weight on the neck. The Commanders are nice and light. Their physical size is another significant advantage over box viewers, (though not much better or worse than most other goggles). The battery connector is a standard barrel jack on the right side, but Aomway has done away with the Fat Shark-style double-strap battery holder that never worked well. Instead, the goggles come with a barrel plug cable that terminates in a board with a power filter and balance lead connectors for 2–4S batteries. This runs through some loops in the google strap and around to a patch at the back of the head with a Velcro-strap battery holder. This style allows for many different battery sizes, and also helps move the center of gravity backwards. Once in a while the battery did fall out of the holder, but you can adjust the strap tension as it’s partly elastic. The barrel connector is pretty standard, but cables using the plug aren’t known for their long-term durability.
This V1 version has a strap that goes over the top of the head. I never had problems with single-strap goggles, but I don’t mind the addition. Once adjusted, it helps to get the goggles in place on your face quickly, and can allow you to loosen the other straps a little. I’ve found the center strap is one more thing I have to position when I put the goggles on, but it does help keep my eyes in the sweet spot of the optics for the entire flight.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of the build quality were the two joysticks on top. They are only press-fit onto the control units inside, and they come off with little pressure. If you lose one, operating the goggles will become very difficult. It might be best to apply a bit of super glue here, but you’ll prevent disassembly and if you add too much you risk jamming the control for good. There isn’t enough surface area for a removable glue like E6000 to work well. As it turns out, using the included case is a good idea after all—unless you have a better one—so as not to lose the joysticks in transport.
Cameras come in both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios, and pilots often have to choose a viewer that matches what they are flying or deal with a stretched picture. The Commanders’ screens are 16:9, but you can operate them in a letterboxed 4:3 mode (where the right and left edges of the screen are unused). This feature seems completely obvious, but most viewers don’t have it. While the goggles remember the last video channel you used, they forget the AV display type. Each time you power them on, analog 16:9 will be selected. You’ll have to re-select the 4:3 aspect mode if that’s what you want.
The Commanders support 3D viewing of analog video with a single video channel—one screen split vertically into two pictures. The goggles separate the split frame into separate pictures for each eye. This reduces the horizontal resolution by half. It won’t use its internal RF modules to receive two full-screen signals on separate video channels. 3D viewing promised to be an innovative addition to our piloting experience, but so far it hasn’t materialized. Cameras that support 3D are expensive, they are difficult to mount, and easy to break. There are few good choices available, and some of the best models have been discontinued. It’s also notable that the Commanders don’t have a 3D mode that works at 4:3 aspect; both the analog 3D and HDMI 3D modes operate only at full screen (16:9).
On the bottom side, a PS2 port is available for a head tracker module. You can purchase these with or without the head tracker module already installed. If 3D seems esoteric, head tracking appears to have even less following/application among quad racers. If this is something you want to install later, be prepared for a technical journey and having to figure out some things on your own. There’s not a lot of good documentation. I’ve never met a racer that used it.
Rather than the typical A, B, E, F, and R bands, the Commanders label radio bands sequentially, A–E. These cover all the standard 40-channel frequencies, but don’t exactly map to them directly.
|Commander Band||Typical Band||Notes|
|C||Boscam A||Channel order is reversed|
|D||IRC/Fat Shark||Includes 5880MHz (Ch 8)|
The channel search is fast, but consistently chose a nearby channel instead of the exact one I was broadcasting on. I had a VTx set to 5658MHz (R1) and it always stopped at 5665MHz (E3). This will work for viewing others, but I’d suggest always setting your channel manually when you fly.
There’s an OSD notification each time the goggles switch antennas, letting you know which one is in use now. This message is much larger than it needs to be and I found it somewhat distracting. It will show up more frequently when signal is poor; possibly the worst time to be distracted. Another notification you’ll have to get used to in flight is a “REC” item if the DVR is on instead of a typical less-intrusive red circle. Once, I had the RF selection notification appearing when I was using an external video input. Restarting the goggles fixed it.
The anti-fog fan is almost completely silent. This is a good feature but it makes me wonder if it will be effective in moving enough air. I didn’t encounter a situation where it was needed yet, so I’ll update the review when that presents itself.
The display screens have a very crisp and sharp picture with good definition. They are high contrast, so the blacks are pretty dark and the whites fairly bright. On the other hand, they seem to be lacking some midtone definition. Color banding becomes apparent when there’s a light-to-dark gradient in view. Even some lower-end goggles show this more smoothly. A small loss of color definition isn’t a big deal when you are flying fast.
I found the brightness/contrast settings have a definite “ideal” points they should just be left at. They adjust the picture digitally, so your whites and blacks don’t really change when these are adjusted—the midpoint is shifted and you’ll lose definition in the highlights or shadows. Since the screens are already high contrast, there’s little that can be done to the picture digitally to improve it. If your picture is poor, you’ll get much better results by adjusting settings on the camera.
The image size is stated as a 32° FOV. It won’t match the Dominators, and it’s well below the size of many box viewers. Personally, I’m comfortable with the image size. It’s large enough to see all the detail that analog video has to offer. It’s perhaps easier to race with than massive screens like the Headplay where you have to use a lot of eye movement to see detail at the screen edges. Once I got flying, screen size wasn’t given a second thought.
I wasn’t happy with the lenses, though. The picture is clear in the center, but as you get toward the edges there is a ring that’s blurred. You can use the IPD adjustments so your eyes each get a different part of the screen in focus if you want, which helps some when you start flying as your brain preferentially uses the sharper information that it gets from each eye, but there’s an awkward feeling to it. Using 4:3 mode also helps here, because it uses a smaller portion of the screen that’s less affected. In a $300 product I really expect to have the entire screen in perfect focus all at once.
It’s a good idea to pair a directional antenna with an omnidirectional antenna in a diversity system, as each give you different characteristics. This is what Aomway includes, but this isn’t the directional antenna you want. I think every serious enthusiast wonders why Aomway still includes the ANT007B patch antenna with their products. It is commonly derided. We’ll leave further discussion of it to the technical testing of Maarten Baert, (the developer of the popular Pagoda antenna). Consider something like the TBS Patch as a direct upgrade—or, even better, something circularly polarized like a helical is usually a better fit for proximity racing. Honestly, a simple dipole might even be preferred over this patch as there’s been a return to linear antennas recently because of their weight and durability.
The RHCP cloverleaf, on the other hand, is often given good reviews. It performs pretty well and is a great value for the money. Pilots like the Aomway cloverleaf for its durability, though, which isn’t that important when attached to a goggle. A better performing but less durable antenna like the Pagoda would still be a good purchase—but keep the Aomway cloverleaf around to install on a quad.
The diversity switching is handled really well. Except for an OSD notification, you might not even notice when it changes from one antenna to the other. There’s no drop in picture as the signal is swapped.
The rated sensitivity of the receiver is “less than 92dBm”. Assuming they mean negative 92, this is pretty good—better rated than the RX5808 and FR632 (-90dBm) but below Aomway’s own RX006 (-95dBm)—but sensitivity numbers are usually taken with a heavy dose of skepticism. I did a rough test in the field and found that the receiver was very good! It outperformed each other receiver I had available: the EV100 (not good), the RX006 (good), and even the VR01 (surprisingly good). I tested with the stock antennas; with a good circularly polarized directional antenna I expect the usable range would improve even further. This is a huge plus for the Commanders, especially since the receiver isn’t replaceable. It’s great to see them perform well on one of the most critical items.
Using an HDMI-C cable, you can plug the Commanders into an HDMI source, such as most PCs. This cable isn’t included, but you can get one for about $5. The goggles’ HDMI descriptor says they are 1280×720px (HD 720p 16:9) so that’s what connected devices send. Since the displays are only 854×480px, there are a lot of dropped pixels. Small text and details may be impossible to make out since information is simply missing from the picture. You might have trouble watching a movie or connecting to some game consoles—any signal with HDCP will simply display as a blank screen. The lower resolution is actually a good thing if you are using a simulator, though, as it closely matches the resolution of an analog camera. It’s not so great if you want to use an HD video source to fly with since the higher resolution is mostly stripped away.
The Commanders pass through HDMI audio, so you might need headphones attached to the goggle to hear your sim if your computer shuts off its speakers when an HDMI device is connected. The goggles lack a volume control option—you’ll need an external, inline control if the line level isn’t comfortable.
As for 3D, the HDMI descriptor tells connected devices that it isn’t supported at all. This may be a serious roadblock, and means the Commanders will only do 3D viewing if you send it a side-by-side 3D image that’s encoded as if it’s a normal 2D picture. Not many HDMI-compliant sources of 3D video will be supplied like this. You can select 3D mode any time, and the goggle stretches the HDMI input picture across both screens, exactly like it works for analog. Because the screen size is relatively small, even if you do find something to watch in the right format—searching YouTube for “side-by-side 3d” actually works, but there isn’t much especially interesting—the effect is minimal and only partially convincing. If you’re really interested in 3D viewing, look elsewhere.
The onboard DVR is basic but functional. Video and audio recording quality is fine, but all sources will be recorded at 720×480px. The DVR operates only on the analog signal (either RF or AV-in; no HDMI), so the files are small and it doesn’t require a high-speed card. If you’re running the DVR, the file will save automatically when you power off—but it takes about 10 seconds for it to do this. Don’t turn the goggles back on during this time or you’ll risk corrupting the data. You won’t want to remove the CF card right away, either.
DVR controls are confusing at first, but once you understand them they’re not too hard to use. By default, the DVR is off and you won’t see anything on screen. Turning the DVR on with a 3s press of the right stick will show “REC” on screen, but this doesn’t mean it’s recording. A short press on the stick is needed now, and then the “REC” will start to blink—blinking is recording. Once turned on, another long press enters the menu. The menu allows playback, formatting your CF card, turning on auto or auto+loop recording, or flipping audio on/off. When in playback mode, “right” will play or pause, and “left” will always exit. If you’re not playing a video, then “up/down” will select one. The screen will show the file number and video total time. Once playing, “up” cycles through forward play speed of 1×/2×/4×/8×. Down immediately changes to playing backwards 1×, then cycles through 1/2/4/8× speed.
The DVR output isn’t coupled with the AV mode, so you can change to any mode when you’re using it. However, you can’t view DVR playback unless you have it in an analog mode, and if you have it in a 3D mode the DVR menu gets stretched across both screens just like any other picture. On the other hand, it automatically handles NTSC/PAL (by scaling everything to 720×480).
The Commanders have a lot of strong points: a solid RF receiver, true diversity, and good screens in the goggle-style form factor and weight. HDMI support allows using them with a simulator, and an integrated DVR means you’ll never be without footage of an awesome flight. For the moment, these features (done well) are only available all together on much more expensive goggles, or in heavy box-style viewers. I can definitely understand why the Aomway Commanders are the goggle of choice for many, but I can’t help but think we’re not yet getting what we should for the price. At this amount, we really should not be struggling with joysticks that fall off and lenses that don’t allow the whole screen to be perfectly clear at once. When $100 goggles can include features like built-in diopters, we feel the bar should really be set higher for something three times the cost. Despite our criticisms, I’m not sure there’s a set of goggles available today that delivers better value. This is a good piece of equipment with a great feature set and comfortable fit that—if taken care of—should last a long time.
Aomway stepped into territory nearly monopolized by Fat Shark with a viable, lower cost alternative. It was received well, and others have begun to follow. While the Commanders currently rule the mid-range goggle market, we see a few products on the horizon that will make strong challengers. It will be interesting to see how well these products stack up, and how Aomway responds. This is an area of competition that FPV enthusiasts have long been waiting for.
The AOMWAY Commander V1 video goggles can be purchased at Gearbest and other retailers.