Sub-$50 Small Multirotor Drone Mini Reviews
People always say “you get what you pay for” and most of the time this is perfectly true. When it comes to cheap quadcopters and hexcopters though, it turns out you can have just as much fun (if not more) with these cheap drones, compared to their more serious big brothers.
First of all, at these prices you won’t care much if you destroy your drone while practicing new moves or simply learning to fly in the first place. Even veteran pilots can’t describe the experience of keeping a $3000 drone in the air as “fun”. Exciting, yes, but unless you’re Bill Gates rich (or Kanye in debt) you can’t ever really relax while flying.
These days you can get nano-drones for as little as $15 and still have a good small-scale experience of flying larger, more expensive drones. Most drones in this flight class are nano- or micro-scale or, in other words, up to about 250mm, but most are far smaller.
Some can only fly indoors, which is also great because it means you can take a break and have a quick flight around the room. Others, usually towards the larger end of the scale, can handle the outdoors with a bit of light breeze. At this price point you are going to see long charge times, non-removable batteries, and mostly just quadcopters. So it really may be worth buying a few. Go on, you know you want to.
Below, I’ve put together mini reviews here for various Sub-$50 multi-rotors. If you don’t see anything you like here, make sure to have a look at the Blade Nano QX which I reviewed here. It’s a little more expensive but still less than $100, and it’s the absolute best in its class.
My Best Pick: The UDI RC U27
Well, here is something truly different, especially at the cheap end of the spectrum. Lots of nano and mini quads offer an automated flip mode, but seeing stock fixed-pitch quadcopters that allow for inverted flight is definitely a new one for me.
UDI is well known as the producer of some great bang-for-buck products. The 818A is still a favorite practice drone among even professionals. The inverted flight mode of the RC U27 is made possible by the advent of reversible electronic speed controllers.
The U27 looks fantastic, has a proper removable battery and powerful motors. The flight capabilities of it outclasses anything else in this price segment and I’d expect to pay way more for a quad of this quality and ability.
It also has headless mode capability and will let you select between three different control rates, so you can fly indoors or simply at your skill level.
This is without a doubt the quad I want the most in the Sub-$50 segment
The Cheerson CX-10 Mini
I remember the CX-10 as being one of the first “proper” cheap quadcopters. When I say cheap, I mean cheap. You may get one for about $15, which means you can buy three of them for our $50 budget and still have enough left over for transmitter batteries, which are not included, by the way.
You get a tiny little transmitter, which is the same one bundled with some other nano drones like the ones from Revell. I have actually used this transmitter personally, and I have huge hands so I can attest to how comfortable it is.
You also get the quad itself at just over an an inch in diameter, a spare set of rotors, and a USB charger. Like most nanos the battery is not removable, but with these teeny, tiny motors it probably isn’t a good idea to have lots of consecutive flights anyway. The charge time is about 30 to 40 minutes and that gives you a good reason to buy a couple if you don’t want your fun interrupted.
The transmitter is good for about 120 feet, although you need the eyes of an eagle to even spot the CX-10 at half that range.
There are three control rates and a flip function, each activated with a click of the left and right sticks, respectively.
The only real gripe I have is that all four rotors are the same color in the marketing pictures and in the YouTube videos I’ve seen. Not that great when trying to figure out your orientation, and the CX-10 doesn’t have a headless mode.
The tiny CX-10 is a great little quad even before you take the silly low price into account; given that it is so cheap I can’t recommend it enough. Buy a handful and just go out and have fun.
The Holy Stone HS170 Predator
Serial rebrander Holy Stone actually has a knack for picking the right products to localize and support in the US. The HS170 Predator may have an unfortunate name (yes, I’d like to order a predator drone . . . hang on, the FBI is on the other line) but it is a sweet-looking little machine.
This is one of the few quads in this price range that explicitly says it can be flown outdoors in windy (ish) conditions. I mean, we all fly our nano quads outside anyway, but the makers aren’t endorsing that kind of thing. In fact you might find the HS170 just a bit too big to fly indoors comfortably, so keep that in mind.
It has decent-looking rotor guards, LED lighting, and color-coded front and rear rotors, so orientation should not be an issue. In case it is, though, there is a headless flight mode available, which can be very useful for beginners or if the drone gets so far away you can’t tell which end is which.
A big plus is that this quad has a removable battery, which is excellent and means you can fly as much as you’re willing to spend on batteries. Just let the motors cool for a few minutes between flights. The claimed flight time is 6-8 minutes and the charging time can be as much as 40 minutes if you use the USB charger. It should be possible to get a higher mAh battery for very little money, should you want to.
Users have said that the drone is well-made, crash-resistant, and responsive. Unfortunately, the “return home” function and headless modes are apparently buggy, so don’t buy it based on those features alone.
This is probably one of the best-priced quads suitable for outdoor flying, and I think that’s a great thing.
The Hubsan X4 H107C Micro Quadcopter
Hail to the king, baby! The legendary Hubsan X4 probably needs no introduction, but in case you’re completely new here this is the quadcopter that gets listed time and time again as the best quad to use for learning your piloting skills.
It probably isn’t necessarily the best in every regard, at least not anymore, but it’s just an all-round, solid product that’s friendly to beginners but really lets you rip as your skill level grows.
The X4 is also known for it’s above-average power level, with those tiny motors giving a surprising level of acceleration and speed.
This particular model comes with a camera, although you need to provide the SD card for it.
Here you can see the results of the 0.3 MP camera and really, for such a cheap little thing this is just a fun extra. It allows you to record your flights and get a little more entertainment while you wait to charge your battery.
The design of the X4 is by now instantly recognizable and the radio transmitter is functional and pretty comfortable, by all accounts. The X4 is priced at the higher end of our budget in this category, but I think it’s easily worth it, considering how well it performs.
The Syma X11C Mini Drone
Heavy sits the crown, eh Hubsan X4? The Syma X11C is aimed squarely at the Hubsan X4 H107C. It’s a little more expensive than the X4, but boasts a 2MP camera instead of the X4’s 0.3 MP job. It has an easily-removable battery, included rotor guard frame, and a 4GB SD card. It can basically do everything the X4 can, but trumps it in some areas.
It’s a pretty tough choice, but on paper the X11C is clearly the one to go for. People have differing opinions between the two, but unless you buy both (and why not?) and fly them head to head I’d doubt anyone would care.
Still, the X4 is a tried and tested little monster. You should probably buy the X11C; I would buy the X4.
Cheerwing CHEER X2 Pocket Drone
Oh my gosh, you guys! Have you seen how cute this CHEER X2 is? Seriously, it looks like a flying cartoon frog.
Anyway, the X2 really has fun with the idea of a pocket drone. I’ve owned several nano-drones and you sort of think that you can just throw them in a bag and have a fly whenever there is a chance. Soon you’ll realize, though, that you really have nowhere to put it and throwing a naked drone in a bag is a recipe for a broken one.
So I think it’s very innovative to have the quad fit inside the transmitter. You can then just put the whole thing in your pocket or bag as advertised and when you feel like it, fly the little guy around.
There are a couple of problems, though. I can’t understand why Cheerwing would not make it so that the drone charges off the remote when stored. This is such a missed opportunity and it means that you have to carry around a USB power bank if you want more than five to eight minutes of flight. I mean, it only has a 80 mAh battery, so it should be possible to get multiple charges off the AAA batteries in the remote. If those were rechargeables (which you can buy anywhere) you’d have a neat little package that you could charge at home and then have many possible flights while out.
Cleverly though, the thumbsticks can be removed for transporting as well, so it truly is pocketed.
I really like the idea of this and it is very cheap at about $20. My suggestion would be to also get a small USB charging bank to keep the CHEER juiced on the go.
As for the quad itself, it has a six-axis gyro, so you can throw-launch it. It will roll, continuously if you prefer, and it has headless mode – something that’s great at this price and in this size class.
Beginner users seem to find it forgiving and people are generally happy with the flight characteristics.
I have to give this guy top marks for innovation and just general cuteness.
Coocheer JJRC H18 Hexacopter
I think nano-quads are awesome, but really nothing is cooler than a nano-hexacopter. Right now they are pretty rare, so if you get one you’re sure to be the envy of your friends.
Not only do they look cool, but they are also faster and more stable than quadcopters.
The JJRC H18 from Coocheer literally looks like a ninja star. Which is badass. It comes with four spare rotors, a USB charger, and a basic but functional transmitter, which looks a lot like a Playstation 2 controller, actually.
Obviously, it’s a little bigger than a nano-quad, but it will still fit comfortably in the palm of your hand with no trouble at all. Since hexacopters need more juice, the H18 has a (relatively) hefty 180 mAh battery, although it doesn’t seem to be removable. It takes 40 minutes to charge and will fly for 5-6 minutes.
The range is a little on the short side with a maximum of about 66 feet, but I don’t worry too much about nano-quad range myself, since I need to actually see the little guy to fly him.
There’s no mention of a headless mode and although the front is denoted by two rotors of a different color I’d still be a little worried about losing orientation, since this copter is essentially a symmetrical circle.
Still, at this point the cool factor of a hexacopter in the nano-drone class, especially at this price, will be damn hard to beat.
You don’t have too much choice of hexes in this size, but the H18 seems to be a quality product and people who have bought it don’t report any issues, so there’s little risk in giving it a go. Also, all my, er, your friends will be so jealous.
E-Hi S333 Nano Hexacopter Drone
This was the only other nano-hex for under fifty bucks I could find and that looked decent, compared to the H18 I also review on this page. Between the two the S333 actually looks way cooler. It has a distinct “nose”, but why oh why are all the rotors the same color? If you buy one it may be necessary to change out the front two rotors, if you have trouble figuring out the orientation.
Other than that there’s no contest in terms of looks, the S333 takes that crown.
I’m also surprised by the claimed charge time of 15 minutes. That’s twice as fast as anything else here, so clearly the battery must be a good one. The claimed flight time is 408 minutes and a maximum range of 100 feet is on offer. Between the two hexacopters here, the S333 is the clear winner.
Top Race TR-MQ4 Micro Stunt Fighter
The TR-MQ4 didn’t catch my eye because it’s particularly good or anything, it’s just such a cool gimmick. Most of us who fly various copters don’t have access to the kind of space RC planes, even park-fliers, require. So this is a cool compromise – what they’ve done is stick a little shell onto the quad that looks like an F22. There are other options too and within each one, also different color schemes.
It seems to be a competent drone too, which is good, but I just love the idea of a faux plane fuselage.
It also does stunts and flips, which is cool. One of the perks of this is that orientation is very easy to maintain, thanks to the fact that you have a clear nose and tail.
Flight time is about 6-7 minutes and the charge time is a frankly unbelievable 9 minutes. The range is 75 feet and it comes with one of those little nano-drone transmitters we see with quads like the CX-10 and Revell drones.
It’s cheap, it’s novel, and it will really screw with the RC plane guys from a distance when you hover, so it gets approval from me for sure.
The Syma X9 Quadcopter Car
One of the great things about cheap drones is that you can take a chance on weird things, because, hey, it’s just $50 right?
Well, it happens that this drone is both weird and really is $50, if you pick up the right deal. Why is it weird? Because it’s also a freaking RC car. So in a way you can act out all your future flying car fantasies.
As an RC car it even looks pretty good, especially the all-black version. According to buyers it both drives and flies well. Although, it could fly like a brick and I’d still want one.
The total battery life is about 8 minutes, although they don’t say how much of this is in the air and how much on land. Luckily there are two batteries included as standard, so you can get 16 minutes out of it before heading to recharge.
In car mode it has two speeds and it also has two control rate modes when flying. It also has a flip function, which is cool and probably extra ridiculous given that this is a flying car.
DBPOWER Hawkeye-I Transformable RC Drone/Car
Speaking about sticking wheels on quadcopters, we have the weird transforming thing from DBPOWER.
The Hawkeye-I (aye, aye?) is just a regular quadcopter, but you can attach either a set of four wheels for rolling around like a car on it, or two huge wheels that also allow it to roll up walls and along the ceiling. It also has detachable rotor guards.
That’s quite a lot of diversity and different ways to enjoy this quad copter. It also comes with a 2GB SD card and a 720P camera and a maximum range of about 100 feet.
The novelty factor is pretty high with this quad and the good news is if the gimmicks wear off you can also take them off. I applaud this sort of pure fun approach, which I would like to see more.
There’s a practical side to this, too. If you fit either set of wheels it will significantly crash-proof your quad. Flight times will be affected thanks to the extra weight, but you don’t have to worry about messing up your rotors, especially with the bigger set of wheels that make it impossible to actually bring the rotors in contact with anything. Think of them as literal “training wheels”.
So if the transforming aspect of this quad appeals to you, hey – why not go for it?
UDI RC U839 Nano Quadcopter Review
This quad from UDI presents us with a pretty interesting idea. It comes with two battery packs, but one goes in the quad and the other goes in the actual transmitter. Even if you “empty” the battery in the drone, there’s still enough juice in the pack to easily power the transmitter for a second flight. It’s quite brilliant actually, although whether it’s better than just having two batteries and running the transmitter off some AAA cells is highly debatable.
On to the quad itself. I love the orange and black color scheme on this thing, especially with those little blue LED “eyes”. I’ve also seen green and pink models, but the orange is definitely the winner in my book.
It also comes with a rotor guard frame, which should make it a good choice for beginners or narcoleptics.
As I have come to expect from UDI, the U839 has great specs for the price. It can do 360 rolls, it will fly for 5-7 minutes, and it has a control range of about 100 feet.
If the Hubsan X4 or Syma X11 don’t do it for you then the U839 may be just what the doctor ordered. I have no idea which one I like the most, but at this price you can afford to buy one of each and then make up your own mind.
Estes 4606 Proto X Review
This is actually one of the nano-quads I own (under the Revell brand) and it really is a fantastic and precise little flier. I think the Proto X has a cool vented look, almost like a tiny flying Lambo. This is only helped by the LED headlights. Although it’s from a lesser-known brand, the Proto X can stand toe-to-toe with the likes of the Hubsan X4. Even in light wind outdoors it can hold its own.
You can get as much as 6 minutes out of the Proto X and a full charge takes about 40 minutes. The LiPo is non-removable, so you’ll have to wait between flights. This nano feels very precise; it’s also surprisingly quiet.
I’ve been pretty happy with the Proto-X, but would probably replace it with a Hubsan X4, or more likely U839, as soon as I run across one.
Fly the Friendly Skies
Well, these are all the cool, weird, and wonderful sub-$50 drones that I’ve found while surfing the online commerce space, and which seemed like they were worth a fifty or less. All of these seem like a heck of a lot of fun and I wish I could buy one of each. Hey, given how cheap they are, that may not be too far-fetched!
The great thing about these drones is how little risk there is in purchasing and flying them. This is probably the last time that you’ll fly something without that bit of stressful worry in the back of your head. Flying a $15 Cheerson CX-10 does not evoke this anxiety.
So, go ahead and buy any of the models you see on this page. I’m sure they will all suit the beginner just as well as the pro looking for practice or a diversion. When you’ve flown your nano-quad so much that the parts literally are worn out, then you’ll thank me for sending you down this road instead of buying, flying, and then totaling a $1000 RC drone.