Syma X5UW Altitude Hold FPV Drone Under $100
Syma X5UWUnder $90
Overall Quality8.0 /10
Ease of Flying/Stability9.0 /10
- ▪ Stable altitude hold
- ▪ Best-in-class camera
- ▪ No-lag FPV
- ▪ Range
- Range: 30-60 feet (10-20 m)
- Flight Time: 7 min
- Weight: Under 0.55 lb
- Size: Small
- Camera: 720p
The Syma X5UW is a feature-packed drone coming in under $90. It is the most feature rich drone in this price range that we have ever seen, with effective altitude hold and good high quality no-lag first person view (FPV) streaming footage on your smart phone. In typical Syma fashion, this little drone takes some inspiration from the DJI Phantom series. We don’t mind the similarities, this drone looks great and is a major upgrade from its less expensive sibling, the Syma X5C.
In the Box
The drone comes with the usual items we have come to expect from Syma. Prop guards, an extra set of props, a phone holder for FPV, and one of the new easy click batteries all come included. We spent a little extra to get two batteries. We love that Syma includes a 4 GB SD card and a card reader with every drone we receive – thank you Syma! Also in the box is the quirky “Iron Commander” erector-style toy that comes with several of their models.
A great bonus of the X5 series of drones is the box that doubles as an easy-to-use carrying case. No need to remove the props to pack this guy up an take it wherever you are going.
Syma has totally restyled their remote to look like something from…you guessed it…DJI. Oh well, it looks great and the buttons are more logically laid out than before. They got rid of the trim buttons which is maybe the only downside. The best new thing about the hardware is the batteries. At first we though they were a corny knock-off, which they are. But they do make the drone more enjoyable to use. Plugging in and stuffing little wires is one of the worst things about inexpensive drones. Problem solved, Syma has upgraded!
There is nothing too dramatic about the drone design. It has an updated look and a metallic red finish. The camera is now better affixed since it is no longer attached to a flimsy battery compartment door.
The two key features of this drone are the FPV (first person view) and altitude hold. Let’s start with the altitude hold. It works, and that surprises us. You never now what features will be exaggerated by the manufacturers of inexpensive drones, but altitude hold by Syma is not one of them. Just like the larger Syma X8HG, altitude hold works shockingly well. It’s not the same quality you will get with a drone sporting GPS, but it is still a major benefit to capturing smooth video or for the beginner who needs a little extra help controlling a drone. Remember that this feature won’t give you much of a benefit in heavy wind where the pressure variations from wind will mess with the barometer-based altitude hold system. Check out the benefits of altitude hold in our flight video where you can see the Syma X5UW flying side-by-side with the X5C.
Next up is the FPV. We tested the camera and in our opinion it is the best drone camera in this price class of drones. For an image quality comparison, check out our camera quality comparison article. The X5UW produces the cleanest overall image and its 56° HFOV (horizontal field of view) is wider than most inexpensive drones, making it a bit easier to fly using FPV. Maybe most importantly, the lag time between drone and smart phone is negligible, which is great. In some WiFi FPV drones we have found the latency to be a major issue that limits the usefulness of FPV.
Another cool thing, that some pilots may like, is the ability to control the drone from your phone if you so choose. The controls are similar to other smart-phone controlled drones and it works fine. Using a phone is better with this drone than many others because the altitude hold makes it easier to control. We always prefer using the remote, but some people will find this handy. A new feature is the “Flight Path” mode. While in this mode you still control height and rudder using the left screen joystick, but the path of the drone is dictated by tracing on the screen. You can change the scale of the path to “1”, “2”, or “3” using the selector on the bottom left of the screen. You can think of these as correlating roughly with 10, 20, and 30 feet of motion respectively. This doesn’t work perfectly, but it can be fun to play with.
Other Good Features
- The leveling operation really makes the drone sit almost perfectly still in flights – you just need to find a level surface for the easy one-step calibration.
- The drone uses the best app from Syma we have seen. “Syma Go” includes the ability to pull pictures and videos off the drone wirelessly using the direct WiFi connection to your smart phone.
- We tested the battery charging time and flight time. Syma says charging will be under 130 minutes, and we tested it to be 112 minutes. Syma quotes a hover time of 7 minutes and we found it to be exactly 7 minutes give or take a second or two.
Areas for Improvement
- We could not get the trim to work. This is a minor point since it automatically trimmed well for us when calibrated on a level surface.
- Headless mode worked once, then it was flawed. This is no big surprise, we have never had good success with drones that don’t have GPS. I think we just got lucky the first time. The best advice we have is to set the headless mode, figure out the orientation it is locked to, then walk around the drone to get the effect of headless mode. Maybe you are trying to take a selfie, for example.
- The auto take-off and landing functions mean that the props are not 100% under your control. Gone is the fun of tossing the drone from your hand, catching a drone with the motors off, or watching your drone free fall from the sky so you can crank the motors right before it crashes into the ground. We would love to see Syma add a sport mode that puts the throttle fully under the control of the pilot.
- The props take too long to shut off. Syma should have better protection for motors when the props are blocked from spinning.
- The range is too short. Syma suggests you fly inside a 10 meter radius in an open area. That’s only about 30 feet! We got more range than that, but not much. At about 50-60 feet we lost most control of the drone. Luckily, we have never had trouble recovering our X5s since they were not very far from us in the first place. We get much better range out of the larger X8 models from Syma.
The Syma X5UW is an excellent drone. We are happy to see effective altitude hold in a drone under $100. This is a great feature for beginners who want a less frustrating learning experience and it is also useful for smoother video or flying by smartphone. We suggest you pick one up now. Check out our review video and our flight testing where we compare to the Syma X5C.
Flight Tests Vs. Syma X5C
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