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Feb 10, 2015, 12:33 AM
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Heli Pad Review Series: SYMA X8C "Venture" Quadcopter



Introduction
SYMA is a household name in RC Flying Toys. But they were late coming into the Quadcopter market with their X1 introduction. Since then, SYMA has released several more Quads, large and small. In general, SYMA is not very innovative in their Quad design department. Almost all of their Quads were inspired by some other Quads, if you get my drift.

I'm pretty sure that everyone knows what a DJI Phantom is. The latest SYMA entry, the X8C, is "inspired" by this RC Legend. One glance at the X8C, and there is no question where it gets its good looks from. In a nutshell, the X8C is a Phantom size, Aerial Platform toy. I wanted to say that it is a Phantom class, but it would not be accurate. Although it has Phantom's dimensions, it doesn't have the GPS capabilities or the brushless power that the Phantom has. The SYMA X8C is a 6 Axis Quad with big brushed motors. In some ways, the SYMA X8C could be viewed as the bigger version of the SYMA X5C. Like the X5C, the X8C can carry a camera under its belly for aerial photography. Unlike the X5C, the X8C could also fly in Headless Mode.

The SYMA X8C is priced at $112 shipped.


Pros
Good Built Quality from SYMA
Good Flight Time
Predictable, Smooth Flight Characteristics
Suitable for use as a Aerial Platform
Strong enough to carry a GoPro
Capable of Lively Flights and Tight Flips
Optional Prop Guards are Provided

Cons
Low Quality Camera
Slow Yaw Rate
Underpowered Stock Charger
Pricey
Unknown Protocol (same as X12)

Conclusions
The SYMA X8C is a very good looking Quad. Its lifting power and its smooth, stable flight characteristics make it a very suitable Aerial Platform. In addition, it sports a headless flying mode, lively high rate, and tight flips to show that it is more than just a stable hovering platform. That being said, the stock camera was very disappointing. If you are interested in using the X8C to do aerial photography, consider pairing it up with an 808 #16, a Mobius, or a GoPro camera. It is not a Phantom, but it is the best flying SYMA Quad I have tested. The more I fly it, the more I like it.

Considering that it is not brushless, I think it is pricey. However, you will be hard pressed to find another RTF Quad that could carry a GoPro for under $200. If you only require your Quad to carry an 808 #16 or a Mobius, there are cheaper alternatives, such as the JJRC H8C.


First Impressions
When the SYMA X8C first arrived in its retail package, it was bigger than a violin case. It was more like a small Yamaha keyboard. Every component was securely well packed in thick foam, thanks to SYMA's packaging department. Then you laid your eyes for the first time on the X8C and you thought, haven't I seen this somewhere before. It definitely reminds you of a DJI Phantom. The rotors are very substantial. They look like the ones on the Phantom as well. But after a closer look, you would realize that it is actually not a brushless setup. In fact the X8C is gear drive, driven by big brushed motors. Prop guards were provided, which I am not a fan of. At 5.4g each, I think that they are just 20+g of weights that I don't need. Four plastic covers were provided to cover the mounting holes if you don't want to install the guards. Again, I opt to leave them out. The holes that they leave behind serve as ventilation to the motors.


A dedicated 2S charger is provided in the kit, along with a 7.4V 2000mAh 25C Lipo, which weighs a whopping 104g. It took the stock charger over 3 hours to fully charge the battery. The 200 minutes charge time stated in the manual was no joke. The output of the stock charger is rated at 750mA. In other words, it is charging at about 0.375C charge rate. No wonder it was taking so long! That's definitely too slow. Subsequent charges were done with my own balance charger, which charges the cells at 1C in 45 minutes.


As far as external measurements are concerned, the SYMA X8C is a twin of the DJI Phantom, having the same length, width, and height. Had it not for the wider spread landing gears on the X8C, it will fit snugly inside the Phantom case! Ironically, I think the Phantom case costs more than the X8C. It you are familiar with the WL-V262, you might be interested to know that it has the same footprint as the X8C. By that, I mean the length of the arms are the same and the motor separations are the same. However, that's where the similarities stop. V262 is lighter. Its motors are smaller, and so are its props, so that they could fit within the confines of a foam ring.


Under the belly of the X8C carries a small egg shaped camera. It slides and clips neatly into place and it has a single 3.5mm stereo plug to connect up to the FC of the X8C. It takes both videos and still photos. Images and videos are stored on a supplied 4GB Micro SD memory card. A USB card reader is also provided for easy transfer. You could tilt the camera for different shooting angle, but the steps are in 30 increments, way too large to be useful. It's either straight ahead, 30 or 60 down angle. Camera functions are controlled from the radio, so that you could start/stop in mid-flight.


Props are 230mm long, end to end. The shiny lock nuts on top look awesome, except they are fake. They are just plastic caps. Under them are metal shafts, connected to gears, to pinions of large brush motors. Prop replacements are easy to perform, but it does require the use of one tiny Phillips head screw driver to release a retainer. A full set of replacement props are provided in the box. Motors are secured by screws and the motors have plugs, making replacement a simple job. Motors and gears and completely encased and protected. But there are large air vents for cooling.


Landing gears come separate in the box. They are securely attached to the lower shell by two metal screws on each leg. Once installed, they are not easily removable. Therefore, forget using the original box as a carrying case, unless you don't mind carrying a screw driver with you and remove the legs at the end of each day. Like the Phantom, the land gears provide a high clearance of 95mm at the bottom, high enough to mount gimbals and cameras of your choice.
Like the Phantom, there are LEDs under each arm. The front arms have red LEDs, and the rear arms have green LEDs. I wish that they are reversed because I like to think of those red LEDs as brake lights. I have not opened up the body, yet. But by peaking through the battery compartment, I see LED modules, wires and plugs. The lens at the bottom of the arms are clear. Therefore, it should not be difficult to rewire the lights. On the Phantom, the LEDs are only visible at the bottom side. On the X8C, there are small openings and lens on the top side also, so that lights are visible on both top and bottom. However, the lights are not as bright as those on the Phantom. On the Phantom, you could see the lights during the day. On the X8C, they are barely visible during the day, but they are extremely helpful at night.


Transmitter
The design and layout of the radio transmitter are exactly the same as the original X1 Tx, except everything has been scaled up by 25% or so. In other words, this Tx takes the shape of the old Tx but it is a full size radio. Pilot with bigger hands will welcome this change. When I first opened up the battery compartment, I saw slots for 6 AA batteries. When I brought 6 AA batteries to install, I discovered something interesting. Only the 4 slots in the middle are used! Don't ask me why. I think SYMA has future plans to use 6 cells. But for now, you could put the 2 extra cells away for rainy days. The LCD screen was exactly the same as before. The sticks feel exactly like the same as before. And as before, SYMA allows you to switch between Mode 2 and Mode 4 (although in the manual they are called mode 1 and mode 2, respectively), swapping the AIL and RUD controls. Basically, you made the switch by holding the AIL trim button to the right while turning on the power. There are only 2 rates, L or H, switchable by the Left shoulder button. The Right shoulder button is for flips. The Throttle trim button has been repurposed to control the camera. Push up to take photo. Push down to start/stop video. There is an interesting surprise inside the radio. There are not one, but two antennae coming out from the Tx module. One is a simple wire, about 30mm long. Another is a coaxial cable with the isolation stripped back at the end and it is tugged up into the antenna housing. Why two antennae? I am not entirely sure at this point. Perhaps one to control the Quad and one to communicate with the camera. One thing about the Tx is it feels feather weight. Its light weight does not inspire confidence. But after flying the X8C around with it a little bit, the control felt solid. There was no dead zone or jerkiness. At this point, it is an unknown protocol to me. I have tried all the known protocol on the Deviation and nothing seemed to work. However, the X8C does use the same protocol as the X12, which is one of the smallest Quads like a Cheerson CX-10. To recalibrate the X8C, pull both Tx sticks to the lower right corner and hold until the LEDs on the Quad flash rapidly.


Flying the X8C
The X8C is not going to break any speed records. It's designed for steady flights and it does that very well. The Tx always starts on Low rate at power up. I usually don't bother with Low rate and just switch to High rate for better control and response. However, there is only one rate for yaw, slow. The X8C takes off with authority like a cargo plane, slow and steady. When it encounters wind, it drifts, rather than getting blown away, and it is easily correctable. These are all great traits for an aerial platform. But the X8C is not limited to just being a steady aerial platform. It retains some of the personality of a fun flyer. Although it is not a speeder, it could pick up and go. At high rate, it could do some spirited flying. Unfortunately, the slow yaw prevents it from making very tight turns. The accelerometers do a great job of keeping it flying at a level altitude. Even in FFF mode, it doesn't drive and drop altitude forcing you back off on the Elevator. That is very nice. The X8C is a bigger and heavier Quad and it shows. Without brushless motors, the acceleration is slow, but once it gets up to speed, it has the mass to sustain that momentum and keep moving. The X8C even do tight flips to remind us that it is not just a platform; it could have some fun, too. In comparison, the V262 is much more twitchy and much more jerky. The X8C is smooth and very predictable. It is very controllable, even for beginners. In its stock configuration, with its stock camera, I flew the X8C for 7 minutes. It ran the 2000mAh pack down to 7.4v, and I put 1311 mAh back into the cells. That's about 65% capacity. Very decent performance. In another test, I removed the stock camera and strapped on 172g of weight, simulating a GoPro with case that I don't have. The X8C was not fazed by that weight. It flew 5 minutes, dropping the pack down to 7.7v and I put 1162 mAh back. That was totally acceptable performance even with 172g strapped on to it. In another test, an E-Flite 1300mAh pack was used. To my surprise, the flight time did not do down at all. It went for 7 minutes with reserve in the tank. The lighter weight made it even livelier to fly. It's a great battery choice for the X8C.


Photography Modes
Up until this point, the X8C have met or exceeded all my expectations. When it came time to review the pictures and footage, it was a huge disappointment. The thumbnail pictures looked great. But when viewed in natural size, the picture really lack details. The video has lots of Jello effect, because there is no damping in the camera mount. Again the resolution is poor. When I decided to open up the camera to take a look inside, that's when I made an astonishing discovery. Once I opened up the camera case, I found another case. Wait, there was a whole camera inside and it looked very familiar. I know that camera. It was a camera from the X5C, wrapped in a larger case! While everything else was new for the X8C, the camera was an old part, disguised to look new. Bottom line is that the camera doesn't worth a stamp. Just leave it in the box it came in. Go strap on an 808 #16, a Mobius, or even a GoPro if you want good video. Anyway, if you are willing to work with the stock camera, it is very easy to install and use. It slides and locks in place under the belly. It tilts up and down in 30 increments. I found that the straight ahead position works best for me. In that position, the rotors are not in view. On the radio, you push the throttle trim button up and it will automatically take a snapshot and return to standby. If you pull the button down, it will start/stop the video recording. However, there is no visual feedback on the radio to show whether you are recording or not. On the camera circuit board. There are Green and Red LEDs. But they are not easy to spot. Why? Because you have to look through the outer shell, then the inner shell to find the LEDs. A Micro SD to USB reader is provided in the kit.


Headless Flying Mode
There are two flying modes in the X8C. First there is the regular flying mode. Then there is the headless flying mode. In the headless mode, the heading of the Quad is ignored. Regardless which way the Quad has turned, the Quad flies in the same orientation has the right control stick. If you move the stick left, the Quad moves left. If you move right, it moves right. If you move forward, it flies away from you. If you move backwards, it flies towards you. Everything is computed relative to the position of you and the radio. This is great when you have flown the Quad too far and lost the orientation. You simply switch it into the headless mode, and pull the right stick towards you, and the Quad will make its way back to you. The headless mode is also useful when flying around with full yaw, making the Quad spinning like a UFO, but traveling in a straight line. Needless to say, do not use headless modes when you are using the camera. You would have no idea what it is going to capture. The manual did a poor job describing the headless mode. So, allow me to simplify it for you. The left shoulder button that switches between Low and High rates is also used to engage and disengage headless mode. You do it by holding the button down for 2 seconds. There are a couple of audio and visual cues to let you know which mode the Quad is in. By default, it is in the normal mode. So, to engage the headless mode, you press and hold the left shoulder button for 2 seconds. The radio will emit a series of 8 beeps and then it will stop. Thank goodness for that. In some of my Quads that has headless modes, the radio continues to beep the entire time that you are in that mode, driving you crazy. The X8C will beep 8 times and then stop beeping. You could still switch between Low and High rate, just don't hold down the button. Visually on the Quad, the LEDs will blink once in 4 seconds to show that it is in headless mode. To take the X8C off headless mode, you press and hold the left shoulder button again. This time, it will emit one long beep to let you know that the Quad is back to normal mode. And the LEDs will glow solid once again. This is a great feature especially for the new pilots who tend to lose orientation easily.


What's in the Package?
The SYMA X8C RTF Package comes with the following:
1x SYMA X8C 6-Axis Headless Quad
1x 2MP Camera
1x 4GB Micro SD Card
1x USB Micro SD Card Reader
1x 2S 7.4v 2000mAh 25C Lipo Battery
1x 2S Balance Charger (750mA output)
4x Landing Gears
4x Prop Guards
4x Motor Housing Covers
4x Replacement Props
1x User Manual (PDF)

Where to Buy?
The SYMA X8C Quad is available through the link below:
SYMA X8C Quad

Credits
Special thanks to members, Daryoon and Fyathyrio, who brought out a DJI Phantom for some side-by-side comparison and provided many valuable inputs for this review.

Photo Gallery
Last edited by Heli Pad; Apr 20, 2015 at 01:47 AM.
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Feb 10, 2015, 12:34 AM
Against Helicopter Cruelty
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Frequently Asked Questions


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Feb 10, 2015, 12:34 AM
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Troubleshooting and Popular Mods


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Feb 10, 2015, 01:30 AM
Registered User
Looks nice.
Feb 10, 2015, 02:16 AM
XFM
XFM
eXperimental Flying Machines
Are there ball bearings for the gear shaft?

Did you take any video at the park?

What range are you getting with the big antenna?


Just joking on the last question
Excellent review.
Feb 10, 2015, 02:24 AM
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XFM, thanks for stopping by. The big antenna is great! Range is out of this state. LOL I noticed that light pole after I took that picture.

Did take some video at the park. But I wouldn't waste bandwidth uploading it or have you waste yours downloading it. It has lots of Jello effect because there is no damping. The video quality is low. I think SYMA released a good platform. But they failed (big time) by giving us the low quality camera from the X5C.

If you go through the Photo Gallery, you'll find that there appears to be a bearing in the middle of the prop. But after I looked closer at it, Syma put a washer there. I have not yet opened up the entire motor mount. I'll probably do that some time this week, as I would like to open up the whole body and rearrange the lights. I like RED LEDs at the back.

From my experience with other SYMA models, I would guess that there are no bearings or bushings. But once I get a chance to dig in and verify, I will report back.
Feb 10, 2015, 02:31 AM
Embrace the suck!
Fyathyrio's Avatar
After seeing some of the recent quad tests, I wasn't expecting much with this quad. The lightweight Tx doesn't inspire confidence, the brushed motor setup had me concerned, and the size made me think it was gonna be a dog. Overall I was pleasantly surprised and could find no real big issues with the quad other than the yaw is a bit slow. That's nice when you want smooth video, but not much fun when you need to maneuver quickly to avoid an obstacle.

First big surprise was the flight time. Using 2S 1300mah cells, we were getting 7+ minutes and landing right about 3.7v/cell. When we flew with the stock 2000mah cell, it landed just barely below storage charge in about the same flight time. The slight weight difference between the two cells did not seem to affect handling much with possible exception of recovering from rapid descents, and that could be as much due to not being used to the quad's handling characteristics as power/weight issues. This quad is brushed, so there is less power available compared to a brushless setup, but there's plenty available when needed once you're used to it.

Next was the handling, for it's size the quad is surprisingly light. Transitions were smooth, not jerky like is common with WLToys V2x2 stuff. (For comparison I brought along my V262 as it's also a 2S brushed/geared setup.) In high rates it would lean over enough to counteract it's existing momentum in a reasonable time and allow to stop or reverse direction. I simulated some gentle flight as if getting aerial video, and was able to smoothly place the quad where I wanted, pan gently, and adjust gracefully. Low rates were particularly good for this, but it's also possible in high rates...likely required for outdoor use with any breeze.

In spirited flight, the quad handled well also with exception of previously mentioned yaw rates. Again I had no issues putting it where I wanted and doing pretty much what I asked of it. I tend to fly nose first airplane style, so the yaw was a little annoying as my turns weren't as tight as I would prefer. Once used to it, I was able to adjust accordingly and we never did stress test it against a tree or light pole.

The auto flip function worked well, similar to many RTF other quads in that you hold the flip button, move the right stick in direction you want to flip, and it does it itself. The quad brain will give a quick boost of power, flip, then return throttle to your command with minimal altitude loss.

One thing that really surprised me was the quality of the Tx once you get past the fact that a strong wind could blow it away. There was no noted dead zone, no strange jumps, and I was able to fly intuitively almost as if I was using my Devo on a model I was familiar with. This Tx works much better then look and heft would suggest.

As mentioned previously, this is a very light quad, so even very light winds will induce some major drift due to the large surface area of the shell. This wasn't an issue during sporty flight, but smooth outdoor photography may be a challenge. Low rates and light wind will allow you to maintain a decent hover, but if the breeze picks up and you have to switch to high rates it may be an issue. One interesting thing I noted was it's very easy to maintain position, almost easier than my first gen DJI Phantom. Without the large amount of mass, it only takes minor adjustments which should also help with video quality.

Some of the minor issues I noted...

The landing gear is four individual legs, so they do not help with orientation at a distance. The Phantom legs are "U" shaped, so they give a quick reference to fore/aft at least.

Next is the LEDs, they are not very bright, and they don't extend down outside the frame (except for the lens) so once in the air and any distance away from you they don't help during daylight with orientation either.

The frame is all white, the props are white, and the little stickers on the front arms are only on the top...so this is another issue hampering the ability to maintain orientation. The DJI Phantom has the exact same issues, but it's LEDs are bright enough to see in daylight. One thing I did with my DJI is paint the front props fluorescent orange, between that and the landing gear showing front/rear, I can maintain orientation easily. I'd recommend painting a pair of props for the Syma X-8 also.

The above three issues are minor and can easily be fixed with stickers, tape, or paint.

The yaw is a bit frustrating, but I quickly adapted to it's limitations, I just would prefer more yaw available when I want/need it. I had a couple close calls with trees where I could see it wasn't going to turn fast enough and had to jerk the right stick to avoid a collision. Easy enough to do with a quad, but not exactly a smooth flight. Both the V262 and DJI Phantom have higher yaw rates, and both are still capable of smooth video.

Some of the features we didn't test today while I was there were the camera, both how to use it and how well it shoots video. I suspect that it'll be similar to many other quads in that it's 2mp resolution will be insufficient in a world where 1080p even comes from a cell phone. While looking at the mount, I am positive that the "click" positions it has for the camera will be too shallow on the first, and too steep on the second. This will make it much more difficult to frame a shot, but likely can be adjusted for once used to it. To the best of our ability (without the manual) we were not able to see the camera status on the Tx display, and the camera itself does not have any visual indicators on the housing to show mode or activity. (We were able to see a small LED change from red to green on the PCB, likely indicating mode, but only when holding the quad upside down in our hands and peering through the camera ventilation slots.) This lack of camera control integration with the Tx display will make it challenging at first, but again I'm sure this issue can be overcome with practice and experience.

We didn't have a scale at the field, but to our uneducated guesses the V262 may have been a touch heavier than the Syma X-8! The Syma has larger motors, can carry a larger battery, and gets longer flights than the V262. It handles better and looks better also. Brushed motors have been an ongoing issue with the V262 family of quads, so it'll be interesting to see how the X-8 motors hold out. It ran quiet, and never seemed to struggle, so initial impression are that Syma got the power and gear ratio correct which will hopefully lead to longer motor life.

Once again, really pleasantly surprised with how well this quad flew for a 350 sized brushed motor setup. The few folks that walked by while we were testing all seemed to like the looks, even had one little girl come right up to check it out...to heck with stranger-danger, that's a cool toy mom! If the protocol can be hacked to fly with my Devo, and if an RTF version without camera is offered for about $75 - $80 I would seriously consider buying one of these to replace my aging V262. Brushed motors may be a known wear issue, but they are inexpensive, usually give warning before failure, and are easy to replace...and lets face it, brushless motors and/or ESCs fail relatively frequently also with a higher replacement cost. With some basic maintenance and care they will last a good amount of time, and there's something to be said for simplicity. This isn't a sports car, so the drivetrain it does have suits it well.
Feb 10, 2015, 02:45 AM
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Thanks, Fyathyrio, for your detailed input.

Guys, if you missed the Credits at the end of my review, Fyathyrio came out with his Phantom so that we could look at the Phantom and the X8C side by side. His experience in flying the Phantom has added lots of insights for this review.
Feb 11, 2015, 12:44 AM
TS Banggood RC's Avatar
Good ,Have you taken some Video?
Feb 11, 2015, 02:09 AM
Registered User
SeByDocKy's Avatar
Excellent review ....

Hummm It will be hard for me to do better .....

For information, I managed to flew the H8C with the new Syma protocol variant of DeviationTX.... so it's a good news
Feb 11, 2015, 03:27 AM
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Thank you, SBD. You are always a good resource on protocols.

All I know is that my Syma X12 could bind with the X8C. I've also read that X5C-1 is compatible. However, it is not compatible with my X5C. What is the difference between X5C and X5C-1?

I haven't been updating my Deviation for a little while, and frankly, I'm a little bit behind on the curve. Could use your help. Syma is using several different protocols, which is making our lives difficult. I read somewhere that someone has added all of them to Deviation, but it is not in the standard release stream? Will they ever be added into the standard release? I'd like to experiment with these protocols, assuming that my nRF equipped Devo could handle them. Could you provide some details on the development? Thanks,

HP
Feb 11, 2015, 03:42 AM
Registered User
SeByDocKy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Heli Pad
Thank you, SBD. You are always a good resource on protocols.

All I know is that my Syma X12 could bind with the X8C. I've also read that X5C-1 is compatible. However, it is not compatible with my X5C. What is the difference between X5C and X5C-1?

I haven't been updating my Deviation for a little while, and frankly, I'm a little bit behind on the curve. Could use your help. Syma is using several different protocols, which is making our lives difficult. I read somewhere that someone has added all of them to Deviation, but it is not in the standard release stream? Will they ever be added into the standard release? I'd like to experiment with these protocols, assuming that my nRF equipped Devo could handle them. Could you provide some details on the development? Thanks,

HP

Since PB seems to be "away" from a while, there are some new unofficial beta releases in the syma X5C, X11, X12 thread (http://www.deviationtx.com/forum/pro...-x12?start=180). You have currently 3 syma protocol variants
i) one for the syma X3, old X4, old X6 can be found in suboption of the YD117 protocol
ii) one for the new X4, new X6, X5C-1, X8C, X11, X12 (I guess their new protocol working @250kbits instead to 1Mbits to increase range). You have a new "symaX" protocol now
iii) one for the X2,X5C,X7, a suboption of the symaX protocol ...

I hope I was clear ...
Feb 11, 2015, 03:46 AM
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Do I find this unofficial beta release in the DeviationTX web site, or else where?
Feb 11, 2015, 10:40 AM
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SeByDocKy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Heli Pad
Do I find this unofficial beta release in the DeviationTX web site, or else where?
I gave you the link in the previous msg. If you need for the Devo10 or something else, I can recompile it


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