Smaller form factor quadcopters have been all the rage lately. Fellow writer/contributor to the site Michael has been raving about 3″ quads to us for about a year now and I figured it was time to try one out for myself. After looking around, Diatone’s GT-Rabbit 349 caught my eye. Banggood graciously offered to send us one for review. Let’s get to it!
Diatone GT-R349 Overview
The Diatone GT-R349 is a 3″ brushless micro-quadcopter aimed squarely at the racing market. I hesitate to call it a “micro” because unlike other micros I’ve flown, like the Blade Inductrix or the KK90GT, it is a fully performant quadcopter. By that, I mean it flies more akin to my 4″ and 5″ quads than it does to the last true “micro” that I’ve flown.
The GT-R349 is configured to take either 3S or 4S batteries, though we recommend you go with 4S as it really brings the quadcopter to life. On 3S it is a playful thing that would be great for learning to fly or flying indoors. On 4S it becomes an absolute beast, giving many 5″ quads a run for their money.
The GT-R349 comes in 3 flavors, differentiated by the FPV cameras and VTX’s they come pre-installed with:
GT-R349 Base Model $143.99 – Comes with a Runcam Micro Swift FPV Camera and Runcam TX200U 200mW VTX
GT-R349 Runcam Swift w/ TBS Unify $159.99 – Comes with a Runcam Micro Swift FPV Camera and TBS Unify 800mW VTX
GT-R349 CADDX Turtle Edition w/ TBS Unify $219.99 – Comes with a CADDX Turtle FPV Camera and board for HD video recording.
Our recommendation is to go with the mid-range model, unless you want the CADDX HD recording. The TBS Unify is a fantastic VTX with all the features you will want to have if you ever do FPV racing with a group. It has higher power transmission in case you want to fly your micro way further than it has any business flying. It’s a no brainer for an extra ~$15 in our opinion. This is the version I received for my review.
The CADDX Turtle is a joint FPV/HD recording platform for those of you who want to make YouTube videos. We did a pseudo-review of another quadcopter with this system in it — the Beta85X HD.There is some evidence that these types of cameras don’t perform quite as good as dedicated cameras like the Swift in terms of latency and high dynamic range scenarios. Even if you don’t believe that, though, the CADDX model of the GT-R349 weighs 10g more than the other two models – that’s almost 8% more. That’s a big deal for a quad this size. If you need recording, then this is a good option; otherwise you’re better off saving your money in our opinion.
Components and Build Quality
The standard kit that comes with the GT-R349 is fairly conventional. All components are branded “Mamba”, a house brand for Diatone. The flight controller is a “Mamba F405″; an F4 variant with the nearly ubiquitous MPU-6000 IMU, DSHOT support, 16MB of integrated flash memory, and an integrated Betaflight OSD. It comes with noise-dampening rubber grommets pre-installed. That’s about as good as you can get for a micro-sized FC.
The power system consists of a 4-in-1 ESC rated at 25A per motor channel. As small as this thing is, I would absolutely love to put this claim of supporting a combined 100A to the test, but didn’t really feel like blowing it up. I can pretty much guarantee you that this is a lie, though — there just isn’t enough cooling available to dissipate the heat generated by this amount of power. Regardless, I’m sure the ESC is up to the task of power the four tiny MB1408 motors with a 14mm stator diameter. These tiny little guys are rated at a whopping 4000kV and 20A. Diatone’s spec sheet even claims support for 5” props — I’d love to see that!
The parts are stuffed into a really neat looking little frame. If “beauty” (used loosely) means anything in the quadcopter world, the GT-R349 is definitely a winner. It’s certainly in my top-5 list of best looking quads.
In this case, beauty is unfortunately only skin deep. The first thing I did when I got the quad was tear it apart to install my RX and see how it was built. The plastic hood that covers the flight stack and holds the camera comes apart fairly easily. You need to unscrew four screws and disconnect the camera and the FPV antenna. Where things start getting ugly is when you try to dig into the flight stack. This is all held together with four machine-threaded screws which thread into a plastic crossmember at the top of the stack. Each element of the stack is separated with little plastic spacers. When you remove the last screw holding the stack together, it basically explodes into ~10 little plastic pieces. The problem is that no spare spacers are provided and the small and fine machine-threaded screws will easily strip out the plastic crossmember. There are no replacement parts for any of these plastic items that I could find available. I managed to strip one of the screw holes the first and only time I disassembled the stack and learned an important lesson: this quadcopter is not made to be worked on. Do not try to do field repairs with it and expect to figure out some “clever modifications” if you intend to keep it for the long term.
Ironically, the GT-R349 comes with a nice little bag of spare parts. Included are extra plastic hoods, battery straps, zip ties and props. Just none of the plastic bits in the FC stack. I really hope Diatone fixes this in the future, or at least makes these parts available as spares.
The GT-R349 comes pre-wired with XT-30 battery connectors. If you’ve never owned a micro before, make sure your battery has these connectors! They are smaller than the XT-60s that are the norm in larger quadcopters. By the way – for this review, I used 800mAh 4S batteries. I recommend you do the same if possible.
The Diatone GT-R349 is fairly easy to set-up. The hardest part is installing the RX, depending on which RX you are bringing to the party. The quadcopter comes with a 5-wire JST pigtail hooked up to the (inverted) SBUS in port and 5V power. If you have an RX that will accept this connector, just verify the polarity of the wires and hook her up! Otherwise, you’ll probably want to clip the connector off and directly solder the RX to the pigtail – that’s what I ended up doing.
With the RX installed, you’ll need to adhere it to the quadcopter. I had a tiny off-brand FrSky receiver that I was able to stick to the top of the flight stack with double-sided tape. I then ran the antenna out a small hole in the top of the canopy. If you have a larger RX, you may be forced to install it under the quadcopter beneath the battery. This is also a situation where the CADDX version of the quadcopter might bite you – it’s unlikely you’ll have any space under the canopy for an RX.
If flying with a buzzer is your style, one is included in the box. A separate pigtail for the buzzer is also already installed on the GT-R349 so you only need to plug it in.
Once your RX is installed, it’s time to configure Betaflight. For my first few flights, I only configured the “Receiver” tab in Betaflight Configurator. I found the default settings to work great. The only things I ended up tweaking were the rates – they were a bit too slow for me. I have little desire to tweak the PIDs or filter settings considering how smooth and precise this quadcopter flies out of the box.
Diatone GT-R349 Review
I had done a little homework before I received my GT-R349, so I had some high expectations. While I was a little disappointed in the build quality of the quadcopter, I’m happy to report that the rave reviews on how this little beast flies are totally warranted! It is incredibly fast and nimble, and as capable as any larger quadcopter I’ve ever flown. I’ve flown mostly acro routines during my time with it and have truly enjoyed how precise the controls feel. It doesn’t exhibit any of the yaw drifting that every other micro I’ve flown has been plagued with during punch outs or hard maneuvers — it is always locked in.
What I really like about the GT-R349 is that it still keeps many of the traits that originally drew me to micros: you can fly it indoors fairly safely, for example. As a test, I stuck my finger into the prop disk while it was hovering (not recommended) — it stung a little bit but there is no way it would ever cut my finger unless the props had been sharpened. It also has the durability of a micro – I crashed several times in dirt and grass without even bending a prop. Keep in mind, though, that if you have a hard crash into concrete or rocks you are likely going to be buying a whole new quad since you cannot buy many of the plastic parts that hold it together.
This is my first time flying such a capable quadcopter with a linear whip VTX antenna. My range was restricted since I had a poor quality RX and was worried about losing control reception with such a small quadcopter, but I regularly flew up to .5km away and never had any serious video issues. Racers may want to look at a CP antenna like this one for multipathing resistance, but if you fly on your own — the linear will probably work great.
It only took one flight with the GT-R349 to realize why 3″ quadcopters are all the rage these days. This is not just a “micro”, it’s a full-fledged racing quadcopter that will compete with anything else on the market. It combines that with the durability and flexibility of a micro, and it’s damned cheap to boot! I feel comfortable recommending the GT-R349 to anyone from beginners looking to get into the hobby for cheap to experienced pilots wanting to fly indoor events. Hats off to Diatone – you guys did a great job with this quadcopter.