The Happymodel Snapper6 is a whoop-sized brushless micro quad. We’ve been looking for a great brushless alternative in the 65mm frame/31mm prop class for a while now, and the specs on this one stood out alongside great reviews of its slightly larger partner model, the Snapper7. We wanted to know if our search for a worthy brushless 1S micro was finally over, so Gearbest provided one for review.
Features and Specs
Reading through the list of specs should prove why the Snapper was of interest:
- 0603 19000Kv brushless motors
- F3 flight controller (preflashed with Betaflight 3.3)
- 4× 5A/6A ESC with BLHeli_S (DShot600-capable)
- FrSky receiver, both D8- and D16-capable, or FlySky receiver
- Betaflight OSD
- Voltage and current sensing
- 25mW 48-channel VTx (with Raceband)
- 120° 700TVL micro camera
- Powered by 1S
This is an impressive list for a micro quad, leaving out almost nothing that you get on full-size quads now. Looking at only the specs, there’s pretty much nothing that’s not to like.
- The micro quad, in either FrSky or FlySky flavor
- A set of four spare props
- There are “Basic” and “Standard” versions. With the Basic, you get one battery and a small USB charger. The Standard version includes three batteries and a much nicer six-port charger. We’re looking at the “basic” option.
- A prop remover
- A small cross-point screwdriver
- Spare frame and motor screws
- Spare rubber bands
- Instruction sheet
The prop remover (hilariously referred to as “1× demolition device” on Gearbest’s product page) is the type cut from sheet metal with a bend in it. I prefer this type over cut carbon or 3D-print that are often delivered with micro quads, but this one was flimsy and its teeth broke off when I used it.
The frame is a 5-piece metal and carbon kit that was likely “inspired” by RakonHeli. Like other whoop-class quad frames, the ducts/guards are inseparable from the motor mounts and each attaches to the carbon plate with three screws. Underneath, instead of a battery compartment, Happymodel has simply threaded a rubber band into the frame. They’re functional, but the battery sits uncomfortably against frame screws, usually settles at an angle, and isn’t protected at all. Collisions causing battery damage aren’t usually an issue with micro quads, so maybe this isn’t so bad.
The included battery’s connector is on a short lead, unlike most “whoop-style” batteries with the connector fused directly onto the end. Using your other whoop batteries becomes a little awkward since the lead from the board doesn’t want to fit in a way that’s natural. Battery and quad use the 2.0mm JST-PH connector.
On top of the base frame is a plastic canopy with a few defining attributes. The first of which, for me, was that it wobbled back and forth. The rear support appears to be a long screw with a (perhaps intentionally) broken head, because the full-size screw head won’t fit in the space allocated for it. You really can’t tighten this down any further without the screw sticking into the battery area. I don’t think the wobble would be a big deal in flight, but I couldn’t really test that out very well. Within the canopy are two small screws which allow you to adjust the camera angle. This is a really nice touch that, unfortunately, doesn’t work well in practice. The VTx antenna prevents much real movement of the camera so it’s very difficult to make any adjustments to the angle. The default here is probably just fine for most.
The main board is a combined F3 flight controller, Betaflight OSD, FrSky/FlySky radio receiver, and 4-in-1 ESC. That’s quite a lot to pack into a small board, though we’re seeing it with more frequency now. The F3 chip is preflashed with Betaflight 3.3, so it’s greatly configurable and supports many of the latest features. The hardware includes both voltage and current sensing. The ESCs are full-fledged BLHeli_S, complete with features like DShot (with self-calibration) and turtle mode.
There’s a pretty big gotcha with this AIO board: I found it very susceptible to software failure that would cause the system to lock up. The OSD stops updating, (but stays visible along with the camera picture transmitted through the VTx,) but the craft becomes completely unresponsive. Each time this happened, the motors would all stop dead, so fortunately it never caused any fly-aways. The only way to fix the problem was to reboot with a power cycle. The issue was all too common; this is literally how every one of my test flights ended.
After most of my testing was done, I learned of a bug with Betaflight (below 3.4.1), FrSky D16, and Telemetry that can cause a FC freeze issue like the one I was seeing. I brought the Snapper back out and flashed it to 3.5.0. Unfortunately, after I did this, one of the motors refused to spin normally and was showing signs of mechanical failure. Whether or not flashing it fixed the software issue will remain a mystery to me.
The camera and VTx are average. I didn’t test them extensively because of issues with flight noted below, but nothing really stood out—good or bad. The picture was good enough, and the video signal was about what I would expect from 25mW and a linear antenna. Both camera and VTx are smaller than the boards we’ve gotten used to seeing atop micro quads. The OSD appears to give you access to control VTx settings, but doesn’t actually do anything. You’ll have to change settings using a physical button on the VTx backpack board mounted behind the camera. As it turns out, the included screwdriver is a beneficial tool here—you’ll need something that can fit inside the tiny canopy slots in order to press the button. You’d better have pretty exceptional eyesight if you want to know what channel you’re on just by looking at it. Stick to Raceband (which mine was on by default) and just change the channel so you can use your goggles to confirm you’ve hit the right one.
Powering on treats you to the BLHeli startup sequence from the smallest brushless motors you’ve ever heard sing. The diminutive “I think I can!” tone will put a smile on your face. Binding is pretty straightforward, too. You do first have to find the bind button—which, no joke, took me longer than the actual binding process. It’s even smaller than the buttons you’re used to seeing on these small boards, looks like just about any other component, and is tucked where camera wires may obscure it. Once you find it, pressing it is an additional challenge. Again, I used the included screwdriver. There’s no need to hold the bind button as you power on (which would probably be a nightmare)—just power up, then find the button and hold it until the LEDs change to get into bind mode.
Setting up Betaflight is also pretty standard. There’s nothing out of the ordinary here, so our betaflight configuration guide will be a great resource if you need help with configuration. The setup experience for these small quads seems to keep getting easier, which is great. On the FrSky version we looked at, everything is set up for telemetry right out of the box as well; my Taranis read out the battery voltage right away. One of the few changes we recommend is setting the maximum cell voltage a bit higher, otherwise when you plug in an HV-charged battery the craft thinks you’ve plugged in a 2S that’s in bad shape.
Once you’ve got a fully-charged HV battery, flying the Snapper6 is great—for about 20 seconds. After that, the battery starts to sag enormously—dropping down to 3.2V while doing nothing more than hovering and requiring more and more thrust just to stay aloft. The whole flight might last 75s if you take it very easy, with the ‘land now’ warning flashing across the OSD for most of it. After you do land, the battery recovers to somewhere near 3.9V. There’s something severely wrong, here. It’s not the battery at fault, nor is the craft particularly overweight. The props don’t appear to be an issue, either; they look to be from the same mold as most of the 31mm tri-blades available today. The FC is the same one used in the Snapper7 so the ESCs are probably reasonably good. That leaves the motors: they’re simply not up to the task of providing sufficient thrust without an unreasonably high current draw. It’s a real shame, because it basically makes the quad unusable.
Getting the quad into anti-turtle mode is possible in software—but “flip-over-after-crash” may as well be named “flop-around-after-crash” on the Snapper6. The motors can’t produce enough thrust to actually flip the quad back over. When engaged, mostly it mocks you by knocking itself into one useless angle after another and making some angry noises.
After seeing what a firmware change did for the Beta65 Pro, I really have to wonder if updating Betaflight to 3.4.1 or newer and/or disabling telemetry would have made a significant difference for the Snapper6. Unfortunately with a motor no longer spinning, it isn’t possible. One sign of encouragement was that turtle mode actually worked (as long as I pointed it in one of the directions that didn’t use the failed motor channel). I’m also speculating that the Snapper6 normally has a pretty decent amount of power, but the mechanical failure of the motor was hampering the performance right from the beginning.
In an attempt to make the Snapper flyable, I wondered if it needed a bigger battery. Higher capacity can delay the effects of voltage sag. I had a 600mAh available from my QX90c. I swapped the power connectors, charged up, and gave it a go. This was a complete failure. My entire flight lasted about 16 seconds before the FC undervolted and stopped functioning.
My next attempt was to go back to the included 250mAh battery, but undertake weight reduction. There’s not a lot to remove, and much of it is a one-way trip. I pulled off the canopy and removed the mounting from the camera/VTx combo. Then I pulled out some of the prop guard screws and snipped off the inner section of each guard. I had to add a little hot glue to keep the camera in place, but in all I brought the weight down to about 22g; a 10–15% reduction. The flight time definitely improved. I could fly non-aggressively for about two minutes; though it took the pack down to 3.0V to do so. The flight was jittery and the voltage sag was still present. (After pulling the battery off post-flight, it measured 3.7V.) It was obvious that the craft was struggling—now possibly in part due to reduced frame rigidity from the modifications. The modified craft flew in what I’d consider a ‘minimum-viable’ state—yes, it worked, but that’s about all that can be said. It’s hard to enjoy the experience when you can’t stop thinking about how badly you are stressing the battery and how much longer it will fly before the FC freezes and the craft just drops out of the air.
I really wanted to like the Snapper6. On paper, it’s a pretty great “brushless whoop”, matching the 65mm frame dimension, using 31mm props, and taking the same battery. The small size is a huge benefit, opening up many possibilities for where and when you can fly, and we like the idea of sticking to a standardized size/prop/battery in order to facilitate sustainable racing classes. The specs are great, offering a vast array of features—but, at least with stock firmware, the performance isn’t there to back it up. Even with weight reduction, it’s still a battery burner that doesn’t bring along a flight experience which can justify the stress.
After learning of a software bug that might explain some of my issues, I wanted to give it a second chance—but when I tried it, a motor had quit. This might leave you wondering if it could perform better than it did for me. My guess is that for those who don’t encounter the software bug, (or update their firmware,) and who get a set of four fully functional motors, this quad probably flies really well. Luck of the draw—and a potential lack of quality control—brought the whole experience crashing down for me.
If you’re interested in the feature set, you may want to look into the Snapper7. The larger version has been reviewed much more frequently elsewhere in the community and gets many favorable comments. Serious micro-class racers should also consider the AcroBee. If you are looking for brushless micro alternatives that aren’t in the classic whoop-style and size, be sure to check out our reviews on the KingKong 90GT and the XF90.
The Happymodel Snapper6 is available at Gearbest.