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Featured Review or Mini-Review Estes Proto X Quadcopter - First Look and Review

Discussion in 'Specific Models of Quadcopters and Drones' started by webman, Dec 16, 2013.

  1. webman

    webman Administrator Staff Member

    Since this is a tiny quadcopter, we'll go with a micro-review and let others add to this thread.


    Appeal to users:
    Advanced Beginners UP who have interest in miniaturization, indoor flying and/or hacking and upgrading it.
    Type of Quad: Consumer / Hobbyist
    Cost: < $45 with built-in battery, spare props, charger and Receiver.
    Crashworthiness - Good
    Range - as far as you can possibly see it....this quadcopter should be flown within 20-30 feet of you or you will certainly lose it.

    Estes, as many know, are well known for their model rockets. I built and flew them in the 1960's and many other hobbyists got their start with model rocketry. My guess is that they looked at the budding R/C quadcopter market and decided to jump in - but with something a little different.

    Their new offering, the Estes Proto X Quadcopter, is really tiny...a good bit smaller and lighter than the current crop of micro-copters. But how small is too small? And is small good? Why?

    OK, so here is the quad both in the box and then out - with some items for size comparison - click on the pics for larger images.
    inpackage.jpg withkey.jpg

    I purchased mine from Amazon at this link.

    The quadcopter sells for about $40 and includes everything shown here. All you need to add are the two AAA batteries for the TX - you'll need a small phillips screwdriver to open the TX and put them in.

    The LiPo battery is built in - that means you can only fly once in-between each charge. Yes, hackers have already started modifying this copter and using replaceable batteries, but since we are a site for beginners, our review will focus on the stock experience.

    The weight of my quad - with battery - is 11.2 grams.

    Charging time varies - reports have been coming in that charging can take from 15 minutes (or less) to as much as 30 minutes. Mine seems to take toward the longer end - maybe 25 minutes. Flying time is about 3.5 minutes, which is quite a bit shorter than other micro or mini quadcopters.

    I've charged the battery at least 6 times and checked the voltage of the charged battery and the USB charger. Both are correct at 4.2v. I timed my flights and have not yet got more than 3 minutes before the warning (low battery) lights come on - and about 3.5 minutes total. These flights have been simply hovering and a bit of back and forth in a 10 foot square area, so not taxing on the batteries.

    On my first couple of flights, it took the entire run of the battery to get the quadcopter trimmed correctly. The TX only has 2 (as opposed to the usual 4) trim adjustments, so it takes some guessing as to how to trim it correctly.

    Given these limitations, you may start to wonder what need this quad serves? I am asking myself the same questions but also trying to be fair to the designers and the manufacturer. So far I have only a couple flights under my belt, but my initial impressions are these.

    This is not a quadcopter for beginners - that is, it should not be your first quadcopter. The reasons will be spelled out later in this review, but in summary I think most newbies will get frustrated with the short flight times, the difficulty in trimming and other factors.

    Given the difficulty of trim as well as the lack of crash protection, the small size does not add any value to this craft. That is, it is not possible to easily fly this in smaller areas than the next size up in quadcopters (Hubsan X4, etc.)...more later.

    Estes (l) and Hubsan X4
    estesproto_and_X4.JPG

    Small Problems with my unit

    My USB charger stopped working after the first charge. A closer inspection revealed that the copper contacts inside the charger had bent back and were not contacting the charge strips on the quad. I had to perform some major surgery to make it charge again, something which would anger most customers. I suspect the design of this mating system could be improved and/or the QC stepped up in this (and other) areas.

    My Proto occasionally fails to bind....although it turns on and appears to bind (lights on quad stop blinking), the TX will not operate the quad. Turning the Proto off and on again and rebinding has fixed this problem so far.

    As with many of these small quads, the propellers can fall off very easily - and, with such small props, your chances of finding them are diminished. A spot of elmers or similar glue on the prop shaft (remove and re-install props) should help this.

    Binds to Hubsan X4 TX

    The little TX is cute, but a larger TX with longer sticks feels better in my hands. Luckily, the Proto binds directly to TX's using the Hubsan protocol...and since I have an X4 in the stable, I'll be using that to fly mine after the initial test flights. The Hubsan also allows for more trim options (4 instead of 2), so perhaps this will allow a better state of trim.

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  2. webman

    webman Administrator Staff Member

    Flying the Proto X

    The Proto is a 6-axis quadcopter and, like the Hubsan X4 and others, relies on being set on a flat surface to calibrate it before every flight. The X is turned on via a small slide switch on the bottom - the LED's will then blink, which indicates it is not bound to a TX. Set it on a level surface and turn on the TX - in a few seconds the LEDs will stop blinking and the Proto will be ready to fly.

    (on-off switch shown on bottom of this underside photo)
    underside.JPG

    The first order of business will be getting the trim right, and to do that you should immediately lift the quad at least a foot or two off the floor to avoid "ground effect". An open carpeted area at least 8 foot square would be my suggestion for relative newbies...until you get the hang of things! Once you have it under control, it can be flown in areas with more furniture and harder floors.

    Here is a short video showing how to bind the Proto X and a bit of flight - the flashing LEDs at the end of the video signal that the batteries are getting low.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2014
  3. webman

    webman Administrator Staff Member

    Summary of First Look and Review

    The Estes Proto X is another amazing piece of technology - smaller in size than any production quadcopter! However, I would not suggest this model for a first or starter quadcopter. A new user is likely to become frustrated with the short flight times, possible small QC problems and the current lack of easily available spare parts.

    However, the more advanced hobbyists (advanced beginners) up....who read this and other reviews and know what they are getting, may want to buy one just for the thrill of seeing so much technology packed into 11 grams!

    As always, customer education is our first mission - so we want to make sure you know what you are getting...gadget freaks will just have to have one, but those who want the easiest quad to fly, repair and own should look elsewhere.

    If I had to suggest major improvements to this type of design, they would be:
    1. Replaceable battery (apparently it is - but Estes does not admit it or sell others)
    2. Improvements on the mounting of propellers so they don't come off so easily - these are almost impossible to find.
    3. Improvements in ease of trim and hover.
    4. Redesign of the motors so they can be replaced without soldering - slip-in modules with contacts on them would make repair possible for hobbyists.

    As it stands, this is somewhat of a "disposable" quadcopter - as are many in this price range. Given the price, that's not too bad (I spent a lot more for dinner with 3 total people tonight at a mid-level eatery). Still, I'd rather pay $10 or $20 more and have those improvements...

    One question I asked early in this review was - can you really fly this in a smaller area than the Hubsan X4 and other micros? My first impression was no....that it required as big of an area. But once I flew this a number of times, I could see how - especially with some trim and hover improvements, it COULD be used in a even smaller area than existing micros. I will continue to put some time in on the Proto X and compare it to the X4 in terms of what I am able to do in a small room.
  4. jbrumberg

    jbrumberg Member

    This reminds me a lot of my old fleet of SYMA S107G's and S107N's with their internal batteries. I bought a couple of G's just so I could maintain "uninterrupted" flight without the charging time waiting period. A picture of my fleet. I still have 3 G's and 3N's. I think some have changed. They are all operational. They have all been modified to some degree (except modifying the battery).

    As to the size of these little Estes Proto X's: They are really too small to see well enough for an inexperienced operator to see how stick adjustments affect flight, and with the direct drive motors I bet they are fast fliers and quick responders. Too fast, too quick, too unprotected to fly in a small living area and I could see one getting out of my visual range real fast outdoors :eek: (like my Micro QBot). I agree- they are not for the inexperienced. I wish that I still had my Micro QBot :(

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  5. Crash

    Crash New Member

    This little quad is awesome! I don't have a lot of experience with any R/C type products and since last summer I have been intrigued by the Phantom on several different occasions. I figured I needed to learn on something cheaper before spending the big bucks. Anyway short version, first quad I bought ( UDI U818A) has flown maybe 10 times with disaster found out its defective besides being a noob, second one is on order from Banggood ( Hubsan H107C) but hasn't arrived yet. Found the Hubsan H111 but only through Banggood but on preorder, discovered the Estes Proto X Nano ordered one on EBay since everyone local sold out. Anyway have a slight learning curve since I haven't had much experience with R/C devices yet but this thing is awesome. I love it and I'm getting use to how it handles plus its great in the house. I have had several crashes with it and so far I only knock the rotors off but I'm getting better at it. Its a fun little quad and I have ordered one for my son and an extra one for me plus several extra blades for when I finally end up losing one. LOL! Also I seen on YouTube and read in reviews how this is not for beginners, well if you ease into it I think a beginner could handle it, I have.
    webman likes this.
  6. webman

    webman Administrator Staff Member

    Most any toy quad could be for beginners - if they are careful enough! My suggestion was based on the fact that parts are not easy to get (in most places), so they may be frustrated when trying to learn. Also, it's a bit hard to trim and the flight time is short...and only one battery!

    But, as you say, if you know what you are getting and are the careful type, it will certainly do!
    Crash likes this.
  7. Crash

    Crash New Member

    The flight time does make it a little difficult to trim but once you do it works out pretty good and flies pretty good too, at least for a noobies perspective. At least some of the parts are starting to come through but I wonder if it would be worth fixing something that small or just buy a new one, especially if there was a hard enough hit to break the frame. I can definitely say though that the throttle is very touchy and it doesn't take much for it to zip up and go straight to the ceiling or away in a hurry.

    I know I started out with no experience with any R/C product what so ever and this little nano has taken some pretty good smacks and lost the blades quite often but its still going strong and I'm definitely getting better at it.

    All in all I love this little nano and its a lot of fun even if you can't run it very long.
  8. ontheedge

    ontheedge New Member

    I wish I had found this site prior to jumping in. I bought this as my first quad while looking at larger. It was difficult at first. The first one I had broke after owning it for a day and a half. The shop I bought it from had specific "we don't warrant" tag attached to the receipt so I emailed the mfr. on a Saturday not expecting to hear until Monday if at all. I did hear from them on Saturday and after sending a copy of the receipt and my address they had me a replacement on the way which took just over a week to get to me. They didn't ask for the broke one so I have parts if needed. My experience would agree with the reviewer somewhat. I don't think this is for a beginner but I've managed to get to where I can fly it around the house now. The TX is too small for my hands but I'm not sure I'm willing to buy the Hubsan model that can be used. I do get longer battery life than mentioned and fly between 5-10 minutes (probably closer to 5) before the low charge blinking begins. The trim is a constant battle, I rarely have it to where I can just hover but I'm more about flying around anyway so over look it. Anyway that's my experience.
    webman likes this.

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