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Estes Proto X RTF Nano Quadcopter w/ 2.4GHz: Review

Just in time for the Holidays Hobbico and Estes have released an electric quadcopter that is less than 2 inches square. A perfect stocking stuffer. Better buy 2 as you will want one for yourself.

Splash

Introduction

The video below and the affordable price of the Proto X have quickly made it one of the hottest products of the year. See for yourself what has captured so much interest.

Estes Proto X Nano Quadcopter RTF (0 min 40 sec)


Dimensions: 1.8 x 1.8"
Rotor Blades: 1 2/10"
Weight: 0.40 oz.
Rotor Blade tip to tip: 2 2/10"
Servos: None
Transmitter: 2.4 GHz transmitter included
Receiver: 2.4 GHz receiver built into the quadcopter's board
Flight Battery: 3.7V 100mAh LiPo 1-cell battery (BUILT-IN)
Transmitter Batteries: (2) AAA batteries for the transmitter
Motor: 4 micro brushed motors
Rotor Blades: 4 installed and 4 spare blades
Charging: USB Charge Cord included
Manufacturer: Estes
Available From: Fine Hobby Stores Everywhere
Price: $39.99 RTF

In this review I will cover the details concerning the Proto X and share my opinions about her performance and her value. I took her to a meeting of the Delta Valley Modelers and let some of my friends fly her at the meeting. I have included a video of their first flights with the Proto X. If you like what you see and read be ready to act quickly if you find one in a store as these things are selling very quickly at this time. I have some on back order for stocking presents and was happy to get one for this review.

The Proto X has an internal battery and it is not designed to ever have the battery changed. The battery is simply charged in the quadcopter using the included USB charge cord. I can plug the cord into my computer or the wall unit for my cell phone and charge the quadcopter at home or anywhere there is a wall plug. The Proto X is designed for indoor flying or outside when it is calm. During this review I will test for range and for flying in a lite breeze as well as flight time duration and how how long it takes to charge. While waiting for my Proto X to arrive I found very limited information about it on the Internet and I couldn't find it on Estes Website.

Kit Contents

The Kit Includes

  • Proto X Nano quadcopter RTF
  • Nano transmitter on 2.4GHz w/ digital trims
  • Built in LiPo battery
  • USB charge cord
  • 4 spare rotors
  • Instruction manual

Required Items Not in Kit

  • 2 AAA batteries for the transmitter

Features

  • Plastic body with window and trim detail
  • LED lights indicating front and back
  • 4-channel 2.4GHz radio with digital trim
  • 4-micro motors
  • 100mAh 3.7V LiPo battery
  • 1-piece PCB frame

Assembly

None! Just charge up the battery in the Proto X and install two AAA batteries in the included transmitter and she is ready to fly.

Flying

Basics

Despite its incredible small size the Proto X is a four channel quadcopter with a mode 2 transmitter. The left stick controls throttle and rudder and allows her to climb, lower, hover and turn to face any direction by rotating to the left and the right as well as pirouetting in place. The right stick allows for forward, reverse and side to side movement. As shown in the pictures the transmitter is also very small in size, but it is comfortable for me to operate it with my normal size hands. The speed in any direction could be surprisingly quick when speed was desired and that included climb, dive and any horizontal direction. When flying fast especially a counter command is needed to stop the directional travel. So for example if I am going away from myself in a forward position very fast when I want to stop I will need to give a bit of reverse for a moment to brake her to a stop. Honestly, she handled better than I expected when I first saw her size.

The Proto X has accelerometers that supply auto leveling and she is surprisingly nimble and precise in flight. I was surprised by her stability and her ability to survive several rather hard crashes onto a tile floor. The digital trims do work and have been used by me to make adjustments. Hover sometimes is done pretty nicely on her own and at other times requires my holding in some minor right stick in one direction or another. My quadcopters costing double this one hold a little more precise hover but for an experienced pilot maintaining hover is not hard. Some pilot correction is needed to maintain a hover over one spot for any length of time in even the best of operational conditions.

After a friend accidently flew her full tilt into a wall she was a little less stable on the next flight. I re-calibrated the accelerometers. To do this have the Proto X turned on and resting on a flat surface. With the transmitter have the throttle all the way down and the rudder full right. (Left stick in bottom right corner). Move the aileron control (right stick) from side to side until the LEDs flash and the accelerometers have been re-calibrated. With this accomplished she returned to her nice precise handling. She is relatively quiet in operation (Listen to her in my video below.) and remains stable.

Flashing LEDs

If you turn on the Proto X before you turn on the transmitter you will see the blue LEDs flash back and forth like a train crossing. This indicates it is looking for a signal. When you turn on the transmitter the flashing stops when they have linked up and you can fly. By turning on the transmitter first the flashing at start up can be avoided. Turning on the transmitter first its LED will be red and it turns to green when the Proto X has been turned on. My procedure is to turn on the transmitter first and turn it off last.

During operation the LEDs all flash on and off together to indicate that the battery is getting low and it is time to land and put her on the charger. I stop flying immediately when they start to flash to make sure the battery will remain good and take a charge for some time to come. I also notice less power shortly before the LEDs start to flash and I now normally end my flight when I notice that. It is only 10 seconds at most before the LEDs flash on my Proto X.

Timing

When run down to the point where the LEDs flash on and off it takes about 20-minutes to charge the battery back up to a full charge. I can charge her using the charge cord with my computer or with my portable wall unit phone charger with its USB connector. With the battery fully charged I get about 3 1/2- 4 plus minutes of flight time. Actual operation will affect the amount of flight time I obtained.

Taking Off and Landing

Takeoffs just require powering the Proto X by moving the left stick on the transmitter up. Landings are performed by slowly lowering the left stick. I recommend that you initially land from a steady hover to make sure you can control where she lands. If control is lost and a crash in unavoidable than power down the left stick and have her crash with the motors off. Since she weighs less than 1/2 an ounce there is less of a chance she will break when crashing with the motors off than with the motors running.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

What is special about the Proto X is its very small size. I needed to use the digital trim tabs to stabilize the Proto X into a hover and still needed to remain hands on with minor adjustments to keep her in one place. She has 8-LEDs which help with orientation in day time and at night with the lights out. There are four blue LEDs in the front and four red LEDs in the back. For me the LEDs were critical to my maintaining orientation of the Proto X even when she was just on the other side of the room. Fortunately, the LEDs are always on and made orientation easy to maintain.

Hubsan Protocols and Hubsan X4 V2 camera version Transmitter

In discussing the Proto X with a friend who has one he has been using his Hubsan X4 V2 transmitter and found he was able to get the Proto X to do some things neither of us have been able to do with the standard included transmitter. These additions include flips and rolls, activating dual rate, as well as turning the LEDs on and off. This and more is discussed in the thread on the Proto X here in E Zone: http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2022465

Is This For a Beginner?

Yes! However, there are spinning propellers without guards so there is the possibility of injury if proper care is not observed during operation. The manufacturer recommends operation by people age 14 and above. I endorse that recommendation but I also realize that some parents are likely to buy these for their children. If that is done; I recommend that parents closely supervise any child operating the Proto X and they be with the child with hands on the controls initially in case they need to take over. The supervising parent should definitely know how to operate the Proto X before supervising any child with this quadcopter.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

Este's Proto X Nano Quadcopter (3 min 17 sec)

Downloads

Conclusion

When requesting this review I was expecting this to be just a novelty. While she certainly is a novelty with her small size her performance exceeded my expectations based on the type of control that the really small and inexpensive RC helicopters supplied several years ago. The Proto X performs very well. The digital trims on the transmitter while working were not as precise as those on my other RTF quadcopter transmitters but otherwise the control of the Proto X was good. It took me a few flights to really get used to her and remaining oriented through pirouettes and high speed circuits around the meeting room at my office. I have flown her as far as 50 feet away from me down a long hallway but otherwise all flights have remained within 25 feet. I can now fly her just as well if not better in a room with no light thanks to the eight LEDs.

The Proto X has her blue lights in the front and red lights in the rear. I wish all multirotors that come equipped with lights had that as a standard practice. It definitely helped with orientation as I am basically used to red being at the back end from driving. I enjoy flying her as is and I look forward to trying a transmitter I have coming to see if she can be controlled with any other transmitters besides the Hubsan 4X version 2. I look forward to getting together and trying that transmitter as well. This is going to be a quadcopter Christmas as I like the Proto X so much I have three on order for stocking presents. So I guess you can say I am putting my money where my mouth is on this review. I say: Buy it you'll like it ... if you can find it in stock!

Pluses & Minuses

Pluses

  • Ready to fly as soon as the internal battery is charged and 2-AAA batteries I supplied were installed into the transmitter.
  • A stable and nimble flyer
  • LEDs made orientation easy day & night
  • Her small size really amazes people

Minuses

  • Consumer replacement of the LiPo battery is not recommended
  • Designed for indoor use or calm conditions only outside
  • They all look alike! Operating a number together might be confusing, but fun.

Thanks

My thanks to Keith, Stephanie and Dick for helping with the media for this review. My thanks to Estes and Hobbico for supplying the Proto X for this review and to our editor Angela for her assistance.

Last edited by Michael Heer; Nov 15, 2013 at 08:51 AM..

Discussion

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Old Dec 02, 2013, 04:15 PM
bacon and eggs
remvideo's Avatar
United States, FL, West Palm Beach
Joined May 2013
1,060 Posts
nice, somehow the fact that you gave it a gender is bothering me but otherwise great review
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Old Dec 02, 2013, 04:51 PM
DJI SUPPORT / TESTING
blade strike's Avatar
United States, CA, Big Bear
Joined Jan 2006
10,434 Posts
I love mine.. It performs awesome.
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Old Dec 02, 2013, 05:35 PM
Transmogrified.
DismayingObservation's Avatar
Southern California
Joined Feb 2006
2,896 Posts
Too. Much. FUN.

My first one died after fewer than twenty flights; it was cheerfully and quickly replaced and I've been flying it almost daily for more than two weeks.

Best of all, I didn't have to send back the original. Therefore, I have plenty of spare parts.

Seriously, I've ordered another one from the LHS and it'll be here in time to serve as a really cool Christmas present.

If your LHS has one in stock, grab it. Don't even ask questions. Just get it.
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Old Dec 04, 2013, 02:37 AM
Registered User
Bing44's Avatar
United States, OR, Independence
Joined Feb 2008
1,288 Posts
This little quad is super fun. I made the mistake of letting a noob fly it when I first got it and he slammed into a wall, breaking the tabs that hold one motor in, so I had to carefully super glue it in place. But it still flies great and I really like it. I'm going to see if I can find one without a Tx and use this one for spares.

jim
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Old Dec 04, 2013, 04:49 PM
KC Racing Team
Allan S's Avatar
Melbourne, Australia
Joined Aug 2008
149 Posts
Hi Michael,

Can the transmitter be converted to Mode 1?

Regards, Allan.
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Old Dec 05, 2013, 06:44 PM
Multirotor geek
United States, AZ, Phoenix
Joined Mar 2013
809 Posts
Just got in my spare props (4 full sets) for this little toy, the way I'm flying it, I'm going to need them very soon

Clyde
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Old Dec 08, 2013, 07:58 PM
Thermal Seeker
electrich's Avatar
United States, GA, Atlanta
Joined Feb 2011
4,370 Posts
After reading this article I saw one at my LHS. Strategically placed by the check out counter. Sneaky devils. I bought it and absolutely love it. Novelty? Kind of. Performer? Heck yeah. I love it for what it is. My only negative is that the controller is too small - I have big hands. Other than that, when you need to go away for the weekend and gotta have an RC fix this thing will fit in the glove compartment no problem- even a cup holder! I'm interested to see what kind of parts and support Estes makes available. Thankfully it's durable and I haven't had a need to fix anything yet. As a previous poster mentioned- if you see it and think tou might want it, just do it! Tons of fun, no regrets!
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Old Dec 09, 2013, 10:00 AM
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E-Challenged's Avatar
United States, CA, Garden Grove
Joined Oct 2000
12,073 Posts
I don't agree that this particular one is for beginners. The first one I brought home could not be stabilized. Took it back to the hobby shop and the experts couldn't stabilize it either, gave me a replacement. That one was more stable. After obsessive attempts to fly the thing as shown in You Tube videos, dealing with dog hair, lost props and loose motor mounts, I'm still having problems with stabilizing, hovering and flying it. I know that a better/larger Hubsan transmitter with with longer sticks would make things easier and more precise.
I am an experienced RC model plane builder/ flyer. The long RCG thread has lots of good information on care and feeding of ProtoX and transmitter recommendations. I am trying to set it aside and ignore it, getting back to my winged model builds.
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Old Dec 09, 2013, 10:49 AM
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dapple63's Avatar
Joined Jun 2005
1,033 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by remvideo View Post
nice, somehow the fact that you gave it a gender is bothering me but otherwise great review
I can't believe someone has to tell you this. The little nub at the back for charging isn't a....you know...dingy thingy.

It is really difficult to tell, but if you turn it over and look underneath, there is an on/off switch. Most guys are dumb enough to think that you turn on the switch and that's all there is to it.

But that just enables the onboard gyros and accelerometers to react to a complicated series of codes and interactions from the transmitter. If you make a chain of carefully-timed and coordinated circular movements on the gimbal, she just flies beautifully.

Otherwise, she just flies off and thrashes about unhappily - trying to crash into anything in her way.

She is definitely a she.
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Old Dec 10, 2013, 08:43 AM View Post
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Old Dec 10, 2013, 10:05 AM
ICrashRCs
United States, TN, Memphis
Joined Jun 2011
1,196 Posts
There's an off the shelf battery available at HobbyTown that will plug right in and works like a charm.
The battery is plugged into the board via a standard parkzone umx plug.
Use a thin velcro for attaching. Just leave the body off.
I have 3 batts plus the stock one now.
Works great. You can use umx chargers or a multi battery umx board with your hobby charger.

This is the battery for an Ares Chronos CX75 Heli.
My HobbyTown had none in stock but the awesome employee went to the back and brought out 3 boxes of returned helis. He proceded to pull the batts and sold me 3 for $2 each.
Thanks HobbyTown!

Ares Chronos Battery
http://www.hobbytown.com/Shop/Ares-C.../1S-3-7V-LiPo/
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Old Dec 10, 2013, 10:27 AM
I hate waiting for parts
Mike_Then's Avatar
United States, NC, Garner
Joined Apr 2001
6,869 Posts
One of my flying buddies was at a hobby shop near us and bought one. He texted me while he was there, and sent me a picture. He asked if I wanted one? I was like, I have 15 airplanes, 4 helicopters, and two quadcopters. I certainly don't need one! Spousal Unit said, have him get you one, you need a birthday present. So he picked one up, came by, and we were like kids at Christmas zooming around my house with our Proto X quads!

I was very surprised at how nimble that little quad is. It took a few minutes to get the hang of it but I can fly it pretty smoothly now. My only complaint is the flight time - just when you're having fun you have to land! I do think that the ~4 minutes flight time is actually pretty good for such a small battery.

I am still kicking around the idea of getting the Hubsan X4 controller so I can have dual rates. Would be more fun to fly, in my opinion, if it was less sensitive.
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Old Dec 10, 2013, 04:18 PM
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electrich's Avatar
United States, GA, Atlanta
Joined Feb 2011
4,370 Posts
Proto X challenge-

See how many times you can take off and land on top of a beer/soda can in one charge. It helps if you take the tab off. So far....My record is 4

While it is stable, controlling the finer points of flight are challenging enough to really keep me coming back for more. I think it's mostly due to the tiny TX for me.
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Old Dec 10, 2013, 08:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by electrich View Post
Proto X challenge-

See how many times you can take off and land on top of a beer/soda can in one charge. It helps if you take the tab off. So far....My record is 4
My record is eight, though at five I pretty much had trouble standing up. Never did land the Proto on the beer can, though.
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