XinLin X118 RTF Quadcopter from Gearbest.com Review

Here is another small quad and video cam combo to take a look at!

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Introduction

XinLin X118 RTF Quadcopter

Dimensions:11.79 x 11.79 x 3.54" (30 x 30 x 9.0cm)
Transmitter:Proprietary four-channel 2.4GHz spread spectrum with digital trims and built-in adjustable 5" LCD FPV screen with shade and SD card socket
Receiver:Proprietary receiver/ESC combination with six-axis gyro
Battery:Shinda 850mAh 1S lithium polymer with Team Losi micro connector
Motors:Brushed with gear drives; model number not given
Propellers:5 3/8" diameter; estimated pitch 3 1/2"
Camera:0.3 megapixel solid state with fixed-focus lens and 5.8GHz video link
Typical Flight Duration:Five minutes
Operator Skill Level/Age:Beginner, 14+
Available From:Gearbest.com
Price (USD):$88.98 plus applicable shipping and tax

It's amazing how many manufacturers - and vendors - are jumping on the mini-quadcopter bandwagon. Small wonder since it's the fastest growing segment of the radio control hobby with their ease of use and fun features such as FPV and video recording capability.

Beginners, please note: This and other models like it are quadcopters or multirotors, not drones. That's a misnomer if ever there was one.

That said, please welcome one of the latest models to enter a rapidly growing field, the XinLin X118 ready-to-fly quadcopter from my friends at Gearbest.com. It is, like all models in this class, a sort of "one stop shop" which includes a fully assembled model, a lithium polymer battery, a rudimentary USB-powered charger, optional propeller guards, a couple of spare props and even a small Philips screwdriver.

With that introduction done, now's the time to have some fun!

Contents

The XinLin X118 comes as a complete package with the following:

  • Fully assembled model
  • 2.4 GHz four-channel transmitter with folding FPV screen and collapsible hood
  • Landing legs and optional propeller guards
  • Philips screwdriver
  • 850mAh 1S lithium polymer battery with Team Losi micro connector
  • USB charger
  • 5.8 MHz onboard transmission antenna
  • Two spare propellers
  • Illustrated operating manual in English and Chinese

Needed to get flying:

  • Six AA-cell alkaline batteries
  • Micro SD card reader or adapter

The X118 arrived with a traveling partner, namely the incredible new Floureon FX-10 nano quadcopter. That little gem is the current title holder of the world's smallest quadcopter according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It has its own review.

As with most Asian mail order houses, purchases aren't boxed but rather wrapped. It's labor intensive and doesn't always guarantee that a product will arrive in the same condition it was before it was wrapped. Other than the usual dings and dents in the corners of the beautifully printed display box with its contrasting glossy photo of the model against a matte back background and foil-printed lettering, the X118 arrived in perfect condition.

Inside the box was a nicely packaged model and accessories, but a "shrinky dink" badge on the transmitter proclaiming "Video Control AIRCRAFT" had come loose and was stuck to the inner tray. That's probably a factory error and not a problem due to rough handling during shipping. I was torn as to whether or not I wanted to reattach the badge, but in the end, I did reattach it with some contact cement. It wasn't long after that I realized that both of the badges were lightly tacked down and with a tendency to curl up. I've since removed them.

The DJI Phantom has set the standard for quadcopter styling and the X118 has certainly followed suit. The matte white finish gives it a touch of class. There's even a simulated GPS antenna which lights up internally and helps keep the model oriented.

The transmitter, in glossy solid white, is roughly full sized with machined aluminum, non-adjustable sticks. Those are incredibly welcome touches. Not quite as welcome is the screwdriver blade-shaped pair of antennae rising up from behind the adjustable FPV screen with its collapsible hood. Like the GPS antenna, they're for show. Ergonomics are, sad to say, terrible. There's a myriad of unmarked buttons and unless one is prepared to either memorize each function, write the functions with a Sharpie marker or to have the manual handy at every flight, most of the fun functions may go unused. They include a return-to-home function, a one-button flip function, onboard light control and dual rates with headless mode.

Other functions include a micro SD card slot with a 4GB card already installed, a jack which can be used for uploading and downloading video directly to the computer and a headphone jack for those who enjoy the soothing, stereophonic sounds of the motors and props. A truly functional touch is that of a charging jack, but there's no charger nor are such minor details such as input voltage and pin polarity discussed in the manual. No computer cable or micro SD card reader, either.

Speaking of the manual, I found myself growling aloud at yet another poorly translated disaster, one which also leaves out an important detail.

The button marked "POWER" at the lower left side of the transmitter switches the FPV function on and off. What it fails to mention is that the button must be held for several seconds in order to engage the FPV function. Heck, even the box instructs the user to "long-press the switch machine," but who goes to the display box for operating instructions? A quick email to Adam, my contact at Gearbest.com did the trick. He checked with his tech department and passed the info to me.

The manual also fails to mention the need for the enclosed 5.8GHz antenna marked "TX." It's the transmission antenna for the camera and it plugs into its side. I looked all over the transmitter for a jack before I noticed the jack on the side of the camera. C'est la vie.

Assembly

Since the X118 is already assembled, all one has to do is to plug in the video antenna, press the landing legs into place and, if desired, attach the propeller guards with the enclosed screwdriver. The screws are already in place on the guards, a nice touch.

I've stated on other reviews how much I dislike prop guards, but for the sake of this review, I gave them a try. The X118 is a small quad without a lot of reserve power on tap, so any extra weight is a penalty. I later found that the flight characteristics didn't seem to be affected, but I've opted to leave them off.

I used the enclosed USB charger to charge the flight battery, which it did in a little more than an hour. I'll also go ahead and recommend that anyone with a computerized charger use that instead. On a recent charge, the ready light on the charger hadn't come on after what seemed to be a long time. Hooking it up to the computerized charger showed it as more than ready at 4.21V. Another suggestion would be to set a kitchen timer for one hour if one is using the enclosed charger.

Flying

With the flight battery charged, the fun can begin. As with many small quads in this price class, the battery door is an affair which slides back to open and which is pressed forward to close. A nice touch is the battery jack. Instead of a jack attached to wires and flopping around in tight quarters, the X118 has a polarized jack at the rear of the battery compartment. No wires!

With the transmitter on, the flight battery is plugged into its jack. The X118 goes into a virtual paroxysm of flashing, multi-colored LEDs - which are nearly impossible to see outdoors. These can be toggled on and off at the transmitter and given the small, somewhat overworked flight battery, I recommend doing so when flying outdoors in daylight. At night, there isn't enough contrast in color between the front and rear lights, but the simulated GPS dome makes orientation relatively easy when it's close by. I wouldn't recommend flying too far downrange at night with this model.

One of the buttons toggles between the low rate default, high rate and headless. It happens to be right next to the automatic flip button. Unlike other quads with this function, the X118 simply flips when the button is pressed. No warning, no provision for the pilot to flip in a desired direction. Really annoying, although the model flips quickly and recovers fairly well.

Liftoff is very smooth and linear; it almost sounds like a very quiet brushless setup. Indoor control on low rates is gentle and stable; it's a terrific indoor quad despite being larger than some. It'll give a beginner pilot a lot of confidence. Outdoors, it's necessary to kick it up to the high rates. There isn't enough pitch programmed into the low rate setting to compensate for even a slight breeze.

Here's where things get a bit strange. In high rates, the X118 can be flown with almost reckless abandon. It's relatively quick and turns in well with a good yaw rate. Flown slowly as a camera platform, one needs to be exceedingly gentle on the sticks. As I'd mentioned, there isn't a lot of power on tap and it doesn't take a lot to send the little quad into gyroscopic precession, also known as the "toilet bowl effect." The X118 will begin to wobble on its axis and lose altitude, especially when throttling down. Adding throttle will pull it out of its wobble, but those flying or who will soon fly the X118 should be aware of the phenomenon in hovering and slow forward flight. Some of that wobble is visible in the video showing yours truly doing the flying.

Camera Function

As nicely as this model flies, the 0.3 megapixel camera is a disappointment. There are some nice features to be sure, among them a 2x and 3x digital zoom, a "flip" which digitally inverts the picture and the ability to take still photos, all controlled from the transmitter. To recap, the manual fails to state that the power button on the transmitter must be held for a few moments in order to power up the FPV link. After the "Quadcopter X" title screen, the user can then select video, stills and adjust the zoom and flip. To power down, the button must again be held for a few seconds.

Even with the hood, the color LCD screen washes out in daylight. What doesn't wash out is the sound. The X118 transmits video to the screen and audio to a small speaker. There's even a headphone jack, but I have to wonder and ask why anyone would want to listen to nothing but the motors both live and on playback. Thankfully, there's a digital volume control next to the left stick. With the volume up and the model in flight, the sound is horribly grating and prone to dropping out. So again I ask, why?

All of the wasted R&D which went into the sound needed to go into the camera instead. Since I can't think of a way to sugarcoat this, I'll come out and say that the picture quality is terrible. The video is severely pixelated with a narrow aspect ratio, but at least color saturation and hue are good. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a high definition camera.

What shows promise is how smooth the results are. I was expecting a lot of the "Jello Effect" and there wasn't a trace. Someone inclined to do so might be able to jury rig a better FPV camera or simply hoist a keychain camera aloft, but I don't recommend it. That little li-po is working hard as it is, coming down quite warm after flights with the camera switched on. Furthermore, while no spare parts are available at this time, Adam at Gearbest.com has assured me that spare parts will soon be added to the catalog.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

The X118 is typical of the breed with the seemingly mandatory flip function, headless mode and a one-button, return-to-home function. The latter seems to work simply by pitching the model backwards and it will, in turn, return to home as long as the tail is pointed toward the pilot. Giving the X118 opposite pitch will cancel the function.

As for the headless mode, nothing. The manual (somewhat) clearly explained how to engage the headless, but no go.

Is This For a Beginner?

Oh, yes. This model is aimed squarely at beginners. The X118 has smooth, easily controlled power, overall flight characteristics are good - if one doesn't "undercontrol" during slow flight - and the FPV adds a welcome "gee whiz" factor. It's stable enough to take a beginner from tail-in hovering to basic forward flight.

Flight Video and Photo Gallery

Both onboard and external video may be viewed here:

XinLin X118 RTF Quadcopter from Gearbest.com (4 min 4 sec)

George Muir was kind enough to provide these beauty shots and screen captures:

Conclusion

Three or four years ago, the XinLin X118 would have been the most talked-about quad in model aviation despite its faults. As development continues and production costs plummet, the field has become very crowded. It takes a really outstanding machine to rise to the occasion and the X118 falls short, primarily due to the camera. It flies well and an FPV screen is a big draw to beginners, but between a screen which washes out in daylight despite the sunshade and less than perfect video quality, that big draw might be a disappointment.

One only needs to go back a couple of years for BNF micro quads with $100 price tags. I know; I own one. Here we have a much larger, good flying machine with a full-sized transmitter, FPV and video/still recording capability and even an LED light show for only 88 bucks. That, my friends, is real progress with only one hiccup.

I refer to shipping costs. I thought it odd in light of the fact that the similarly priced and slightly larger JJRC X6 Tarantula from Gearbest comes with free shipping, so I contacted Adam. He explained that the X118's box is too large to qualify for free shipping. Pricing will, of course, vary from area to area.

If one goes in with reasonable expectations - the sorts of scenarios on the box showing high altitude work and skiers are definitely exaggerated - the X118 is an excellent choice as a practice platform, a fun indoor flyer and a great way for younger pilots to experience aerial photography and basic FPV.

One and a half thumbs up. It's worth considering, fun to fly and would rate higher with a better camera. As for me, I'm going to track down another battery or two and go flying.

Sincerest thanks to Adam and the Gearbest.com crew for sending this sample. Likewise to George Muir, the peerless videographer and historian of the Coachella Valley Radio Control Club who frequently shoots these videos on early Sunday mornings. Of course, I have to thank our administrative staff, Angela Haglund and Jim T. Graham. They make all of our reviews possible for you, dear reader. Thanks for visiting the biggest, best hobby site on the Web!

Pluses and Minuses

Pluses include:

  • Very good flying characteristics
  • Near-full sized transmitter is a big improvement over the toylike transmitters often seen in this class
  • Machined aluminum sticks give the transmitter the feel of a more expensive unit
  • Exceptionally smooth power for a model with geared, brushed motors
  • No "Jello Effect" on the video
  • Actually flies better when flown aggressively
  • Power jack in the battery compartment means no broken battery lead wires
  • The camera's digital zoom and flip functions add to the fun
  • Affordably priced
  • Nicely styled, much like a "baby Phantom"

Minuses include:

  • Poor quality video and needless audio
  • FPV screen is hard to see outdoors, even with the hood
  • Slightly underpowered and prone to the "toilet bowl effect"
  • Flight battery is too small for the task
  • No spare parts as of yet, although there soon will be
  • No free shipping due to the size of the box
  • Poorly translated manual with errors and omissions
  • Trim stickers on the transmitter came loose
Last edited by DismayingObservation; Aug 26, 2015 at 11:52 PM..
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Sep 03, 2015, 09:16 PM
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Very helpful review
Sep 04, 2015, 09:05 AM
Pronoun trouble...
DismayingObservation's Avatar
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elliot he
Very helpful review
Thanks, Elliot. Welcome to RCGroups!
Sep 22, 2015, 01:12 AM
DesertEagle
DumbthumbsFPV's Avatar
"Beginners, please note: This and other models like it are quadcopters or multirotors, not drones". Couldn't have said it better. Drive by media and their "drones"
Sep 22, 2015, 02:05 AM
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SoloProFan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deserteagle
"Beginners, please note: This and other models like it are quadcopters or multirotors, not drones". Couldn't have said it better. Drive by media and their "drones"
Stumbled across this on another thread:

Latest blog entry: For the love of the hobby!
Sep 23, 2015, 12:38 AM
DesertEagle
DumbthumbsFPV's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoloProFan
Stumbled across this on another thread:

The media must have the same poster


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