I was recently offered the opportunity to review the HGLRC F4 Flame flight controller. This came at a perfect time: I have been thinking that my beloved Bolt 210 Race quadcopter was starting to show it’s age – between some electrical gremlins that had started popping up and the fact that it was missing Betaflight OSD. The F4 Flame with a built in PDB and OSD, then, was the perfect upgrade for what is still my favorite racing quadcopter.
The HGLRC F4 Flame flight controller follows the same general design schematic as is found in all “Omnibus F4”-style flight controllers. This includes the following features:
- F4 processor
- MPU6000 gyro connected via high-speed SPI
- Built-in PDB
- Betaflight OSD support
- Betaflight & Cleanflight support on the Omnibus F4 target
In addition to this basic featureset, the F4 Flame adds the following features:
- Thick copper layer with claimed support of 6S batteries and 300A current.
- High capacitor count for clean video power.
- Built in current sensor circuit.
- 16MB Built in flash memory for Blackbox.
Coming in at around $33, I think this flight controller is a fantastic deal. Given that I’ve been having some difficulty with quality control on Omnibus F4 boards lately, I am glad to try a different flight controller with Betaflight OSD that competes in price.
I found the pad layout on the F4 Flame to be very easy to use. ESC connections are on the sides of the board, right where you expect them to be. They are through-hole connections which means they won’t tear off, but they are quite small and can be tricky to solder to. They are also very close to the mounting holes for the flight controller and I had to rework the solder a few times as result to get my standoffs to install flush against the flight controller.
The other pads on the flight controller are all labeled and accessible from the top of the board. The silk-screen printing on my flight controller was pretty difficult to read, though. HGLRC only provides a very basic diagram with the flight controller to help you with wiring. I’ve modified it a bit to include the rest of the pins they missed:
All told, I found this board very easy to set-up. After my last build, which used a Betaflight F3, it was a real breath of fresh air. Since everything is soldered to the top of the board, it will be easy to maintain. I am a little concerned about how small some of the pads are though. The small size does not offer a lot of room to get any structural integrity out of the soldering connection. As a result, I applied some liberal blobs of hot glue in several places to secure my connections – I recommend you do the same.
Like most F4 flight controllers I’ve seen – the F4 Flame only breaks out 3 UARTs: UART 1, 3 and 6. UART 1 is used for the RC receiver inputs found on the top of the board, the other UARTS are free for whatever peripherals you want to hook up. For FrSky and Futaba users – remember that you must use the SBUS input pin to connect your RX. The F4 flight processor doesn’t have the internal signal inverters required to connect your RX to other UART inputs.
Software configuration of the flight controller is pretty standard for Betaflight. The one value that changes depending on what board you use are the voltage and current scale values. I did some measurements and here is what worked best for me:
- Great performance out of the box. Comes pre-installed with Betaflight 3.1.
- Massive built-in capacitor array seems to do its job – video is clean with no external filtering. Keep in mind that these board-mounted tantalum capacitors do wear out over time, though.
- Board layout with all soldering pads and through-holes on top of board is very easy to work with.
- Built in flash memory. This is becoming harder to find. I really hate the SD card slots.
- No real manual provided or available – just a diagram that is missing some information.
- ESC power connections are pretty small. I really doubt they can support the claimed 300A total output – which would mean each ESC pad would have to supply over 70A.
- Many pads are very small and hard to solder to.
I found the F4 Flame to be a great overall flight controller. I was generally very pleased with how easy it was to install and work on. To date, I’ve experienced no problems with it. Video is clear – something I cannot say for my “better designed” and more expensive Betaflight F3. Flight performance is fantastic – but no better than any other F3 or F4 flight controller I have used.
Priced at around $33, this is probably the best deal on the market for a combined FC and PDB. I would recommend it over almost any other comparable flight controller on the market – although mostly because it isn’t using the pesky SD card slots.
Thanks to Banggood for offering us the chance to review this flight controller. You can purchase it by clicking the link below: