The Hover X1 has, in a way, redefined the expectations for a drone, addressing various needs with exceptional finesse. Its elegant folding design allows it to conveniently fit into a spacious pocket. The advanced AI impressively tracks subjects, and the remarkable feature of operating without a controller provides a liberating experience. While it may not outperform leading camera drones in terms of video quality or battery life, that’s not the primary focus. The Hover X1 excels in meeting specific demands with style and functionality.
HOVERAir X1 Pocket-Sized Self-Flying Camera Best Values
- Compact and exceptionally lightweight
- Efficient propellers for improved performance
- Operable without the need for a connected phone
- Impressive 2.7K video capabilities
- Innovative tilting camera feature
- Limited battery life
- No MicroSD slot
Design and Build Quality
In response to stringent regulations and the push for more portable devices, drones have significantly reduced in size and weight. The HOVERAir X1 takes this trend even further, weighing just 4.4oz (125g), including the battery. This exceptional lightweight design, measuring 5.0 x 3.4 x 1.2 inches (12.7 x 8.6 x 3.1cm) when folded, makes it extremely portable, fitting comfortably into generous-sized pockets.
The drone, delivered in a folded state, unfolds easily for flight. Crafted from lightweight plastic, the flexible material enhances portability. A small magnet secures the wings during storage, preventing accidental damage. The wings house rotor fans that seem replaceable, indicated by small screws with a star pattern head.
When fully unfolded, the wings remain at an angle, held in place by small magnets. The central section between the wings houses the downward vision system, featuring a camera to maintain focus on the subject and two IR LEDs functioning as ToF sensors to gauge distance from the user.
The bottom reveals heat ventilation openings, emphasizing the integration of the VIO system. This system enables flight in enclosed spaces without reliance on GPS. The top section hosts controls, including a Power button with the Takeoff function and a Mode button to toggle between available modes, indicated by surrounding LEDs.
Additional LEDs near the rear indicate battery levels in increments of 25%. The front features a gimbal camera, ensuring constant focus on the user’s face and stabilizing flight paths. An LED above the gimbal camera signals connectivity with a paired phone. The device’s compact, flexible, and feature-rich design positions it at the intersection of a professional flying assistant and an entertaining drone toy.
|Video Resolution||2.7K 30fps / 1080P 60fps / 1080P HDR 30fps|
|Stills||4000 x 3000 pixels|
|Memory||32GB storage built-in|
|Battery||1050 mAh (2S)|
|Speed||7 m/s (15.5 mph)|
|Modes||Hover / Zoom Out / Follow / Orbit / Bird’s Eye / Dolly Track / Snapshot / Manual|
|Dimensions (Folded)||127 x 86 x 31 mm|
HOVERAIR X1: FLIGHT PERFORMANCE
The HOVERAIR X1 demonstrates remarkably easy operation. Simply power it up with a long press of the prominent button and select a mode by tapping the smaller button. A voice prompt confirms the chosen mode. Initiating flight is as simple as a short press of the power button while holding the drone with its camera facing you.
During flight, a red light beneath the camera lens signals that recording has commenced. Upon completion, the drone hovers, influenced by the selected mode. The main camera and AI work seamlessly to track the user, eliminating the need for extra cameras or extensive processing power. The red light indicates the recording status.
Executing commands feels like a series of single actions, with the drone consistently returning to the user afterward. Landing is user-friendly, as sticking your palm under the drone prompts it to land gently. For those seeking a quicker shutdown, grabbing the drone from the air and flipping it upside down achieves the same result.
Indoor performance, while not reliant on GPS, requires adequate lighting for visual positioning using the drone’s under-camera. Manual flight becomes accessible after at least five attempts and is managed through the phone app. The vertical on-screen control layout, though unconventional for some users accustomed to horizontal layouts, is deliberate and practical for the short-range nature of the device.
HOVERAIR X1: CAMERA PERFORMANCE
The camera of the HOVERAIR X1 integrates a combination of mechanical (y-axis) and electronic image stabilization, providing effective results. This approach, previously successful in DJI’s FPV drones, allows for adjustable tilt, especially beneficial in manual flight and features like ‘Zoom Out’ (similar to DJI’s ‘Dronie’).
Capable of shooting in MP4 and JPEG formats, the camera features a fixed focal length of 19mm EFL, with an f/2.4 aperture. While not extraordinary, the variable bit rate between 30 and 50 kbps positions it competitively, surpassing many budget drones that typically remain at the lower end of this range or below.
Still images boast a sharp resolution of 4000 x 3000 pixels, providing detailed clarity reminiscent of a high-quality mobile phone camera. Each pixel retains its own distinct detail, delivering a reliable performance comparable to higher megapixel counts. Test images showcased precise details, from individual blades of grass to even unruly strands of hair, with slightly elevated contrast in direct sunlight.
The camera’s exposure system demonstrates superior decision-making compared to budget drones, approaching the quality of DJI’s Mini series drones and exhibiting smooth transitions. The Hover Air X1’s Gesture Photo feature, common among budget drones, stands out as it intelligently waits a few seconds after recognizing the ‘peace’ symbol, allowing users to adjust poses. However, it’s essential to note that this gesture feature momentarily pauses video recording to capture the photo.
The 2.7K video quality is akin to that of the Mini series drone, falling just short of models equipped with 3-axis stabilizers. The 1-axis plus EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization) combination proves effective, and while detailed examination may reveal digital processing in leaves and grass, the video quality surpasses that of drones with gimbals. Freeze-frame images may appear slightly artificial, but overall, the video playback is cohesive and functional.
A potential challenge for the drone’s video performance lies in physics. Despite its impressive capability to withstand winds up to force 4, the lightweight design and cage’s sail area pose a risk of destabilization in stronger winds, occasionally observed during testing in breezy conditions.
HOVER AIR X1: OVERALL VERDICT
Evaluating the Hover Camera X1 proves to be a subjective task, given its unique features that set it apart from traditional drones. However, within the context of its distinctive goals, the Hover Camera X1 attains a resounding success. The pivotal decision for potential owners is straightforward: does this align with your vision for a drone?
If you seek a flying camera that effortlessly puts you in the spotlight, the Hover Air X1 is a compelling choice. Priced lower and weighing less than a GoPro, it offers the ability to fly without the constraints of phone control. Its portability allows you to take it anywhere, easily sharing the experience with friends through minimal explanation.
The drone’s method of capturing shots in limited durations adds a sense of organization to the process, avoiding the common pitfalls of recording excessively long clips that burden editing software and fill up memory cards. Forgetfulness to press the record button, resulting in missed shots, becomes a non-issue, eliminating the need to manage memory cards—an added convenience.
- For extended flight time and enhanced control: DJI’s drone lineup, such as the DJI Mini 2 SE, offers smart flight capabilities with controllers and extended battery life. Consider the Potensic Atom SE for a budget-friendly option.
- For collision avoidance: Exploring drones with comprehensive sensors and AI features may lead you to the DJI Mini 4 Pro.
While the Hover Air X1 does provide an option for manual operation through on-screen controls on the phone, it is not the primary function of the X1. If your desire is to pilot a drone with sticks for greater creative control, it’s advisable to explore other options. Consider this aspect of the drone as an introduction to a broader creative realm or an occasional extra. Compared to a traditional controller with sticks and radio range, the manual operation feature might become frustrating quickly.
Perceived as relatively pricey for its limited range and shooting possibilities, the Hover Air X1, nonetheless, accomplishes feats that even more expensive AI devices struggle to achieve (e.g., Skydio). By balancing practicality, prioritizing portability and safety over limitless flexibility or achieving arbitrary specifications, the Hover Air X1 pioneers a new category of drones, asserting its authority in the process.