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Syma X12 Review

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There has been massive interest in the consumer drone and quadcopter segment for quite some time now, with a contributing factor being the reduction in the price of owning one, specially the entry-level ones. The Syma X12 is a prime example of an inexpensive nano quadcopter which is excellent for beginners to hone their skills. I brought this quadcopter out of curiosity, primarily; but I was mighty impressed at the capabilities that this minuscule little flyer possesses.

Here’s my humble take on the Syma X12.

Syma X12 Review: In the box

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First things first, what came in the package. The X12 came bundled with a gamepad style controller, a proprietary charging cable, an instruction manual, some spare propellers and the Syma X12 itself. Pretty standard stuff, nothing out of the ordinary.

I went for the leaf green coloured X12, but a prospective buyer can choose from out of three more colours: red, black and white.

The quadcopter drone by itself is very tiny, and from the information I gathered prior to making the purchase, this one’s a close competitor to the Cheerson CX-10 (review), which is arguably one of the smallest and perhaps the most popular quadcopter in the world.

In fact, the X12 is slightly bigger than an AA battery. It’s tiny yet powerful, as I’ll be explaining soon.

Syma X12 Review: Controller

The controller is one that is pretty standard to Syma drones, and it’s somewhat similar in design to a standard X-Box controller. From what I’ve learnt, these kind of controllers don’t really give the user the sense of control that would be needed to manoeuvre the little drone. However, as a first time flyer, I found the controller pretty handy and responsive.

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There are two joysticks: the left one controls the thrust (upward / downward movement) and the yaw (rotation in a plane), while the right one controls the tilting motions in the respective directions. I’m told these controllers are ‘mode 2’ controllers, with the other type being ‘mode 1’ where the joysticks switch positions.

The buttons are needed for calibrating the quadcopter (i.e., trim), to make sure the directions are aligned properly. I noticed that many a time, the drone veered off in an undesired direction, so these trim buttons came in handy to adjust the position and let the quadcopter hover in (roughly) one spot.

The other buttons on the controller are the Low/High rate button and the Flip button. Yep, the drone can perform 360 degree flips!

The controller runs on four AA batteries.

Syma X12 Review: Quadcopter

Coming to the good stuff now, the quadcopter itself.

At first glance, this drone is tiny! It might look like a delicate little thing, with it’s simplistic plastic body and tiny propeller blades. But looks are deceiving, and this nano can surely take a good beating when it collides with walls. Or the ceiling. Or the cupboard. Did I mention that this is my first drone?

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The front end of the drone has a tiny little flashlight, which although can’t illuminate far off objects properly, is a good indicator of which side of the X12 is facing forward. Do note, this is not a headless drone (don’t know what a headless drone means? Click here), so the indicator in the form of the headlight is actually a welcome feature to assess the direction it is heading towards.

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The posterior end of the drone has a tiny port through which it can be charged. Charging can occur by connecting the proprietary cable to any USB port: Laptop, Desktop, Mobile charging adaptor and even a Power Bank.

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The top of the drone has four blinking LEDs. These green and red LEDs are indicative of the direction the quad is moving in, and also are good indicators for when the pairing is lost, or the battery on the drone is about to die out.

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The bottom of the drone features the landing limbs (for lack of a more suitable term) which have tiny rubber paddings to provide a good grip while landing. It also houses the battery powering up the drone: a 3.7V, 100mAh battery. It can juice up the drone for only about 4 minutes of flight time.

Syma X12 Review: Flight Characteristics

Before I begin, I must apologize for the fact that I wasn’t able to click any photos of the drone while it was in flight, mainly because my phone’s camera simply refuses to focus properly on the drone, and with the LEDs on its back, all images and videos went completely out of focus.

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So first off, the X12 is powerful! Initially, I was unimpressed with the size. But this impression changed when I flew it.

At low rates – which I used while flying the drone indoors – the drone packs quite a punch. As a beginner, I had no trouble at all getting the hang of things, and a major contributing factor in this regard is the stability of the drone. The X12 flies very steadily and can maintain its direction, if not the altitude, for quite some time. The propeller blades are made of flexible and light plastic, so they won’t hurt the flyer much when the drone is caught in flight.

Speed is one area where the X12 truly surprised me. Like an angry hornet, this thing could cover the length of the hall in hardly any time, and reversing the direction of flight at the last moment was also done neatly. The drone is very responsive to the commands from the controller, and gives stellar flight.

Outdoors too, the drone flew nicely. It could hold up well against a moderate amount of wind, and the speeds at high rates were awesome too. Six axis gyro meant that I could chuck it in the air and fly it immediately in mid throw. The flips were perfectly coordinated as well, thanks to the dedicated flip button. But I must mention, the drone lost a considerable amount of altitude after the flip was initiated, and this problem became more prominent as the battery on the drone drained out.

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According to most reviews about this drone, it does not have a fast enough yaw. This was one factor which I tested out, and I somewhat agree. Although as a beginner with the X12 as his first drone, I don’t really have a comparison yardstick. But still, it was tough taking circuits and flying the drone around trees and such. Indoors, it’s decent, but tight corners and bends are quite difficult, if not impossible, for the X12 to undertake.

My biggest problem with the quadcopter drone were the indicator lights. Although they indicate when the battery is drained to a critical point, this indication came after the drone lost altitude almost completely. Nonetheless, it is a tiny flaw when you consider all the pros of the drone.

Syma X12 Review: Battery

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After that four minute flight, you’ll need to juice your drone up, and this is done using the proprietary charging cable. From my laptop, it took about 40 minutes or so to bring the drone back to life, while using my phone charger it took about 45 minutes, give or take a few minutes in either case.

Syma X12 Review: Verdict

Overall, I’m mighty impressed. This tiny little thing can buzz around the room for quite some time, and can fly at breakneck speeds outside too. The controls are responsive, although I would have preferred a faster yaw rate to fly around tight curves. It is stable, and can follow the user’s commands nicely. It is also very, very robust and can take hard collisions without much damage to itself.

Should you buy it? Yep, definitely. Specially if you’d like to start off with drones as a hobby, and are looking for your first drone, as was in my case. Or even if you’re an active flyer, this thing would be great to fly indoors. It’s cheap too, and is actually available on many online stores at well under $30. When compared to the Syma X11 and the X13, the X12 is a completely different offering.

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Syma has done a good job with the X12, and this can be the perfect first drone for a budding flyer!

The above review is a guest post by Nivedit Majumdar, originally submitted to the RC Drone Arena forums.

About him: An engineer by profession, Nivedit is an avid technophile and content writer. When he’s not researching on the latest trends in technology, he writes on topics such as Lifelogging and The Quanitified Self on the Emberify Blog and plays the piano. Know more: about.me/niveditm

Editing by Dronewallah