Maybe you are new to the hobby and you are asking yourself, what is the best quadcopter to start with? If you are experienced in radio control or just completely new to this hobby in general, it's a great question!
At Flite Test we try to focus on experiences that are repeatable, affordable and accessible, so this "review" of sorts will focus on that. This isn't necessarily a review but a quick look at what we recommend to friends, family and FT community members when they ask us about beginner quadcopters.
Starting small means you first of all are less likely to hurt yourself or others. Also, smaller means less mass which means you are much less likely to take damage in your inevitable and frequent crashes to start. :)
Suggestion: Blade Nano QX $89 (Ready To Fly)
The Blade Nano is the best quadcopter out there in terms of performance, durability and being a well balanced micro quad. It flies very stable like a much bigger quadcopter would and gives you all of the benefits of getting very familiar with the controls without all of the expensive crashes. Plus it flies very well indoors which is great for bad weather or when it's too windy outside.
A popular alternative to the Blade Nano is the Hubsan X4. At around $40-$50 dollars ready to fly, it is considerably cheaper then the Blade Nano, but in our opinion, the Nano QX is a overall better flying experience.
Okay, let's be honest, many people want to put a quadcopter in the air to do one thing... to get a great photos/video. Aerial photography is probably one of the single biggest drivers of the growth we are seeing in our hobby. But just to be clear... if you are just getting started, we strongly advise you to get into a micro quad to learn the basics. However, companies like DJI are making it easier then ever to get started with a camera on board.
While the Phantom 4 is undoubtedly the best entry level machine on the market, the Phantom 3 has a very similar feature set for almost half the price.
Suggestion: DJI Phantom 3 $747 (Ready To Fly)
The DJI Phantom 3 is hands down the best platform out there to get great video or still shots from the sky. It's very easy to fly, incredibly stable and the price point is absolutely shocking for everything that is packed into it. Professionals and amateurs alike are using this platform with very similar results. If you are looking for something that just works out of the box, then this is the quad for you.
An alternative to the Phantom 3 would be the 3D Robotics Solo. The main argument against the Solo is that it is a very unproven model at the publishing of this article. It has some extremely promising features and functions but until some unbiased reviews start to surface, it's probably best to hold off. The base version of the Solo which does NOT include a gimble or a camera is $999.
FPV (First Person View) Quadcopter
The next biggest craze that is rapidly growing this hobby and industry is FPV flying. Flying from the perspective of your quadcopter is one of the best, most amazing experiences you can have. It's really hard to describe unless you have tried it!
Suggestion: Blade Nano FPV $419 (Ready To Fly)
I hate to go back to a brand and model that was just covered... but this quad is the real deal. If you are looking for a manageable, ready to fly system that is going to last you a long time, the Blade Nano FPV is the way to go. There are expert pilots that are FPV gurus that still can't keep away from this little quad.
It is just as durable as it's line-of-site little brother, the Nano QX but provides a full on FPV experience. This kit is a little pricey but the nice thing is, the most expensive component, the Fat Shark goggles, will travel with you onto bigger and more advanced platforms. It's a big investment, but it's one that grows with you.
2nd Suggestion: Immersion RC Vortex $448.99 (Almost Ready to Fly)
If you are looking for minimal building/tuning work another great option is the Immersion RC Vortex. They have done a great job of creating a new frame that "just works" with their previous technology that is very well thought of. This is a great package that comes already put together and ready to race. This would not make for a great first FPV quad but it would be a perfect upgrade for a second quad.
Best Racing Quad
The 250 sized class of quadcopter has really sensationalized quadcopters. With stories from the BBC, CNN, The Verge, Gizmodo, Tested.com etc this part of the hobby has grown substantially. Like any other beginner, I would not suggest starting out with a 250 sized racing quad. Getting comfortable with a small micro quad first is really important to establish success and learning about safety.
Suggestion: Lumenier QAV250 $539 (Ready To Fly/ Receiver Ready)
The QAV250 is without a doubt one of the most popular race quad frames being flown at this time. However it is by no means the most cost effective frame. The ready to fly version of this quad is over $500 and you can find alternatives such as the ZMR250 for $250-$300. The biggest difference you will find in the ZMR250 and the QAV250 is performance and durability. The performance boost may not be noticed at first by someone just getting into the "sport" but the durability factor will definitely be apparent during your first rough crash.
Best DIY Quadcopter
This is a completely shameless plug for what I believe is the best DIY quadcopter out there... the Flite Test VersaCopter V2 This is of course, our own product and one we really believe in. Building your own quadcopter is an incredibly rewarding experience and the best part is... it can be configured to match the capabilities of any of the before mentioned options.
Suggestion: Flite Test VersaCopter $158 (Includes frame + Power Pack)
Sure, it is more work and it will not fly out of the box. But you will know your craft inside and out and you will be able to repair it easily because you know how it goes together. For the maker, tinkerer, engineer and hobbyist, this is the best choice.
First Time Flying
No matter what your first introduction to quadcopters is, you will still need to learn to fly! Although something like the Blade Nano allows for a lot of safe trial and error, other quadcopters do not. Either way, below is a video that may help you get started flying successfully.
There are obviously lots of platforms for getting into quadcopters and this is by no means a comprehensive list. This list is just what we suggest when we personally get questions about beginner quadcopters. So what is your favorite beginner quadcopter or what do you suggest when getting a friend into the hobby?