Blade is the brand name given to R/C Helicopter and Multirotors (Quadcopters, etc.) by Horizon Hobby, an American company which has been in business since the mid-1980’s. They have offices and manufacturing around the globe and, in this sense, differ greatly from many of the current “toy grade” vendors.
Horizon Hobby products are sold through various outlets – including many local hobby shops. You can also buy products directly from their web site or from Amazon and other online vendors.
In this review, I’ll look at their 200 QX quadcopter, a small quadcopter with powerful brushless motors. Horizon Hobby describes this as a “compact quad loaded with tech”.Droneflyers.com focuses on beginner and intermediate pilots – so this unit was purchased with a “starter” TX – the Spektrum DX5e. This is also made by Horizon and can be used for many of their other models as well as some other brands which use the DSM R/C technology (this is a wireless protocol type).
For reference, these are the units we tested:
Blade 200 Qx Quadcopter
Spektrum DX5e TX
Appeal to users:
Advanced Beginner (flyers) and up who want to enjoy “sport” flying and advance their skills in piloting. Great for smaller fields!
Type of Quad: Consumer / Hobbyist “hobby grade”
Cost: approx. $300 with basic TX and spare battery. Will work with most any DSM type TX you may already own.
Crashworthiness – Fair
Aircraft Weight – no battery – 150 grams
stock= 43.5 g
v262 battery 45.3 g
Total Droneflyers.com suggested max. takeoff weight (w/battery, camera, etc.) = 240 grams
What’s in the Box?
The 200 QX quadcopter comes assembled except for the landing gear, which must be screwed on with the enclosed hex key. A single battery is included as well as a balancing charger and adapter (charger has smaller connection than needed, so adapter is needed). Also included is a set of spare props as well as a nut driver with two hex sizes on it. The only small criticisms of these basics are:
1. Given that these are costlier than most others in their size range, it would be nice if the battery charger was designed for these batteries – as opposed to needing the included adapter.
2. The screws for attaching the landing gear were much longer than needed and very difficult to screw in – Horizon could save some weight and some aggravation by making the screws shorter.
Of course, those are minor details – but since Blade desires to sell quadcopters at higher prices than most brands, they should excel in ALL aspects of engineering, design, function and support.
Spektrum DX5e Transmitter
While the battery was charging, I unboxed the TX and glanced at the instructions. It’s a very simple TX and was ready to go as soon as I inserted the 4 included AA batteries.
The included battery is a LiPo battery from E-flite, another division of Horizon Hobby. It is 7.4v (2 cell) and 800 mAh. The model # is EFLB8002SJ and they sell for about $17 each. Other batteries of similar type will fit. An example is the Turnigy nano-tech 950mah 2S 25~50C Lipo Pack which is more powerful and sells for about 1/2 the price as the E-flite.
Bind and Fly?
Horizon Hobby brags about the ability of their equipment to “Bind and Fly”. This should make getting into the air a simple affair. The included 200qx manual has a chart of the various TX models and how they function when pairing with this quadcopter. However, in their attempt to cover a multitude of transmitters, Horizon has overlooked including a very simple “Quick Start” guide for use with the DX5e TX. It actually took me a while to figure out the pairing – and then some additional time to be able to accomplish simple tasks like shutting off the motors on landing! This could be solved by the addition of a small card with the qx 200 or inclusion in the quick start guide. Here are the basics:
Original (1st) Binding
1. Insert battery in 200 qx, connect and close battery door. Set quad on flat surface. Wait at least 10 seconds.
2. Stand at least 4 feet away and turn on TX while holding the left rear “paddle type” TX switch in a forward position. Leave go of the switch after a few seconds.
3. After a few more seconds, the flashing blue LED on the 200qx should turn solid (green if in the simplest mode, other colors for other modes).
4. Make certain the TX trim switch (left vertical trim) is in the center position – THEN move it 2 or 3 clicks forward (up).
5. Arm propellers by pulling down throttle stick and moving 2-3 times from left to right (swing back and forth). The quad may jump a bit and scare you when the props start – but it will settle right down.
6. After landing, you will note that the propellers do not turn off (DX5e) but stay at idle! To turn off the props, turn the throttle trim switch (the left vertical switch) down a couple notches (4 or 5) until they stop. Turn them back up again either now or next time you power on the TX.
After the Initial Binding you have to reverse the order of startup – that is, turn on the TX first, then connect the battery in the 200 qx. This should bind quickly and prop startup should occur just by moving the throttle stick left to right in the down position (make sure the throttle trim is centered!) Some other stick moves may also work (you can experiment as long as your 200 qx is on soft grass!).
There have been some reported problems with starting up the props – even using other Spektrum transmitters. This definitely needs to be cleared up with better documentation as well as videos. One owner reported that even Horizon didn’t know the proper arming procedure – until they both worked on it together over the phone!
The Blade 200 QX has three basic flight modes, which in the case of the DX5e are controlled by the position of the left front 3-way switch on top of the TX. There is also a “RATE” switch at the top right of the DX5e which allows a LO setting (70% power) and HI setting (100% power). Most advanced beginner pilots will find the “1” mode and the “HI” rate the best way to fly. With these settings, the 200QX has plenty of speed and power, but still will self-level when the right stick is released to center.
The 200 QX was not designed for carrying heavy loads – however, R/C hobbyists love to experiment and see what these quads can do! Blade sells a companion camera which is very lightweight – about 18 grams. I tested the 200 QX with over 2X that weight (Mobius Sport Camera) and it flew quite well – as long as the mission was simply taking some photos and videos. You wouldn’t want to do sport flying with this extra weight. My suggestion is to try and keep the added weight to under 1.5 oz.(42 grams) for best performance. This would be a great machine for a lightweight FPV setup…however, if photography and video is your main use, a larger drone with GPS lock would be a better platform.
Please note that various batteries may weigh more or less than the stock (included) one. Keep the total takeoff weight of drone, cam and batteries less than 250 grams maximum, while less than 220-230 grams is suggested for longer flight times.
Horizon sells a companion camera which costs about $50 – and is very lightweight. It is lower resolution than the Mobius, but should satisfy those looking just to experiment with video and snapshots. The model description of the camera is “E-flite® EFC-721 HD”.
Here is a sample (downsized) still shot from a Mobius Sport Cam onboard.
Flying – The Fun Factor!
No doubt about it – this quad is a blast to fly! It’s a true example of a “sport quad”, a description which very few, if any, RTF quads fit. The 200 qx has power to spare, so liftoff and other maneuvers are as quick as the operator desires. Blade has managed to put all the fun of the toy quads into a more serious machine – one which will last longer due to higher grade components, fly better in the wind and be worthy of future repair and upgrades.
The compact size will make your yard or field seem larger – that is, you can use the 200 qx in places where larger quads would not have much room to run.
As an intermediate pilot, I found that the Hi “rate” mode and the middle setting “1” in terms of the “SAFE” mode were right for my style. This allowed full power on the motors and a steeper angle of pitch and roll, but also kept the self-leveling feature in place so that leaving go of the sticks would straighten out the quad. My one attempt at the expert mode resulted in a very quick bank into the grass – however, I will keep trying and report back on the results.
It’s safe to say that most quadcopter pilots will enjoy flying this machine – and when it comes down to it, that’s a BIG part of what the hobby is about.
Reliability and Parts Availability
Unlike many of the “toy” companies, Horizon understands that their customers are often “customers for life”. Accordingly, parts are usually available. A quick glance around the web showed the availability of common parts at many vendors – although some noted that certain parts were backordered for a few weeks. Parts are relatively expensive – as is the Blade 200 qx itself – but some would say that you get what you pay for. Horizon also welcomes telephones calls at their 800 number for technical and customer service questions. This is almost unheard of in the rest of the consumer quadcopter industry.
We rated the crashworthiness as only “fair” because many users report having to replace the frame and/or landing gear after crashes. The idea with heavier and denser quads such as the 200 qx is to fly them over grass when possible and avoid hard crashes. If you do end up breaking the arms or body, the replacement is less than $20 and the repair is fairly easy for anyone handy with the basics of small tools.
Hobbyists have been looking forward to these “250 sized” (mm) quadcopters for the past 18 months – but they have been slow at coming to market. Although there are a few other entries in this size range, none (yet) have the combination of reliability, customer service and availability of Blade 200 QX. Similar sized models include the Eye One Extreme from Rclogger and the Skyartec Butterfly.
Conclusion and Summary
I really like the Blade 200 qx – it’s likely to become part of my stable as opposed to being a model I test and then sell or give away. Here are some of my thoughts as to who should consider this quad – as well as some of my critiques.
The 200 qx is expensive – for those used to buying toy grade machines, the $229. for a small quadcopter w/o TX seems high….and it is high! Horizon sells though local hobby shops in addition to their online presence – so the dealers profit margin is built into the price. In the case of “bricks and mortar” stores, this can easily be 40% of the price paid. That’s how dealers keep their doors open, their employees paid and their customers satisfied. Horizon also has true customer service – they actually invite their customers and prospective customers to contact them with questions! This cost money – and it’s built into the price of the quadcopter. Also, engineering and building an advanced small quadcopter can actually cost as much or more than building some larger models. Tolerances are closer and electronics need to be better placed and cooled.
The Blade 200qx is a quadcopter for almost everyone – although I hesitate recommending it as a first quadcopter for a total “all thumbs” newbie since most newbies end up destroying one or two quads before they get the hang of the sticks. However, if you have R/C experience in heli’s or planes and are willing to be careful until you learn, the 200qx could be considered.
BUY IT – The 200 qx suits most any flyer who wants a fun and sporty machine. It deserves a place in the collection of just about any serious drone hobbyist who enjoys flying. Those seeking platforms for photography and video should probably look elsewhere – as this is a sport machine and lacks GPS and large payload capacity.
TALK ABOUT IT – on our forum continuation thread at:
[…] After charging and inserting the LiPo battery, the next order of business is to bind the 350qx to the DX5e TX. This is done in much the same way as with the Blade 200 we recently reported on. Rather than copy and paste, please read the section entitled “Original (1st) Binding” and “Fly” in this … […]