How would you like to be able to vlog hands-free with a pocket-sized self-flying drone? Hover X1 is one of the most exciting cameras I’ve tested in years. In this review, we’ll look at its advantages and disadvantages with a focus on how well it works as a camera for vlogging.
Not a drone but a self-flying camera
Hover X1 is arguably a class in itself. Although it is technically a drone, it is very dissimilar to other drones. When you first get it, it doesn’t have any controller as such. Until you unlock manual mode, it can only execute a certain number of preset moves. It also has a maximum height of just 50 feet, and a maximum speed rated at just 15 mph. These are pretty horrible specs for a drone.
On the other hand, it can do many things that drones usually aren’t able to do. It can be used indoors, totally hands-free, near people — which is unheard of for a drone. Even Skydio 2, which is arguably the smartest self-flying drone for consumers, has a minimum distance of about 10 feet, whereas the Hover X1 can orbit just 5 feet away from you. In fact, in Hover mode, you can stand even closer to it. Although the X1 has a very low maximum height, it can fly at knee height, which is lower than the minimum height for many GPS drones.
So I would argue that Hover X1 isn’t really a drone even though it is a quadcopter. It is more like a selfie camera that happens to fly — the manufacturer calls it a self-flying camera. Even videos shot on the X1 don’t look like drone shots. Instead, they look like they were shot by your own cameraman.
|Video Resolution||2704 x 1520 30fps;
1920 x 1080 60fps;
1920 x 1080 30fps HDR
|Photo Resolution||4000 x 3000|
|Sound Recording||Yes with noise cancellation (via mobile app)|
|Stabilization||Drone: Vision positioning.
Camera: 1-axis gimbal + electronic stabilization
|Obstacle avoidance||computer vision (in front and below it)|
|Memory||32GB internal (not removable)|
|Prop size||four 2-inch props|
|Fly at night?||Not recommended (needs enough light to see the ground)|
|Fly over water||No|
|Maximum speed||15mph or 7m/s (Horizontal)
|Maximum height||49 feet / 15 meters|
|Maximum wind speed||Level 4 (13-18 mph / 20-28 kmh) or Level 5 (19-24 mph / 29-38 kmh)|
|Maximum distance for live view||98 feet or 30 meters|
|Weight (including battery)||125 grams / 4.4 oz.|
|Dimensions||Folded: 127mm ×86mm ×31mm
Unfolded: 127mm ×145mm ×30mm
|Compatibility||iOS 11.0 or above or Android 9.0 or above|
- Hover: the X1 hovers in place while tracking you as you move around it or move up or down. Similar to a smart tripod but you don’t need to worry about leveling your tripod.
- Zoom out (dronie): X1 zooms away then it zooms back. You can control the height of the flight trajectory (rising, flat or low) as well as the distance (5 feet, 8 feet, 10 ft., 20 ft, 30 ft).
- Follow: X1 tracks you and follows you from behind. You can control the height, the following distance, and the duration.
- Orbit: X1 flies around you. You can change the height (high, flat, low) and distance (5 ft, 8 ft, 13 ft, 20 ft).
- Bird’s eye: X1 takes an overhead shot. In addition to the height (16 ft to 50 ft), you can choose whether to spin and the spin speed.
- Custom mode: you can assign one of these modes;
- Dolly Track: X1 tries to track you from the front but may shoot from the side or the rear if it can’t.
- Snapshot: X1 takes a series of photos of you while you pose.
- Manual mode: use the app to control the X1 manually. Note: Manual mode can be selected only via the app.
Here’s a sample of the X1 in Follow Mode, chasing me and my EUC among trees:
Noise cancellation: one of the most unique features of the X1 is the ability to not only record sound but also cancel the noise from the props. It uses its phone app to record the sound in sync with the video, then applies a noise cancellation filter to remove the prop noise as well as any other background sounds, so you can hear your voice clearly. Please note that this also means you won’t hear ambient sounds. The app must remain open in order to record sound, and after recording, you must export the video from the app in order to get the audio.
— Note: Microphone Recommendations. the noise cancellation works best if you use an external microphone connected to your iPhone. I’ve used the Godox Movelink Mini (iOS or Android) as well as the Rode Wireless Go II. Both are wireless with good sound quality (Rode has a bit better sound quality, especially for removing background noise). Movelink Mini is what I used in the gas station scene in my video, while Rode Wireless Go II is the one I used in the final scene of my video (where I was riding my electric unicycle). The difference is that Movelink Mini is more affordable (starts at $69 for Android with one microphone) but has no internal recorder. Rode Wireless Go II has an internal recorder so if the app fails to record (e.g. you closed the app inadvertently), then you can use the internal recording from Rode Wireless Go II.
Live view: you can use the app to get a live view of the X1’s video feed.
Filters and sharing: the app enables you to apply filters to your photos and videos and share them to Hover X1’s own social network or other apps.
Does it really work?
When I first got the Hover X1, I had doubts about how well it would work. After all, Hover X1 costs less than a GoPro (making the X1 quite inexpensive for a drone) and feels very flimsy because of its lightweight plastic construction. It weighs about the same as a bar of soap, and is lighter than even a Hero 11 Mini. And it has no GPS.
But it actually works pretty well. In fact, if there is no wind, it is very stable. And yes it is really self-flying. Once you launch it, it will execute its flight path autonomously. At the beginning, I was worried about whether it might fly away or do anything unpredictable. After using it for several weeks, I’ve found it to be quite reliable (but see limits below).
Hover X1 Limits and Disadvantages
Hover X1 has several limits that you need to be aware of.
- People only. Before flying, X1 needs to see the subject’s face and it only works with a person. It cannot detect pets or objects. If it loses track of you, it will stay in place until it sees the subject again.
- Flyaway risk. Before it launches, it will look for a subject, then it will fly into position to begin recording. If the subject disappears from view after launching but before flying into position, it may ascend to try to look for the subject. If this happens, click on “Land” from the phone app. To avoid this, make sure the X1 can see you at all times.
- No GPS; vision dependent. It relies only on computer vision using a downward facing camera to see the ground. If the ground is too plain, it won’t be able to fly over it. Likewise, if the ground constantly changes such as open water, X1 can’t fly over it. And if there is a sudden change in the ground level (such as a cliff), the X1 may get confused.
- Very limited obstacle avoidance. X1 uses its front and bottom camera to detect obstacles but can’t detect obstacles on the side, rear, or above it. If it bumps into an obstacle, it will try to descend.
- Not for control freaks. If you want a drone that will fly in a very specific way, X1 is probably not for you. For example, in dolly track mode, it starts by flying in front of you but may move to the side or behind you. If you want more control, check out Skydio 2 instead (but they stopped selling to consumers this year).
- Limited image quality. The image quality is not going to be as good as a typical DJI drone. It is more similar to an old low-end smartphone. It has a lot of purple fringing and the highlight range is quite limited.
- Sound recording requires the app. X1 can record sounds but to be able to do so, it uses the X1 phone app, which must remain open. If you lock the phone screen or switch apps, you won’t get any sound. After recording, you must also export the video from the app. If you get the video directly from the X1, it won’t have audio.
- How long is the battery life? I was able to fly and record indoors in Hover mode for 10 mins. 5 secs. If you ascend a lot (e.g. bird’s eye view) or make it to fly faster (e.g. in follow mode), it will use up the battery faster.
- How much memory storage does it have? The memory is internal and not removable. With 32GB, 23GB is usable and I was able to record 2 hrs 18 mins of video (mix of 2.7k and 1080p HDR) plus several photos.
Hover X1 Instructions PDF
The instructions are available here.
CONCLUSION; LIMITED TIME COUPON CODE
For vloggers, Hover X1 is a very useful tool. I love how it is pocketable and lightweight, and how it can be deployed within about a minute. In spite of its limitations, I personally found it to be the most useful and practical drone that I have. In a matter of a few weeks, I have used it far more than most of my other drones. No, X1 will not replace your phone or 360 camera but it is an excellent second camera to take your videos to the next level. Highly recommended.
Hover X1 is available direct from the company. Use the coupon code HOVERAir10 to get $10 off and free shipping until August 31.
Note: Zero Zero Robotics sent me a unit for review but did not pay me for the video and did not give me an affiliate link. I made my review using my independent judgment and they never got to review it. After I posted the video, they offered to give me an affiliate link. Thanks for using it at no cost to you so I can do more tests and reviews.