JJPRO X3 HAX Entry Level Aerial Photography Drone

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When it comes to “entry level” in the world of RTF quadcopters, it’s nice to know that the bar continues to be raised in both quality and price.

The bar may have been raised another notch.

Meet the JJPRO X3 HAX entry level aerial photography drone from GearBest.com. The brand is a new one; it’s the higher end brand of JJRC, best known for its affordably priced micro and standard-sized quads, hexacopters and surface vehicles.  For an impossibly low price of US$163.36, the buyer gets a good looking, great flying, well optioned machine complete with brushless motors, an intelligent battery, GPS stabilization and a 1080p camera with WiFi and micro SD recording capabilities.  As with many GearBest products, shipping to the USA is free via Priority Line mail with affordable extra-cost shipping options available.

We’ll see how this brand new entry stacks up, so please feel free to relax and enjoy the review.

Specifications:

Width: 10″ (25.5 cm)

Flying Weight:  13.6 oz (385g)

Construction: ABS body and camera shell; plastic self-tightening propellers

Transmitter:  2.4 GHz six-channel PPM with digital controls, three-position flight mode switch and backlit LCD display

Gyro: Six-axis

Satellite Positioning System: GPS

Camera: 1080p with WiFi and micro SD slot

Memory Card: 4GB  to 16GB micro SD card , not included

Approximate WiFi FPV range:  650′ (200m)

Battery: JJRC 2000mAh 2S 7.4V plug-in intelligent lithium polymer with micro USB charging cable

Approximate Flying Time: 15-17 minutes

Approximate Charging Time: 1-2 hours

Approximate Operating Distance: 1640′ (500 m)

Motor Type/Speed: 1806 brushless outrunner; 2300kV

ESC: Four 12A brushless

Manufacturer:  Jianjian Technology Company, Ltd., Shenzhen, China

Contents:

In addition to the model, the package contains the following:

  • 2.4 GHz transmitter
  • Removable camera
  • Wrench for holding the motor bells in place to aid prop installation
  • One set of propellers with two spares
  • Intelligent 2000mAh li-po battery with micro USB cable
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Smartphone holder
  • Illustrated instruction manual

Needed for completion:

  • Four AA-cell alkaline batteries for the transmitter
  • Micro SD card
  • Android or iOS smartphone
  • Computer for video downloads and editing
  • Free JJPRO app

Presentation is an important part of the perception of quality and the display box presents the HAX well with understated graphics on a black background.

Inside is where things get interesting.

Soft, stacked foam trays cradle the contents and what emerged was surprisingly beautiful.  My previous encounters with JJRC products have been mostly positive, but their look and feel gave off a distinct aura of “toy.”  Not so the HAX.  The ABS body shell is a glossy eggshell white set off by discreet tampo-printed graphics, black motor endbells and amber lenses/landing legs.  The camera and the end cap of the proprietary intelligent battery continue the theme.  The self-tightening props are a matching matte finish, but without the threaded metal inserts found on other brands.  If there’s a disadvantage, it’s that the props will have to be removed each time for storage in the box.

Less impressive at first glimpse was the matte black transmitter.  It’s smaller than a standard transmitter and has the toylike appearance of many an inexpensive, entry-level RTF.

Looks are deceiving in this case, shown here as shipped:

Here it is out of the box along with the props.  Only two spares are provided, but I hope not to need a full set anytime soon:

All of the switches and buttons are functional; there are no fakes or “poverty plugs.”  The LCD display, while on the small side, has a wealth of information.  It displays eighteen functions ranging from stick position to the number of GPS satellites acquired.  Up near the top left corner, a flight battery charge level indicator gives the percentage of charge remaining via a telemetry link.  It’s a far more sophisticated unit than I first thought, comfortable to hold despite its small size and stick feel is good.  The switch at the upper right controls GPS on and off as well as the return-to-home function.

Getting Started:

The fun starts with installing the transmitter batteries and charging up the flight battery.  The latter is easy enough; it’s done via good old USB.  A blue LED on the pack blinks a few times when first connected and then glows steadily during the charging period.  When the light goes out, it’s time for the fun.

Here’s the HAX fresh out of the box:

The parts count is low; this is, after all, an RTF.  The white item at upper left is the safety strip which insulated the flight battery during shipping:

The factory might ship them at nearly a full charge since mine topped off in about a half an hour with a USB AC adapter instead of the three to five hours stated in the manual.  The propellers are self-tightening, so they’re both right- and left-hand threads as indicated on the props themselves.  Without the inserts usually found in such props, it takes some effort to tighten them, at least the left-hand threaded props.  The supplied plastic endbell wrench is a godsend, but it could stand to have a longer handle.

From here, the manual goes into detail about such things as compass calibration, a necessary step in some GPS-stabilized models and one which only takes a few moments of rotating the model on its horizontal and vertical axes.  The model’s status lights indicate proper calibration and page seven of the manual goes into the various light modes in detail.

Though not completely free of the dreaded machine-translated English, the manual doesn’t have it in excess:

Flying:

Powering up is typical; first the transmitter is switched on followed by pressing the power switch atop the model while it’s on level ground.   Once powered up, it takes a few seconds to establish a GPS link outdoors; there’s a switchable indoor mode which doesn’t require it and which also helps when flying as a sport model.

An indicator on the LCD display indicates the number of satellites acquired.  When the status lights on the model glow blue, it’s time to fly, but the lights tend to be washed out in bright sunlight.  Starting the HAX or most any quadcopter with a center neutral throttle stick requires some “stick gymnastics” to unlock and start the motors at zero thrust, so I’ll spare you, dear reader, the procedure.

Once armed, pressing the one-key start near the upper right corner of the LCD display will automatically send the HAX skyward to a height of three meters, or about ten feet.  Pulling back on the throttle will stop the climb and from there, the HAX will hover hands off.  Onboard lighting is, mercifully, standard with steady green nav lights and flashing red beacons.  While the lights appear washed out in sunlight per my previous comment, they’re quite easy to see when viewed from underneath.  The lights are more than sufficient for night flying and the LCD display on the transmitter has full time backlighting.

This is the view from underneath; I hadn’t yet removed the protective film from the camera lens.  Visible as well are the antenna leads for the WiFi:

As a result of all of this technology, the HAX may well be one of the easiest flying models on the market.  Control is smooth, the GPS and altitude hold keep the model level and the only bad habit I noticed was a tendency to rear back as it came to a stop while in GPS mode.  Very gentle stick input will prevent this since it’s noticeable on the video.

I later had an opportunity to try out the GPS stabilization in windy conditions.  The HAX is a small model and it did get buffeted about, but not quite as badly as I thought it might.  Very impressive.

Also impressive was how it flew with the GPS switched off.  While the altitude hold remains on, freeing the HAX from the GPS lock turned it into a fun flying little sport quad.  Transitioning to a stop now meant no more overcompensation from the GPS.  It also had more bank and pitch, but yaw didn’t change.  Speed was a different story because of the unrestricted controls.  The HAX is small, light and goes like a quad with 2300kV motors and a 3S li-po ought.

As for video…

 Video:

For the initial video testing, I simply walked the HAX to the front yard after installing the SD card in the camera.  Unfortunately, the camera has to come out each time the card is inserted or removed.  Camera on, model launched in GPS mode, here we go.

As before, the model displayed far better flight characteristics than its low price might indicate.  Per my earlier comment, it took some really delicate stick movements to keep it from rearing its head when coming to a stop while in GPS mode.  After a few minutes, I seemed to be doing fine. The GPS lock does an excellent job of holding the model steady, making it easy to use the smartphone for framing shots.

When it came time to review what I’d shot,  I was expecting the results to be pretty good.

I was wrong.

They were amazing. 

Here was crystal clear video in full HD as well as viewed on the iPhone.  Details were sharp and clear; color saturation and hue were excellent.  And…no sound!  I’ve often pointed out that small quads with proprietary cameras have no need to record sound and that the bandwidth can be used for better video.  JJRC seems to agree.

Video on the recommended SD card wasn’t quite as good with noticeable pixelation and some vibration while the model was in motion.  Trying to fly in breezy conditions didn’t help, but the HAX will hold quite steady in calm conditions.  Again, color and hue were right on the money with the pixelation being most noticeable in the park while flying over grass.  The video linked below came off of the SD card.

This is a consumer-grade model which did a pretty darn good impression of a far more expensive, professional unit.  Of course, one gives up niceties such as a gyroscopic gimbal with pan and tilt control which in turn shows up on the video, but for this price and for its intended target market, those are sacrifices worth making.

Gallery:

Here’s some local desert scenery as seen from on board:

GearBest has their modified version of the factory video here:

The HAX will shoot still photos at the same time it’s shooting video if desired:

Conclusion:

If the JJPRO X3 HAX is an indication of things to come from JJRC, the future is indeed bright for Jianjian Technology Company, Limited.  This is an affordably priced yet incredibly useful entry level aerial photography platform.  In my opinion, it would make a perfect tool for videographers of all levels to get aerial B-roll or stills for very little money, just as long as it’s in a large indoor venue or outdoors under calm conditions.  When it isn’t being used for photography, it makes a fantastic brushless sport quad.  It’s also blessed with a complete selection of inexpensive replacement parts including all of the electronics.

Two thumbs up.  This is a keeper!

Thanks once more to Anny over at GearBest for providing this review sample.  Nathan Maat mans the admin’s desk here at RC Universe on behalf of you, our readers.  Thanks for visiting!

Pluses and Minuses:

Pluses include:

  • Good video quality
  • Stable, gentle flight characteristics in GPS mode
  • A flip of the switch to disable the GPS turns the quad into a fun sport flyer
  • Quiet and powerful brushless motors instead of brushed
  • Lots of useful info on the backlit LCD display
  • Affordable, readily available parts
  • Affordably priced
  • An excellent way to begin the journey into aerial photography

Minuses include:

  • Model tends to rock backwards before stopping if flying in GPS mode
  • Supplied endbell wrench is too short for large hands
  • Props must be removed if the original box is to be used as a case
  • Lights are hard to see in sunlight
  • Video recorded to the SD card could be better
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